A High Pressure Storm
Alan Sealls - NWA President 2018
From winter storms to severe storms and hurricanes, we in the weather enterprise track tempests traversing the landscape. The prospect of a powerful low pressure system brings high pressure to our lives. That pressure can create anxiety and stress, with stress being both mental and physical.
At work, have you been told to do less? Ha ha, I know the answer! Let’s laugh together at that as laughter is a good stress-reliever. Do you want to laugh some more? Have you been given shorter work hours and a raise? Okay, stop laughing. It seems that all of us work harder and juggle more tasks than ever. For a meteorologist, just creating an accurate and precise forecast or assessment on schedule can be stressful.
Big weather events are even more worrisome. We are under high pressure to perform. It may be long hours and many days of preparation and/or recovery. Storm impact can be costly, tragic, and deadly. If disaster follows, how might you handle it? Surely, you’d ask yourself if you did everything possible in communicating the threat, uncertainty, and possibility of disaster.
After an immediate crisis, it wouldn't be unusual to experience sadness, guilt, and even depression to some degree. Combine those with the stressors from your daily workload, feeling overworked or underpaid, or working in an unhappy environment may leave you feeling like you need help. Those stresses, even without a disaster, can grow to critical levels.
I've seen co-workers have breakdowns. I know of alcohol and substance dependency by good people. Stress and depression carryover from home life to job life and vice versa. They may lead to, or be related to, substance abuse. We all have probably heard news reports of professionals who have committed suicide. While those may not be totally due to workplace stress or depression, our jobs certainly influence our overall state of mind.
To be the best we can be as weather experts, we must be aware of our psychological well-being. I’m not a mental health expert but I offer these simple tips for handling the high pressure of our profession.
- Wherever possible, limit stress. Avoid certain people at work or in your life who tend to have a cloud of drama over them. Yes, I know that is sometimes impossible.
- Maintain a regular fitness routine, which includes sufficient sleep and a healthy diet.
- Put time into a hobby or interest that has nothing to do with weather so you can let your mind relax.
- Whether you call it prayer, meditation, or just good vibes, stay strong spiritually.
- Cliché alert: Stop and smell the roses. Focus on the good things and good people around you that you might take for granted.
- Prepare professionally with knowledge and training. You will be more confident and less-stressed in most weather scenarios when you know patterns and possible outcomes. The NWA has meetings, webinars, and good networking with colleagues who can share insight into how they handle both extreme events, and the workplace environment.
- If you feel overwhelmed, reach out to friends and family; speak with your supervisor or human resources person; and if necessary, speak to a professional.
- Take advantage of counseling and mental health services offered by your company or agency.
- Find resources and support groups for psychological well-being and for substance dependency at MentalHealth.gov and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
We all have different tolerances for stress and anxiety, and different methods for handling them. If you are approaching your limit, don't ignore it - address it. Be well.