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Coping with winter storm anxiety as thousands don't have power

People say the lack of reliable and timely information during two historic winter storms in two years is bringing trauma and anxiety.

AUSTIN, Texas — After experiencing two historic winter storms in two years, some are feeling anxiety and trauma from what they say is a lack of valid communication from the City of Austin during both events. 

"Most of these are burnt out – every one of my tea lights that I thought I had a lifetime supply of," Juliee Byte said.

Byte has been without power going on seven days.

"Ridiculous, right?" Byte said.

It's been a week of uncertainty over how she will eat, shower and stay warm. 

"So many people died two years ago that, of course, you wonder how bad is this going to be?" Byte said. "How cold am I going to get? You know, we were wearing leggings under pants and shirts upon shirts, upon sweaters, upon vests, upon jackets, with a hat on in the house to sleep because, you know, it was 30-something degrees outside."

She's feeling trauma from another historic winter storm.

In 2021, hundreds died and thousands went without power and drinkable water for days. 

"It's getting a little harrowing," Byte said. "It does make decisions: Do we do we stay? Do we leave? Do we buy a generator? So it's kind of triggering a lot of issues." 

Byte isn't alone. Grace Dowd, the owner of Grace Therapy and Wellness, said it's normal to feel anxiety and unease when reliving disasters like this, even if you didn't lose power this time.

"That can send your brain automatically back into survival mode because it was doing everything it could to survive back then and now," Dowd said. "It's a very protective adaptation that our brain has to say, 'Hey, wait, you want to pay attention to this.'"

Dowd said there are ways to cope:

  • First, acknowledge how you feel and give yourself grace 
  • Reach out to loved ones for support
  • Take time to jump back into school or work 
  • Movement can help, so try going for a walk

Dowd said it's important to focus on the things you can control and that bring you security, like buying a generator, battery or whatever comfort you can find with the resources available to you.

For those who didn't lose power and may be feeling guilty, helping the community could ease that. 

Also, don't spend too much time on social media. 

"Oftentimes our consumption is so high that our releasing of that stress can't match that consumption," Dowd said. "So, it gets stuck in our body, and that's where we start to see our muscles get really tense and tight. We might get headaches, we might feel really fatigued or on edge. We might be clenching our jaws, our shoulders might be up here." 

Byte said better and more reliable communication from the City would ease her anxiety. 

"Tomorrow it's going to be thunder, lightning, rain," Byte said. "So we're now we're looking at Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. We don't know. You know, I would like to know. All the neighbors want to know." 

Dowd said just know whatever you are feeling right now makes sense and is valid.

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