Overcome hurricane stress now that Sandy has left town

by Julie Snyder

Hurricane Stress ReliefIt's been almost two weeks since Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast. While the super storm may have left your town, the devastation remains as relief and cleanup efforts continue.

Everything is different -- the places you usually go, the routes you usually drive, even the friends and colleagues you usually see.

The upheaval caused by a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy forces us to reorganize our view of the world. Everything is different -- the places you usually go, the routes you usually drive, even the friends and colleagues you usually see.

"Totally capable individuals under other circumstances don't know what to do," says Henri Roca, MD, medical director of Greenwich Hospital's Integrative Medicine Program in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Overcome hurricane stress

Stress manifests itself in a variety of ways. You might feel listless, helpless or indecisive, anxious or fearful. Your sleep and appetite might suffer.

To keep yourself strong and positive as much as possible when facing the adversity of natural disaster and upheaval, Roca suggests:

1. Pay attention to nutrition. Eat a diet high in protein. Stay away from sweets and carbohydrates, especially simple carbs from white flour. You need protein to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals that help give you a sense of resilience.

2. Focus on exercise, even if it’s just taking a walk as a family. Keep moving. Exercise helps to reduce depression. So does sunlight.

3. Seek other people. Talk to neighbors. Visit friends and family. Ask for help if you need it.

4. Re-prioritize. The things you need will come with time. The things you want will have to wait.

5. Find ways to relax. Gentle music, meditation or quiet time reading can provide a well-needed break.

6. Allow for your time to be flexible. Under the circumstances, you just can't be in a hurry. You have to let go of perfection. You do the best that you can do.

Stress-busters for children

Good or bad -- "mama's mood" seems to have a trickledown effect. If you notice that the kids are bickering more than usual or seem hyper-sensitive, first take a look to check your own emotions.

Yes, you need a space to funnel your own, which can be difficult during times of crisis. It's not like you can go take a nice, hot bath when you're living at a shelter or crowded in with others.

• Keep a routine, as much as possible
• Draw and color pictures. It helps kids channel emotions in a more concrete way
• Have a story time, even if it means you make up stories
• Take 15 minutes to sing or dance, the sillier the better Music and laughter both release endorphins and boost moods
• Talk and talk some more
• Find a way your child can help within the family or throughout the community

Combining actions with taking time to listen, meditate and pray according to your personal beliefs -- will enable you to recharge and do battle another day.

Were you in the path of Sandy? What's helping your family deal with the post-hurricane stress?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.