Post Sandy Stress Syndrome

I live amidst downed trees, glaring street lights powered up by generators and discarded Sandy-soaked possessions. I am one of the lucky ones.  I got my electrical power back after two weeks. However, the utility company in many ways transformed into a futility company.

Meanwhile all around me life is evident in the rebuilding process. My neighbors are ripping out basement walls to ward off mold, fixing roofs while adapting to cold and darkness since many won’t have power for another few weeks. You can smell the stress in the air. Sadness pervades an entire coastal community even if some people have generators and did not get flooded. It is hard to celebrate when your neighbor is crestfallen. Yet it is important to feel joy in small successes.

People are edgy waiting on line at the local pharmacy. Some are cutting gas lines or lining up with an odd license plate on an even day. It’s not that they are selfish or feeling entitled to better service. I believe that they are stressed. It is easier to vent about waiting on a long line or cutting ahead of others to beat the system than dealing with a fundamental loss or grief.

Symptoms of Stress to Watch Out For:

•Low energy levels, feeling numb, emotionally paralyzed

•Focusing on negatives and catastrophic outcomes

•Disordered eating: some people eat junk food and gain weight; others stop eating and lose weight

•Sadness and tearing up even at ordinary matters

•Irritability and anger – this is sadness directed outward

•Disrupted sleep

How do you cope when your utility company is a futility company – when you have little control over your environment?

•You have the power of the positive pull. Pull yourself up to take small steps towards recovery in your daily activities.

•Normalize your routine to reset your natural rhythm. Get into step with present conditions and adapt your routine as much as possible with a semblance of structure.

•Move stress out of your body. You MUST do some form of exercise, or else your body and then your spirit will weaken.  Stress causes fatigue because it drains you. Don’t claim that you are too tired to exercise. You are not. Be aware that stress is making you feel tired, so don’t be tricked by inflammatory hormones. Exercise will improve your mood!

•Talk to your neighbors and help them. Even offering a kind word or a bit of humor is life enhancing.  Receive help and be grateful. Complete the circuit of giving and receiving. You can serve as your own spiritual “transformer.”

•It’s hard to be patient when you are suffering. Time is subjective and when you suffer, time ticks away very slowly. However, you know that deep in your heart, you will be stronger because of this painful experience. You will learn how to prepare and grow in many ways. Stay stronger longer. Turn stress into strength!


Photo by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images