Twenty-seven wildfires are burning across Oregon. The fires have resulted in in entire communities’ evacuations, the loss of homes and businesses for hundreds of families, and potential for mental health crisis.
Across the state, Oregonians are struggling with hazardous air quality, making breathing difficult. This experience is overwhelming for many who are already struggling. We have experienced so much in 2020, including a pandemic, quarantine, contentious political season, and protests.
So, how do we take care of ourselves when it seems like the hard times keep getting harder?
Recognize the Symptoms of Grief
You will likely experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness, worry, and anger. When people experience traumatic events, nightmares and intrusive thoughts are not uncommon. You may also feel fatigued even after getting adequate sleep. Remember that everyone reacts to a crisis in the same way.
Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is not selfish. If you deplete all of your emotional and physical energy stores, you will have nothing left to handle the crisis and nothing to give your family.
Allow others to provide support.
Let friends and family provide meals, wash the laundry, drive you to appointments, or listen when you need to talk about your experiences.
Take breaks from television, the news, and social media. Set media limits for yourself and your family, especially children. Limit checking the news or social media to once per day to avoid being continuously overwhelmed with upsetting reminders of your loss, increasing stress.
Take care of physical needs.
During a crisis, it is easy to overlook personal needs. Ensure that you are regularly eating throughout the day, drinking plenty of water, and getting sufficient sleep. If your body is well-fed and well-rested, it is easier to think clearly and make decisions.
Take time to move your body. Consider yoga or stretching.
Avoid making major life decisions.
Give yourself time to adjust to your new situation. Changing jobs, moving a long distance, ending a relationship, or making a large purchase are stressful events. Allow yourself to wait and think through your options after the immediate crisis ends.
Know when to seek help.
Seeking help from a professional counselor can help you manage the unexpected changes in your life. You should seek help immediately if you are having a mental health crisis or have suicidal thoughts. You should also seek help if you cannot stop crying, have a significant increase in addictive behaviors, including drugs, alcohol, or gambling, or are experiencing panic attacks.
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Seeking Health and Happiness One Day at a Time.
Marcy Berg is a writer and therapist living in the Pacific Northwest and Exploring thoughts on mental health, wellness, and happiness. She can also be found at Growing Through Life.