’Tis the season! Hurricane season.
For us living here in South Florida, hurricane season is upon us again. While we normally go well into July before we see any serious tropical action, this year we’ve already had a couple “areas of interest” develop in the Gulf of Mexico. Will this year’s hurricane season be as intense and massive as last year’s? I have no way of knowing for sure.
Having lived most of my life in South Florida, I have seen some powerful storms bluster through town, but most of the time, my friends around Naples scoff at approaching storms with macho disdain (present company included). Chances are, we won’t get a beast like Irma again this year (at least that’s what we like to tell ourselves). Still, this is a good time to think about getting ready.
If you watch the local news, read the paper, or follow any of the Naples area Facebook groups over the next few months, you will see all kinds of tips for hurricane preparation. That’s good. Read them all and follow them. They include good ideas for preparing your home, your vehicles, your pets, your pool, and supplies.
With that in mind, I want to talk to you this week about preparing for disaster from a wellness perspective. While those hurricane prep lists are great for what they cover, they don’t always cover wellness in all the ways we describe it here – physical, mental, emotional, financial, spiritual, and so on.
Let’s go deeper.
Not everyone who reads this blog deals with hurricanes, but everyone has to be ready for natural disasters. Whether it’s the wildfires of Montana, the ice storms of New England, or flooding anywhere, you need to know what to do when the environment becomes the enemy.
Be Aware Of Stress
First, remember that everyone is on edge during a storm. Even the “tough guys” who roll their eyes at the weather are still operating at a higher level of adrenaline, cortisol, and all the other neurotransmitters. They might be manifesting it as excitement instead of fear (that’s a “Think Right” blog for another time!), but they are still dealing with a ramped up internal dialogue.
I remember watching the news reports around Hurricane Wilma back in 2005. I didn’t feel anxious — in fact, I was having fun with it — but I realized later that my arms were sore. Throughout the evening, I had clenched my hands into tight fists with excitement and wasn’t even aware of it until later.
Realize that some people are going to approach the stress of the approaching danger in the form of excitement, and some in the form of terror. Whichever way you tend to lean, be aware of your emotions. You can be enjoying the rush of neurotransmitters and still turn and scream at someone. That’s why you need to be aware of the emotions of people around you. While joking and scoffing (and even screaming) might be a healthy release mechanism for you, it could really damage someone who is truly afraid.
Here’s a simple tip: prepare. The better prepared you are, the more peaceful you will be when the storm comes.
This is especially true if you’re in a leadership position, where you are responsible for the safety of a group of people (like your family). Make sure you keep calm and maintain your composure so that when you need to be able to make quick decisions, you can make good choices and keep your anxious family members peaceful. I realize that’s easier said than done, but that’s why it’s so important to practice rest. Take a few deep breaths. Pray. Think about someone you admire and consider what they might do at that moment. Speak firmly but gently. You can walk in your God-given authority and still be gentle — in fact, it’s easier for people to follow a leader who can be gently firm than someone who barks out orders.
Whether you are facing down a storm or not, give people grace, realizing that they may be panicking inside.
Nothing throws off routines like a big storm. If you’re the type who will sit up all night and watch the Weather Channel updates, that can take you off your daily schedule. While a little storm can change your plans for the evening, a major storm that knocks out the power or forces an evacuation can upset your whole life for weeks or months. A significant trauma like a devastating storm can knock people off their routines in a way from which they never fully recover.
People thrive on routines — especially children. The closer you can keep your life to normal, the easier it will be to handle transitions. This is true when you travel for pleasure, for business, or for an emergency. Your body has “Circadian rhythms” that manage your normal functions (if you have lunch at the same time every day and suddenly miss one, you know what I’m talking about). Any change in your environment can scramble the structures we put in place in our lives, and that can be upsetting to people.
As much as it is in your power to do so, protect your daily routines. If you go to bed and get up at a certain time every day, continue doing so, and keep your bathroom routines. Eat at your normal meal times as much as possible. Keep whatever habits you and your kids have throughout the day. I realize that there are some extenuating circumstances that may prevent you from keeping all your routines (i.e., spending time in a shelter or extended power outages), but those are the times you need to make an extra effort to cling to normalcy. It will take some of the shock out of the whole experience.
For a moment, let’s imagine that you are stuck at home with no electricity and no way to get to whatever grocery stores are operating. I don’t mean for you to get into fear, but it can be helpful to envision a worst-case scenario and develop a plan (at least in your mind) to cope with it.
Foods that require refrigeration or freezing are probably going to be lost (note: the longer you can keep from opening the freezer, the longer your frozen food will stay frozen), so it’s important to keep a stash of foods that don’t require refrigeration.
Most people hoard bread. It’s the craziest thing. I realize that most people make themselves sandwiches, and if that’s all you have, it’s better than nothing. People stockpile chips, cookies, crackers, and non-perishables, but with a little forethought and preparation, you can maintain a healthy diet that will promote good sleep, clear thinking, and restroom normalcy (if you wonder why I keep bringing it up, you’ve never gone a week without consistent plumbing).
That said, here is a list of healthy foods that can be kept good for several days without electricity:
Avocado is a great source of healthy fat that will keep you feeling satiated longer (add a little lime, cilantro, salt, and garlic for a terrific homemade guacamole)
Bananas are an excellent source of potassium, which is great for energy and feeling good.
Eggs are a great source of healthy fats and proteins, but unless you have the stomach to eat them raw, it’s better to boil them while you still have electricity and keep them on hand.
Apples and Pears
Tree fruits like apples and pears are great sources of fiber that last for weeks.
Safe at any temperature, one spoonful can keep you feeling full longer without the carb crashes.
Tomatoes and Cucumbers
Keep cool with fresh garden veggies that are high in essential vitamins. Have you ever noticed that, while the bread shelves are empty the first day, there is usually plenty of fresh produce in stores?
Counter-ready and chock full of Vitamin C and D3
Melons are a terrific source of vitamins, fructose for energy, and water. Just don’t mix them with other fruits. Seriously.
Nuts and Seeds
Trail mix is another simple and satisfying snack with a good amount of the good fats to help you feel full.
Beans are excellent for protein and fiber. Cook them in advance and store them in glass jars in the fridge as long as you can. They won’t last forever, but they will provide a good protein source for several days.
You have to be careful with chocolate, but organic dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids and no sugar is not only delicious, it’s high in antioxidants. The kids will be glad you provided a sweet dessert option when things aren’t much fun.
Tuna is a mixed bag, even in good conditions, so you need to be selective (if you can even find it in the stores before a hurricane), but it’s also a good source of protein and omega-3 that doesn’t have to be cooked or refrigerated.
Bonus Points If You Can Grow It Yourself
The advantage goes to anyone who can successfully grow their own food. Learn to raise your own vegetables in a small home garden. I’ve enjoyed watching videos about square-foot gardening.
Now, if you load up on bread and crackers and junk food, I won’t come to your house and judge you, but I think you can do better with a little planning and creativity. Since we’re not under the gun for a major storm right this minute, you have time to give this some thought.
Make Your Own Water
I recommend you have a water distiller and some half-gallon Mason jars in your home. Counter-top water distillers are usually about $200 – $350, but they are a great investment as long as you have power. When you consider that the first thing to run out when people panic is bottled water, this will save you a lot of stress and frustration. Water is crucial for survival, and people will fight over it when it gets scarce.
A water distiller works like this: you boil water and capture the steam into a cooling tube. Steam is pure H2O with no toxins or bacteria. As it cools, it condenses and drips into a clean pot or pitcher. That is the cleanest, purest water available for drinking, although most people don’t like how it tastes (it has no minerals). There are YouTube videos that explain how to cobble together your own homemade distillation system that will work over your stovetop or even fire, but they are a lot of work. I recommend you buy one that has been properly engineered, like one of these from WaterWise.
Distillation is a slow process (it takes up to four hours to process a gallon of water), but if you have a few days to prepare, it is a great way to stock up on your own clean drinking water for free. Start now and keep a good store of clean, pure water on hand in a dark pantry or closet in glass or stainless steel containers. You will be so thankful you did.
There are no medals for braving a hurricane, a forest fire, or any other disaster. There may be bragging rights in some situations, but you have to take serious inventory of your life to determine if it’s worth it to be able to talk smack afterward, especially if the danger is going right over your town.
If you have a family, safety is your first consideration, followed by provision. Take the danger seriously. There is no pain in life like the regret that comes when you make a decision that puts a family member in the hospital (or worse).
If you have extra resources and you realize that you have a friend or neighbor who doesn’t have reliable transportation or money for food and shelter (in the case of an evacuation), do something about it. If you don’t have to evacuate and you have the resources, make sure your neighbors have something to eat. You might save their lives. But just like the flight attendant tells you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others, your first consideration is for your family.
God is real and prayer works. He loves you. We live in a world where bad things happen, but that doesn’t mean He causes those bad things. I hate that my insurance agent calls hurricanes “acts of God.” I serve a good God that loves people and wants to be involved in their lives to the extent that they allow Him to be. He never turns His back on you or abandons you, but He doesn’t normally act in lives where He is not invited, except by mercy. God’s protection is available for those who call on Him. Make that call, and never give up hope.
Advanced Prep Is A Win
Again, I tell you all this not to frighten you, but to give you an objective list of things to think about when everything around you makes you want to panic. When you’re under pressure is not the time to make decisions and plans. Anything you can do to prepare in advance is a strategic victory for you.
Having said that, I will be praying for you as storms approach, wherever you are, and whatever disaster you may be facing. I believe we come of trials stronger than we go in. Take a few seconds to share this article on your favorite social media channel. Now, while things are quiet, let’s help people talk about being ready for this hurricane season, and help each other weather whatever storms may come.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE” — Eric Thomas