For some veterans, Bonfire Night can be a difficult time of year. Here are five tips to help you deal with the situation:
1.Think about how to cope
Going out or staying in? Give some thought as to what will work best for you. For some veterans the sights and sounds of Bonfire Night can be a step too far. If you're staying in, create an alternative, distracting evening. You could watch a video or listen to soothing music. Be kind to yourself as it's all about what works best for you.
2. Identify your triggers
As a veteran the flashes and noise of Bonfire Night can trigger difficult memories, especially if you suffer from PTSD. Have you decided to go out to an event? Before attending identify your triggers and plan ahead. For instance, if the smell of a bonfire sets off bad memories, or makes you feel jumpy, carry some calming essential oils such as lavender and peppermint. These can help bring you back to the present if you feel overwhelmed by the general atmosphere.
If you panic, your breathing can become shallow without you noticing, so quickly help yourself by taking long and slow out breaths. It's also useful to practice breathing techniques in advance, so you know what breathing pace you're comfortable with generally.
4. Stay in the here and now
Try these tricks to keep yourself in the present:
- Create an image in your head and concentrate on the details in that image.
- If you're at home, use all five senses to take in what's around you. What can you see, hear, smell, feel and taste?
- Rub your feet on the carpet to remind yourself of where you are now.
- Find a physical position that makes you feel safe, such as an upright position with your shoulders back or maybe curling up.
5. It's good to talk
Are you planning to go to a fireworks display with close friends or family? Make suggestions about how they can help you if you are feeling zoned out or getting vivid memories, and let them know that you may need to leave early.
If you need to speak confidentially to someone, call the Combat Stress' free 24-hour Helpline on 0800 138 1619 for mental health advice and support. You can also text on 07537 404 719 or send an email. Please be aware as of Monday 27 January 2020 Combat Stress will not be taking new referrals in England and Wales. Referrals will continue as usual in Northern Ireland, and in Scotland.
Visit Veterans' Gateway to see more information on generally improving your mental wellbeing.
Written in collaboration with Veterans' Gateway Referral Partner, Combat Stress.