Four years of drought in California just hasn’t shrunk reservoirs, made lawns turn brown and planted a nugget of fear in every Californian’s brain. The persistent dry conditions have also caused major wildfires that have displaced around 23,000 Californians from their homes in the north of the state.
Saying that people who experience the spectrum of horrors in the wake of a wildfire “face stress” is insultingly obvious. Aside from the obvious property damage, survivors face displacement to evacuee centers, a long period of negotiating with various insurance companies and the possibility of losing pets, family and friends in the disaster. Smoke brings a considerable health risk not just to those directly in the way of the fire but to everyone in the region surrounding the fire’s zone. People fleeing the disaster may not have had time to get their medications out of their houses in time, causing further health worries. Finally, wildfires are horrible enough that the survivors are often afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Recovery from residential fires not just a matter of insurance
The American Psychological Association reports survivors of a residential fire often go through a period of adjustment not unlike grief. Shock, anger, depression and hopelessness are common. However, there are techniques survivors can use to repair themselves during this process. Trite as some of them may seem – particularly during a time involving dislocation, loss and worry – these techniques do work:
- Practice proven stress-reducing techniques. Deep breathing, meditation and regular exercise do wonders to reduce stress.
- Allow for bad emotional periods. Keeping worries, anger and sadness locked up can harm a person’s health and contribute to stress and depressive disorders. Fundamentally, ignoring bad emotions is denying truth. It is okay to cry and to release those emotions. It is also fine to experience good emotions during a period of loss and trauma.
- Make small decisions daily. This can allow a feeling of control over one’s life and circumstances, and don’t be so concerned over thoughts of what you should or ought to be doing. Avoid making big, life-changing decisions, however. Now’s not the time for a career change, buying a car or getting married.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Spending time with friends and family is therapeutic, along with taking advantage of support groups.
- Take care of your health. Get as much sleep and eat as healthy as possible under the circumstances, and avoid substances like alcohol and drugs like tranquilizers.
Children and disaster trauma
The APA says coping abilities of children and adolescents are influenced by their parents and caregivers. In times of disaster, children will look to adults for guidance and security. Listen to their concerns and ideas, and encourage them to return to their normal routines, even playtime.
The Anxiety Treatment Centers of California are well-equipped to deal with a wide variety of stress disorders, including PTSD. We can provide good, proven information on counseling and treatment programs across the state. If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety and shock after a major traumatic event, please call us at 855-972-9459 or via live online chat.