It’s probably safe to assume that stress levels in Houston residents have been excessively high since late August. When Hurricane Harvey hit our vibrant city, we saw businesses and homes flooded, lives destroyed, and a long road ahead of repair and rebuilding.
And while we are now weeks out from the initial devastation, we are still dealing with its effects. As if daily life isn’t stressful enough, many people are facing expenses for cleanup, loss of homes and memories, significant business damage, and more. Life is most definitely not back to normal – but little by little, we will get there. Our city will prevail, stronger than before.
Managing Stress After a Disaster
Our bodies and minds respond to stress in specific ways that are not necessarily good for us. Our ancient ancestors needed a “fight or flight” response that resulted in a flood of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, as well as a rapid heart rate and elevated blood pressure. These things helped a person get away from danger, effectively saving their life.
While fight or flight may serve you well during the time of an acute disaster, it’s not doing you any good now, weeks after the event has taken place. Yet, your body may still be in this stressful, high-alert mode, and it could be harming your health.
Stress and Your Health
At MedCenter TMJ, stress management is an important component of our TMD treatment plans. This is because chronic, long-term stress harms your health and aggravates TMD. Stress causes:
Inflammation in the body, leading to increased TMD symptoms like headaches, jaw pain, and more
Sleep problems, which can lead to pain the head, neck, and back, and a vicious cycle of more stress
Increased grinding of teeth, which stresses the jaw and damages teeth
Coping With Stress
Stress management is a learned skill, not a natural response. Our bodies want to default to fight or flight, so it’s our job to learn how to cope with stress in a healthy way. This can be especially important after a disaster such as a hurricane – not to mention the other disasters and tragedies that have been in the news in recent weeks.
Finding the stress reliever that works for you is a bit of a process, but it’s well worth your time. Try things like exercise, deep breathing, meditation, relaxing music, guided imagery, or essential oils. This is an important step toward managing your TMD and living a healthier life overall.
We live in a stressful world, and we can’t simply “turn off” our stress response. This is especially true with major disasters like Harvey. But if you learn to cope with stress, you’ll be better equipped to handle the difficult things like throws at you.