Severe Weather Anxiety: What it is and how you can treat it

Severe Weather Anxiety: What it is and how you can treat it

PINE BELT (WDAM) - The Pine Belt has been hit hard with big weather events over the past decade. Whether its hurricanes or tornadoes that hit the area, living through it and seeing the damage it leaves can easily make you anxious about severe weather.

So, what is it like to live with severe weather anxiety, and how does it even get started in the first place? Leslie Martin tells us what it's like and how hers got started.

"I was living in Greenwood, AR at the time," Martin said. "It was 2011. I wasn't actually, I had no idea that storms were coming at the time. I had gone to visit my husband in Texas. He was training. I was trying to beat the storm back. Apparently, I thought that was a thing. It ended up catching us at the house, and so my daughter and I, she was 2 at the time, we got in the bathtub, and I put the crib mattress on us. I was on the phone with my dad just begging for him to pray for us because I was so scared. All of a sudden, the house started shaking, and it was so loud. I couldn't even hear myself screaming to him to ask him to pray for me."

So, what is it like when you go through severe weather events? Where do you feel the anxiety?

"I just get really like I'm shaking a lot," Martin said. "I get really moody. I can't eat anything. I just get extremely scared, and I'm not even really sure why?"

But, why does anxiety exist, and how does it get worse? In steps Psychologist Dr. Ted Crawford with the answer.

"I think most of the time it's fairly explainable," Crawford said. "Usually, there's been some past trauma, you know, someone may have lived through a traumatic weather event where there was some destruction, or they lost a pet, or maybe lost a loved one. Maybe feared for their own lives, or maybe they were fine but witnessed others that didn't fare so well."

How does anxiety form in the first place?

"Most experiences on a daily basis are easy to process," Crawford said. "If you compare it to food and digestion, most of our daily experiences are mashed potatoes. You don't even have to chew it. But, trauma is, you know, the thing at the back of the fridge that you forgot about for three months."

It's that difficulty of processing the traumatic event that causes the anxiety. It's your brain's way of trying to keep you safe from the situation it believes is life-threatening. But, when anxiety becomes crippling and impacts your way of life, it becomes time to get professional help.

"E.M.D.R. it stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing," Crawford said. "You don't necessarily have to use the eye movements anymore. Essentially, it's any way your right and left hemispheres are stimulated alternately. One side and the other side. It can be auditory or eye movements back and forth."

"The process is pretty simple," Crawford said. "The therapist will either move their fingers back and forth in front of your eyes, or they will give you this device, which plays tones at different times while buzzing your hands in rhythm."

The best thing about E.M.D.R. is that it has a high success rate in a short amount of time.

"And the beautiful thing about it is, it's your body's natural process," Crawford said. "There is no effort involved from the client or patient, other than to breathe and to watch and pay attention."

Another thing Crawford recommends is to learn about the thing that scares you. That's something Leslie says really helps her deal with her anxiety.

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