By Lori Powell
Youth First Inc.
In 1980, I was a 5-year-old attending kindergarten in Evansville. It was the year of the infamously destructive June 8 storm that brought hurricane-force winds to my hometown, and it was the first time I remember having to cope with the world around me changing.
I really didn’t understand the dangerous nature of the storm at the time, but I remember all teachers and students were asked to go to the cafeteria, which was located at the lowest level of the school. We were supposed to sit under the tables in the tornado position. However, I remember sitting with my friend giggling and not following directions very well, because I did not understand the seriousness of the situation.
The school buses were not able to take us home, so my father picked me up that day. There was no electricity in my house for a few days. Restaurants without gas appliances couldn’t reopen due to the lack of electricity. Our favorite restaurant was closed.
My grandmother did not have electricity for over seven days in her area. I knew that I had shelter, water, food, and could depend on my parents for safety and reassurance. I swung on the swing set outside of my home, rode my bike, and played cards and board games with my family members. The lack of power, damage and destruction caused by the storm left me largely untouched and unburdened.
Since then, I have lived through multiple storms and have lost my electricity for only a short amount of time. The COVID-19 pandemic is the first time in my life that schools and businesses have closed their doors for such an extended amount of time. Even during most snowstorms, we were still able to go to the mall when school was canceled.
After the pandemic lockdown, I went to the grocery store with my husband for the first time in months. The shelves were stocked minimally, but we were able to obtain all of our necessities. As I stood in the grocery aisle, I thought about the large number of people shopping in the store and realized how different this crisis felt than the one I experienced as a child. I wondered how people who were already experiencing anxiety were getting through the stress and uncertainty of a global pandemic.
Although the world has changed drastically as the pandemic drags on, it is important to find ways to remind yourself that things will get better. Many people have found that using deep breathing techniques, positive self-talk, and positive visual imagery to stay calm can help mitigate overwhelming thoughts and worries. Exercise and getting outdoors are also very helpful in relieving anxiety.
Breathing in and out slowly, reminding yourself that this situation is only temporary, and taking extra time to relax can be helpful for lightening the burden we’ve all carried throughout this last year.
We also need to remember that there are aspects of life that we do not have control over and focus on what we are able to control, such as our attitudes and our behaviors. For example, I can choose to have a great day, stay positive and do my best to help others do the same.
Lori Powell, LCSW, is the Youth First Social Worker for Vogel Elementary School in Vanderburgh County. Youth First Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening youth and families, provides 64 Master's level social workers to 92 schools in 11 Indiana counties. Over 60,000 youth and families per year are served by Youth First's school social work and after school programs that prevent substance abuse, promote healthy behaviors and maximize student success. To learn more about Youth First, visit youthfirstinc.org or call 812-421-8336.