As we enter into 2021's hurricane season, many are still coping with lasting impacts of prior storms. Mental health expert at CEO of One Telemed Charles Edwards says many hurricane survivors now struggle with Storm Related PTSD.
"It's very important that you do take care of your mental health because if you don't take care of your mental health, it also leads to some physical issues too," says Edwards.
Beau Barras started to experience physical symptoms like headaches and stomach aches. These symptoms were a shock to the system for the firefighter who thought his professional training had prepared him for anything.
"I just kind of thought I was immune to it because I was in that situation so much that my skin just got thick to those situations," says Barras.
This was until major flooding in August of 2016. Barras was on medical leave from the department after surgery. He was home with his family as the water rose in and around their home.
"To see your kids, to see your wife, nervous, anxious. It takes a whole different mindset. It really caused some trauma to our family because we had never experienced that before personally," says Barras, who began to feel mental and physical unease during any heavy rain event.
"I found out it was just because it was a traumatic situation. My doctor told me about it and she said it was normal," he explains.
Experts say you can prepare to combat these feelings. First, secure your home as much as possible to put your mind at ease. Then as a storm rolls in, practice coping techniques.
"Taking deep breaths, usually stopping and calming yourself down. Normally breathing exercises that really help to get you centered again. And understand just because you're hearing the sound doesn't mean you're going to have the same experience," says Edwards with One Telemed.
If someone in your home experiences PTSD symptoms around storms, don't leave them alone during large weather events and show them extra kindness in these times.
"Being patient, that's a big thing because sometimes we look at anxiety as just something they have, a way they're responding. But sometimes you can't control it and so being able to calmly adress that person and be more compassionate toward their feelings," says Edwards.
He says the best way to manage your storm anxiety is to talk to a professional as soon as you notice symptoms.
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