Ochsner Offers Tips for Reducing Anxiety During Hurricane Season and Dealing with the Tumultuous Year of 2020
During hurricane season and with Hurricane Zeta poised to impact Louisiana, some of us may experience heightened anxiety levels about what the next few days and weeks might bring. Add in the stresses of COVID-19, election season and what seems like bad news almost daily, storm stress could prove to be especially overwhelming for some. But simply being aware of your anxiety levels can help you get a healthy perspective on the situation.
“By managing your stress, you will, in turn, help your family to manage their own,” said Dean Hickman, MD, chair of psychiatry, Ochsner Health. “Children can be especially vulnerable to the moods of their parents. With that in mind, calm and supportive reactions regarding evacuations and crises can go a long way in alleviating the stress of your entire household.”
Below are some helpful tips for reducing “natural disaster stress”:
- Keep it simple: The most important things to keep focused on in a natural disaster are your loved ones, food and shelter.
- Take a news break: Try not to constantly listen to the radio or watch TV. This can be overwhelming and anxiety-provoking, especially for young children.
- Have a plan: Children will feel prepared and relieved if they feel the adults in their lives have taken reasonable precautions to protect them from harm.
- Delegate: Getting your home prepared for tropical weather can include many tasks. Share those responsibilities with your spouse or partner and if they are old enough, you can even give your children small things to do so they can feel useful. If you live alone, try checking with your neighbors to see if you can share mutual to-do lists.
- Take care of yourself: Get as much sleep as possible, stay fueled up by eating small meals frequently, limit caffeine intake and avoid nicotine and alcohol.
- Don’t feed the frenzy: Try to limit thoughts about “what if” scenarios or conversations. Calm, supportive reactions from parents in anticipation of evacuations and crises will go a long way to alleviate stress responses in children.
- Try stress relief: Attempt to let go of your anxiety. Turn on soft music, watch a funny video or meditate.
Hurricane season can be a long and most of us are looking forward to 2021 in hopes that the new year will bring better days. You may feel the effects of severe stress for weeks at a time, especially during and after a particularly devastating storm. The following reactions could occur:
- Emotional: Shock, fear, grief, anger, guilt, shame, hopelessness, numbness or emptiness.
- Cognitive: Confusion, disorientation, indecisiveness, worry, shortened attention span, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, unwanted memories or self-blame.
- Physical: Tension, fatigue, edginess, insomnia, racing heartbeat, nausea and change in appetite.
- Interpersonal: Distrust, conflict, withdrawal, work/school problems, irritability, loss of intimacy, overly controlling and feeling abandoned.
Many of these symptoms are completely normal but if they persist or negatively impact your personal and/or professional life, you should seek the help of a professional mental health provider.
“While you might feel exhausted, it’s important to not let your guard down when the threat of severe weather is imminent,” continued Dr. Hickman. “This has been a year like no other in recent memory and it seems like the stress will never end, but don’t give in to ‘2020 fatigue.’ Focus on the task at hand, take it one day—or one hour—at a time and ask for help when you need it.”
Remember that it’s important to take care of not only your physical health during hurricane season and beyond, but also your mental well-being.
Appointments with licensed therapists are available from the comfort of your home with Ochsner Anywhere Care virtual visits. Ochsner Anywhere Care, Ochsner’s telehealth program, provides behavioral health and well-being virtual visits seven days a week, 6 a.m.- 10 p.m. CST. Users can connect with providers through a secure, interactive video via their smartphone, tablet or personal computer. Visit www.ochsner.org/anywherecare to get started.
For the latest updates from Ochsner Health visit www.Ochsner.org/weather.