Get Ready, Florence is here!
Hurricane Florence is predicted to cause severe devastation, not only to the North Carolina coast but inland as well.
As a new resident to the Triangle, this experience is stirring up a range of feelings and reactions. First I had to work through my own response to the hurricane. Even though I recently moved to the area, I have spent a considerable part of my life in North Carolina. I spent summers on Topsail Island and time in Charlotte where my grandfather and other relatives live. Our family lost its beach cottage during the hurricane season of 1996 with Bertha and Fran. Consequently, my first response to the anticipation of Florence was to remember the significant loss we endured during previous hurricanes that hit North Carolina.
Then I thought, as a psychologist, how could I help others to cope with this historical event? Most people do not prepare for a hurricane on a regular basis, so it makes sense that one can become overwhelmed and immobilized. Listed below are several suggestions for coping with Hurricane Florence. The ultimate goal is to nurture and restore health and well-being -- including physical safety, emotional stability and spiritual and community connections.
- Acknowledge the reality of the situation. Stay up to date with accurate information. Find a news source that focuses on the facts more than the sensationalism of the event.
- Make a plan. Prioritize keeping yourself and those around you safe and protected. Remember: “Safety first!” Don’t wait for others to do for you what you can do for yourself.
- Return to a regular routine as soon as possible. Even though your life may have had major disruptions, engage in activities that help you feel balanced, and in control of your life. This is the time to stay healthy and strong by making healthy food choices and exercising. Don’t try to decrease stress by engaging in negative habits that are outside of your “normal,” such as smoking, drinking, taking drugs, eating junk food or unsafe sexual practices.
- Foster Emotional Stability. Tap into any personal resources you have developed for dealing with stressful situations in the past. Honor your feelings by naming them and expressing them in ways that promote emotional health, such as listening to music and dancing, writing in a journal, talking to friends or professionals.
- Nurture Community Connections. Stay connected to family, friends and neighbors to foster your feelings of confidence, boost your immune system, and decrease isolation. In times of crisis we may need to form new circles of support, because our familiar family and friends may not be available. Actively give (as well as receive) support in an effort to sustain a healthy balance, which satisfies our basic human need to be valued and connected.
- Awaken your Soul and Spirit. Now is the time to harness your spiritual beliefs, traditions and practices such as prayer, meditation and relaxation techniques. Let them nurture an optimistic outlook to foster hope, resilience and perseverance. Don’t dwell on the negative aspects of the situation or allow those around you to focus on the worst possible scenarios.
Remember, “We are all one Village.” Getting through Hurricane Florence will require all of us to move outside our comfort zones. But stretching outside of ourselves will help us to survive and thrive!
Dr. Lynda Morris Parham is a licensed psychologist with a private practice at the Integrated Medical Clinic of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. www.DrLynda.org