UF expert offers tips on tending to mental health after a hurricane
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While residents are cleaning up after Hurricane Irma, and many are still without electricity and clean water, it is not unexpected that some are starting to show symptoms of stress. Heidi Radunovich, a psychologist with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, says taking care of your mental health is just as important as addressing physical needs.
“Most people are able to cope well with the difficulties associated with a major disaster, such as Hurricane Irma. However, it can take a long time for things to return to normal, and many people are experiencing a lot of stressors in the meantime, Radunovich says. “Because of the high level of stress, it will be important to do what you can to take care of yourself, even though people are often so focused on the crises at hand. Try to do what you can to take care of yourself physically, and to reach out to family and friends for help and support.”
Radunovich offers the following tips to help ease post-hurricane stress:
- Be gentle on yourself and others during this stressful time, recognizing that it can be hard to stay in a good mood when under a lot stress.
- Focus on self-care, such as eating regularly (and healthy foods, if possible), getting rest and exercise, and trying to take some time out for yourself daily.
- Try to maintain a normal routine, limiting demanding responsibilities on yourself and your family.
- Use existing support systems of family, friends and religious institutions for help and emotional support.
- Children are sensitive to the coping of their parents, so remember that children are looking at how you are responding as a cue to how they should feel about things. Giving them the message that you are all strong and can get through this can be comforting to children.
- Remember that when children are upset and stressed, they may not have the words to tell you, but might instead show anger, irritability or bad behavior. Some might engage in behaviors they previously outgrew, such as thumb-sucking or bedwetting. Try to respond with patience and understanding if this occurs.
- Even though most people do well in the long-run, there can be times when it can be hard to cope. SAMHSA offers a free crisis line for people who have experienced disaster, and this can be a good resource for those who need urgent support: 800-985-5990 or emergency.cdc.gov/coping/index.asp.
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.