Last week, a woman named Cathy who lived in Monmouth Beach came into our office, wrapped her arms around me and cried. She lost her house and her car. She even lost her job because her employer was devastated by the storm.
Hurricane Sandy brought something to New Jersey that very few of us have ever experienced in our lifetime. Unfortunately, this is the kind of tragedy and trauma we can’t prevent. Some things are just out of our control.
What we can control is our response to stress – how we get through each day, our thought processes, our nutritional activities, and our physical activities.
Cathy told me that when she went to her house to clean out whatever was left, she seemed to have an unusual abundance of energy. She was lifting heavy things over her head and didn’t stop working all day. She had no idea where this physical strength and energy came from.
I explained to Cathy that this is the body’s fight-or-flight reflex. The fight-or-flight reflex is the body’s reaction to stress. Hormones like adrenaline are secreted and released into our bloodstream and directed to our muscles and limbs. This gives us strength and energy, particularly in times of stress.
Maybe you’re going through a lot of highs and lows right now. Whether you’ve been personally impacted by Hurricane Sandy, or you’re trying to help others deal with loss, there’s a good chance that you’re filled with a lot of energy throughout the day as you try to get as much accomplished as possible. Then you completely crash at night. That’s part of the fight-or-flight reflex.
The way our brains are wired into our bodies can cause a lot of discomfort and even disease, so we need to be very conscious of that noodle between our ears. We need to be aware of how we’re processing information, especially in times of stress.
Stress disrupts our state of homeostasis, or our state of balance and stability. Sometimes stress is temporary, like if you’re late for an important appointment because you were stuck in traffic, or if you get into an argument with your spouse.
Dealing with stress during times of crisis, like in the aftermath of a life-altering hurricane, is something that many of us are dealing with day after day, and week after week. If we allow this disruption to our state of homeostasis to consume us, it can cause serious disorders, particularly in our immune system.
What we need to do is find that place of comfort among family, friends and community. Turn to foods that will nourish us, like fruits, vegetables, and sources of protein. Drink a lot of water and consume healthy oils, like olive oil and flaxseed oil. Avoid vegetable oils and foods that are high in fat and sugar. Bad nutrition just adds more of a stressful burden to our bodies. Although it may be difficult, it is also important to keep up with your regular routine as much as possible. Your chiropractic visits are more important than ever in times of mental and physical stress. Exercise outside of the manual labor of cleaning and rebuilding will help you de-compress, especially with a calming practice like yoga. And, of course, nothing beats a relaxing massage to help revive and refresh your spirit.
We all need to find a balance of physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual comfort because they’re all interrelated. This will enable us to process stress productively and make clear, sound decisions. If you find yourself struggling to find balance, look for support from people who can help you.
Remember, some events in life are uncontrollable, but we have the power to process stress and regain our balance and clarity. We can get through this, and we will.
Dr. James Proodian is an accomplished chiropractic physician, health educator and business visionary. He is a dynamic educator committed to the principles of functional medicine. As a keynote speaker, he has inspired thousands to consider practical ways to achieve better health and wellness through Lifestyle Medicine and Health Literacy.