Coping with Hurricane Stress: Part One

Coping with Hurricane Stress

Part One

By Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM / Published July 2018

Photo by iStockphoto.com/scyther5

Editor’s Note: Part II will appear in the August issue.


Stress: (Verb) to subject to strain, to emphasize, to accent. (Noun) tension, strain, accent, concentration of attention, focus.

     No matter which definition is used, hurricanes subject us to emotional, mental, physical, and financial strain causing stress and an unnatural concentration of attention to rebuilding our lives and communities.

     If you wanted to categorize the causes of stress, it might break down this way.

  • Natural disasters and economic circumstances beyond your control, like hurricanes, rain, winds, floods, rising insurance premiums, and rising gas/oil prices
  • External conflicts such as conflict between two people, conflict between a person and his job, conflict between a person and the values of an organization or company
  • Internal conflict with self may be caused by poor time management; codependency tendencies and relationships; low self-esteem; personality traits and work environment preferences; undesirable characteristics such as pride, blame, guilt, bitterness, jealousy, unforgiveness, revenge, anger, and ANTs.

     ANTs stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts. ANTs sound the same whether they come out of your mouth or roam around in your head. ANTs are worry thoughts that have become circular. They go around and around—especi-ally at night. They make mountains out of ant hills. They think the worst is going to happen; nothing ever goes right. They replay conversations trying to figure out what went wrong. They constantly worry about what other people think and falsely believe you can and should make other people happy. They worry, worry, worry. They leave you feeling hopeless, depressed, and exhausted. Here is what some of them sound like:

“If only. . .” 

“What if. . .?” 

“I should have. . .” 

“Why didn’t I. . .?” 

“Next time . . .” 

“If he says, then I’ll say. . .”

     Humans are the only creatures who are able to be self-aware. Simply put, it means we have the ability to think about what we are thinking. We can analyze our thoughts. We have the ability to monitor what goes on in our heads, slow down the thought proce-sses, and decide if the thoughts are true or false and based on facts or wrong beliefs. If we determine our thoughts are false, negative, and counterproductive to the situation at hand, we have the ability to stop ANTs and replace them with correct thinking. It takes a lot of self-awareness and practice, but they can be stopped or at least minimized!

       Can stress be avoided? Probably not. So, what are some solutions or strategies for managing stress?

Natural Disasters and Economic Circumstances Beyond Your Control

       Obviously, you can’t avoid these, but in community association management, we do consider them. We call it “disaster preparedness” or “risk management.” Managers and board members have many opportunities during the year to attend classes to help them prepare. So be as prepared as you can and use good resources to help you plan. Plan for a disaster and then work your plan.

External Conflicts

       Conflicts are often caused by misunderstandings and a failure to truly communicate.   Communication is not just talking, but actually hearing and understanding what the other person said. It is the giving and receiving of information with understanding. It takes time to communicate, something our society doesn’t seem to have time to do.

  • For conflicts between two people—educate yourself about different personality types, preferences, and decision-making styles. Everyone has a different pace at which they make decisions, and each one has a higher or lower risk level. Just because some-one believes differently than you does not make them wrong. Different is just different, not necessarily wrong. Develop the skill of empathetic listening. Don’t just wait so you can have your turn in the conversation. Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”
  • For conflicts between a person and his job—realize each of us was born with a preferred working and relaxing environment. Some like conflict and thrive on it. Others wither at just the thought of conflict. While some find working on the cutting edge brings great satisfaction, others prefer routine, predictable work. Be sure your job fits your personality preferences.
  • For conflicts between a person and the values of an organization or company—learn the art of making an appeal and how to negotiate. Learn to honestly put your thoughts, preferences, and ideas on the table. Until everyone involved knows what is on the table, it is not possible to negotiate. Look for win-win solutions. Learn to use the chain of command in your organization. No one respects someone who goes behind his back. Sometimes the only solution is “no deal,” and you may have to leave if appeal and negotiation don’t bring about positive changes.

Internal Conflict with Self

       Learn to monitor your self talk; don’t let the ANTs invade. When you begin to pay attention to what you are thinking, you may be surprised at how many negative thoughts an hour you have. Once you notice what you are thinking, you can choose to think on another subject. Know the truth about yourself. Maybe there are tasks you enjoy and do well, and maybe there are things you don’t like to do or aren’t good at doing. Learn to delegate; ask for help. Learn to say “no,” or “I’ll be happy to do that—tomorrow.” 

       Managing the time during your day or week could create an internal conflict possibly caused by lack of self-discipline. If so, use this simple formula to keep you on track for the week.

       The waking time you have during a week is about 112 hours. A balanced (less-stressed) person spends appropriate time during the week on certain types of activities. Most of us find we spend too much time in one of the categories below and not enough time in another. This combination could give us an unbalanced week and possibly more stress.

       Determined activities could be about 11 hours a week—10 percent of your waking hours. These activities are the hard ones. This is the time to do the work you don’t want to do—make those calls, decide, set appointments, meet a deadline, tell someone “no,” exercise, push yourself, get into your working mode. So, remind yourself—Just do it NOW!

       Involved activities could be about 33 hours a week—30 percent of your waking hours. This is the time to lighten up, have a little fun, socialize, enjoy life, smile, talk with friends, take a break from work, and enjoy your family. So, remind yourself—Laugh and enjoy life!

        Systematic activities could be about 40 hours a week—35 percent of your waking hours. This is the time to get all your routine work done, straighten up your work area/house, put things away, ask for help, help others, go to the doctor, service the car, then relax and recreate. So, remind yourself—Work efficiently!

       Calculating activities could be about 28 hours a week—25 percent of your waking hours. This is the time to review what you have accomplished today, plan for tomorrow, ask questions now so you’ll be ready, analyze, double check your work, think, study, research, and balance your checkbook. So, remind yourself—Plan your work!

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM

Florida CAM Schools

Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM, guides managers, board members, and service providers in handling daily operations of their communities while at the same time dealing with different communication styles, difficult personalities, and conflict. Effective communication and efficient management are her goals. Since 1999, Betsy has educated thousands of managers, directors, and service providers. She is your trainer for life! Betsy is the author of Boardmanship, a columnist in the Florida Community Association Journal, and a member of the Regulatory Council for Community Association Managers. For more information, contact email hidden; JavaScript is required, (352) 326-8365, or www.FloridaCAMSchools.com.