We are obviously hearing a lot right now about how to prepare for Hurricane Irma. Long gas lines, no parking spots available at the super stores, and water flying off the shelves at your neighborhood grocer are all indications of how people are preparing for the storm. With that said, not much is being discussed about emotional preparation which is equally as important.
During stressful times, our bodies produce extra cortisol which is known as the stress hormone. Stress is not always a bad thing. In fact, this extra stress can be beneficial as it helps to provide energy to tackle all of our hurricane preparedness activities. However, when too much stress can have devastating effects on our physical and emotional health.
One way to limit the negative impact of excess stress is to “emotionally breathe.” When we breathe physically we exhale the carbon dioxide (poison) and inhale the life-giving oxygen. How often do we need to breathe physically? A lot! Emotional breathing is similar. We exhale the things that we cannot control (poison) and we inhale serenity and the courage to handle the things that we can control. How often do we need to breathe emotionally? A lot!
Emotional breathing can take the form of the “Serenity Prayer” for those with a Higher Power or can simply be an affirmation. Here is an example of how that might look.
“God, give me (or, “I have”…) the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change” (Name them: the direction of the storm, other people, traffic, etc.) and imagine yourself exhaling those things. “God, give me the courage to change the things I can” (Name them: physical preparation, emotionally breathing, self-care, etc.) and imagine yourself inhaling the courage to accomplish those tasks. Repeat this exercise often and especially when you notice yourself feeling stressed or anxious.
We don’t want to spend any energy, effort, money, etc. on trying to change things that we have no control over. While things may be flying round us physically, focusing on the things that we can change will help keep us emotionally grounded.