Hurricane Warnings – Stress, Emotions and Anxiety after Hurricanes

Having just gone through the experience of Hurricane Irma here in South Florida it was surprising to me that no matter how well prepared I was I was not fully prepared emotionally.Emotional Hurricane

There are check lists to help you prepare for evacuation, for staying and seeing the hurricane through and there are the people who have lived through it before who also share their experiences, tips and suggestions.

There are some suggestions about preparing mentally and emotionally but really no matter how prepared you are there is always the unknown you did not prepare for.

I had everything, food, water, ice, bathtub full of water pre-cooked food in the freezer all the laundry done, all the cleaning done.  Batteries for the radio I am ready.

Then the winds came, the rain came, we still had power and I was happy everything was going to plan.  Then it really hit, the noise of the wind banging on the hurricane shutters which in turn made the sliding door move and it looked like it would come in at any minute.

What was it we were meant to do.  Open the door to relieve the pressure, leave it closed and hope it does not blow in.   No power, no internet so no google to find out.

I could not focus on anything except the wind and the rain.  I decided to go into the bedroom and to my shock it had water all over the floor.  The water was coming up through the floor tiles, living on the 7th floor the one thing I did not prepare for was any water damage.

Now I have to get to work mopping the floor and putting down towels to soak up the water. 20 towels, 3 rugs and 2 bedspreads later over a few hours the water had stopped because now the torrential rain and wind had stopped.

All this time I have not seen daylight and do not know what is going on outside. My emotions are running high and I found out something about myself, I do not like disorder and being out of control.

This is when I decided to coach myself and change my attitude, I used my tools in my toolbox which included tapping, positive thinking and visualization.

Along with the normal checklists I would add some more resources to do with coping emotionally when you are going through any natural disaster.

Spend some time before and ask yourself what type of things upset you or have a negative effect on your emotions.

  • Learn how to use EFT and tap before, during and after.
  • Speak to your children and elderly about what to expect
  • Talk about your emotions with your family
  • Expect the unexpected and roll with it
  • Remember you cannot control everything especially mother nature

Learning about yourself while you are going through a natural disaster is a positive thing and for me it has been advantageous as I know what work I must do on myself but more importantly it gives me the information and experience to help my clients.

If you have just gone through Harvey or Irma or the fires and all the other natural disasters occurring through the world at this time, remember to take some time for yourself and council yourself.  If you are not able to get through this then seek professional help for at least one session to give you the tools to get you over it.Acupuncture for Pain

Keep a journal of what you experienced so that if you should go through it again you can look at your journal to remind yourself what you will be feeling and how to deal with it.

Remember when all of it is over and the cleanup begins and getting back to some sort of normal to speak to your children and elderly and see what they are going through after the event.  Let them know it is ok to feel the way they feel and to share what it is with others.  Teach them how to tap and teach them that no matter what they will be ok as long as they know that having emotions is a normal part of life.

Being uprooted from your home, staying in shelters, spending money unexpectedly, losing your home and everything in your life are all terrible things and Hurricanes, Flooding, Fires and more are all dreadful, sad and much more.

Putting your life back together again may not be easy for many and this post is not about the practical, physical or rebuilding, this post is about the emotional response that everyone has to what they go through whether they are experiencing the disaster first hand or whether they are watching the devastation that others are experiencing.

Rebuilding takes place and there are many resources to help with this my suggestion is to remember to also rebuild the emotions as well.

How do you deal with the Children?

Some Florida schools are attempting to return to normal operations. While the schools may be fully-functional, the teachers and students might not be. Educators should be properly equipped to handle basic first-aid for mental health care as many students will be in need of assistance.

It is very helpful and therapeutic for students and teachers to tell their own unique story of how the hurricane affected them. However, too much sharing could traumatize or re-traumatize students who had a mild experience compared to those whose loss was significant.

Ask the children to draw their experience with the hurricane. After completion, encourage students to share their story.  Remember, this is not group therapy. This assignment is essential information for teachers who have students still without shelter, water, food, power, phone/cell service, transportation, and/or internet.

Many Floridians have extended family members in other parts of the state, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. While the student’s individual experience may not be as traumatic, their relatives and friends may not have done as well. This is a form of secondary trauma where the student doesn’t experience directly, instead, they feel it indirectly. For sensitive people, this is equally traumatizing as having gone through it themselves.

Avoid showing pictures of the hurricane damage to students unless the teacher is certain that no students have any extended family or friends in the most devastated areas. Talking about the storm is one matter while viewing videos or photos is an entirely different experience.

Younger children and some teenagers have a difficult time discerning between a major storm like a hurricane and a smaller thunderstorm. Unfortunately, this is still the rainy season in Florida so there are and will be severe thunderstorms till the end of October. Even mild storms can increase anxiety when this was not an issue in the past. It is a form of hyper-vigilance where a student becomes highly sensitive to even the slightest indication of danger.Child Suicide

When a person is in a hyper-vigilant state with increased anxiety, trying to tell them that everything is fine doesn’t work and can make things worse. Instead, normalize their experience by agreeing with the reason for the anxiety. Remind them that anxiety is good, and it is ok to feel this and then teach them techniques to release the anxiety such a deep breathing.

It is important to remember that new changes in behavior could be stress-related and not defining the characteristic of the child.

Children need to be taught how to handle and release stress properly. This could be as simple as having a box where children put in a writing or drawing about anything they want without consequence.  Learning how to take deep breaths, talking to someone they trust and know they will not be made fun of and realizing that it will not last if they address it and use tools to reduce the anxiety and stress.

Again, it is important that teachers model these tools because sometimes this is the only place a child sees it done well. I strongly suggest looking into how to use Emotional Freedom Techniques.

Parents should be made aware of anything the child has shared with the teacher so that the stress relief techniques can be dealt with at home also.

Therapy should not be done in the classroom, it should be left for those trained in handling children and the disorders.


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12 Comments

  1. Reply

    These are concepts I had not begun to even imagine. When disaster strikes, we seem to have it wash over us and just complain and sulk and react. Here is something concrete and solid we can take hold of and do, proactively! I will be thinking of these ideas for a long time and sharing and re-sharing with those I know and love. I will also share publicly. I can add this to my preparedness list as essential!

    Also, I am interested in many of your other links and e-books. You have many great blogs of interest, Helen. Thank you for making the effort to share so much of your knowledge with us!

    Lynne

    • helenvella

      Reply

      Thank you so much for your comments. Please let me know how I can also be of service to you or others.

  2. Reply

    Very informative and educational article. Living in Ohio, this is something we don’t worry much about, but your insight regarding your mental make-up can be advantageous in a number of settings. Has this experience made you think about possibly re-locating to a different state? Just curious. Thanks for sharing helen, and stay safe!

    • helenvella

      Reply

      It did for a second make me want to move out of Florida, but the last hurricane was 12 years ago. So if it only happens every 12 years then really not worth moving.

  3. Reply

    Hurricane and other natural disasters are horrible things for people to have to go through. You can prepare for it, but sometimes there is so much of the unknown, which is the scariest thing. It is so hard to piece back the life after a hurricane; I can’t imagine what these poor children have to go through. You article provides really great information regarding how to heap kids deal with these kinds of situation. Thanks for sharing.

    • helenvella

      Reply

      You are welcome, I think sometimes the children get forgotton especially at home because there is so much to do when getting back to normal. Mindfulness is this area is a good thing.

  4. Vee

    Reply

    This article is amazing. You’ve listed so many helpful tips for children. I’m going to share this to some groups on facebook!

  5. Reply

    I don’t think we can be completely prepared for a hurricane. There are so many unexpected things that usually happens. Hurricanes are Life Changers.
    It is hard to deal with children after a hurricane or storm. A few kids will adjust while others still want things the way they were before the hurricane.
    Do you think the Guidance counselors or Social Workers in school are trained to counsel the students?
    Thanks for the post.

    • helenvella

      Reply

      It depends on the training they have been given. Some are better than others. The main thing is that the children are listened to and know that it is ok to feel the way they are feeling.

  6. Reply

    Hurricanes are scary indeed. Thankfully I live in a part of the world where there is no hurricanes. I am glad this information is out there for those who need it the most. I am sure it is hard to deal with emotions after such a terrible event.

    • helenvella

      Reply

      I used to live the in UK so this is a new experience but any natural disaster is not good emotionally for many

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