8 good ways to handle stress (and 1 bad one)

Hurricane Sandy is now whipping up the wind and rain. As you can see from this graphic, it's expected to be a direct hit on Philadelphia:

"Hurricane gusts" means 80+ mph (144+ mph)

As I write this on Monday morning, it's already an ugly, raw day. Some small branches have already come down and I expect more damage before this is all over. We're expecting 12+ inches (30+ cm) of rain, so flooding is a given, too. A slow moving storm, Sandy and its aftereffects are going to make life difficult for us for a while.

I don't expect my roof to be torn off, my trees to be uprooted and flung through my windows, or my family to be washed away. However, this is one of those storms to be taken seriously.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are 8 good ways to handle stress (and 1 bad way, which I do NOT advise):

1. Awareness I was shocked yesterday to talk to a friend who "hadn't been paying much attention to the news" and hadn't really thought much about preparations. Being informed and aware of what to expect is the first part of not getting stressed out when it happens.

2. Decisiveness If you are aware of what's coming, you can make decisions based on that knowledge. Maybe you decide to evacuate to Chicago, maybe you decide to batten things down and stay, maybe you decide to lay in an extra supply of limes and tequila. Whatever you decide to do, the act of guiding your own course quells a lot of stress.

3. Proactivity Acting on your decisions in advance lets you avoid that dreaded last-minute run to the store, only to find that they are out of limes and tequila. If you don't wait until circumstances force you to do something, it's much easier to embrace the action.

4. Forethought Even better than event-driven proactivity is forethought, i.e. the consideration of things that might happen in order to make suitable preparation. How does this reduce stress in the real world? Let me put it this way: I already had a supply of lime juice and tequila laid in, long before this storm came along. Lime juice isn't as good as fresh limes, but then I wasn't running out to the store at the last minute, either.

5. Equipment Since I like to go camping, I have a lot of the gear which serves well for when the power and heat goes out. Flashlights and lanterns, of course, but my go-to gadget this time is a combination flashlight/AM/FM/weatherband radio. It's powered by solar cells and/or a hand crank. Nicest of all, it has a side USB port that will put out enough juice to charge a cell phone. I also have a really nice cocktail shaker.

6. Creativity A friend from Florida asked if my generator was all ready. Floridians go through hurricanes a lot; down there, emergency generators pretty much come with the house. I don't have one, since it would sit unneeded for 998 days out of 1000. What I do have, though, is an inverter for the car - it lets me use the car as a generator. It plugs into the lighter and converts the car's 12 volts into regular 110 volts, delivering up to 175 watts. It's enough to run small appliances, charge phones, laptops, flashlight batteries, etc. That bit of flexibility is enough to widen my list of responses to difficulties. That helps alleviate stress.

7. Mathematics I've previously checked each tree around my house and measured their distances from the foundation. Using a bit of trigonometry, I also calculated their heights. Based on their architecture, I estimated where their above-ground centers of gravity are.  All of this is to answer the question, if the winds blow and the earth heaves up, will these trees crush my house? Answer: NO. Math doesn't lie, folks, and that's like a full can of Stress-Be-Gone.

8. Humor Hurricanes are only one kind of stressor. Illness, work, family crises, a bad review... all of these can be terribly stressful. When a crisis looms, it can seem like a horde of unstoppable zombies crashing the gates. A sense of humor is like a well-aimed hammer: it finds the weak spot in the monster and brings it down to a manageable level. I use humor as a defense mechanism because it helps to defuse stress.

Now... one really BAD way to manage stress:

1. Drugs and alcohol Self-medication is a pretty lousy way to manage stress, especially if it is your primary (or your only) approach. Any mind-altering substance interferes with your ability to make quick, clear-eyed decisions. There are hardly any stressful situations that will benefit from you limiting your response ability to a befuddled, "Wha... huh?" If you've already followed the first eight good ways to handle stress, you'll have structures in place to handle whatever happens. Under those circumstances, a moderate indulgence in your legal intoxicant of choice can help to pass the time. Rather than make said indulgence the main activity, though, this is best done when coupled with some other non-stressful activity, like watching movies, reading a book, doing crossword puzzles, or having sex.

Happy Hurricane, everyone!

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.


  1. I'm glad to see tequila was a priority, but not the only one. I've lived in California too long. My city only get 10 inches of rain A YEAR. I can't imagine that (plus some) in one swoop. Good luck weathering the storm!

    1. Thanks, Danni! So far, the wind has been gusting and unnerving. Will get worse before it gets better.

  2. Good tips, and good luck riding out the storm!


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