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When it rains in Santa Barbara… will it pour?

Recognizing and Managing Stress of Predicted Rain Events

October 2, 2018

Rain is forecast in the Santa Barbara area this week for the first time in many months.  The Santa Barbara Psychological Association (SBCPA) wants to support our community in managing any anticipatory stress about weather events and help recognize the varied responses that may be artifacts of the dual disasters our community experienced last December and January.  Upon hearing about the potential for rain, you or family members may experience anxiety and stress.   This is often a normal reaction to a weather event that triggers memories of the natural disaster.  SBCPA’s Disaster Response Team offers the following suggestions to help our community during this upcoming rain season:

Get the facts from authorities:  Do not rely solely on anecdotal information, media stories, or hearsay.  Seek factual information about the weather predictions and risk assessment by authorities.  Up to date information from the National Weather Service and Santa Barbara County’s Office of Emergency Management is available online at https://readysbc.org/2018/10/01/weather-advisory/

Fact check your thoughts:   When we perceive the potential for danger, our minds generate a variety of thoughts to alert us to any risk.  Some thoughts about the upcoming rain are likely helpful signals, such as those alerting you to prepare your home for rain or make sure your gutters are free of material.  After a natural disaster, it is common for the mind to overestimate the danger of weather events that may have some similarities to the events preceding the disaster.  

Tune into your body:  Take a moment to focus on your breath and any physical sensations of stress.  You may have heightened emotions or be more sensitive to environmental sounds that remind you of the disaster. If you notice your heart rate is elevated or tension in your muscles, take a few moments to help your body press reset.   Techniques such as mindfulness meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, yoga, cardiovascular exercise, or listening to nature are a few helpful strategies to manage the physiological stress response. 

Tune into your family members and children: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers the following suggestions for parents and families:

        Model calm behavior. Children may mirror the reactions of adults around them and will learn how to take care of themselves in times of stress from what parents and caregivers do.

        Provide children simple but accurate information in a quiet, steady voice. Emphasize that experts are working hard to predict what is likely to happen, and to keep us safe.

        Encourage comforting or distracting activities. Children may benefit from doing slow breathing to calm their bodies, having a stuffed animal or blanket to hold, or being distracted from the storm by dancing, singing, or playing games. Parents and caregivers should not force children to talk about what is happening. Playing outside may not be safe. Here are additional activities for children to do inside.

        Practice your own self-care. Parents and caregivers may benefit from finding opportunities to take a moment for themselves, express their feelings, acknowledge that it might be a scary or unknown situation, and engage in a coping strategy.

Seek help from a professional: If you notice persistent feelings of distress and you feel like you are barely able to get through your daily responsibilities and activities, consult with a licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist. Psychologists are trained to help people address emotional reactions to disaster such as disbelief, stress, anxiety and grief and make a plan for moving forward. To find a psychologist in your area, visit SBCPA’s Find a Psychologist locator (http://www.sbcpa.org/find-a-psychologist).


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