A Mental Health Guide for Extreme Weather Survival

Kyler Shumway, PsyD
President & Chief Clinical Officer

As Texas continues to grapple with unexpected and extreme weather conditions, it’s crucial to recognize the impact these events can have on our mental health. The Great Freezes have not only tested our physical resilience but have also placed a strain on our emotional well-being. In this blog post, we’ll explore practical tips for staying safe and warm during extreme weather and delve into psychology-based strategies to help you endure the experience with mental strength.

Prioritize Physical Safety

Maslow’s famous hierarchy prioritizes physical needs and safety for a good reason.  While emotional safeguards and coping strategies are important, it’s essential to prioritize your physical well-being during extreme weather conditions. 

Follow these practical tips to stay safe and warm:

  • Fill the Tub: If you anticipate freezing temperatures and or your home loses electricity, immediately fill your bathtub with water in case your pipes freeze or water shuts off. This can serve as an emergency supply of water for flushing your toilets, washing dishes, or other needs.
  • Leave Sinks on a Drip:  A small trickle of water will help reduce the risk of your pipes fully freezing shut. 
  • Dress in Layers: Layering clothing helps trap heat and insulate your body, preventing hypothermia. Start with thermal undergarments and add layers as needed.
  • Make a Blanket Fort: Blanket forts will give you a cozy, easy to warm space to find shelter. 
  • Use Heating Devices Safely: If using space heaters or other heating devices, follow safety guidelines to avoid accidents. Keep these devices away from flammable materials and never leave them unattended.
  • Insulate Your Home: Seal windows and doors to prevent drafts, and use draft stoppers to keep the cold air out. Use blankets or thermal curtains to add extra insulation.

Create a Winter Wellness Kit

If you have advanced notice and time to prepare, consider assembling a Winter Wellness Kit.  Prepare an easy-to-store box or tote that will help you navigate the challenges of extreme weather with ease:

  • Hydration and Nutrition: Include bottled water, non-perishable food items, and snacks that provide sustained energy.
  • Emergency Supplies: Pack essentials like flashlights, batteries, a first aid kit, and any necessary medications.
  • Entertainment: Include books, games, or other forms of entertainment to keep your mind engaged during potential power outages.

Establish Consistency Through Routine

Hopefully, we never see another extended period of extreme cold like we did in 2021. 

But, if that happens, there are some ways you can keep yourself healthy while we wait for the return of sunshine and warmer weather.  One of the ways you can cope is by creating a daily routine during extreme weather to provide structure and stability. Consider the following:

  • Set Regular Wake-Up and Bedtime: Maintain a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your circadian rhythm, promoting better mental and emotional well-being.
  • Exercise Indoors: Physical activity is essential for mental health. Engage in indoor exercises, such as yoga or simple stretching routines, to stay active.
  • Designate Work and Relaxation Times: If you’re working from home, establish dedicated work hours and create a relaxing environment during breaks to reduce stress.

Embrace the Challenge through Creativity

Lastly, it’s important to remind yourself that you can’t control the weather – but, you can control the way you respond to the situation. We recommend getting creative and using the challenge as a chance to come up with innovative ways to solve problems and enjoy yourself. 

Be willing to be flexible and let go of some of the “normal” rules of your day-to-day life. Maybe you don’t normally eat peanut butter straight from the jar, but what better excuse to brave the storm by enjoying some low-effort protein? Perhaps wearing four pairs of sweatpants at once would be overkill in the Texas heat but perfect for keeping out the cold. Who knows, you might just discover something you never realized you loved all along.

As Texas faces the uncertainties of extreme weather, prioritizing your mental health is of utmost importance. By combining practical measures for physical well-being with psychology-based strategies for mental resilience, you can navigate the challenges with strength and grace. Remember that seeking support and staying connected are essential components of enduring extreme weather conditions while maintaining your mental well-being. 

Stay warm, safe, and hopeful.

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