Hurricane Survival

Reduce relationship stress during a crisis

Surviving the storm with your feelings intact
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If COVID taught us anything, it’s that we are capable of being cooped up in a small space with people you love without losing your mind. Living through a hurricane is a lot like quarantine, however, with the added stress of storm-force winds and high rains screaming outside. Once the house is boarded and you’re confidently stocked with non-perishable food and water, take a few minutes to focus on prepping for the part of the storm we don’t really consider—emotional fall outs.

“Just as we prepare by making sure we have all the necessary essentials, it is also important that we secure our relationships in the same manner,” explains Dr. Nekia Walker, a relationship, sex and intimacy therapist. “First you will want to take an honest look at what everyone’s core needs are. Then you will want to go ahead and add in the desires as well.”

Do not, however, leave yourself out of the equation, she warns. Caregivers often compromise their own wants and needs in order to keep the peace, but this can cause “avoidable problems” once stressful times come. “If an individual’s wants and needs are not met, they will be ill-equipped to handle the waves of emotions that may arise during stressful events.”

High winds, hot tempers

With tropical storms and hurricane-force winds comes the real and expensive threat of physical damage to property. Even the safety net of insurance is little solace when faced with a boat that slipped its mooring and has crashed into the rocks or serious structural damage to your family home.

Under the best circumstances, these fears can fuel arguments with loved ones, and will inevitably be heightened during a storm. In this instance, your first responsibility is to yourself.

“Calming oneself down during rough weather is kind of like trying to take medication for a migraine once it has already begun, and anyone who suffers from migraines will tell you that the sooner they treat their symptoms, the better,” says Dr. Walker. “Relationships are no different.  Proper preparation, along with additional knowledge of your personal emotional triggers will greatly reduce the flare of a hot temper.”

Everyone benefits from understanding the actions that will help calm them in a stressful situation. They may look like…

  • Walking away to give yourself some emotional and physical distance from the person and the argument/stressor.
  • Meditate to bring yourself back to centre.
  • Having a snack to stave off any hangry feelings.
  • Listen to music, sing or dance. Physical activity, like a full-body shake or dancing, is rooted in our primal nature and can have a deeply calming effect on the brain and body.

“Practice definitely makes perfect, and cooling your temper is a lot easier when you are able to interrupt a spark versus waiting for full-blown raging flames.”

Communication is key

You talk to your partner on a daily basis, but are you really communicating? Effective communication means you are successfully transmitting your message or meaning. It is often within miscommunications where the trouble lies.

“The truth is, communication is not that difficult once you are emotionally stable and understand and truly accept your partner,” Dr. Walker explains. “We all have flaws, and we all may ‘act out’ at times when emotions are running high. However, with true acceptance will come the ability to approach your partner from a place of patience and love. This is because your expectation of them reacting differently or being a different person will disappear or at least be minimised.”

When you aren’t in control of your emotions, it’s easy to hear or infer accusation from a simple comment or question. With a clear mind, you will be able to give your partner what they need, whether a listening ear (even if they are shouting), a hug for reassurance or simply space.

“Whatever it is, put your ego to the side and be willing to show up for your partner,” Dr. Walker says. “After all, you are going through this storm together.”

Get comfortable with being unplugged

Without a doubt, life has been made exponentially easier with technology, but come hurricane season, we brace ourselves for the moment the power goes out and we’re left wifi-less.

After you’ve spent the requisite 20 minutes explaining to the kids why they can’t use any of the devices you have on hand, it’s time for some old-fashioned fun.

“A difficult challenge is presented when it comes to coming up with creative ways to interact with one another in the absence of power. This is mainly because, for most of us, our daily choices pertaining to modern conveniences and leisure activities heavily rely upon electricity,” adds Dr. Walker.

“I have always been an advocate of couples and families allowing for time to detach from the grid and returning to a more minimalist environment from time to time. This is a great way to have check-ins with the natural world around us which provides an excellent source of adaptogenic stimuli to calm and recenter the brain and the nervous system at large—something that is key to our human emotional and mental wellbeing.”

She notes that while every relationship and living situation is different, it’s important to choose activities that best reflect the overall positive characteristics of your relationship. This could mean competitive games to keep things interesting and invigorating, or contemplative activities like puzzles or DIY projects (for those who work well as a team).

“Power outages are also the perfect time to try intimacy building and reconnection exercises,” she adds.

Unpredictable in their nature, you can never be completely prepared for a storm, but planning ahead for both your physical and emotional needs means you will be better equipped to manage whatever comes your way.

“Just as hurricanes represent turmoil, so do stressful times in a relationship, so it is not wise to attempt to tackle problem solving when stress prep usually already begins to raise people’s anxiety, walls and other defences,” says Dr. Walker. “Replenish and fortify the intimacy and good that already exists.”

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