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Healing Post-Hurricane Stress & Where to Donate Locally for Hurricane Irma
Written by Dr. Romie on Sep 14, 2017
Mindful Living Tags: stress managementStressPTSD after natural disasterOrlandoStrongOrlandoHurricane Irmacompassioncommunity
Photo: Background picture courtesy of NOAA

Have you been able to step away from the television or the internet over the last few weeks?  

I am running a digital-detox and mindfulness program with the leadership of a cutting edge hospitality company amidst some of the most tragic and devastating news cycles this year.  

First and foremost, thank you for all of the kind messages to our team and clinic.  While losing power and having uprooted trees on properties is commonplace in Florida, our team is physically safe.  Emotionally, the frazzled meter is still on high alert.  How about you?

FINDING COMPASSION AND GRADING SUFFERING

I personally find my compassion levels tested daily, how about you?  I find it difficult to focus on friends complaining about being stuck indoors due to curfew when I am also trying to help organizations get food, water, medical care & baby formula to those in dire straits.  

Grading Suffering

I made this mistake, grading suffering.   We are taught growing up, "be grateful; someone else is worse off than you.  Mindfulness based cognitive therapy teaches us that, we are all suffering.  We can overcome this suffering when basic needs are met- safe shelter, food, warmth, rest, water, and clean air to breathe.  (Maslow's hierarchy of needs) . Why is then for those of us with these needs met we are still feeling anxious, difficulty sleeping, sad, or on edge?

WHY ARE WE ALL SUFFERING?

As a collective humanity are witnessing the devastation in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, an earthquake in Mexico, the Western wildfires, and now Hurricane Irma.  Being in the newsroom regularly, I can say first-hand that the news cycles repeat every 30-60 minutes.  Breaking news does not arrive every 5 minutes, yet most of us could not step away from the continuous coverage of these disasters. We share a collective empathy with our fellow country men and brothers and sisters around the globe.  

But what happens when we also start to suffer even if we are hundreds of miles away from the natural disaster?

1. Survivor's Guilt and Survivor's Syndrome

I quickly had to put on my healer's hat and understand that no matter "how small or big" the suffering of an individual- the complaints come from a deeper source.  In mental health, a part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are symptoms known as Survivor's Guilt or Survivor's Syndrome.  

Survivor's Syndrome was first studies by psychologists in the survivor's of the Holocaust.  Survivor's syndrome or survivor's guilt has now been found among survivors of murder, terrorism, combat, natural disasters, epidemics. When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSM-IV) was published, survivor guilt was removed as a recognized specific diagnosis and redefined as a significant symptom of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Common symptoms include: having a pattern of characteristic symptoms including anxiety and depression, social withdrawal, sleep disturbance and nightmares, physical complaints and mood swings with loss of drive. Commonly such survivors feel guilty that they have survived the trauma and others—such as their family, friends, and colleagues—did not.

2. PTSD from watching media coverage


Larger studies done through the VA medical centers found that watching news coverage of disasters such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks increased stress levels.  Viewers who watched continuous news coverage of September 11th attacks or the Oklahoma City Bombing had increased the risk of the development and maintenance of chronic PTSD following a trauma.  his included PTSD like symptoms in viewers watching who may be far removed from the incident. PTSD symptoms are worse in children than in adults.


HEALING POST HURRICANE STRESS 

1. Please, step away from the continuous news coverage on television and online.   Schedule time to catch up on the news once or twice daily. 


2. What can you do to connect to calm?   We all have different activities that calm our senses.  Pick one and do only this soothing activity for at least twenty minutes to calm your autonomic nervous system out of "fight or flight mode."

3. Restoring sleep is a priority.  Take digital devices out of the bedroom.

4. Please keep limited exposure of media coverage to your children, but keeping an open mind to answer questions.  Children with access to digital devices are likely to hear distorted news from peers, so it is important to ask what they know and answer their questions.

WHERE TO DONATE FOR HURRICANE IRMA VICTIMS (INCLUDING LOCAL & STATE ORGANIZATIONS WITH SERVICES ALREADY PRESENT)

I am including this section as a native of Florida you have all been reaching out asking for the names of local and state organizations that are "on the ground" helping the victims who are in need.  I have included a list of organizations whom I have researched, know someone on their board of directors, or know of the organizers.  They are on the ground here in Florida and some of them in the Carribean.  If you know if any additional organizations, please feel free to share them with us.

Please take the time to research the organizations (links provided) and make your own decisions.  

1.  ShelterBox is on the ground in the Carribean and Texas helping survivors of Hurricane Harvey:
https://www.shelterbox.org/hurricane-irma

2. I know members of The Action Church, they have teams on the ground in Texas and here in Central Florida helping with food distribution and restoration.
http://www.theactionchurch.com/

3. ICNA Relief in Florida
They are on the ground in Florida helping with food delivery, shelter assistance, and medical care for survivors
https://www.icnarelief.org/wp/index.php/irma

4. Save the Children
Their emergency responders are in the Carribean and  Florida "providing family-friendly supplies and services to Hurricane Irma survivors. We’ll also be the strong helping hand when it comes to restoring the critical child care and education services that children depend on to get back to being kids."

https://secure.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.9535143/k.622A/Hurricane_Irma_Childrens_Relief_Fund/apps/ka/sd/donor.asp

5. United Against Poverty Orlando
Please consider donating in the next 48 hours to sponsor freight and fuel costs to help donated grocery items make it into the hands of low-income families in need. 
$62 Sponsors a Pallet, $2,423 Sponsors a Truckload 
https://uporlando.org/donate/

6. Hurricane Irma downs trees, homes, and power lines in Immokalee, LaBelle, and surrounding farm worker communities.  Many of the farmer's families already living below poverty levels are now homeless.
https://secure.actblue.com/donate/immokalee

FOR OUR FUR BABIES:

Help the animals that were left behind to die in the hurricane when owners evacuated without them.

1.  Best Friends  https://bestfriends.org/hurricane-irma
2. Wings of Rescue flew pets out of Florida to no-kill shelters in other states: https://www.wingsofrescue.org/
3. South Florida Humane Society is taking care of dozens of pets abandoned by owners. https://humanebroward.com/irma-need-support/

 

Florida, I love you. I believe in you. We got this.  

We are #FloridaStrong

Dr. Romie


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