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  • Lauren Butler

Finding Calm in the Storm

As I started to do some hurricane prep at my house this morning, I couldn’t help but think back to September of 2018 when I was doing the exact same thing but with so much anxiety and so much unknown. My reflection this morning made me realize that almost 2 years later, those of us who were impacted by Hurricane Florence may still be experiencing anxiety, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress, fear and the list goes on. Coupled with the fact that emotions are already heightened and stress is through the roof due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tropical Storm Isaias is an unwelcomed guest making its way to us today.

With this in mind, knowing what to do if you begin to feel anxious or out of control is key! When these feelings arise, challenge yourself to breathe slowly and deeply. This is often referred to as “belly breathing” because if you focus on the slow rise and fall of your belly, you will be able to quickly get your breathing under control. If you have essential oils, put a drop on your wrist and breathe in while smelling the oil.

As you begin to feel calmer, pick a grounding technique that works for you. I often teach the 5-4-3-2-1 technique because it works quickly and can be used for both children and adults of any age. I have listed it below for reference! There are many other grounding techniques here as well.

What are 5 things you can see? Look for small details such as a pattern on the ceiling, the way light reflects off a surface, or an object you never noticed.

What are 4 things you can feel? Notice the sensation of clothing on your body, the sun on your skin, or the feeling of the chair you are sitting in. Pick up an object and examine its weight, texture, and other physical qualities.

What are 3 things you can hear? Pay special attention to the sounds your mind has tuned out, such as a ticking clock, distant traffic, or trees blowing in the wind.

What are 2 things you can smell? Try to notice smells in the air around you, like an air freshener or freshly mowed grass. You may also look around for something that has a scent, such as a flower or an unlit candle.

What is 1 thing you can taste? Carry gum, candy, or small snacks for this step. Pop one in your mouth and focus your attention closely on the flavors.

When the storm arrives, pick activities that give you a sense of calm, not chaos. This is different for everyone but can include playing a yoga video and joining in, playing cards or a board game, cuddling with your pets, watching a happy movie, lighting your favorite candles, painting, drawing, journaling, listening to your favorite music, taking a bath or shower, etc. Whatever gives you a sense of inner peace will help you remain calm in the storm-literally! If your children are especially anxious, do the breathing and grounding exercises with them! Help them pick activities that will focus their attention on something other than the storm outside. Also, avoid having weather footage constantly playing around them (like on a TV in the main area of the house) while instead having personal access to it on your phone, weather radio, etc. Children can easily begin to mirror the emotions and feelings of the adults around them so the more we, as parents, can remain calm, the more our children will be able to remain calm!

From a storm preparation perspective, give yourself peace of mind by getting what you can done now! Secure or bring inside any loose items. Make sure you have a few sources of light if we do lose power ready to go. Charge electronics in advance, and download a weather app in case any weather alerts are issued throughout the night! Know the safest place in your house to go, if need be, and clear space if your family does have to go there quickly. Take dogs out one last time before heavy rain begins and have a towel by the door for drying wet paws. Make sure to pick your information sources wisely! There is always social media hype during any storm so local weather stations or the NOAA Hurricane Center are going to be much better sources to tune into.

It is important to remember that while Tropical Storm Isaias is absolutely something to prepare for, this is not a Hurricane Florence situation! We may see some minor localized damage and flooding but not at the catastrophic levels we saw in 2018. It’s okay if you feel anxious, afraid, or worried; these are all normal things to feel in the face of the unknown! Hopefully the exercises and tips linked above will help you find a sense of calm.

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