Recently hurricanes have roared through the Atlantic and along the Pacific coast creating all sorts of chaos for the people and communities touched. As we watched Irma tear through the Caribbean and land on the peninsula of Florida, we learned the worst damages would be due to the storm surge: that extra water churned up from the hurricane and shoved onto land, into inlets and rivers whose banks cannot hold it. The city of Jacksonville received “historic” and “epic” (not since 1846) flooding from powerful Irma.
The Washington Post reported: “Driven by tidal flow, an already saturated inland waterway system and Irma’s powerful winds and rains, the swollen and fast-rushing St. Johns River crashed over sea walls and sandbags and left much of the area underwater.” An entire city had prepared itself and its people by adding protections by building sea walls and piling sandbags high, all in an effort to keep the extra water out. It wasn’t enough. Sea walls and sandbags were no match for Irma’s surge. These safety precautions were good for the average storm. This was no “average storm.”
If you read this blog on a regular basis, you are aware I am a proponent of meditation, getting out into nature and taking many deep breaths. As important actions for our health and well-being, they work well for daily maintenance and are great practices to keep us centered during an “average storm” of stress. However, much like the sea walls and sandbags, they only can do so much in the middle of a storm surge.
Storm surge stress can come to us as terminal illness, deep relational or financial issues, or a death of a loved one. One place many of us experience stress on a storm surge level is at work. Work presses in on us in the form of an influx of communications, phone calls, texts, emails – after hours, while on vacation. We feel high expectations (from both from internal and external sources), and then there is the amount of work that floods in.
Storm surge stress is experienced as folks are pressed to deal with more than feels possible. The waters rise and soon become fast and furious enough that it seems there is nothing you can do to hold it back. We are “already saturated” with average stressors, so when a storm surge of stress arrives, we can feel as if we are left with few options but to seek higher ground.
So what can we do when we are experiencing storm surge stress flooding into our lives and overpowering us? The most important thing we can do during a stress storm is to realize: 1) we did not bring on the storm surge and 2) putting up a sandbag or two will not stop it. There are ways we can learn to respond to it to lessen the hit, however the nature of a storm is that it is uncontrolled by us. Just as it is not helpful to ask the flooded victims of Hurricane Irma, “why didn’t you put up another sandbag?” neither is it helpful to shame ourselves for not having done enough to stave off the stress storm.
Consider this week how you have experienced a storm surge of stress. Where do you experience it? Begin to identify what it is that presses in on you from outside sources. Over the next weeks, we will be talking about external stressors and how we can best take care of our own selves during a surge.
Create the week you want to experience.