Keep stress at bay when things go awry

This past weekend was certainly eventful in some areas of the United States. Not only were temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, strong storms also hit several mid-west and eastern states, including mine in the Mid-Atlantic. The result: a loss of power that, as of the writing of this post, still leaves crews scrambling to restore it.

As you can imagine, this impacted the way things normally happen in my household. Having no power meant that not only were there no lights, but we also didn’t have air conditioning or water since we’re on a well system (which is also powered by electricity).

Life’s interruptions, whether large or small, can create chaos and be overwhelming. Don’t let stress clutter up your perceptions when faced with a major or minor emergency. Follow these five suggestions for keeping your head and reducing mental clutter:

Stop worrying

When we’re faced with difficult or trying circumstances, we can become frustrated and very emotional. Many situations (like bad weather) are temporary, and chances are they will improve. Worrying about things that are beyond your control will likely increase how anxious you may be feeling. On the other hand, if you’re a worrier by nature …

Focus on solutions

Instead of soley concentrating on how you feel about the challenges you’re facing, turn your attention to things you can actually change. Shed the negative thinking so that you can come up with creative solutions. Try your best, too, to find ones that you can rely on again, should a similar situation arise in the future. Ultimately, you’ll feel more in control and the stress you’re feeling will dissipate. For me, the solutions were evident. I needed to evaluate the situation and, with my husband, put plans in place to keep our family safe now and if we lose power at another future date.

Be prepared

Emergencies can happen at any time, so it’s helpful to have extra food, water, first aid supplies, and other needed items (e.g. medications) on hand. Having a plan of action (though it may change) can help keep your mind settled. We knew that when the power went out that we’d need to keep our perishables from, well, perishing. We moved some items from the fridge to the freezer where it’s colder and added bags of ice and limited the number of times the fridge was opened.

Find other things to do

Maybe your situation isn’t an emergency but is still quite distressing. A plan helps here, too. Will you call a trusted friend to talk things through? Will you go for a walk? Knowing that you have options will help put your mind at ease. So, get immersed in something you enjoy doing or need to do, like organize your office, finish a work project, or exercise. Whatever you choose to do to take your mind of things, you’ll likely feel more prepared to face your problem afterward.

Don’t give up

You may get discouraged if you try a solution that doesn’t work as you had hoped. Failure is another opportunity to try something else. Hang in there. Remind yourself that rarely are people successful on the first attempt — Thomas Edison’s first attempt at a light bulb was a failure, but he kept trying alternatives. Persevering can lead to success in ways you may not have imagined.

No matter what difficulties you’re facing, remember there are things you can do to turn your situation around. With worry pushed aside and a plan of attack in place, you’ll find you’re more equipped to handle most everything that comes your way.

9 Comments for “Keep stress at bay when things go awry”

  1. posted by Shalin on

    Totally agree that you have to focus on solutions, use what you can, but it’ll all go much better if you are prepared (flashlights, batteries, emergency radio, ice coolers, etc.)

    I have to say, my weekend power outage taught me one thing – I really needed some “simple life down time”! :)
    Aside from the threat of all the food in my fridge going bad, it was pretty nice. When the power came on early this morning – it was remarkable how “noisy” life became again…

  2. posted by Michael Tannery on

    Great tips. It’s also good to look back at how we handled same or similar situations. I also like your tip about making the most out of it. For example, last week, our AC went out. Not a great thing when you live in Arizona and the daytime temp out was 112, so we thought of it as an opportunity to visit friends and hit the library.

  3. posted by Patty@homemakersdaily.com on

    I’m extremely practical so when things go south, it doesn’t take me long to start figuring out what I can do. I drive my daughter-in-law crazy because she’s not like that. She sometimes wants to wallow a bit but I’m off to the races trying to solve the problem. I can’t help it. It’s what I do! I am trying to slow down, though, and let her wallow a little bit.

    Great article & very practical.

  4. posted by Lynn Errickson on

    Losing power is a tough situation to go thru! Glad it led to this great blog post!

    I like when you talk about “simple down time”. I agree – if you don’t have some “mindless” days (as I like to call them), you get stressed out quickly.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  5. posted by Rachel on

    We were recently evacuated for one of the recent Colorado wildfires, and the situation is similar. It’s best if you’re prepared and organized ahead of time (we were, pretty much) and it’s essential to keep your head about you.

    In the wildfire situation (and many other natural disasters) it’s also good to remind yourself that “things are just things” in the face of possibly losing your house and everything in it. When you evacuate you have to grab what’s essential and what’s precious, and let the rest go. We’ve had fires get close before, so we already had some organization along those lines to make the situation easier.

    Our house is fine, though. The fire didn’t get to our neighborhood. Others haven’t been so lucky.

  6. posted by Lizzie on

    We lose power a lot. (And occasionally for a week or more.) We finally have an automatic generator so we have heat (although not a.c.), water, fridge, freezer, lights in two rooms and a few working outlets. (Thus we are the go to house for our friends!) But here are the three things I recommend: get a few flashlights that charge by cranking and keep in nightstands, or wherever you’ll remember to look for them. Whenever there’s the threat of a major storm, fill the bathtubs with water if you have a well. (Everything is more manageable if you can occasionally flush your toilet!) And if you have a grill, keep it where you can get to it year around and make sure you have charcoal or propane. You can make coffee, toast, heat up soup…nothing like cooking outside after an ice storm!

  7. posted by kath on

    We lose power a lot also. Whenever we hear about a big storm coming in, we fill the bathtubs with water for the toilets, and every container we can find. We have hand crank flashlights and we bought a bunch of those cheap solar lights for the garden that they sell for about $3 and they help to provide light. The best part is that we can put them outside every day and they recharge. When we replaced our kitchen stove, we made sure we bought a gas stove so we can cook. But, it seems no matter how prepared we think we are, we’re never prepared enough. You can’t prepare for everything, but you can make things easier.

  8. Avatar of DebLee

    posted by DebLee on

    @Rachel: You make a good point about being ready to let things go. Not easy, but essential when faced with a situation like that. I’m glad to hear that you and your family are safe.

  9. posted by heather on

    The situation you outline is a fairly short-term disaster. Do you think you would recommend the same for longer-term disasters? What if a series of longer-term occurrences happened—say, a family member was diagnosed with something pretty bad at the same time a spouse lost a job, at the same time a significant home issue reared its head? This is not my particular situation, but I do feel like many people these days are personally down on their luck in a longer-term way (myself included) and it would be lovely to hear these thoughts through that lens.

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