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Physician offers advice for coping with Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Greenwich Hospital physician offers advice for coping with Hurricane Sandy.

There’s no question that stress can have an adverse effect on health that can manifest a decade later. Physician Henri Roca from Greenwich Hospital has advice for overcoming stress in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Roca who is an MD and medical director of Greenwich Hospital’s Integrative Medicine Program in Greenwich, Connecticut understands how difficult it is when everything is suddenly different.

Dr. Roca who is a native of New Orleans and relocated to Connecticut helped victims of Hurricane Katrina cope with stress.

“The challenge is that everything is different, from the places we usually go, the routes we drive, the colleagues and friends we see. We don’t realize how much we depend on the things we consider solid and foundational,” said Dr. Roca in a media release.

“We lose our foundation, sometimes literally. Totally capable individuals under other circumstances don’t know what to do.”

What he saw was people retreating to their houses, but he says it’s important to do just the opposite to find your way out of chaos and stress.

Setting clocks back this weekend can make things even worse. Less daylight can trigger anxiety and depression, especially for people who are vulnerable.

“The focus should be on maintaining nutrition, maintaining exercise, paying attention to the effect of light and the interaction with others, and then using some targeted supplements, remembering that during times of great stress nobody gets extra points for perfection,” said Dr. Roca.

He recommends avoiding sweets and carbohydrates and instead focusing on getting plenty of protein that contain calming amino acids.

According to the Franklin Institute, “Even in the best of times your brain is often malnourished, which is then reflected in your emotions and behavior.

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Fortunately, your brain can quickly respond to proper nutrition – even from a single meal. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Your body breaks down dietary protein into the amino acids it uses to assemble the 50,000 different proteins it needs to function – including neurotransmitters and chromosomes, hormones and enzymes.

Dietary proteins fall into two groups. Complete proteins contain ample amounts of all eight essential amino acids. Fish and meat, fowl and eggs, cheese and yogurt are complete proteins."

Another good dietary choice that can help with stress is rice and beans that combine to make a complete protein.

Roca also recommends taking a walk with family and friends during the day. Sunlight and exercise can lower feelings of depression.

He also explains it’s important to seek help when you need it. Visit family, friends and neighbors.

Listen to music, meditate or just take time to just relax. He suggests reading a book. It’s important to understand that priorities have changed. Focus on what you need and not what you want that will come with time.

Don’t be in a hurry and let go of perfection, says Roca. Remaining flexible can help you cope better.

He says it’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Because the days are shorter with less sunshine he recommends using full spectrum lighting if you have electricity in your home or office to help fend off feelings of listlessness, helplessness or indecisiveness, fear and anxiety or changes in sleep or appetite that are all manifestations of stress.

Speak with your doctor about taking supplements to ease stress and depression like SAMe and St. John’s Wort that can interact with other medications. Eating protein, avoiding sugary foods and high carbs, exercising, taking time to relax, remaining flexible and connecting with family and friends can all help alleviate stress associated with Hurricane Sandy's aftermath.

Greenwich Hospital
November 2, 2012

Image credit: Morguelfile