Among the many disruptions caused by this week’s storm is a lack of access to mental health services. For many Texans, even seeing a mental health professional remotely hasn’t been possible because of power or internet outages.
But psychologist Adriana Miu, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, told Texas Standard that there are techniques that can help you feel more calm and in control even if you can’t check in with your therapist.
First, recognize that your difficult feelings are normal
“To have a winter storm in Texas probably never happens in most people’s lives,” Miu said. “One really important thing is to recognize and acknowledge all those negative feelings.”
Miu says anger might be a common feeling right now, especially for those without power or water, or who are struggling to find food. But she says anger could also be masking fear, vulnerability and helplessness. It can even be a sign of underlying feelings of loneliness now that the distractions so many of us have used during the pandemic, like TV and internet, might not be available.
“All of those feelings are very important to acknowledge, and could be a really good signal of what you might actually need,” she said.
Stay in touch
Miu says to stay in touch with whomever you can – it will help create a sense of control during a difficult situation and remind you that you’re not alone.
Have a plan
Do you have a leaky pipe? Plan the steps needed to address the problem. Miu says coming up with a plan to deal with the things that are causing stress helps keep you from ruminating about it, which can negatively affect mental health.
Try using a “worry tree”
A worry tree takes you step by step through a problem to determine what is and isn’t within your control, and what actions you can take to help change the situation.
“What’s your worry? What are the other things changeable by you?” Miu said. “If not [changeable], then we need to change to focus of attention. If it is [changeable], then you may want to figure out, is there something you can do right now or is there something that you can plan [or] make a plan for something you can do over the next few days?”
How to help kids right now
Kids are most likely feeling bored without their usual activities and devices, Miu says. But you can help them cope through humor and old-fashioned pastimes. Build a blanket tent; pretend you’re bears hibernating in the cold; play board games; play a musical instrument.
“Engage the kids in doing the things that they couldn’t normally do that don’t require technology,” Miu said.