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Recovering from the Stress of Fire

It has been an intense and stressful week here in the Wood River Valley as our entire valley has lived under the looming threat of wildfire. We’ve coped with evacuations, thick smoke, scary flames, and a whole lot of uncertainty. While the fire is mostly contained, many of us are still coping with the lingering effects of stress and fear—and many of us are still displaced from our homes.

There is no one in our valley who hasn’t been touched by this fire in some way. As we transition from the intensity of the crisis toward our “new normal”, self-care has never been more important.

Turn it off: It’s tempting to stay constantly plugged in to the news and social media to track the developments of the fire, but this keeps you in a heightened state of stress. As much as you can, turn it off and give yourself a break from the endless stream of information.

Exercise: It’s easy to abandon exercise in the face of a crisis, but it’s counterproductive. Exercise is one of the best forms of stress relief. Now is the time to make exercise a priority. The smoke is no excuse—Zenergy has plenty of options for you to exercise indoors!

Nutrition: Your body always needs optimal nutrition—but especially during times of high stress. Treat yourself well by making nutrition a priority.

Sleep: Sleep is when the body rests and repairs itself, but unfortunately, heightened stress often interferes with sleep. If your body has been on high alert—waiting for that evacuation call in the middle of the night—you may be struggling with sleep. Now that the immediate danger has passed, do what you can to reestablish a healthy sleep routine. Turn off technology and create an environment that is conducive to sleep. Many people are experiencing extreme fatigue—from the late nights, high stress, and the lingering effects of smoke exposure. Give yourself the gift of extra sleep if you can.

Hydration: Drink plenty of water. This is especially important to help cope with the effects of smoke inhalation.

Routine: Never underestimate the power of routine. Most of us recognized that this week when our routine was disrupted. Reestablish your personal routines, such as meal times, exercise schedule, and work commitments.

Avoid Big Decisions: Avoid making any major life decisions in the aftermath of the fire because these bring their own stressors. Instead, just take some time to be.

Get Support: If you’re feeling particularly fragile, seek support from friends or professionals. Some people may experience some level of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after such a grueling week. A trained professional can help you work through this.

Stress Management Tools: It can be helpful to engage in some sort of stress management technique, such as meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, qi gong, yoga, deep breathing, or any other activity that promotes peace and relaxation.

Give and Receive Help: Sometimes the best way to shift our focus is by helping someone else. Look for an outlet where you can offer your services, perhaps by helping a friend or volunteering for an organization. On the flip side, be willing to receive support. Everyone wants to help.

Look for the Pearl: A traumatic event is often an opportunity to develop a larger perspective. During evacuation, many people were surprised to find that there wasn’t much they felt compelled to take with them. Look at the experience as an opportunity to help you determine what is most important to you.

Prepare: Take the time now to prepare for future events. It can actually be comforting to learn from the experience. What would you do differently next time? Use what you learned to create a family disaster plan. This can be very empowering—helping you to know that you are ready for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.