Ask your psychiatrist: The effects of fireworks on stress and anxiety are often ignored

Updated 2 years ago on November 02, 2022

Fireworks are an important part of many Fourth of July and New Year's Eve celebrations, eliciting crowd cheers as they fill the sky with rapid-fire rockets, shooting stars and earth-shaking explosions. But these explosions can be a problem -- and not just for our four-legged friends, says a psychiatrist who specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional disorders.

"It's not just dogs that can get terrified by the sound of fireworks," says Rachel Rohidi, M.D., a psychiatrist at Baptist Health Primary Care, who is also medical director of The Recovery Village at Baptist Health. "For some people with certain anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder, loud noises and pops can increase their anxiety and cause intense fear."

Dr. Rohidi acknowledges that this Fourth of July is special. "We always have a lot of excitement, anticipating getting together and celebrating with family, friends and our community-especially this year, after more than two years of social isolation," she says. But, she adds, there's also more anxiety and stress.

"Unfortunately, many current patients are presenting with new stressors and anxiety disorders that were once controlled and are now reappearing, and patients with new disorders are emerging," says Dr. Rohidi. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), one-third of women and one-quarter of men experience anxiety during the holidays.

"Holidays such as Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day add another level of stress that other holidays don't, and it affects us and those around us," warns Dr. Rohidi. She offers some helpful tips on how you can minimize stress and enjoy celebrating the Fourth of July or any other holiday.

Tips for coping with stress and anxiety during the holidays

Practice self-care and make time for yourself

Making time for yourself can be as simple as taking 15 minutes for yoga, meditation or prayer, journaling, knitting, or reading a book. Those 15 minutes are your time. It's good to have everything written down so you can see what lies ahead and keep track of your mental health.

Plan time for experiences

You don't have to worry all day. Schedule time to worry each day. Write down your worries, think of reasonable things you can do to overcome or solve them, and schedule a time to deal with your worries. Don't let them build up.

Keep it simple

Who doesn't love a good party? Preparing for a party, however, can be exhausting. Plan ahead to reduce stress, and don't feel like you have to do everything yourself - let others help you. Make reservations online, order food delivery, or throw a party. Focus on what's important to you - getting together with your loved ones and celebrating an important holiday or event. Remember that people come to your home because they like you and want to be with you.

Rethink your gift-giving strategy

We all love to give and receive gifts. However, instead of thinking about what to buy, change your thoughts to "How nice that person thought of me," and know that they feel the same way about you. And make it fun - have a gift exchange where people take turns picking out gifts. The best gifts rarely go to the person who picked them first, and it can get pretty spicy when more and more gifts are opened."

Set your own boundaries

Prioritize your health and your needs. Your own mental health will improve your overall health and well-being. Eat healthy foods, exercise and sleep hygiene. Think twice about drinking too much alcohol. If you have a post-occlusive infection, stay away from toxins.

Just say "NO!" (and know that saying "NO!" is okay).

Admit that if something doesn't suit you, it doesn't suit you. Period. If you don't want someone to come to your home or discuss certain things, let people know.

Identify your triggers

If you know your triggers (like loud explosions) and can identify the source (your neighbors set off fireworks every year on the Fourth of July), talk to your neighbor and be as open and honest as possible. If you don't feel comfortable staying for the "big show," maybe you can go to a friend's house where there are no fireworks.

Make a plan

We've all been going through a lot of changes in recent years, and planning ahead reduces stress by helping you avoid missing your triggers and avoid difficult situations. Uncomfortable getting out of the house? Stay home or invite someone to visit. Or join a Facebook group and see what the group is planning - you can always find things to do with people virtually if you're lonely. If you've been invited somewhere and feel like you have to go, take your significant other or a friend with you. Come up with a code to get out of the meeting when one of you feels you've had enough. Practice these activities regularly, and they will help you relieve anxiety and stress.

Ask for support

Feeling depressed is normal. Recognize your limitations and get ahead of your triggers and things that cause you discomfort. Reach out to your family, friends and community and tell them what you are struggling with to help them understand you. Set goals for yourself and ask for help.

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