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Coping With The Storms' Aftermath

It was bad enough for Florida, reeling from three storms already this season. But then Hurricane Jeanne made landfall over the weekend of Sept. 25-26, 2004, packing 120-mile-per-hour winds. The constant routine of preparing, and then cleaning up, probably has left many residents feeling stressed out and anxious.

On The Early Show Monday, Alan Delamater, a psychologist with the University of Miami, offered some ideas on how to deal with the stress in a positive way.

Be an effective problem solver.

Prioritize your life. Make lists. Get organized.

Seek social support. Don't be afraid to talk to members of your family or your community about your feelings. If you keep all those feelings bottled up, it can turn into a real problem.

Realize that you can't solve all the problems in one day, so take things step by step.

Don't hesitate to get back to your daily routines. Stay active.

Understand that it's normal to have a wide range of feelings.

Take time out for relaxation.

Practice altruistic behavior. Look out for the people in your neighborhood and check up on your neighbors. Having a good social structure is very important and can really help you get through a stressful time.

You should certainly avoid excessive alcohol and/or drug use. During times like these, people will resort to self-medication, sometimes even with prescription medication. You're worn out emotionally, you're stressed, you're anxious, and you're looking for an escape, to feel better and this makes you more vulnerable to developing a dependency. Also, people will start developing irrational or catastrophic thinking patterns. It's important to acknowledge this, and it is normal to a degree. But if it leads to serious depression and you're becoming increasing irritable, you may need to seek some professional help.

Unfortunately, it will be very common for the people in the crosshairs of the storm to lose possessions and property. But you need to realize these are material objects, some of which can be replaced. You need to acknowledge the feelings of loss, but should try your best to move on with life. You don't want to minimize that feeling of loss, but its important to focus on the positives. You're alive, you're safe, you're family is safe. You can rebuild the house, you can start a new photo collection. Focus on the here and the now and the future and remain positive that you'll get through it OK, despite the loss of property or possessions.

It is very challenging. Going through storm after storm and trying to rebuild after each one definitely is frustrating. But you need to maintain a positive outlook to the future. Also, you need support from family and friends. Don't try to take it all on yourself. And also you need to stay focused. You can't let the guard down and give up.

It's important and normal in the aftermath for kids to show a wide variety of responses. Young kids might get clingy and afraid to leave the parents side. Schoolage kids sometimes have trouble concentrating and can lose their focus with schoolwork. Teenage children may get moody and lethargic and show signs of depression. These symptoms should dissipate with time, but in some kids they may not, so parents need to pay close attention. If these abnormal behaviors persist for too long, then they need to seek professional help.

  • Talk to your children
  • Be accurate with information
  • Acknowledge fear and provide reassurance
  • Be an effective role model
  • Monitor television viewing
  • Plan for a period of adjustment

    You can't focus too much on the possibility that you'll get hit again. You have to be careful - follow the news and weather reports so you're prepared in the event that another hurricane does come, but don't let yourself engage in irrational thinking because that increases stress and anxiety. Get back to the present and don't dwell on thoughts that will cause you to feel stress and anxiety. Go about life as normal.

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