We understand that Bonfire Night can be a difficult time of year, the specialist clinical team at Combat Stress gives the following advice:
- Plan your evening
The first thing to think about is how you want to spend the evening and whether you might like to go out or would prefer to stay home.
Bonfire Night can be a useful opportunity to begin to ‘break the link’ between current triggers and past traumatic experiences, by focusing on what is different about fireworks and your environment.
It may be that being exposed to strong triggers feels too much, if that is the case, think about where you will be on Bonfire Night and prepare using some of the techniques described below.
- Identify your triggers
Different people react to fireworks in different ways. You may find the smells around Bonfire Night can trigger strong feelings and difficult memories so it can be helpful to carry a competing smell to ‘bring you back’ to the present. This could be a calming smell such as lavender or peppermint or a strong smell such as Olbas oil or smelling salts.
It could be the sound and sight of fireworks and bright light that you find triggering. Being prepared is important, be aware that there are often fireworks parties on the nights before and after Bonfire Night. If you are expecting this, it can be less of a surprise.
The most powerful tool you can use to calm your body is your breath. It is important to breathe at a pace that feels comfortable for you, but ensure that your out-breaths are long and slow. This simple technique can help to calm you down during a panic attack and help to reduce your anxiety.
- Stay grounded
Grounding techniques can help to bring you into the here and now and can be helpful if you are feeling zoned out or getting vivid memories.
- Notice five things in the room using each of the senses in turn – something you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste.
- Physically ground yourself – squats, stamping feet, taking off shoes and rubbing them on the carpet can help you to ‘come back’ into the room if you are feeling as though your body is going numb. It can also help to find a “grounding” position: a physical position in which you feel safe and/or strong. Some people find that curling up is comforting, while others prefer a more upright stance with shoulders back.
- Develop a “grounding” image – this is a visual picture which can soothe and distract you from a flashback or nightmare. Think about it in great detail, what do you see, hear, feel and smell.
- Listen to music that you enjoy and that helps you feel calm or positive feelings.
- It’s good to talk
You might find it useful to tell someone close to you that you find Bonfire Night difficult. This can make it easier to go to an event for just a small amount of time and leave when you need to. They’ll also be able to acknowledge the effort you have made.
You can call the Combat Stress free and confidential 24-hour Helpline for mental health advice and support. Call 0800 138 1619, text 07537 404 719 or email firstname.lastname@example.org