Experts weigh-in on stress of dealing with COVID-19 and hurricane season

The 5th Season: Dealing with COVID/Hurricane Stress

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - About 90 days ago, few of us had heard of the “novel coronavirus” but in just three short months, all our lives have forever changed.

June 1 is the official start of hurricane season and we’re about to add another six months of uncertainly to a year that’s already overwhelmed many. What does one have to do with the other - anything or everything? The question was posed to two experts and their answers may provide you some guidance.

“Got me thinking about parallels - things that are similar - things we get to take from the experience of COVID-19, which is a brand new experience and global, just like storms and natural disasters are global,” said Dr. Frank Campbell, executive director emeritus of the Baton Rouge Crisis Intervention Center. "There are a lot of parallels we can take but the one I found to be the most important (and why this program is so timely) is important our mental health is - is we also included in our preparedness for storms, ‘preparedness for our mental health and stress.’

That may sound easy and almost too simple but Dr. Campbell went on to explain it is critical for us all to take an introspective self-inventory.

“We’re coming out of a period where we have a really good personal insight into how well we’ve done so far. If we’ve had trouble, if we’ve struggled and haven’t found ways to add to our coping, then we’re going to let that experience weaken us and make us more vulnerable,” he added.

As daunting as that may be, Dr. Campbell also said the basic principle of this season of challenge, as related to COVID-19, is that it’s “self-defined and time-limited.”

“We know that about storms. We have a sense of what these are like through experiences. COVID, still don’t have that - what the end date will be and the sense of normalcy. My hope is we take the good things we have learned and hold onto them - with every crisis, there is great danger and opportunity. Danger is accelerated when we’re not prepared - so being prepared is an important part of seizing the opportunity,” Dr. Cambell noted.

Jill Rigby Garner, the founder of Manners of the Heart, agrees and added that as adults, we need to be mindful to prepare ourselves before we can prepare our children. After all, they take everything from our cues. Jill suggests we think of the “three Rs” but it’s not what you’re thinking. In this current environment, the three Rs stand for “readiness, routine, and responsibility.”

“Readiness - have a game plan, go through the “what ifs,” think it through first,” Garner explained. “The most important thing we can do for our children during any time of a high stress level is maintain routine, because it’s in a routine that children find security and they feel safe. When we give our children responsibility, especially in a high stress time, they feel they truly are part of the family, an important member of the family, and that helps the stress level go down. If something happens, they are already accustomed to helping and contributing to the family.”

She encourages parents to surround their family with what she calls “a courageous love” and, in doing so, will instill courage in their children (in spite of these difficult times), so they can learn how to be brave. Obviously, we have no control of what hurricane season may bring or the changes caused by this worldwide pandemic but Garner said to remember what we DO have control over.

“How we’re going to put parameters in place to keep our children safe, safe in our arms, and this is the one place we can hug - in the home and, may I say, there is nothing more important, as simple as that is, to hug twice as much, hug four times as much as you ever did,” she pointed out.

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Dr. Campbell said it is his hope - and that should extend to all of us - to take the good things we have learned and hold onto them. But, if you need to talk to someone in confidence over the next several months, you can call THE PHONE, a 24-hour number through Crisis Intervention Center, at 225-924-3900.

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