While fireworks delight celebratory crowds in the summer, for those experiencing PTSD, autism, or sensory-related triggers, these loud and illuminated events can be anxiety-inducing. Understanding how fireworks affect others can help us celebrate holidays safely and with compassion for those around us.
Fireworks & your brain
The loudness of fireworks isn’t the only reason they can cause anxiety. According to Dr. Todd K. Favorite at the University of Michigan, the unpredictability of firework explosions can trigger your fight or flight response, increasing your heart rate and causing heavy breathing. The feelings we associate with this are ones where we sense imminent and immediate danger. This is why fireworks can induce anxiety in many individuals.
How to manage auditory anxiety
If you or someone you celebrate with has anxiety related to fireworks, ask your neighbors to alert you if and when they plan to set a few off. This will give you valuable time to prepare and make a plan to cope with your body’s reaction, reducing the fear surrounding fireworks.
Here are some things that can be a part of that plan:
- Communicate when you are starting to feel uncomfortable
- Use noise-canceling headphones and distract yourself with music, a podcast, or an audiobook
- Try a grounding technique: hold a piece of ice, recite a memorized poem, sit with a pet, or visualize a favorite place
- Take deep breaths
- Check-in with yourself regularly and assess how you are feeling
There are many ways to handle auditory anxiety, and Valley Oaks Health can provide you with the stability and support needed to help you take steps toward better mental health.