Stage 1 fire restrictions, enacted for unincorporated areas of western Boulder County.

Mental Health After a Wildfire
smoke from a wildfire in the foothills

Mental Health After a Wildfire

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Mental Health After a Wildfire

A natural disaster like a wildfire can significantly impact your emotional well-being. Take steps to ensure that you are taking care of your emotional needs during this time of crisis.

Emotional Awareness

The aftermath of a wildfire can include mood swings, sleep disruption, and stress reactions. It is important to be alert to your feelings so that the emotions do not become overwhelming. Weather patterns, such as high wind or lightning, may cause increased stress, anxiety, or physical symptoms related to stress, such as stomach aches or headaches.

Protect Your Emotional Well-Being

Feeling emotional after a disaster is normal, but there are things you can do to take care of yourself and others.

  • Find opportunities to spend time with other people so that you stay connected.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or adviser about what you are feeling.
  • Participate in activities that you enjoy.
  • Take frequent breaks from cleanup efforts.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Exercise (indoors if air quality is poor).
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene.
  • Avoid relying on substances like alcohol or marijuana for stress relief. During times of great stress, their use can be counterproductive and lead to more stress, anxiety, and physical symptoms.

Help Your Children through the Crisis

Parents are advised to pay close attention to their children’s emotional well-being. Pay attention to your child’s questions and let them know that you are there to listen. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Be honest with your answers to your children’s questions, but don’t provide more information than necessary.
  • Validate your children’s feelings. They may be feeling scared, confused, or angry.
  • Provide opportunities for your children to talk and explore other outlets for their expression, such as drawing or playing.
  • Limit exposure to media.
  • Avoid irrational promises like, “This won’t happen again.”
  • Maintain the same daily schedule as possible (e.g., bedtime rituals).
  • Ensure your children eat healthy food, exercise, and maintain healthy sleep patterns.
  • Reach out to your students’ school or child care center for resources and to see if they have noticed any changes in your child.

Watch for Behavior Changes in Your Children

Children may cry more, act out, exhibit regressive behavior like bedwetting, or show other changes in demeanor. These are normal stress responses and are usually temporary. Reassure your children that you are there for them. Watch for physical symptoms like stress-related stomach aches and headaches.

Seek Help if You Need It

It may take a while before you feel back to normal. If you are experiencing any of the following, please seek professional help.

  • Difficulty managing your emotions
  • Trouble completing daily tasks
  • Caring for yourself or your family

Mental Health Resources

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