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Taking Care of Yourself After the Storm Hits

Taking Care of Yourself After the Storm Hits

Disaster after disaster leads to distress. On the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, much of South Louisiana is currently feeling the same devastating effects of Hurricane Ida. The added stress of an ongoing pandemic is only making this time increasingly challenging for individuals.

Stressful events activate the body’s “fight or flight” response, releasing adrenaline and stress hormones like cortisol throughout your body. Almost everyone exposed to natural disasters will experience some of these physiological and psychological effects. It’s simply part of being human.

But what happens after the storm? Even after a catastrophe like a hurricane passes, many people continue to feel high levels of stress and anxiety. Be aware that you can experience physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, changes in concentration and nausea for days or weeks after the events.

Exposure to hurricanes is a well-documented risk for new-onset major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a combination of anxiety and depressive symptoms that include hyperarousal or feeling jittery and always alert. Other symptoms may include intrusive thoughts, sleep problems, nightmares, heightened startle reaction or avoidant behaviors. If trauma-related symptoms such as PTSD persist, talk with your physician about how to address the underlying cause.

After a disastrous event, some important things to keep in mind for your immediate mental health recovery include:

  • Focus on positive ways of coping.
  • Continue practicing self-care and participating activities you enjoy.
  • Take other’s help and get the services you need.
  • Connect with social supports and talk to your family and friends.

Contact your primary care physician or a mental health provider if your post-storm symptoms do not improve or if they significantly interfere with your activities and daily routine.