Sometimes seeing the news about floods, hurricanes, fires, and all manner of disasters can really get to me inside, even when it doesn’t directly affect me.
My strength for empathy can be a real challenge at times like that. I can even feel it in my body as I write this. I had a good cry about flooding just the other day. Sometimes tears are just the thing.
I once lost my home in a fire, and escaped in the middle of the night, and that was a very hard thing to be sure. And I can’t imagine the horror of a whole region going through fires at once. As a highly sensitive introvert, I wonder how I would manage.
When one of many natural disasters had just happened and was on my mind, I asked people in my Facebook group for introverts to share their related feelings or experiences. One story came from Ksenia who had just gone through the latest hurricane and flood in Texas.
I was inspired by her resilience and I think we all learned from her tips too. So I asked her for permission to share this more widely, to help others like us, so we can remember we are stronger than we think.
She gave me permission to share her story here.
Personal account by Ksenia, of Houston, Texas (USA):
The closest I’ve ever gotten to experiencing a natural disaster was hurricane Harvey in Houston. Watching the water level in the lake by our house rising foot by foot, 17 tornado warnings in 24 hours, checking the weather channel all day, tracking the hurricane and worrying what’s going to happen.
The times were extremely stressful, but we were so lucky not to sustain any damage, unlike so many others.
Thank God we didn’t have to vacate our home. If I had to vacate, these things would help me – private space (even if it’s a closet), 2 books that remind me about a bigger perspective in life, and a yoga mat. That creates a sacred space for me wherever I am.
Here’s what helped me to stay grounded during the hurricane and flood:
Even though we prepared and bought food and supplies in advance, it didn’t feel like I was prepared when it was actually happening. Then, I would ask myself “What can I do in this moment? What is actually in my control?”
That helped me reiterate the steps and emergency plans for if tornado is approaching, if the house gets flooded and how to get out, and a list of things to take with us.
- Being cautious with too much media.
I tried to limit watching the news to just receiving the essential information and not get sucked into the panic. As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I take on the pain even from just watching the news, so I tried to limit my exposure to social media as well, to just talking to friends, making sure they were OK.
Of course it’s impossible to avoid being affected, but consciously making a choice when to stop at least reduced the impact. Reading supportive messages on Facebook brought me a sense of kindness and feeling of being cared for.
- Focusing on the inside.
In moments of stress I know I tend to “vacate my body” and start calculating in my head what’s going to happen. It’s when my thoughts are speeding up and start running in circles – that’s a sign, the panic sets in.
I focused on noticing how the anxiety was manifesting in my body, like tightness in the chest and squeezing of the stomach, then giving myself words of self-compassion. In that way, I actually feel more in control.
- For the scary “what if ” thoughts…
I tell myself: “Well, so what if we… evacuate, get flooded etc., we’ll handle it, we’ll find a way.”
Both during and after the hurricane it was surprisingly hard to bring up gratitude because the mind had soaked in all the horrifying things that happened to other people. But every day I kept saying: Thank God, water level still didn’t reach our back yard. Thank God, we still have power today.
Since we were home-bound with the torrential rains and flooded roads for days, I tried to do as much self-care as possible: meditation, journaling, yoga, sleep, play with my toddler son, and to minimize any draining activities and especially judgmental “should” and “supposed-to” thoughts.
As I was writing all this down [in your Facebook group, The Caring Introvert Clubhouse], my inner critic was ranting that “I shouldn’t be writing about it, it wasn’t a big deal, so many people are suffering so much more and I didn’t even get flooded, it’s not worth sharing, things I say are too obvious…” etc.
But I kept reminding myself that this is a safe and non-judgmental group to share it with, and that I am practicing telling other people about my true self.
Thank you Ksenia for sharing your story with us so we can all be reminded that we can handle more than we think. I’m glad you said no to the inner critic that didn’t want you to write it down. I got a lot out of hearing the specifics, so that now I can picture making it through too.
Plus you shared some good grounding tools that can help us in all kinds of situations.
I remember reading another report from an introvert in that same storm in Houston, by bestselling author Brené Brown. Once again I think stories are so useful, so I’ll share her words with you too.
Amen to that, Brené. “We need each other in ways we don’t even understand.”