ORLANDO, Fla. - While many central Florida residents have taken steps to make physical preparations for Hurricane Irma—buying food, water, plywood—but many have not begun to make the mental preparations for surviving the storm.
The conditions during the hurricanes, and the stress leading up to the storm, can be grueling: Loss of power, government and emergency services out of commission, staying home for as long as 72 hours.
Channel 9’s Vanessa Echols spoke with certified counselor Dwight Bain about how to avoid what he calls “Storm Stress Syndrome.”
This Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Watch Vanessa Echol's interview with counselor Dwight Bain
Q: People have been saying they haven’t been able to sleep because they’re so stressed out about Irma. Is that normal?
A: It’s perfectly normal. This is the largest storm to hit central Florida that many will see in their lifetime. We’re going to get through it together, but you can’t ramp things up now. Take a breath. It’s good stress-coping skills. Talk to friends, sit down and write out what you’re worried about. One of the best ways to calm yourself down is to designate a buddy to talk to.
Q: How do I know once I’ve reached the point where my feeling anxious is no longer normal?
A: I want people listening to their gut. Ask yourself, can I sleep like normal? Can I eat like normal? I want them listening to their gut and being able to go, I don’t feel right. When stress goes up, immunity goes down. But follow the main rule: In a crisis situation, don’t make it worse. Keep calm.
Q: How do you prepare young kids for what they’re going to see and hear during this storm?
A: For little bitty kids, preschoolers, they get most of their emotions from their parents. So if you stay a model of calm, the kids’ moods will reflect that. People right now should be talking like they do at Thanksgiving about what to expect going forward. If you make that plan with your family and talk through what to expect, it will keep the mood calm during the storm.
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