Living at the beach is one of the best things in my life – in spite of the fact that the probability of rough weather tends to increase when you live adjacent to an ocean. Given the unique coastal geography of our Cape Region, we sometimes dodge the proverbial bullet when it comes to hurricanes, so all-in-all, the positives outweigh the negatives. But visitors to my office still admit to worrying when clouds begin to gather. In fact, when a huge spring snowstorm hit the Northeast a few years ago, a Delaware Coast Press reader asked me to write about “weather anxiety.”
When we talk about “weather anxiety”, it’s not really the weather we’re anxious about; it’s our thoughts and feelings about the weather that are causing the anxiety. That’s why different people have different emotional reactions to the weather. You read about people who don’t evacuate even when a deadly hurricane is about to hit. Others evacuate immediately. Different kinds of thoughts, assumptions and ideas lead to differing reactions and behaviors.
If you find yourself anxious about the weather, look closely at your thoughts. Ask yourself, “What are my ideas and assumptions about the weather? What do I THINK and ASSUME – perhaps in the absence of hard facts – about this weather event?” Humans do not live by emotions alone. It’s not enough merely to feel; when you feel something, you’re also thinking something at the same time. I have found that many of the thoughts people have about things – including the weather – involve calamity and catastrophe. Within those thoughts exist certain assumptions. One assumption is, “The worst will happen.” Remember that calamity and catastrophe are the worst possible events. We see these calamities on television and the Internet all the time. Why? Because they’re the most common? No. Precisely because they are rare and unusual.
Our subconscious minds can trick us by trying to convince us that these unusual, disastrous events are the norm. Media, in its 24/7 attempts to create spectacles that sell advertising, tends to reinforce this fact. It calls our attention to the unusual, the exciting and the anxiety-provoking. But, in fact (note the use of the word, “fact”) the vast majority of weather events do not lead to such calamity. Obviously it’s wise to take the necessary precautions, as it would be with anything that is somewhat unpredictable, but taking precautions is something over which you have control. Even if some of these precautions seem obsessive, do them anyway within reason if they make you feel better. Because taking action and getting prepared are great ways to counter anxiety.
Of all the things people cannot control, weather events are the most obvious. Whether it’s a rained-out event or a hurricane, the principle is the same: There are things in life we cannot control. Perhaps science will reach a point when human beings will be able to have a direct impact on the weather. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Good mental health refers to serenity. When you have serenity, you’re fully empowered by and confident in the belief that you CAN and WILL control what you’re able to control; but you’re equally calm in accepting what you can’t control. If you find yourself nervous about the weather, try to keep in mind that your thoughts and assumptions are causing this anxiety; not the weather itself. Take a look at your assumptions and attitudes not just about the weather, but also regarding control of your own destiny. A reflective examination of your subconscious – I call it “introspection” – done regularly can make coping with daily life, including the weather, a lot more manageable than you might think. And with that can come serenity.
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