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Overcoming post-hurricane stress syndrome

Overcoming post-hurricane stress syndrome

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Overcoming post-hurricane stress syndrome

Nov. 22, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0402}

NOTE: A headshot of Hicks is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By the Rev. John Hicks**

Artists, when painting, do not always stand at an arm's length from their canvas. The best artists know they need to occasionally step back from their work and view it from a distance. They need to see how their thousands of small brush strokes are fitting together to produce the overall result.

Likewise, our perspective on life is much improved if sometimes we can step back and see the whole picture. If we aren't careful, we can become so occupied with daily brush strokes we have no real perception of the whole scene we are painting on our canvas of life. Our attentions can be so consumed by the requirements of daily living we have little awareness of the dimensions and directions of life itself.

Hurricane Wilma blew in and stripped all the leaves off our hibiscus bush. It blew in and stripped a lot of the normalcy out of our lives.

CLEWISTON — A sign at First United Methodist Church of Clewiston was no match for the strength of Hurricane Wilma's winds. Photo by the Rev. David Berkey, Photo #05-279.

Since our encounter with "Miss Wilma," many of us have been going full steam — from just trying to manage to putting in a lot of hours trying to recuperate or helping others recuperate. I realized that I have been stressing out. I get more irritable more quickly. I've been short tempered with my wife. I have even broken down and cried just to release what's been building up inside me. I realized I am suffering from post-hurricane stress syndrome. I've been going non-stop, and it's affecting me.

There is a reason God has given us instructions to take time out of our lives to "be still." There is a reason why we are instructed to labor six days and rest one. Doing this helps us keep our perspective. Doing this helps us maintain our direction. Doing this helps us feed our inspiration. Doing this helps keep us connected with our Creator. Doing this also enables us to stay with it for the long run.

The pioneers found out they could travel farther and faster if they traveled six days and rested one, instead of going seven days straight. This is a good lesson for us to embrace.

This week, I encourage you to join me in taking some time to step back from the canvas a little. Let us look beyond the varied episodes of our daily doings and to the longer and larger picture. Let us look beyond the brush strokes that make the art to see the art the brush strokes have made — and are making.

We have come together as a community in the midst of devastation. We still have a long way to go before the picture is complete. Let us do in our hearts what we need to do to make sure the masterpiece gets completed. Let us make sure we take a step back and renew our perspective. Let us make a special effort to rest our minds, our bodies and our souls so we are able to complete what we have started with good inspiration and proper perspective.

And as we continue painting on our canvas of life, remember that the Master Painter has made Himself available to help us in all of our needs. There is no errant brush stroke the Master Painter can't correct. There is no canvas so messed up it can't be transformed into a work of art. Remember, also, the dark colors are as needful as the bright colors to create a masterpiece in life and each one of us is a masterpiece!

Added note: My hibiscus bush has started putting out new leaves and will soon be back to normal with new growth and renewed strength. I am determined to do the same.


This article relates to Disaster Response.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Hicks is pastor of First United Methodist Church of Clewiston, an area that was heavily damaged during Hurricane Wilma.