Other than being on pre-evac notice, I was basically unaffected by last summer's Waldo Canyon Fire. Despite that, it left a hell of an emotional scar, something I only sometimes noticed before I smelled the smoke from yesterday's Black Forest Fire.
Memorial Hospital understands, and that's why they today issued a list of tips on coping with any emotional strain.
• Be as patient and compassionate as you can with family, friends, and yourself.
• Spend time talking with good friends, clergy or counselors. We all need to process stressful events, and talking or writing about them in a journal, for example, can be very helpful.
• Eat well, rest when you can, get and give hugs, and try to get some exercise. Take a few moments to breathe deeply.
• Kids’ number one need is to be and feel safe. Reassure them that lots of people are helping and protecting us. Point out all the firefighters, police, soldiers and others that are here to help. Model calm for them.
• Spend some extra time with your kids, your presence is reassuring. Kids may act younger than they are or be more “clingy.” Give them some extra love — it’s good for both them and you.
• Try to maintain the usual rhythms of life — structure is important to kids, especially younger ones — but, as always, be flexible. Be honest, but keep explanations simple and developmentally appropriate.
• If kids want to help, find ways to help them do so. Have them draw a picture for the local firefighters, drop off some food together at a food bank, make a donation on-line, or simply pray or think positive thoughts for the families who are affected. Action creates a sense of control and that is helpful.
• Be very careful with your media diet. It’s great to be informed, but watching scary or anxiety-provoking images will likely make you more stressed.
• Children or adults who have a past history of traumatic events can be at higher risk for strong reactions. If you or someone you care about has reactions that you feel put them or others at risk, get some professional help or even call 911 if it’s urgent.
• Times of crisis can be opportunities to really look at what is important in our lives. See this as an opportunity to reconnect to a sense of spirituality or spend some time reflecting on life.
• The local mental health crisis line is 719-635-7000