I lay in the dark on the floor at my friend Kellie’s house, while Hurricane Mathew stormed and kicked his way across our beautiful, historic city. The wind slammed into our windows, but the windows pushed back. The rain pummeled the roof like an incessant array of blows – a jab here, a cross there, hammer fists galore – and yet, the roof held firm.We were safe. We were protected. So I should be good, right? Nope. I couldn’t lock into that feeling of safety, because my thoughts had hijacked my brain. It went down like this: How was the house holding up? What would be left when we got back home? Will our yard be a mess? How bad was it going to be? Will the first floor be trashed? Would all my things be ruined? Would we even have a home to go back to? And on it went…
When I have thoughts like these, I feel that my brain doesn’t belong to me anymore, but rather, it has been taken over by some alien being. When incessant questions flow, my emotions follow like an avalanche that leaves me feeling anxious and scared. Despite the obvious – the most important people in my life were safe, we had a roof over our head, we had food, we had clothes, we had water, and we had and still have love – yet every time I heard a tree branch brush against the house from a gust of wind, my heart jumped, and then more questions of doom would run their course through my brain. Have you ever felt that way? That despite your best efforts and evidence to the contrary, your thoughts were in control of you and not the other way around?
We had it better than most. We didn’t have to travel far, we were with friends, and Sophia was with her buddies. But we kept wondering how our city would fare? For those of you who are not familiar, Saint Augustine is our nation’s oldest continually occupied European settlement. I use that language on purpose. Native Americans were here long before the Spanish got involved in high stakes empire building. In 1565, it was Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles who established a colony for Spain, and we have been here ever since. We have celebrations to mark the day, we also have parades just like you do for Christmas and Easter. And we have community. Yes, we have a whole bunch of that.
So as I tried to stay calm while my imagination did jujitsu moves on my heart, parts of Anastasia island were under 3 feet of water from Hurricane Mathew’s tantrum. Homes were destroyed, valuable possessions were lost, and our beloved North Florida Martial Arts was not only flooded, but was put out of commission.
I arrived home to see our house was intact. The only damage we sustained was a dryer that no longer worked, my daughter’s baby clothes were soaked, a play-set hit by a tree, and our Christmas decorations that may have to be thrown out after they dry. That’s it. Somehow my visions of doom and gloom didn’t pan out. I was so blessed that we were spared , but felt terrible that others had more loss and more damage. Have you ever felt that way?
It was heart-rending to hear the stories of loss, and to see firsthand the destruction from Messed Up Mathew. It was also heart-warming to see and to hear how many of us stepped up to help those who were less fortunate. We secured our homes, helped our neighbors, and then went out into the community to help others. While some of us returned to the routine of our lives, others still continue with this good work. St. Augustine Strong became a rallying cry for our community, and it has been wonderful to be a part of that effort and to see that side of us.
So yes, we have taken a big hit, and we are still standing. We are rebuilding day by day, and are so thankful to live in a community of good people with good hearts.
If any of you have ever taken a huge hit and didn’t know what to do, here are 5 tips to help you get back control of your mindset and your life:
- Create Space – You need space in your mind to handle the multiple tasks that a crisis or a big change requires. Have you ever experienced the feeling that there isn’t enough time to do it all? This tip is for you.
- To create space in your mind find a quiet place – a bathroom, bedroom, your car – anywhere you can be alone for a minute or two
- Find a comfortable position and close your eyes
- Focus on your breath. If you want to add a word that calms you, you can, but just focus on breathing smoothly and slowly
- Do this for 25 breaths
- Do this whenever you are feeling rushed, pressured or fear there just isn’t enough time
- Make it a practice every day. We all need downtime to be quiet and just breathe
- The One Thing – I learned this tip from the book of the same name by Gary Keller. In it he asks a key question that changes everything:
- “What is the one thing that, by doing it, would make everything easier or unnecessary?”
- Ask this question in each key area of your life
- Do that one thing today
- Prioritize – If there is more than one thing you think or feel you must do, make a list of what must be done, and then rank them according to this question – “Which one of these priorities would make me feel the best if I completed it today?”
- Got the list? Now do it
- Plan – Create a plan to get that one thing done. Don’t know how to plan? Do this:
- Target – What is your outcome? What do you want to get?
- Steps – What are the steps that will get me there?
- Obstacles – How can I overcome, go around or pulverize these to get it done?
- Get Help – Ask for help – friends, associates, Monsieur Google – they, we are, it is there for you
- Work it – Modify plan if necessary and then
- Don’t quit until you are done
- Gratitude – This is the huge one. Be thankful for all you have right now. Pick three key areas that really mean something to you, and lock into that feeling of gratitude. It is a game changer. Feel it. That feeling gives you strength, and may help you see things a little more clearly. There are people who will help you if you ask for it. Sometimes we just don’t know how to help, so we don’t offer, and if you ask us, we may surprise you
That’s it! Those are my 5 tips to start again after taking a huge hit. I hope that my story has helped you, and I hope that you feel you are not alone.
Thanks for reading and until next time, remember that you are important, you do matter and you are so much more than you believe yourself to be.
*Photo credit of NFMA by Lisa Craig