As America gears up for the 4th of July, it is important to remember that while we enjoy the cookouts, parades, and firework displays, for the millions of Americans struggling with PTSD, Independence Day can be very triggering. If you suffer from PTSD as a result of military combat or gun violence, make sure to follow these tips to have a safe and happy 4th of July.
Talk Openly with Your Neighbors
Ask your neighbors to let you know if they plan to light fireworks. Knowing ahead of time can prevent you from being caught off guard, which will minimize your risk of having anxiety or panic attacks. If you do not feel comfortable talking about this with your neighbors, ask a loved one to talk to them instead. Many people do not realize the implications of their Independence Day celebrations. Having a frank, honest, and respectful conversation can be very helpful, providing a fun and safe environment for both parties.
Create a Comfortable Environment
Think ahead of time to which people, places, and objects make you feel safe. Plan what you want to do or have during firework displays. Some popular techniques are:
- White Noise: taking a shower, running a loud fan, having noise cancelling headphones, or playing nature sounds can help block out the noise and make you feel more comfortable.
- Sometimes, sitting in a hard chair or on a flat surface with your back up against the wall can make those with PTSD feel safe.
- Pick out soothing music or a favorite movie to distract you.
- Find some photographs that give you joy.
- Pull out a book, board game, or other activity to keep you busy.
- Find a deep breathing technique that calms you.
- Avoid crowds and keep a small number of trusted friends or loved ones around.
Accept Whatever Reaction You May Have
Many people react to stressful or traumatic triggers in different ways, and it is important not to be embarrassed or critical of however you might react. Remind yourself that you are okay, the fireworks are temporary, and you are safe.
Consult Your Doctor
Talk with either your mental health professional or your primary care physician to talk about your options and come up with a plan that works best for you. If anxiety and stress remains heightened in the days following Independence Day, let your doctor know.