Anxiety and grief

Given the recent stress we have all been experiencing as a result of the fire in and around our city, today's column will focus on experiencing and dealing with anxiety, grief over loss and post traumatic stress disorder.

Everyone experiences a certain amount of stress and anxiety in life, but in extremely upsetting or traumatic times, we deal with an overload of feelings of anxiety, stress and often grief. It is important to recognize our feelings, accept them and deal with them in an effective way so that we are able to move past the immediate shock of an experience and get back to our daily routines.

One of the most important things to remember when dealing with the aftermath of a trauma is the necessity of facing the experience and the feelings it stirs up. Avoiding the issues and feelings can be harmful.

Recognizing that you have gone through a difficult time and accepting your feelings about it - whether you feel anger, disbelief, grief, fear or even despair - is a very important step in the direction of working through those feelings.

Once you accept that you feel a certain way, it is often helpful to talk with someone about those feelings. Some turn to close friends or family for this outlet and others may feel more comfortable talking with a counselor or therapist. Whichever you choose, talking with someone will probably help you to process your own reaction to the experience.

Support networks are another very important aspect to recovering from a shocking experience. During this frightening time, Kelowna residents have really shown a willingness to come together as a community to support one another.

The countless messages of hope and thanks that are taped up all around the city are one example of community empathy as are the many people who have opened their homes and given of their time to support those directly affected by the fire. This community outreach - by citizens, organizations, the media and politicians will prove to be of immeasurable value to those dealing with the grief of losing their home or with lingering anxiety about the fire. Good work Kelowna!

Post traumatic stress disorder is different than the initial stress and anxiety that accompany an upsetting experience. It is a type of anxiety disorder that is linked to a specific traumatic event in a person's life and becomes a long term problem. Sufferers are plagued by nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks and persistent anxiety all centering around their traumatic experience. It is also common for sufferers to fear certain situations or places because of the possibility that they may re-experience the trauma through intrusive memories or flashbacks. This condition can be helped with therapy and sometimes medication. Although there are many different therapies available, the most essential ingredient of effective therapy seems to be exposure to those thoughts or situations that give rise to the unpleasant feelings in a corrective or safe setting.

There are several other kinds of anxiety disorders that are life-long chronic problems and can be triggered or exacerbated by a particularly stressful experience. These affect approximately 25% of the population at some point during life and are treatable conditions.

If the experience of the forest fire in Kelowna has left you feeling persistently afraid and you experience the above symptoms, you may be dealing with post traumatic stress disorder or the fire may have exacerbated another anxiety disorder or triggered new symptoms. There are professionals available who can help you move past this traumatic time and deal with lingering anxiety and fear. If you are unsure of where to turn, talk to your family doctor.


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