Monitoring your mental health while preparing for Nicole

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Paul Dolan

Thinking about another storm approaching the state is nerve-racking since most of us are still dealing with the impacts of Hurricane Ian.

The aftermath of Ian is front and center in Southwest Florida, while piles of debris are scattered along the streets. However, many scars lay buried beneath the surface in the psyche of survivors who may not realize how deep the emotional impact is.

Stacey Brown is a licensed mental health counselor and is doing a lot of telehealth visits from her Fort Myers home.

“It’s a very stressful event, our central nervous systems really take a hit with things like this. And so when we are in fight-flight or freeze mode, it’s going to be difficult to eat correctly and digest properly, might be hard to sleep at night,” Brown said.

Brown is helping people process Ian but worries that Nicole will hurt people’s weakened mental health.

“Anytime that you’ve had a trauma, and then something shows up that feels similar or looks similar, you’re gonna get reactivated,” Brown said.

Handling trauma after Ian and ahead of Nicole. CREDIT: WINK News

Whether you’re at home or at work, paying attention to your breath can help calm your nerves. Brown said it is one of the few things you can control.

While simplistic, slowing your breathing can de-escalate the serge of emotions you’re feeling.

“Bring your breath down deeper, it’s going to stimulate a relaxation response. This is just neurology. So our brain is talking to our bodies all the time. And you’re in charge of the way that you think. All right,” Brown said. “So even though there’s trauma, you can still remind yourself to do some real; thinking about this, look around, you find three things to look at, I see a plant, I see something green, I see my blue couch, you know, really anchor yourself in what’s present.”

Brown suggests focusing on what you see, smell, and hear. To ground yourself in the present and consequently prevent a spiral of worry. She has pivoted much of her practice to treating trauma and helping others put their pain behind them.

“You’re okay, you got this, you know, we’re not in danger right now,” Brown said.

The emotional toll is high, but treating yourself kindly could go a long way in easing anxiety.

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