As an introvert raised in one hurricane-prone region and now living in another one, I’ve had my share of evacuation decisions to make. I usually err on the side of caution and get out of town. Full Disclosure: The real reason is that I don’t like living without electricity and doing without air conditioning, especially when it comes to sleeping. (I know a lot of introverts have sleep issues due to “busy mind” syndrome and can relate.)
I’ve figured out ways to evacuate for hurricanes that work well for my introvert nature. These tips also apply to other disasters where evacuation is necessary.
7 Tips for an Introvert-friendly Evacuation:
1. Make 2 preparation checklists: What to Bring & What to Do. Keep these checklists where you can refer to them every time you need to evacuate. I find it such a relief to have these lists already prepared so I don’t have to remember from year to year what to include. Your “What to Do” list can have a section titled “Last Minute” for those to-do’s that can only be done when you’re ready to go – e.g., pack refrigerated items you plan to take.
2. Treat evacuation as a mini-vacation. Choose somewhere pleasant – a place you’d like to go anyway. Just make sure it’s well away from the hurricane’s projected cone of uncertainty.
3. Choose who to stay with carefully. As an introvert, you might want to stay at a hotel for peace and quiet. If you decide to accept an invitation to stay with friends, you’ll want to avoid those who are party-people who don’t understand your need for quiet and meaningful one-on-one conversations. Who’s a dear friend you’ve been wanting to visit – someone easy to be with and with whom you can plan enjoyable activities?
4. Leave home early. In keeping with the mini-vacation idea, leave before others are evacuating en masse, and certainly before mandatory evacuations are ordered. There would be nothing worse than being trapped in wall-to-wall traffic, and feeling uncertain about the availability of gas or bathrooms. And, since many introverts are also energy-sensitive, you don’t want the added stress of feeling everyone else’s heightened emotions.
5. Bring your comfort items. You can get by with a few items of clothing, personal grooming products, and important papers. Consider your hobby items as being just as essential. If you’re a reader, bring books & a Kindle. If you’re a crafter, bring a project with you. If you’re traveling by car, bring books on cd for the trip. These will give you a sense of comfort that will help keep you in a calm state.
6. Have printed directions to your destination. Don’t count on GPS working the whole time. I print out directions from MapQuest – and I’m often so glad I did! (Don’t forget to also print out reverse directions to guide you back home.)
7. Have faith. If you’ve done your best to prepare, there’s nothing more you can control. Do whatever inner work you need to do in order to let go of whatever happens to everything you’ve left behind, and look forward to enjoying your trip.
You’ll notice that these tips involve advance preparation. Planning is a super-power for most introverts, and this is the main skill needed for evacuation from an impending disaster. For a hurricane, you usually have plenty of time to do this planning. When the time comes to actually leave, you’ll be all set.
Why Introverts Need a Different Approach to Evacuation
Introverts’ brains are not wired for the level of “excitement” a disaster can bring. Instead, we tend to feel anxiety. Where extroverts tend to enjoy an exciting, risky unknown, where they have to think on their feet and deal with obstacles as they appear, introverts need a much less fraught approach.
Extroverts are wired through the action-oriented sympathetic nervous system, and dopamine-creating adrenaline is their happy juice. Introverts are wired through the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system, and the calming brain chemical acetylcholine is our happy juice. If we feel anxiety, we tend to freeze, unable to think or move forward.
So, let’s do whatever we need to do to stay in our happy place of calmness. This is where we function best, with optimal creativity and rational thinking. This is life at its best for introverts – even during a hurricane “mini-vacation.”