Living Well

Dealing with hurricane recovery stress

Dealing with hurricane recovery stress

It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but we are tougher!

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “Getting knocked down in life is a given. Getting up and moving forward is a choice.” After these past few weeks, most of us probably feel like we’ve been doing nothing but getting knocked down. Between all the challenges with COVID-19 and now Hurricane Ida, occurring on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina no less, many people are asking when in the world will this real-life horror movie end! Picking up the pieces is never an easy task, but our community is resilient. We will overcome yet another challenge. However, as we all put our lives back together again, it’s essential to recognize the warning signs that you or a loved one may need a little extra help getting through these stressful times.

There is stress…and then there is stress!

Under normal circumstances, stress is part of daily living; from young to old, we all experience some level of stress. Stress is the body’s reaction to tension caused by factors that alter our physical or mental balance. While long-term stress can negatively impact your overall health, did you know that some stress can actually be beneficial? For instance, some stress can:

  • Be a motivator: remember being in school and waiting until the last minute to study for an exam? Ah, that’s a little stress, but it got you studying!
  • Be a mental enhancer: it can improve our ability to remember facts, figures, and other information
  • Be a physical enhancer: it can increase performance and endurance due to the release of adrenaline, or a hormone, your body produces under stress

Now, that’s not to say that we should want to live stressful lives, but it is encouraging to know that a little stress can be helpful in some aspects of your life. On the flip side, it’s the more traumatic stress that we need to be aware of as that can lead to serious health issues. It’s this stress that many of us are now facing due to Hurricane Ida. It’s important to understand the warning signs, which include:

  • Feeling very anxious, sad, or angry
  • Unable to concentrate or focus on one task
  • Having nightmares or difficulty sleeping
  • Experiencing frightening thoughts or flashbacks and reliving the experience
  • Feeling angry, resentful, or irritable
  • Bouts of crying
  • Becoming isolated from family and friends

As we rebuild our homes, businesses, and neighborhoods after Hurricane Ida, let’s not forget to pay attention to ourselves. Keeping yourself mentally healthy is equally as important. If you find that you are showing signs of traumatic stress or depression, contact your doctor. It’s now easier than ever to communicate even if you have evacuated. West Jefferson Medical Center offers telehealth options or virtual doctor visits, so you can schedule an online appointment regardless of where you are. Please don’t hesitate to seek out help right now if you are experiencing difficulties. There is no shame in asking for help, as our lives and our community are once again facing a monumental challenge that may drag on for a while.

Steps you can take to mentally recover from Hurricane Ida

  • Allow yourself a little time to mourn. We all must come to grasp what has happened, so give yourself a little time to get over the initial shock.
  • Re-establish routines. Whether you stayed through Ida or evacuated, your life was upended, and routines were abandoned. As quickly as you can, get back on your regular routine even if your day is different than it was a few weeks ago. It will start putting normalcy back into your life.
  • Take a break from hurricane news coverage. While it’s important to stay informed, too much news can lead to depression or despair. Limit your time watching TV or searching the internet.
  • Once you are in a better situation, lend a helping hand, whether it’s family members or friends. Volunteering with one of the many organizations in town is another great way to help. You can develop a tremendous sense of purpose by bringing comfort to those less fortunate and helping to rebuild our community.

About Dr. Bertha Daniels:
Dr. Bertha Daniels specializes in family medicine and is the medical director of ambulatory geriatrics for West Jefferson Medical Center. She initially joined the medical staff at West Jefferson Medical Center in 2000 and remained until 2017 when she transitioned to Tulane University Medical Center. She provided patient care at Tulane and taught medical students as an assistant professor for Tulane University School of Medicine. Dr. Daniels returned to the West Jefferson Medical Center staff in January 2021 and is enjoying developing ambulatory services for seniors. In her spare time she really enjoys traveling.