VALLEY — As the smoke clears and life returns to normal, many are just beginning to pick up the pieces. The Spring Fire has left a scar on our mountainside, surly to be spoken of for generations to come. Although, that is not the only scare the fire left behind. As individuals and families return to their beloved properties, the fire’s destructive powers leave hearts broken and burdened down.
Traumatic events and loss can be very challenging. As everyone reacts and copes differently, it can be difficult to know when someone needs additional support and how to help. The San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group (SLVBHG) has provided a few tips for recognizing when to help, how to personally cope with traumatic experiences, as well as how to be of help:
1. Take Care of Yourself: Drink plenty of water and eat healthy energy dense foods (e.g. fresh veggies and fruits, whole grains, etc…). Get quality sleep. Sleep is essential to maintain good health. Ask for what you need. There are people who are waiting to help; they just need to know what you need.
2. Connect with others: Talking about how you feel and how you are doing, will help. Talk with adults, friends, family or members of the community even if it is just casual conversation. Support and listen to each other.
3. Put off major decisions: Avoid making any unnecessary life-altering decisions during this time.
4. Give yourself a break: Take time to rest and do things that you enjoy doing. Limit you time on social media – it can easily spread rumors and trigger unnecessary fears. Be patient with yourself – sometimes we do not realize how impacted we are by a situation until we respond in an abnormal way.
5. Focus on the positive: There are caring people and acts of kindness all around us. Laugh on a regular basis. Do something positive for someone else following a tough situation, such as writing a meaningful note or preparing a meal.
6. Stick with your typical habits: Follow routines such as bedtimes, curfew, homework, chores and exercising. Staying in your familiar patterns can be reassuring.
7. Find a safe way to cope: Strong feelings may arise and that is okay. Find healthy ways to cope with these feelings such as fun activities, exercise, praying, writing in a journal, or spending time with family and friends.
There are things to watch for, whether in yourself or those around you. Stress after a tragic event can manifest itself in many different ways. Physical and behavioral changes, as well as changes in mood are all signs that an individual may be struggling and could benefit from external support from family, friends and/or a professional.
Signs to watch for:
1. Physical signs: headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, upset stomach, etc...
2. Behavioral signs: sadness or depression, overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, increased drug or alcohol use, tobacco use, social withdrawal, etc…
3. Changes in mood to watch for: sleeping problems, anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, irritability or anger
Remember stress is okay, it is actually an important step towards recovery from trauma. However, prolonged stress or stress that last longer than 2-3 weeks can become detrimental to ones physical and emotional health. If you feel uncertain about your current level of stress call 719-587-5634 for a confidential assessment with the professionals at the San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group.