How To Manage PTSD & Trauma On The Fourth Of July
With booming firework displays and large crowds, the Fourth of July can intensify symptoms of PTSD, especially in people with combat trauma. To manage these symptoms, it’s important to plan your day carefully so you don’t get bombarded with triggers.
Many people view the 4th of July as a pleasant day to relax and spend time with loved ones. However, the holiday can bring a great deal of stress for those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially combat veterans.
The loud noises, bright flashes, and large crowds found at fireworks shows can trigger flashbacks to war or other traumatic events.
If you or someone you love dreads Independence Day celebrations due to PTSD, follow these tips.
Plan Your Day Carefully
People with PTSD often struggle with uncertainty. That’s why it’s helpful to plan exactly how you will spend your Fourth of July.
Consider Potential Triggers
If you go to a celebration, think about any triggers you might encounter.
For instance, if you get triggered by fireworks, you can plan to leave before they start. You could also relocate to a quiet room with some earplugs or noise-canceling earphones, along with an eye mask if you’re bothered by bright flashes.
Similarly, if you get triggered by big crowds, you could stick to smaller celebrations or leave if an event gets too crowded.
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Skip Celebrations & Enjoy Nature
You may also want to skip the celebrations altogether. If you stay home, consider asking your neighbors if and when they intend to set off fireworks. That way, you’ll know when to grab your earplugs, eye mask, or other comfort items.
Even with comfort items, some people find a neighbor’s fireworks too overwhelming. In that case, consider heading to a state park or nature preserve. These areas typically don’t allow fireworks.
In addition, studies show that spending time in nature calms your nervous system. An overactive nervous system causes some of the most common PTSD symptoms, including anxiety and panic.
Be Prepared With Coping Strategies
No matter how you spend your Fourth of July, it’s important to prepare some coping strategies in case you get triggered.
Many people cope with PTSD triggers by taking slow, deep breaths. These breaths can calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety symptoms such as sweating and increased heart rate.
As you breathe, focus on the sensation of your breath leaving and exiting your body. This strategy can help you stay grounded in the present moment so you don’t get carried away by your anxiety.
Another effective grounding technique is the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise. For this exercise, identify five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Then, remind yourself that you are safe.
To discover more coping skills that will meet your personal needs, talk to your therapist or support group.
Some people feel ashamed when their PTSD disrupts their daily life. However, shame will only make your symptoms worse. Remind yourself that PTSD is a disease. You can manage it more effectively by treating yourself with compassion rather than judgment.
For example, try writing a list of all your accomplishments. If you start to feel ashamed about your anxiety, this list will remind you how strong you are.
Reduce Stress With Self-Care
In addition, in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, remember to practice self-care. Get some exercise, eat plenty of nutritious foods, and sleep at least seven hours per night. These simple actions boost your physical and mental health, helping you handle any Independence Day stress.
You can also take care of yourself by making time for relaxing activities, such as:
- listening to music
- taking a bath
- going on a walk
- spending time with supportive friends and family members
- spending time with pets
These activities can decrease your anxiety as the Fourth of July approaches.
It’s easy to feel like you’re the only person who gets anxious on Independence Day. However, that’s not true. In the United States, about 13 million people have PTSD, with many facing flare-ups on the Fourth of July.
To remind yourself you’re not alone, consider attending a PTSD support group.
Available in-person or online, these groups connect you with people experiencing similar challenges. They give you a chance to discuss your triggers in a compassionate, understanding environment. In addition, you can learn important coping tips from other group members.
PTSD Coach Mobile
You can also find support on the PTSD Coach Mobile App. Developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), this app offers a variety of resources for vets with PTSD, including:
- information on effective PTSD treatments
- tools for tracking and managing your symptoms
- guided relaxation exercises and other stress management tools
Talk To Your Therapist
Finally, consider talking to a therapist about your concerns. They can help you process your fears and identify personalized strategies to make the most of your Fourth of July.
To learn more about managing PTSD, please reach out to Ohio Recovery Center. Our compassionate healthcare providers offer comprehensive, evidence-based care to help you or your loved one thrive.
- National Institute of Mental Health — What is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd
- United States Department of Veterans Affairs — How Common Is PTSD in Adults? https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp
- United States National Library of Medicine — Post-traumatic stress disorder: the neurobiological impact of psychological trauma https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3182008/
- Yale School of the Environment — Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health https://e360.yale.edu/features/ecopsychology-how-immersion-in-nature-benefits-your-health