During the storm or hurricane, your body naturally reacts to the sound of the high winds with a tremendous amount of fear and trepidation. Your amygdala is the part of the brain that watches out for your safety. It's always on the lookout for anything that's remotely threatening: even a loud noise that sounds like a tree falling nearby will start your amygdala firing. So, you can imagine what's going to happen when the trees REALLY DO start to fall. Army recruits and emergency responders spend years learning how to over-ride this automatic response to life-threatening situations.
You on the other hand are stuck doing the best you can with a brain that is telling you to hide under the covers while the storm outside is raging. (And it may be best to just honor this feeling and find a safe corner of your house to hang out in until the storm is over.)
After the storm passes, you're initially going to feel elated, as well you should, especially if you dodged a bullet and survived relatively unscathed. But as minor complications from the storm or hurricane persist, loss of power, heat, water, mobility, etc. you're going to notice a growing sense of low level stress. If the situation drags out long enough, your low level stress is going to morph into frustration and anger thus elevating your "perceived" level of stress.
So how do we cope in the aftermath of a major storm or hurricane and not allow our low level stress transform into a perceived higher-level stress? Here are ten ideas that will help you do just that:
Keep things in perspective. If no one was severely injured and you suffered no loss of life, be grateful for that. No matter what your property damages are, if you didn't suffer any major casualties you are very lucky!
See this storm as a challenge. Ever wondered what life was like before the industrial period? Ever wondered what life was like for the Pilgrims? Ever wondered if you could have withstood some of the hardships that they did? Now you can find out.
Get to know people better. Get to know your family better, your neighbors better, your community better and yourself better as you are going to have to bond with them (and yourself) in order to get through this crisis. It's how our world was meant to be but thanks to all our modern conveniences which allow us to do most things without any help, is not.
Help yourself by helping others. Helping others takes your mind off your problems. Go visit that old couple who lives down the street or in the apartment upstairs and make sure they are doing alright. This action will release feel good chemicals in YOUR brain (like dopamine) that will make you feel more relaxed and less stressed.
Be grateful for the things you do have. As you look around at the devastation caused by this storm be grateful for what we do have. If a tree came down on your house, be grateful for the part of your house that is left intact or the friends or family (or the local emergency shelter) that can take you in.
Accept that things are going to take more time than usual. Preparing dinner takes much more time than usual, cleaning up takes more time, and even going to the gas station requires a lot of waiting. It's the new NORMAL. Accept it and when things go back to the OLD normal, be sure remember how it was during the storm.
Manage your expectations and you manage your stress. If you think the power is going to be turned back on as quickly as it has for all the other storms you ever endured, think again. This was a major event. And it's probably going to take longer, than it ever has. By not EXPECTING the power to come back anytime soon, you won't be stressing yourself out about having to wait so long. Have you ever wanted to go on a two or three week camping trip in the wild to see if you could survive? Well you're on that camping trip now. That's managing your expectations.
Be flexible. The little sapling that bends in the wind does better in a big storm than the large tree that tries to resist the wind. You may have been doing things the same way around the house for umpteen years but the minute the power goes out you are going to have to do things differently. That ability to remain flexible, feeds your creative problem solving ability and you'll always think of new ways to do things like learning how to flush the toilet without any running water.
Take action. Taking action, almost any action to solve a problem that's troubling you will immediately lower your stress. You'll be surprised how quickly this happens. If a tree has fallen on your house, calling a tree service starts the ball rolling. Taking action is all about doing one thing, anything, that's starts the ball rolling.
Make an assessment of how you did and make a plan for the next time. Look around and ask yourself: what did I do right this time and what did I do wrong? Make a plan for the next big storm, NOW. If you wish you had purchased a generator, go out and buy one as soon as they are back in stock. Don't wait till the next panic buying session starts. Do it now and do it while you can think clearly. Are there at least five other things you can think of that will make life easier the next time there is a major storm? Make a list and do as many as you can now, before the panic sets in.
Surviving the aftermath of a storm is all about developing resilience. This is the new buzz-word in the corporate and military world where stress may be seen as a sign of weakness and developing resilience to it allows you to proceed from a position of strength. It's kind of a gentle version of the philosophy: "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Learning how to cope with a crisis certainly makes you better at handling another crisis in the future. This is resilience in a nutshell.
So, even if the effects of this storm were devastating, use the concept of resilience, to inspire you to pick yourself up off the mat and continue fighting. You've survived the hard part. Now you just have to make a plan, execute it and move on. Knowing that without some stress in your life, there would be no life at all. That's how you survive the aftermath of a major storm or hurricane.