CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Whether you are new to the Lowcountry or you have been here for a while, severe weather events can trigger fear and anxiety in anyone.

Dr. Melissa Milanak is an associate professor at MUSC’s Department of Psychiatry. She says it’s normal to feel nervous before a storm.

She uses the analogy of a “simmering kettle.” She says that everyday anxieties can be sent over the edge by an uncontrollable event like a natural disaster.

“Somebody that had that sub-threshold anxiety, now they may be more prone to experiencing those panic attacks or feeling that debilitating anxiety,” she said. “And we know that when that happens, it’s also more difficult to shut our brains off.”

But there are a number of ways people can cope with that anxiety in general and during natural disasters.

Dr. Milanak says not to ignore the problem — work through it.

“It’s recognizing that it’s there, acknowledging it, but then what can we do in healthy, helpful ways to manage it?”

She says to set limits on what you read and watch and keep in contact with friends and loved ones.

Another way to ease anxiety is to make a plan. Uncertainty is what causes anxiety, so having a plan in place is crucial.

“We don’t have to overly prepare and plan, but that feeling of having that sense of security can be helpful for some people,” she said.

Finally, keeping a journal can help ease anxiety by taking the thoughts from the brain and putting them on paper.

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