New Year’s is a time of change and looking forward to the future, but it’s also a time for crowded parties and loud fireworks blasting all around us. For people with PTSD, New Year’s celebrations can be incredibly stressful and triggering.
What Is PTSD?
PTSD in veterans is most often triggered by the sounds of explosions, rockets, lights flashing, and the ground shaking. So it’s no wonder that veterans with PTSD cite the Fourth of July and New Year’s celebrations as their two main triggers. Post-traumatic stress disorder from war is very common. PTSD often happens after incredibly stressful events, and there is nothing more stressful than war. From rocket barrages and mortar fire to gunshots, the sounds, smells, and sights around explosives are terrifying to some. These are life or death scenarios, where long-lasting scars are sometimes made on the mind. PTSD is how a person unconsciously reacts to stimuli that resemble whatever trauma they previously experienced. Veterans aren’t the only people who fear fireworks either. People who survived in war zones or were impacted by a shooting are also prone to PTSD from fireworks.
The best way to ensure that your holiday isn’t one of fear and anxiety is to be proactive and communicative. If you’re going to a party, ask if there will be fireworks. Communicate with your neighbors and ask if they’re going to be lighting fireworks at their homes. Explain your PTSD to whatever degree you feel comfortable. It’s easier to talk to family if you’re traveling for a party, but friends should also hear your side. For most people, the concept is just foreign to them. With an explanation, reasonable people will discontinue using fireworks if it’s upsetting to you. There are some people who won’t be stopped, and avoiding events organized by towns or cities can be challenging sometimes. In these situations, avoiding areas where fireworks are likely to be used is your best bet. Rent a secluded Airbnb on New Year’s Eve. Ask the people renting the property if there are usually fireworks visible or within earshot. Traveling is easier said than done for some people, and it’s not like you can canvas your whole neighborhood and get everyone not to use their fireworks. The sound of fireworks can travel pretty far, and that is enough to trigger an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder. So if you can’t prevent the trigger, what else can you do?
Coping with Triggers
Fireworks can be unavoidable on holidays, and it seems with every passing year that more and more people are setting them off. If you don’t have the luxury of traveling to a place free of fireworks, you can still cope with fireworks in a number of ways at home. It’s best not to go out after it starts getting dark on New Year’s Eve. Since that’s pretty early, get your outdoor activities out of the way in the morning. Being outside can be relaxing in and of itself and help to calm your nerves. Once night falls, it’s best to head inside and move to an interior room of the house to wait out the fireworks. Not only will this keep the flashes of fireworks from your view, it’ll also muffle the sound. If you can use earplugs, it’s a very good idea to keep those with you and wear them. Watch TV with the captions on, read a relaxing book, or just go to sleep. If earplugs aren’t enough or you don’t like to wear them, you can try to drown the noise out with white noise. White noise is very effective at covering other sounds and may help you drown out the explosions. You can even buy some sound-proofing foam to put up on the walls and ceilings for this occasion. This can absorb sound and prevent it from reverberating.
New Year’s Eve should be fun for everyone, and most people are simply unaware of how veterans may suffer with the sounds and sights. Be open with your concerns, and if you need more help, don’t hesitate to reach out to SOL Mental Health for in-person consultation for your PTSD.