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Reality Post-Thomas Fire Settling In

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Reality Post-Thomas Fire Settling In


The massive Thomas Fire hits in early December 2017.  Your new reality is settling in post-fire, during the holidays and at the start of a new year.
(In a hurry – scroll down for 12 things you can do to survive better emotionally.)

Today, the Thomas Fire is 85% contained with an estimated two weeks until fully contained.  Fire crews worked 24/7 through Christmas.

Your house was saved, and you made it through unscathed, but you know a friend or two who wasn’t so lucky.  You see evidence of the fire everywhere you go in West Ventura county and beyond.  When you get easily irritated and impatient you tell yourself “how dare I complain when my house didn’t burn down!”  You don’t connect the dots when you can’t seem to remember things as well lately.  And that great book or enticing project you thought you’d be finished with, well you aren’t able to focus or comprehend it and you’ve lost interest in it anyway.

Now that you think about it, you’re basically getting through the day as best you can, but feeling kind of numb, kind of anxious and kind of lost.  You don’t feel energized, or you have a stuffy head and sore throat and aren’t sleeping well.  Its been cold at night making the body work extra hard to keep your temperature right.  Both unrelenting and crisis-caused stress tax your immune system, as does polluted air.  It’s being worn down and not replenished enough.

The fire affected hundreds of thousands of people

In Ventura County the holiday season, festivities, craft boutiques, parties, various performances and hopes and dreams were mostly cancelled due to the Thomas Fire or the dangerous lingering levels of smoke and ash in the air.  The mood is not merry and bright for many adults.  Schools have been closed for weeks adding to stress levels for families.  Retail stores and town centers closed temporarily but had far fewer sales than expected, with inventories paid in advance.  Christmas trees were in short supply as many burned or didn’t get delivered in time.  The point being that lots of people who weren’t living in the fire areas were/are significantly affected by it too.

You’re operating in a quasi-alert state all of the time

What I attempted to illustrate is that the entire region has been significantly stressed-out by the danger the fires and smoke imposed on people over a relatively long period of time.  The body, mood and cognition are simply not functioning as well as before they were impeded from operating normally.  Now they are responding to your environment from a perspective based on the degree of fear, distress and change you’ve encountered here.  To keep you safe, they operate within a quasi-alert perspective that is stressed, uncertain about the future, cautious, fatigued, vigilant, and not happy.

In other words, for some people, their body, mind and/or emotions can’t let down their guard, yet.  This wears on a person over-time but should eventually go away.  Know that so you don’t get stuck in a negative anxious worried mindset.  If it doesn’t go away read on for remedies.

So what can you do about it?

Talk with someone about all the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Writing them down journal style also works. In either case, don’t hold back, get them out, write with abandon without thinking about it much. After you’re done, read or hear the sentiments that came from you, hear yourself without judgment or analysis. Allow yourself to feel any way you do. Once you know what that is, you can process and release it and feel some relief. Then you’ll see what you want to do about it, if anything can be done.

Here are 12 more ways to lessen the impact as reality and the new year sets in:

  1. Realize the stress you are undergoing currently.
  2. Lighten-up on the demands you put on yourself for now, taking care of only what you must.
  3. Stop judging yourself harshly for your short temper and less-than efficient mind, love yourself more instead
  4. Take out time for fun and relaxation. It may not feel as fun and relaxing, but if it was before the fires, do it anyway. Your brain and memory will be stimulated in a good way.
  5. Make self-care a priority in the important areas such as eating quality food and sleeping soundly.
  6. Socialize, don’t isolate
  7. Mediate or do Qi Gong, T’ai chi, yoga, sing or chant in a group
  8. Take your vitamins, supplements and medications as prescribed. Avoid over-doing liquor and the like.
  9. Focus on what you’re grateful for rather than mad, sad or anxious about.
  10.  When you get mad notice it and replace it with a gratitude such as “I can breathe well,” “I can walk,” “I can see,” or something more personal.  There is always something to be grateful for and searching for it is much healthier than focusing on things that irritate you.
  11.  If sadness and worry turn into depression, seek help. If you wait too long you will have a harder time getting out of it. If you go to a physician, you’ll probably be given anti-depressants.  If you go to a therapist or crisis or ministerial counselor, you can be treated successfully without medication in most cases.
  12.  The same thing is true for anxiety and anti-anxiety medications.  Both categories of drugs lead to dependence for most people and getting off them is a tough road and long process.  Research shows talk therapy can be as successful without any side effects, making it better not to go on them if not really necessary.

I hope this post and the previous two on emotions following the fires have been helpful to you and yours in some way.  Please feel free to leave a question or comment below and I will answer it.  Or you can reach me through my contact page for a more personal response.  Please share this post if you think it can help someone.



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