All of us in the Pine Island area have just lived through an incredibly stressful and disruptive disaster. Many are still in the process of rebuilding their homes and their lives. It has been over a year and recovery is still going on.

We have all been stressed. The important thing now is to be able to look ahead, to learn to deal with the stress and not allow it to become chronic.

Stress is the way the body responds to a threat. The threat occurs and the body activates the “fight or flight” response to deal with the problem. When the threat is over our hormones return to normal.

Chronic stress occurs when our body does not return to normal. This can be a real danger after such a disaster and one we all want to avoid.

How can we do that?

The experience of stress is very individualized. It is important to understand what are your stresses. Then, think about in what ways you respond to them. Is there a better and healthier way for you to respond?:

You can keep some stressors from ever happening. Organize your life. Break problems down into manageable pieces – don’t try to solve everything at once. Plan your time and make lists. Decide what needs to be done first. Celebrate when you complete a task. This gives you a sense of control and piece of mind knowing you have taken care of things. And remember, you can’t control everything in your life.

Effective stress management means taking charge of your life. First of all, fight stress with healthy habits. Exercise regularly. Studies have found the exercise is a strong antidote for depression and anxiety. It also helps people sleep better. Focus on setting fitness goals you can meet so you don’t give up. Remember, doing any exercise is better than none at all.

When stressed your muscles get tense. Loosen them up by stretching, taking a hot shower or bath. Stop for 5 or 10 minutes and take a few deep breaths – this can take pressure off you right away. Use other techniques such as yoga meditation, message.

Eat a well balanced diet.

Have a strong social support. Volunteer or find a relaxing activity you enjoy.

Talking about your problems can help lower your stress. So can talking to yourself but it must be positive not negative. So, listen carefully to what you’re saying when you’re stressed out. If you’re giving yourself a negative message, change it to a positive one.

Don’t use food, alcohol, drugs, smoking, or pain meds as a means of dealing with your stress. They male you more receptive to further stress.

You can’t always change the situation but you can change how it affects your life and make your life better.