My heartfelt condolences go out to all who have experienced loss, displacement, discomfort, fear and destruction. Hurricane Sandy has caused widespread devastation and anguish to millions of people. Some of us have lost our homes. Some of us have lost loved ones. Some of us have lost our power. Some of us have lost our sense of security. Most of us have experienced some kind of loss and it is only natural that there will be grieving and anxiety as we all strive to get back to normalcy.
Hurricane Sandy was a traumatic event in many of our lives. As we shift from safety and recovery to rebuilding our lives we are sure to experience some bumps in the road. For some it will be easier to get back to the normal routine. For others it will be much more complicated. As we remain glued to the media coverage, local reports from friends, family and neighbors and do our best to cope, we may find that serious mental health issues arise such as acute stress disorder (ASD) or subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ASD is diagnosed in those who have:
- Witnessed or lived through a traumatic event to which they responded with intense fear, horror or helplessness and are currently experiencing disruptive symptoms
- Symptoms include being dazed or unaware of surroundings, feeling numb emotionally, dissociative amnesia, re-experiencing the trauma in flashbacks or dreams, hyperarousal or anxiety that includes sleeplessness, restlessness, and hypervigilence, intense startle response, and inability to concentrate
ASD differs from PTSD in duration of symptoms, meaning ASD can only be diagnosed in the first month following a trauma. PTSD is diagnosed four weeks or more after the traumatic event. ASD also has an emphasis on dissociative symptoms like being in a haze, feeling emotionally numb or experiencing amnesia where PTSD does not have that requirement. It is likely that these symptoms will go away with time but if they do not and/or if you find yourself coping in unhealthy ways you should reach out to a mental health professional. ASD has been shown to be a precursor to PTSD and should not be ignored.
If you are looking for a way to get involved there are many opportunities out there. It is a great way to feel you are helping others, making a real change and regaining a sense of control and an ability to cope with the aftermath. Here are some great resources:
In addition, I want to give you some practical and helpful self-care tips. Remember to resist the urge to isolate and withdraw. Utilize your supports and stay connected to the people who care about you. It is also important to limit alcohol consumption because it is a depressant and can exacerbate any negative reactions you may experience after a traumatic event. And try to incorporate some easy relaxation techniques into your daily routine. Simply breathing in for a count of three and breathing out for a count of three 10 times can be effective. Easy yoga poses can also be very helpful and will increase awareness of how your mind, body and spirit are reacting to this stressful time.
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