For some veterans, bonfire night is a distressing time, and the probability is that the fireworks will start at the end of October and will keep going after 5th November on a nightly basis, reminding them of the experiences they have been exposed to whilst serving in the military.
Increased stressful situations can exacerbate the symptoms of PTSD and other mental health difficulties, resulting in some veterans being more on edge than usual, increasing stress levels and affecting sleep.
Here are some tips for managing your anxiety before and beyond bonfire night
- Preparation is helpful – planning your evening, whether you’re going out with friends or family, it will probably be helpful to talk about your concerns with them so that they can support you.
- The smell of fireworks may trigger strong feelings and difficult memories. To override this, soothing smells such as essential oils may be helpful – for example, lavender, some of the citrus smells or peppermint or perhaps a stronger smell such as olbas oil or smelling salts.
- The sight and sound of fireworks and sharp ricocheting light can be triggers so being prepared is important and a powerful way to calm the body is to use your breath and ensure that your out-breaths are long and slow and hopefully this will calm your nervous system. This technique can be used to calm yourself during a panic attack and help to reduce your anxiety.
- If you feel zoned out and are experiencing strong memories, you can bring yourself back to the here and now by doing things such as stamping your feet on the ground, feeling the ground beneath you or simply walking around.
- Another way of grounding yourself is to notice 5 things in the room using each of the senses in turn, see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.
Don’t feel pressured into attending firework displays – do what is comfortable for you.