Coping with the Stress of California Wildfires

On September 6, 2020, the Bobcat Fire ignited not far from our home. Over the next three months, it churned through over 116,000 acres as it slowly marched closer and closer. Luckily, it was fully contained in mid-December. Coping with California Wildfires 2021 can be stressful and terrifying. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to deal with wildfire anxiety. Understanding how to work with your anxiety about the wildfires in California 2021 can help you reclaim your life.

Anxiety occurs when are in, or imagine being in a horrible situation. Unlike other mammals, our nervous system has a hard time telling the difference between real threats and imagined threats. Just imagining a wildfire can trigger the same fight or flight response, and boom! Anxiety! There are important and powerful ways to counteract this part of our nervous system. These five tips will help you take a step towards healing your anxiety.

#1: Know Your Situation

We are currently experiencing some of the largest California wildfires in history, but that doesn’t mean that you need to suffer with wildfire anxiety. One of the best ways to combat anxiety is to know the reality of the situation. Where do you live in California? What time of year are fires the most prevalent? During a wildfire, you will be overwhelmed with family, friends, and neighbors, all dealing with the same stress. It’s important to focus on reliable news channels to learn the latest fire updates. You can follow official channels on social media or via network television to make sure that you know your situation when a fire occurs.

#2: Have a Plan

Create, memorize, and rehearse a comprehensive evacuation plan. We have dogs, cats, rabbits, and chickens at our home so we spent a great deal of time coming up with and rehearsing our plan. The dogs thought we were nuts, but we now know that if a fire endangers our home and our family, we are prepared! Having a plan for your home, your family, and your animals can help you feel confident that you can handle whatever emergency comes your way. Make sure that you look at different escape routes for your home and your neighborhood.

#3: Keep Your Routine

When fires approach, you can be on alert and pay close attention to official channels for updates. However, it’s important not to vary your day-to-day routine too much. Sitting around waiting for something to happen and stressing about what might happen can create more anxiety. Keep your routine during fire season unless official channels state that you are likely to be evacuated. If an evacuation is imminent, we recommend keeping official news channels open.

#4: Practice Stress Reduction Techniques

Stress reduction techniques that are put into practice regularly can help keep you in a calm and relaxed place. By practicing breathing and polyvagal exercises, you can help your body avoid triggering the flight or fight response that can lead to anxiety. These techniques can be taught through somatic therapy and  anxiety treatment in pasadena, CA and in Sacramento, CA . One simple breathing technique that you can use daily is the box breath. Sit or lie down and get comfortable. Close your eyes. Slowly breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, slowly release the breath by breathing out through your mouth for 4 counts, and then finally pause at the bottom of your breath for another 4 counts before breathing in and repeating. Aim to complete this breathing exercise 3 times per day for 4-5 minutes each time. This will help regulate your nervous system and calm your body.

#5: Health Basics

When stressed, the things we do regularly to take care of ourselves goes out the window. Making an effort to keep these health basics consistent in your life can prevent stress from building up and becoming anxiety. Remember to sleep well, eat good, wholesome foods, exercise regularly, drink plenty of water, and have fun! When we encouter stress or fear, it’s crucial that we increase joy, fun, and self-care. This can help counteract stress and suffering. When you experience great stress, such as wildfire anxiety, you need that much more joy. Add more movies, more games, more time with your family and friends, and more exercise. Make sure that you get enough sleep, water, and eat healthy foods.

Bottom Line…

These five tips can help you battle wildfire anxiety and make the most of your day-to-day life. But sometimes we need expert help, and that’s where California Integrative Therapy comes in! We have therapists who can help you cope with California Wildfire season, reduce anxiety, and develop healthy ways to live anxiety-free! 

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