Managing Stress in a Hurricane


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I live in South Florida and at the end of October, we got hit by a hurricane named Wilma. For close to two weeks we had to deal with power outages, long lines at the gas stations, bare groceries stores’ shelves and many other inconveniences that can create stress. In this issue we will discuss stress and how not to let it run our lives.

Stress is any environmental changes that cause our bodies physical or mental tension. Stress is always viewed in a bad light, but stress sometimes can be good for us. In moderation stress keeps up alive by alerting us and keeping us out of danger. Prolonged stress is what we need to avoid. Prolonged stress causes our body to breakdown and starts to create illnesses such as high blood pressure, headaches etc. .

Identifying what causes stress in your life is very individualized. Stress is whatever that cause us to adjust to our environment. Since each of us adjust differently to changes, stressors are different for each person. The following is a list of common stressor:

  • Debt (or money problem)
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Marriage or divorce
  • Traffic problems
  • Long Lines for FEMA
  • Long lines for gas and ice
  • Legal Problems
  • New Job
  • Deadlines

These are but generalizations, take a few minutes and jot down what causes you stress in your life.

How we respond to stress is as individualized as what causes us stress. Different people have different emotional, physical and behavioral responses to stress. Below are some warning signs that you may be stressed out:

Emotional warning signs of stress include:

  • Anger
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Unproductive worry
  • Sadness
  • Frequent mood swings

Physical warning signs of stress include:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weight gain or loss

Behavioral warning signs of stress include:

  • Over-reacting
  • Acting on impulse
  • Using alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from relationships
  • Changing jobs often
  • Changes in eating pattern (overeating or undereating)

Now that you know what causes you stress and how you respond to it, you can now cope with the stress by applying these few tips:

  • Lower your expectations; accept that there are events you cannot control (during those long lines for gas, I played a CD by Outkast, Hey Ya really loud and I was dancing to it, driving around looking for gas and guess what? The stress was gone and I found gas and no lines!)
  • Ask others to help or assist you
  • Take responsibility for the situation
  • Engage in problem solving
  • Maintain emotionally supportive relationships
  • Directly attempt to change the source of stress
  • Distance yourself from the source of stress
  • Learn to relax by doing breathing exercises, yoga, listening to soothing music etc.
  • Eat and drink sensibly
  • Stop smoking or other bad habits
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy sense of self-esteem
Notice that none of the coping mechanisms include pharmaceuticals. You cannot cope with stress by medicating it; the medications will only take care of the physical symptoms; however, the source of stress is still there and you have not coped with it.

There are some homeopathic products that can help the body in its response to stress. To help with insomnia caused by stress there is Hyland's Calm Forte and Rescue Remedy. Both products can be found at

This hurricane season thought me to beat stress by being prepared:

  • Have non-perishable around
  • Get canisters of gas before the hurricane, preferably enough to fill a tank. Then you don't have to deal with the long lines. Believe it or not, the gas stations had gas, but no power to pump the gas.
  • Have a gas grill around, one that includes a stove to cook the perishables before they spoil
  • Get a generator; that was the one commodity that we needed
  • Get on an handiman or contrator's list so that you can have someone to do the repairs after the hurricane.
  • If the hurricane is a category 2 or above, if you are able, get out of town and be somewhere safe. You can always rebuild a house, but you cannot rebuild your life.

Managing stress includes recognizing the stressors; knowing how we react to the stress and finally coping with it.

Marie-Elsie Ade is a Pharmacist with a B. S from Long Island University in New York and a PharmD from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. She is a licensed pharmacist as well as a licensed consultant pharmacist (Florida license PS29264 and PU4703). She works for one of the premier health systems in South Florida. She has lectured on various topics at senior citizen centers, women’s groups and community fairs about generic drugs, herbal medications and drug interactions and the use of pharmaceuticals in general.


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