PTSD Over the Fourth of July
The 4th of July is a wonderful time of year for picnics, barbecues, and family. And, as most of us know, it’s a really, really big time of year for firecrackers and fireworks displays. For many people, all this can be fun, maybe even beautiful with all the pretty colors and sparkles. But for others, firecrackers and fireworks can be extremely frightening when you are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
As healthcare providers, we have been talking with patients for a few weeks now who are really struggling with the invasive, random, intentionally jarring sounds that fireworks are designed to produce. Some of these patients actually have the diagnosis of PTSD.
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is a very real and very difficult disorder to manage for those dealing with it. The disorder can happen to anyone who has gone through any type of trauma where death or threatened death of themselves or someone else was witnessed and experienced.
For those struggling with PTSD, here are some things to help you feel safe:
- Create a “safety kit” using all 5 senses. Choose something for sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch that soothes you. For example: look at a photograph of loved ones; listen to music you enjoy with noise-canceling headphones; smell a lavender candle; eat a dish of ice cream; or pet your dog.
- Self-regulate by sitting in a chair with a firm back and arms, and keep feet on the floor.
- Wear clothing that helps you feel secure: for example, tennis shoes that tie might feel more secure than flip-flops.
- Practice a breathing exercise, such as 555 breathing. Breathe in naturally to the count of 5, hold your breath to the count of 5, and then breathe out for the count of 5. Practice this 5 times in a row.
- Talk to your neighbors ahead of time and let them know.
It’s important to accept the feelings rather than avoid, but it’s also important to take the next step and manage the feelings as best you can.
Originally Posted: July 2018. Updated: January 2023.
Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.