Consistency after a Crisis

The past two weeks have been a challenge. On October 28th, a mandatory evacuation forced me out of my apartment and onto a generous friend’s couch. I packed for one or two nights: extra socks, a flashlight, a toothbrush. I expected to spend that Sunday and Monday finishing some research and maybe taking advantage of my friend’s cable, but unfortunately, the power went out on the second night. What we heard on the emergency radio I’d packed didn’t prepare us for the strange drive down to my building the following morning, or the heartbreaking images and stories that broke in the following days. Nor was I prepared, Tuesday morning, to see the extensive damage Sandy inflicted on my building. My two night sleepover turned into an indefinite and unsettling vacation spent on couches and pull-out beds.

As soon as they heard what happened, my friends and family began offering supplies, assistance, and places to stay. I’m amazed and humbled by the generosity I’ve been shown (even my credit card company called to ask if they could help!), and I’m grateful to have lost so little to the storm. My building is still uninhabitable, but significant progress has been made, and I hope to be allowed home in about a week.

Since nutrition, sleep hygiene, and exercise all have effects on mood and stress, a healthy routine is particularly important for people with mental illnesses. Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep things consistent when you don’t have a permanent place to stay.  To support my own mental wellness, I’m sleeping regular hours, eating vegetables and whole grains, and staying active. I know that my body needs these things in order to function well. Unfortunately, children and even adolescents don’t always realize the importance of routine. Further, children and teens have yet to undergo certain neurological developments that aid in self control. When a crisis or even a real vacation interrupts your anxious child’s routine, look for ways to maintain consistency. Give each day a structure. Get everyone up in the morning even if school is closed, and maintain family dinners even when staying with friends or in a hotel.  Routines are inherently comforting, and they help your anxious child see that the world hasn’t ended.

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