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Mental health during hurricane season

You have seen the memes that joke about how hurricanes don’t phase Floridians, but in reality, these storms can bring a lot of stress and uncertainty. Heidi Radunovich, a UF/IFAS psychologist, shares tips and tools to keep in your mental health tool kit.

  • Limit your news consumption
      • News outlets share 24/7 coverage on developing storms that can be really stressful. It is important to keep track of where the storm is, but limit your consumption to the morning and the evening and do not watch it all day. Thankfully, hurricanes tend to move slowly so you do not need to watch every moment.
      • As the storm nears, it is important to watch more frequently and have a weather radio powered and ready to provide local updates.
  • Focus on preparing for the storm
      • Before a hurricane, focus on getting ready. The more prepared you are, the less anxious you will feel.
      • It is important to control what you can control. Doing what you can with concrete things like storm preparation will help reduce anxiety.
      • With COVID-19 in mind, consider adding hand sanitizer and masks to your supply kit.
  • Notice the signs of stress
      • The time before a hurricane can be really stressful. You may be snapping at people or short tempered. Kids may act up, you may not be able to sleep at night, these are all signs that people are stressed, and things are getting to them.
      • Be aware of your body and your moods, and once you notice these stress signals, seek calming activities that will help you relieve stress.
      • Stress is to be expected, just keep this in mind and help each other release the tension.
  • Identify calming activities
      • Each person will have their own preferences for what relieves stress. Some ideas include:
        • Taking a hot bath
        • Journaling
        • Yoga
        • Exercise
        • Stretching
        • Deep breathing exercises
        • Individual hobbies like coloring, knitting, jigsaw puzzles, etc.
      • Regardless of the specific activity, keeping yourself busy and being productive can add to your sense of control and improve your mental well-being.
  • Do some breathing exercises
      • You can choose whichever exercise is easiest for you to remember, but all will be helpful to increase the depth of your breath.
        • Five Deep Breaths: Sit in a comfortable position. Hold your hands together in front of you. Sit straight (while still comfortable) with shoulders back, chest out. Close your eyes. Slowly take in a breath and keep inhaling slowly until you can no longer take in anymore air. Exhale slowly. Repeat four times.
        • Bubble Breaths: Sit down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Imagine you are going to blow bubbles through a wand. Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, imagine you are filling a bubble with your breath. Imagine the bubble gets so big it fills the room and when it pops all your worries go with it.
        • Friendly Breaths: Find a friend and sit on the floor with your backs together. Sit up tall with shoulders back, chest out. Begin by taking a deep breath in and slowly exhaling. Your friend will feel your body taking these breaths and will copy your breathing until both of you are breathing in and out at the same time.
  • Seek additional support if you are struggling
      • Even with these tips in practice, it can be hard to cope. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers a free crisis line for people who have experienced disaster and this can be a good resource for those who need urgent support. You may call 800-985-5990, text TalkWithUs to 66746. Further resources on coping with disasters can be found on the CDC website.

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