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Hurricane Season Coping Tips

Local Experts Recommend Emotional Preparedness for Hurricane Season

Although the 2018 hurricane season officially began on June 1, there are Southwest Floridians still trying to shake the trauma experienced during the 2017 season. For individuals waiting on roof, fence, pool cage and screen repairs, tree pruning or removal, and other home or property renovations due to wind and water damage, mental health experts such as Dorothy Rodwell and Kim St. Clair advise that these can be personal trauma triggers capable of setting off a flashback to earlier psychological trauma that may be linked to hurricane events, well as adverse childhood experiences (ACE).

Rodwell, a licensed psychotherapist who offers rapid trauma resolution (RTR) and St. Clair, Psy.D., a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) see patients at AHA! A Holistic Approach Center, in Fort Myers. These women, in addition to Linda Mundt, a local feng shui expert who offers a valuable preparation tip, suggest techniques for dealing with lingering emotional trauma.

RTR

News of an approaching hurricane or tropical storm gets people into preparation mode in which the logical mind reigns. We collect information, create a preparation and evacuation plan, and rehearse them. Later, during a state of fear and anxiety, the logical mind is offline and emotions take over. RTR is based on the fact that the part of our mind causing emotional responses doesn't respond to reason. “To encourage change, it makes better sense to communicate with the emotional brain in a symbolic language of images that it understands,” advises Rodwell.

Any trauma can be considered a block that stops the mind from clearing undesired emotions and reprocessing past memories. “Using RTR, I create a positive space where the individual feels safe and connected to the present moment,” says Rodwell. “A symbolic image of their desired goal is created and together, we work toward clearing the subconscious, emotional mind so desired change is possible. New associations are made using humor, playful banter and metaphors to quickly create painless emotional shifts,”

EMDR

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a treatment developed for post-traumatic syndrome disorder as well as other mental health conditions such as panic disorders, generalized anxiety disorder and people suffering extreme grief. It does not rely on talk therapy, but rather on an individual’s rapid, rhythmic eye movements, which diminish the power of emotionally charged memories.

“I begin by asking the individual to bring to mind emotionally unpleasant memories, images, thoughts about their self and body sensations that stem from their traumatic event. I ask them to simultaneously hold these thoughts and images in their mind as I ask them to pay attention to an outside stimulus. For example, they could be asked to move their eyes back and forth to follow the movements of my hand,” explains St. Clair, who has been using evidence-based EMDR since 2003, when she was certified in the technique.

“An individual reacts to a trauma trigger in the present. It hooks them and pulls them back into the emotions of their old, disturbing event causing anxiety, panic and sleeplessness. EMDR keeps the past memory from replaying over and over,” advises St. Clair. “I’ve been talking with and getting feedback from other therapists who are telling me that they are doing a lot of single-incident EMDR sessions because of unresolved trauma from Hurricane Irma.”

Clearing Out Clutter

From a feng shui perspective, the best advice on preparing for hurricane season is to clear out clutter. “Peace of mind and a sense of being centered and grounded can come from knowing where important things such as records for tax returns, spare glasses, insurance papers, valuables and treasured photos are when you need to evacuate or you need to locate them when you return,” notes Mundt. “Clearing clutter helps you emotionally pare down and join the minimalist trend the young millennials are following. Clients tell me that there is a great sense of freedom and emotional clarity in doing this. I suggest starting now with baby steps. Clear out and organizing a sock or kitchen drawer. Reward yourself when you finish.”

Life’s circumstances aren’t always stable and reliable, which is why we need to create a reliable internal place of calm and peace using a practice such as breath work, centering prayer, meditation, tai chi, yoga or qigong. A main tenet of Buddhism is the natural law of impermanence. In clearing clutter, we are befriending a sense of impermanence and establishing a more internal intimacy with it.

In Collier County, Hurricane Irma wreaked approximately $320 million in physical damages. Lee County reported $742 million. The invisible emotional damage and its residue remain untallied. Using the advice of Rodman, St. Clair and Mundt could give individuals the opportunity to clear a house of clutter and mind of trauma before the full force of the 2018 season begins.

Local Ressources

AHA! A Holistic Approach Center, 15971 McGregor Blvd., Ft. Myers. 239-851-7166.

Dorothy Rodwell, 239-851-7166. MoreChoicesNow.com.

Kim St. Clair, 330-603-0083.

Linda Mundt, Linda Mundt Design, 608-255-0651. LindaMundt.com.

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