5 Tips for Coping with Severe Winter Weather
Severe winter weather – including blizzards and other storms that occur during the winter months – has the potential to cause emotional distress among adults and youth living in the affected areas. These 5 tips from the national Disaster Distress Helpline can help you and your loved ones manage anxiety, worry, or other stressful emotions that are common when disasters and emergencies strike.
1. Practice Preparedness
By developing a safety and emergency plan ahead of time for you and your loved ones, you will be more likely to feel calmer and in control when severe winter weather strikes. Visit http://www.ready.gov for a variety of plans including for pets, families, senior citizens and other adults with special needs, as well as resources in multiple languages.
2. Limit Exposure to Media
Turn on, tune in or log on to get the news you need to stay aware and get ready for the storm, but work to limit your exposure – and that of any kids in the home. Sometimes too much news can actually lead to higher levels of stress because of constant exposure to potentially distressing images or language like ‘storm of the century’, etc. Commit to only checking news on the hour every hour for headlines – if there is important information that you need to know, it will be featured then.
3. Offer Support
Offering support to neighbors, friends & family during severe winter weather can help you feel better & get through the storm as well! Frail elderly and other adults with limited mobility, people with pre-existing mental health concerns including those that have struggled to recover from past disasters- may be particularly vulnerable to feelings of isolation, anxiety and other depression-like symptoms during severe winter weather that can be aggravated by power outages, canceled healthcare appointments, etc. Check in on anyone you know that may be vulnerable to distress and for whom you may be able to help run an errand, invite to dinner, or simply lend a listening ear.
4. Maintain Normal Routines and Practice Self-Care
Now that you’ve gotten your severe winter weather supplies ready, listened to the news you need to stay informed & checked in on loved ones … try to do what you would normally do! In fact, use the severe weather as motivation to be as healthy as possible- Exercise indoors, eat well-balanced meals, etc. Maintaining normal routines is also important for kids in the home to ease any anxiety they may have. If you’re able, also use the winter weather as a reason to do things you might not normally make the time to do by yourself or with loved ones- cook a long, slow meal; watch a fun movie; take up that knitting project that you haven’t touched in years; play a game together; go sledding during the day if the kids are out of school. If the power goes out, try to make the most of that, too, by reading a book by flashlight, telling stories- make it an adventure to help distract younger kids and keep older kids from getting bored.
5. Know When to Reach Out for Help
Even if you’ve tried these tips for coping, during severe winter weather you may still have a hard time and struggle with difficult emotions: you are not alone. Speak to your healthcare provider as soon as you’re able to, or reach out to the Disaster Distress Helpline by calling or texting 1-800-985-5990. We’re available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – no matter the weather.