Campus Life by the numbers

5 things that help when a natural disaster is trying to eat your home

Juggling MIT and worries of home can be an exhausting combo

Last year was my freshman year at MIT, so I was already going through many life changes in a short amount of time. Then, Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida, my home state. On top of worrying about waking up for my classes, finishing psets, formulating a social life, and balancing extracurriculars, I also had to worry about my family’s safety.

If you’re experiencing something similar right now as a result of Hurricane Michael, I want to reach out a helping hand and let you know that you are not alone. I was there too, and many others have been as well. Here are a few things I did to help me get through MIT and the potential natural destruction of my home:

1. Check the news, but don’t do it too much. It almost became a daily routine for me to check up on Hurricane Irma as it traveled over the Caribbean and made landfall in Florida, just to see how it might potentially affect my family. However, it got to the point where I started obsessively checking Irma’s path during every free moment of the day, and it would stress me out to no end to see an update for the worst. I want to warn people away from this. While it may provide some comfort to know that natural disaster XYZ will not completely obliterate your home, don’t let it preoccupy you 24/7.

2. Call your family or leave them texts. Let them know that you’re still thinking about them during this tough time. It will provide them comfort to hear from you and it will provide you comfort to know how they’re doing as well. Sometimes, my calls back home during Irma were almost comical. My mother or little sister would mention losing power as though it were as common as going grocery shopping; hearing them talk so casually about the situation always helped ease my worries. They would also typically ask me about college, which also kept my mind off their situation.

3. Talk to someone. There’s no denying that worrying about your family in the midst of a natural disaster is stressful. It’s even worse if you’re trying to deal with these worries on your own. Try to schedule time in your day to sit down and have a chat with a friend, let your feelings out, and take solace in the sympathy of a friendly face. You might even find that someone else is going through or has gone through the same thing as you and the two of you can bond over this shared experience. Also, don’t forget that MIT has a wealth of support resources for stressed students, which can be found here.

4. It’s okay to cry. Stress crying is a thing, and it’s been generally proven that crying is good for you. Sometimes you just gotta let it out. So don’t be ashamed to cry or vent in the privacy of your dorm room or an abandoned classroom. Alternatively, it’s always good to try and find free time for “me time.” Pick a day on the weekend or an hour between classes to just chill and relax. Don’t let yourself stress or worry about anything in your life and just do something that’s always helped you stay grounded, whether that is playing video games, binging Netflix, or knitting.

5. Once the storm has finally passed, call your family again and check in with them. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier. For both parties, hearing from each other will provide a familiar comfort. Who knows? They might also mention funny anecdotes of cats wandering the streets or trees dancing in the wind.