Lessons from Hurricane Irene: Dealing with the Things We Can't Control

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

By , Columnist

As Hurricane Irene is battering the East Coast and rolling ever closer to my home base of Richmond, VA, I’m sitting here in my third floor apartment feeling a wee bit nervous.

There are few people in this area who don’t remember what happened when Hurricane Isabel slammed into Richmond in 2003. Winds as high as 73 mph downed something like 10,000 trees in the metro area and surrounding counties alone. Every house near my parents’ in a heavily-wooded subdivision in the Richmond suburbs sustained some kind of damage; trees took out chimneys, sun rooms, roofs, power lines, and vintage cars. And forget the flooding! My neighborhood was without electricity for 11 days.

isabel tree down.jpgI keep wondering when today I’m going to hear the first tell-tale “thump” of a tree meeting its maker… and I’m hoping so enthusiastically that none of the big old trees around me finds a resting place on my roof that I’m practically typing with crossed fingers.

Unfortunately, acts of God aren’t just limited to weather patterns; they also happen more often than we might like to admit in our daily lives. The good news is, there are productive ways to cope with adversity, even the events and situations we can’t control.

“Breathe, just breathe.” While Drew Barrymore’s British accent may have been questionable, this quote from Ever After is quite applicable right now. Panic does no good, so stay as calm as possible - calmness can lead to clearer thought and creativity in the face of adversity. So just take a deep breath or two.

Don’t dwell. Worry and anxiety aren’t productive. Helpful observation, right? But even if you’re an obsessive worrier - like me - find activities or other thoughts that will take your mind off the things you can’t control. Fact is, sometimes you can’t get around a big obstacle - like a hurricane - so you just have to find a tolerable way to ride it out.

hurricane flag.jpgTake ownership of the things you CAN control. You can control your reaction to the situation; you can control your attitude; you can control plenty of other elements outside of the one crappy thing that’s giving you such fits. Taking the most available bull by the horns will at least help you feel like you’re moving forward instead of being stuck in a holding pattern, and this will hopefully help alleviate some anxiety.

Have some faith. This is probably the most essential approach to handling the things you can’t control - think about the serenity prayer (give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference). No matter your faith or spirituality, you can offer up your concern, worry, and upset to whatever higher power you prefer. Most humans are naturally optimistic to some degree, so take advantage of that and have some faith that things will come out exactly the way they’re supposed to.

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Emmie Scott is an English major-turned-marketing exec, with a passion for writing, humor, sharing knowledge, and "pink drinks." After hours, she started Are Toe Rings Professional Attire?, a blog for college grads and twenty-somethings looking to find their way through that daunting labyrinth called…

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