I live in Orlando and so I am sitting here looking at reports showing Irma’s path headed directly toward us. As I scan my social media news-feeds and talk to loved ones, it is clear that anxiety is high and coping skills are a must if we don’t want to end up losing a lot of sanity ground by the time this is all over. I thought it would be helpful to explore ways to maintain our mental/emotional health through this storm.
As soon as you figure out where you will spend the storm – in place, at a shelter, with friends or completely out of town – make a plan for maintaining good sleep, nutrition and exercise habits. These are the first things to go in circumstances like these…we eat junk food nonstop, barely move and sleep either too much or too little. It just happens because we get caught up in the urgency of the moments and/or the confusion of the aftermath. Make sure you have healthy food options on hand, figure out a reasonable sleep schedule you can stick to throughout your stay and brainstorm ways to get some movement in every day – whether it’s using the (non-electric) equipment you have in place, simple calisthenic movements like jumping jacks or adventure walks outside once the storm clears. Get on Pinterest now while you can to find workout ideas that will work with the circumstances you’re in.
Make sure you have resources and materials in place to manage your emotions. How do you think you will feel during this experience? What are the things you normally need when you feel like that? (Art supplies, journals, stress balls, stuffed animals, pets, etc.?) How can you adjust those strategies to your lock-down situation? When you are stressed, upset or overwhelmed, you will not have the mental resources to figure these things out. Do it now so you have a plan to express and manage your emotions. Here’s a worksheet you may find helpful:
This is not the time to play lone ranger. Reach out. Arrange to be with others throughout this experience if at all possible. Don’t assume that family is your only option if you know they drive you crazy on a regular day. Can you imagine being locked up with them for days in a stressful situation? Think about your social circle…Who are the healthiest people in your life? Gravitate to them first. Yes, take some time each day to be alone…to breathe and to think but make sure you stay connected to share your thoughts and feelings with others.
Finally, pay attention to what you expose your mind to. Limit time on social media if it is filled with folks in a frenzy. Watch the news/weather channel only long enough to hear time estimates of the storm’s approach. Do internet searches for any specific information you may need for your preparation efforts – rather than watching TV endlessly, waiting to learn “everything”. Avoid conversations with those who will only increase your stress and anxiety about this storm. Decide now what reasonable truths you need to focus on. Find resources that will align with those truths – write them down if you have to….whatever you have to do to ensure that what is coming at you repeatedly will be functional, encouraging and helpful!