For Americans across the nation, the Fourth of July is a time to celebrate our independence. However, it’s important to look out for those who fought to secure it.
Many veterans that fought and sacrificed for this country carry scars with them. Some carry scars that we cannot see. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20 out of every 100 veterans experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD, as defined by Mayo Clinic, is “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
The loud “bang” and “crack” of fireworks can trigger memories of explosions, incoming fire, and other combat scenarios for our combat veterans. This can easily turn a fun celebration into a painfully stressful night.
What You Can Do To Help:
If you know anyone with PTSD, you can take a few steps during this firework-laden holiday to help ensure that you both can enjoy the festivities.
- Give Warning – The unpredictability of fireworks makes them one of the main triggers for PTSD. By providing a time for when you plan to launch your fireworks (or even simply saying that you will be using fireworks), you take away some of that unpredictability and allow the individual with PTSD time to prepare.
- Mind Your Range – Be conscious of where your fireworks might go before you light the fuse, if you live near a neighbor with PTSD, light them on the opposite side of your property in relation to theirs.
- Be Social – If you aren’t planning on partaking in any Fourth of July activities, it could be a good time to build a relationship with those around you. Invite your neighbor over and enjoy each other’s company, whether that be through watching sports, sharing a meal, or simply chatting, it is a great way to help and also build a social bond.
What Persons With PTSD Can Do:
It is not always feasible to coordinate with others during this holiday, especially in more populated areas. Peace Health, a non-profit medical organization, has provided a list of ways to cope and prepare for the firework season.
- Prepare a self-care tool kit -Consider positive things you can use for healthy distraction and comfort. Look through photographs that give you joy. Listen to your favorite soothing music. Enjoy the fragrance of fresh pine, lavender, cinnamon or peppermint. Spend time playing with or grooming your dog or other pet.
- Practice S-L-O-W deep breathing – Emphasize breathing from the belly (diaphragm). Emphasize the duration of exhalation, breathing out nearly twice as long as breathing in. Breathe in to a slow count of three to four and exhale to a slow count of six to eight. Notice how the air entering your nose and mouth is cool and how it’s warm going out. Imagine blowing out candles on a cake as you do this.
- Use an app for assistance – The National Center for Telehealth and Technology and the Veteran’s Administration National Center for PTSD has helped develop two effective, free apps for smartphones to help people cope with symptoms of anxiety, panic, and PTSD. One app is called Virtual Hope Box (on Google and on Apple), and the other is PTSD Coach.
View the full list here
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