Reducing Storm Anxiety

Tornadoes, flooding, and ice storms are a part of life here in the heartland. Almost everyone feels apprehensive when anticipating the arrival of a potential tornado or flood, blizzard, ice storm, or any severe weather. Stress is how the brain and body respond to such demands. Although everyone feels stressed from time to time, feeling anxious during times of stormy weather, though common, is upsetting.

However, not all stress is bad. Why? Because it can motivate us to prepare! In fact, preparation enhances resilience. Here are some tips to help you increase your and your families’ resilience both physical and emotional.

Prepare

When faced with a new or threatening situation, PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE! Both scientific research and common sense has shown that the more you prepare for an event the less anxious you will be and the better you will perform. So let’s look at how to prepare for severe weather and thus become more resilient.

Have a plan:


Get the facts:
  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio or to commercial radio or television newscasts for the latest information. In any emergency, always listen to the instructions given by local emergency management officials.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions.

Reach out to your children:
  • Be calm and supportive. Find out more about how to strengthen your children’s emotional well-being both before and after a storm. Download Help Kids Cope (It’s free from Google Play and iTunes).
  • Encourage your children to learn more about weather by playing games or other activities. For example, visit:
  • Visit our Tips for Parents page for more.

Prepare your mind and body:
  • Learn to recognize when you or someone you care about is experiencing the signs of feeling anxious or stressed, such as trouble concentrating, being easily irritated, feeling depressed, or experiencing unexplained body aches and pains. Recognizing these signs early, and doing something about them, can help you, and others, better able reduce the chances of becoming overwhelmed during bad weather.
  • Engage in self-care. Eat healthy, exercise, take time to do activities you enjoy. Make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress and promote calm. These techniques are particularly helpful in preventing, or short-circuiting, panic attacks.
  • Learn more at the Mayo Clinic.

Connect to Social Supports:

  • Social support is related to emotional well-being and recovery after a disaster. People who are well connected to others are more likely to manage the stress of a crisis.
  • Work to maintain and strengthen your social support network. This includes family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, hobby or club members, church members and clergy.
  • The benefits of social connectedness include:
    • Increased opportunities for knowledge essential to disaster recovery
    • Help with practical problem-solving
    • Emotional understanding and acceptance
    • Sharing of experiences and concerns
    • Mutual instruction about coping
  • Social support: Tap this tool to beat stress

Helping our pets:
When it comes to disasters, if it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for your pets.
  • Develop a Pet Disaster Preparedness Kit. Include:
    • Food and water for at least 5 days
    • Food and water for at least 5 days
    • Medication and medical records
    • Cat litter box, litter, scoop and garbage bags
    • Sturdy leashes, harnesses and carriers
    • Current photo of you with your pets and description of your pets
    • Written information about your pets feeding schedules, medical conditions and behavior issues along with the name and number of your veterinarian
  • Learn more at the Humane Society.

During A Tornado

Let’s talk about tornadoes. Here are some things to remember. First, familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a tornado hazard:

Tornado Watch - Tornadoes are possible. Remain alert for approaching storms. Watch the sky and stay tuned to NOAA Weather radio, commercial radio or television for information.

Tornado Warning - A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. Take shelter immediately.

If you are under a tornado warning, seek shelter immediately! Most injuries associated with high winds are from flying debris, so remember to protect your head.

If you are in: Then:
A permanent structure (a residence, small building, school, nursing home, hospital, factory, shopping center, high-rise building, etc.)
  • Go to a predesignated area, such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or to the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of a small interior room on the lowest level (such as a closet or interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
  • Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest available floor.
  • Do not open windows.
A manufactured home or office
  • Get out immediately and go to a predesignated location such as a storm shelter, or the lowest floor of a sturdy, nearby permanent structure. Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes.
The outside with no shelter If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
In all situations:
  • Do not seek shelter under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries

Tips for Parents

Disasters can leave children and teens feeling frightened, confused and insecure. And kids' responses can be quite varied. It's important to not only recognize these reactions, but also help children cope with their emotions.

You are their biggest influence.

When you can manage your own feelings, you can make disasters less traumatic for your kids.

  • Encourage dialogue. Listen to your kids. Ask them about their feelings. Validate their concerns.
  • Answer questions. Give just the amount of information you feel your child needs. Clarify misunderstandings about risk and danger.
  • Be calm, be reassuring. Discuss concrete plans for safety. Have children and teens contribute to the family's recovery plan.
  • Shut off the TV! News coverage of disasters creates confusion and anxiety. Repeated images may lead younger kids to believe the event is recurring. If your children do watch TV or use the Internet, be with them to talk and answer questions.
  • Find support. Whether you turn to friends, family, community organizations or faith-based institutions, building support networks can help you cope, which will in turn help your children cope.
Find out more here.

Tips for Media Coverage
  • Limit Your Children’s Exposure to Media Coverage
    • The younger the child, the less exposure he or she should have.
    • You may choose to eliminate all exposure for very young children.
    • Play DVDs or videotapes of their favorite shows or movies instead.
    • Consider family activities away from television, radio, or internet.
  • Watch and Discuss with Children and Teens
    • Watch what they watch.
    • Discuss the news stories with them, asking about their thoughts and feelings about what they saw, read, or heard and correct any misunderstandings or confusion.
    • Ask older children and teens about what they have seen on the internet or what they have heard through social media technologies (text, Facebook, Twitter), in order to get a better sense of their thoughts, fears, concerns, and point-of-view .
  • Seize Opportunities for Communication
    • Use newsbreaks that interrupt family viewing or newspaper/web images as opportunities to open conversation. Be available to talk about children’s feelings, thoughts, and concerns, and reassure them of their safety and of plans to keep them safe.
  • Monitor Adult Conversations
    • Be careful of what you and other adults say about the recent stabbing or the media coverage in front of the children; children often listen when adults are unaware and may misunderstand what they hear.
  • Let Your Children and Teens Know about Successful Community Efforts
    • You may want to share positive media images, such as reports of individuals helping those in need.
    • Reassure your children/teen that many people and organizations are working to help the people injured and affected. This will give them a sense that adults are actively taking steps to protect those that are currently suffering.
  • Educate Yourself

After the Storm

The storm is over, so now what do you do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
  • Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
  • Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
  • If you are trapped, do not move about or kick up dust. Tap on a pipe or wall or use a whistle, if you have one, so that rescuers can locate you.
  • Stay out of damaged buildings and homes until local authorities indicate it is safe.
  • Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim .
  • Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.
  • If your home is without power, use flashlights or battery-powered lanterns rather than candles to prevent accidental fires.
  • Be careful of scams . Unfortunately, there are individuals who are willing to take advantage of people after a disaster. Here are some tips for avoiding disaster fraud.

If after the storm you are still having difficulty coping, you may consider seeking further information. Crisis Counseling:
  • SAMHSAS’s Disaster Distress Helpline
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline/Veterans Crisis Line:
  • 2-1-1 Oklahoma: 2-1-1 Oklahoma is an easy-access system for information and referral to community services for those who need help and those who provide help. Visit their website here.

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Want help with upsetting feelings?

Welcome to PTSD Coach Online: Tools to Help you manage stress.

Would you like help managing your stress? PTSD Coach Online is for anyone who needs help with upsetting feelings. Trauma survivors, their families, or anyone coping with stress can benefit.

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is a condition that can develop after you have been through a trauma. After the event, you may feel afraid and nervous. You may have upsetting thoughts, memories, or nightmares of the event. You may feel numb or cut off from other people. You may also avoid things that remind you of the event. These symptoms can disrupt your life, making it hard to continue with your daily activities. If these feelings or experiences don't go away over time or they get worse, you may have PTSD.

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PTSD Coach Online has tools for coping with sadness, anxiety, and other symptoms that people who have been through trauma can develop. Some tools are brief and can help you relax when you feel stressed, or improve your mood, for example. Longer tools teach you how to tackle difficult problems, change thinking patterns, and take steps to achieve your goals.

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Other Resources

Below are some links to further resources you may find helpful.

Disaster Preparedness


Learn About Disasters
Oklahoma Resources