Managing weather anxiety- a moment of science

A Moment of Science

The weather can be scary. Loud thunder, dark clouds, wind, rain are bound to cause some anxiety. For some, it’s even worse.

“It could be up to 10% of the population in the US has some significant storm related fear,” said Alan Stewart, a Psychology and Meteorology professor at the University of Georgia. He says that this fear and anxiety often stems from a traumatic experience with weather. It could have been a severe storm with damage nearby, a close call with a tornado, or riding out a hurricane.

“In those impressionable times, these experiences of the force of nature both stick with a person and can incite fear. By the same token, it can make people become very weather oriented where they follow the weather and are fascinated by it.” 

Which is exactly how myself and many other meteorologists got their start. For me, it was tornadoes. Starting off as fear, then turning to curiosity, then a lifeline focus on the forecast. This focus is a double edged sword for those with weather anxiety as those who pay more attention to the forecast will generally be better prepared, “but when it gets down to such a micro focus on information as a way to control those feelings…that’s a sign that it’s too much.”

If this sounds familiar, he recommends limiting the amount of weather information you can consume- getting enough to be informed, but not obsessing over details that you cannot control. This loss of control is the root of most weather anxiety. Managing it is the biggest tip Stewart can give.

“There are so many variables outside of our control. (Look at) what can you control, how can you get ready for a storm. Make a plan how to get out of the coastal areas. Take a look at this stuff beforehand.”

During the season, in the tough times where a storm threatens us, turn to meteorologists you can trust and seek out emotional support and comfort in friends and family.  If these coping mechanisms aren’t enough, he urges you to find additional help.

“Again if it is so much anxiety that it’s debilitating, the person might want to seek out professional psychotherapy or counseling services to try to find ways to deal and manage those feelings of fear & anxiety.”

 I know this year has been difficult and this hurricane season isn’t going to help. But by managing our mental health, we’ll make it through. You can count on us to give you the forecast, and hopefully some peace of mind.

Storm Team 2 Meteorologist David Dickson

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