Coping with anxiety during hurricane season


HOUSTON – Hurricane season can wreak havoc on our emotions.

READ: Hurricane Harvey by Christine Reed

Whether it's the helpless feeling that washed over us as we watched New Orleans fill with water after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the frustration we felt as some in our community dealt with days and weeks without power after Hurricane Ike in 2008.

WATCH: Facing storm anxiety after Hurricane Harvey

It could be the fear we experienced in recent years after seeing Houston flood over and over again.

We know even the thought of another storm can cause anxiety among adults and children.

What can we do to remain calm and confident no matter what comes our way this year?

"The bed I sleep in every night is not mine. The room is not mine. Intense panicking turns to wails of hysteric crying in an instant," - Lauren Harpold

A famous author once wrote, "You can't go home again."

And a budding young writer, 17-year-old Lauren Harpold, agrees.

"As my right foot crossed the threshold, I realized I would never live in this house again," - Lauren Harpold

Harpold's childhood bedroom washed away in Harvey. Their now-abandoned Braes Heights home sits just feet from Brays Bayou. Now her family is left moving place to place until they can rebuild, which may take years.

"It's nice to have that centered part of my life that ... just moving from rent house to rent house in the next two years, and then I go away to college and it's almost like I've already moved out of the house," said Harpold.

File: Hurricane Harvey by Christine Reed

She says she has mostly kept quiet about how sad the remains of the house make her -- smiling so she doesn't burden her family with more sadness.

"Thinking that hurricane season is coming, that's going to create a little bit of anxiety," said Christine Reed, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist based in the Meyerland area of Houston.

They are all common feelings -- an emotional toll weighing on many people.

In fact, one study from UT Health shows more than half of Harris County is still suffering in Harvey's wake -- anxiety as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

That includes first responders and volunteers.

"Secondary trauma, because you're witnessing the trauma of other people," explained Reed.

And yet here we are again -- another hurricane season.

How Can You Reduce Anxiety?

Have a plan

Have a storm kit. Know what you'll do with prized possessions if your house floods. And know how you'll safely get out of your house. Share that information with your children. Having a detailed plan reduces stress for everyone.

"You have some kind of structure and ideas in mind of what you're going to do in case of a really bad storm or flood," Reed said.

It gives you control, it gives you power over the situation.

Practice relaxation -- train your brain

When it's sunny, you and your children should practice meditation, relaxation and deep breathing.

That way, your body is trained to stay calm when the bad weather arrives.

"If you get used to practicing with it, then it can sort of help you automatically get to that more relaxed state of mind," Reed said.

Parents have a huge impact on a child's well-being

"If you can practice some of these breathing techniques, that's something you can show and demonstrate to your child," Reed said.

Harpold said her relaxation comes from writing about her experience.

"I grabbed a small backpack, paced around my room, trying to figure out what to take with me," - Lauren Harpold

She's looking to create a book of essays like hers, and she believes compiling different stories about leaving home may reveal how alike we are.

"Yes, it was emotional writing this, but it felt good," Harpold said.

Submit your essay or drawing

If you've written an essay or created artwork after Harvey, Harpold hopes you will share them with her for her book.

You can email her at hurricaneharveybook@gmail.com.