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With fire season fully upon us again, have you noticed emotions and fears about last year’s fires bubbling up? You’re not alone. Feeling upset or ill is a normal response to an abnormal event.

Emotional and physical responses to memories (often referred to as triggers) can happen with any type of intense past experience. People, places, scents, sounds, sensations — all can bring up these feelings.

You may notice emotional reactions

•Fear or anxiety, irritability or outbursts of anger or tears

•Feelings of detachment, self-protection or self-preservation

•Concern of burdening others, isolating behaviors

•Unpleasant past memories resurfacing

•Shame, worry, grief, denial, shock, disbelief

•Diminished interest in everyday activities, depression

•Difficulty concentrating, remembering, connecting with others

Or physical reactions

•Aches and pains like headaches, backaches and stomach aches

•Changes to sleep patterns, appetite, interest in sex or physical touch

•Digestive upset such as diarrhea or constipation

•Increased use of alcohol, drugs or under/overeating

•Sudden sweating or heart pounding/palpitations

Stop the cycle

Just because these feelings are normal doesn’t mean you have to live with them. Here are some proven coping strategies to try when you are overwhelmed:

•Breathe. Take six purposeful deep breaths. With each breath invite peace to dwell in your body.

•Move your body: Jog, exercise, walk, ride a bike, practice yoga, stretch.

•Reach out and connect with others in your life who understand how you feel.

•Avoid overusing caffeine, alcohol, sugar and nicotine.

•Step out and volunteer for an organization you support. Serve your neighbors, do a kind act or pay for the person behind you in line.

•Listen to music, create art, plant something, water your garden.

•Take a hot bath, make a cup of tea, spend time being kind to yourself.

There are many helpful ways to cope, but the best way is connection. Ask for help, support, understanding and opportunities to talk. You may be surprised just how ‘not alone’ you are.

Brought to you by Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics

Salem Health West Valley Hospital and a medical group of primary and specialty clinics offer exceptional care to people in and around Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley. West Valley Hospital has been serving our community for more than 100 years, today with a 24-hour emergency department and a wide range of services including imaging, surgery and rehabilitation. Learn more at www.salemhealth.org/westvalley.

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