There has been a lot of media coverage about the need for residents of the Cayman Islands to prepare for the hurricane season, which started last week.
The ubiquitous reminders mostly concentrated on the physical side of preparations, like buying supplies, readying households and developing hurricane response plans.
However, little was said about preparing for the hurricane season mentally. Just the increased media coverage has probably increased stress and anxiety levels of residents here.
As most people who experienced Hurricane Ivan know, the event caused much more than physical inconvenience and discomfort. The hurricane also affected us in other ways – mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Relationships suffered as well.
Even people who escaped Ivan’s destruction mostly unscathed were affected by the changes brought to the island and their lives in the aftermath of the hurricane.
This is all quite normal after going through very stressful events like Hurricane Ivan.
Researchers in the United States recently published findings of a study on survivors of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that showed that some South Floridians suffered mental health problems many years later. The researchers believe the findings indicate that Gulf Coast victims of Hurricane Katrina will have increased risk of mental problems.
Ivan was just as bad for many of us as Andrew and Katrina was for residents of the areas they affected, so it stands to reason many of us are at increased risk for mental problems.
There are ways, however, that we can mitigate the risk and help minimise the stress of another hurricane season.
In its second quarter newsletter, the Employee Assistance Programme suggested some ways of dealing with anxiety and stress. Among the things suggested are: getting involved in a regular physical activity; seeking to find humour in everyday situations to increase laughter; recognising what we are feeling and learning to accept what we cannot control; socialising with supportive people with whom we can discuss our feelings; having a positive mind set that does not dwell on worst-case scenarios that maximise anxiety; and affirming the good qualities in others, which uplifts the spirits of everyone.
Hurricane Ivan scarred everyone here that went through it, and there are many symptoms, both mental and physical, of its lingering effects.
It’s important to recognise the symptoms of anxiety and deal with them, either with some of the EAP’s suggestions or by getting some assistance from qualified medical professionals