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Veterans, PTSD, and Pets: 4th of July

Natural calming remedies for PTSD

4th of July is here

Independence Day is a time of celebration, but the Fourth of July festivities can be extremely stressful for veterans, pets, and other PTSD sufferers. Sudden, unexpected changes can trigger traumatic memories. In recent years, awareness campaigns went viral when neighborhoods started seeing yards with signs saying, “A combat veteran lives here, please be courteous with fireworks.”  The news stories were heartwarming and all, but did the mass awareness actually work? The odd part about all of this awareness-raising is that it doesn’t accomplish very much. The underlying assumption is that we have control over people’s behavior — that they make bad choices because they lack the information to make a proper decision otherwise — is, wrong. And what’s worse, awareness-raising can actually backfire, encouraging the negative behaviors. We don’t have control over other people’s actions, but we do have control over our own. Let’s talk about solutions to getting your PTSD under control this Fourth of July.

Here are six natural remedies to ease some discomfort this 4th:

Prepare for the day. Some therapists say if you prepare yourself for the festivities, you can train your brain to cope with the sights and sounds. It is perfectly normal to be startled by unexpected sounds. The key is to de-sensitize yourself from the unexpected.

Cannabidiol & THC. CBD (cannabidiol) is the non-psychoactive part of the cannabis/hemp plant. It is a compound that has significant medical benefits without the “high” feeling. Dr. Mike Hart has been treating PTSD with cannabis for three years. “We have evidence that CBD, for example, can reduce, by three different mechanisms of action, can reduce learned fear. So, anytime you’re helping to reduce learned fear, you’re helping to get to the root of that particular problem, so that’s why it can be so effective.” Dr. Hart suggests taking CBD during the day to stay productive, while saving the THC for night time to help with sleep.

Get exercise. Activity is a great way to manage PTSD. If you know you are facing a stressful day ahead, take a walk a few hours before the activity starts. Same goes for pets. Exercising your pet a few hours before the fireworks begin can help settle their anxiety before fireworks begin.

Easy listening. Research has shown that classical music significantly lowers stress levels in people and animals. There are many albums and downloadable music collections composed specifically to relax and calm. Try different tunes several days ahead of time to see what works for you.

Communication. Surround yourself with people who understand and are willing to help you. Sometimes all it takes is a calming message that there is nothing to worry about.

comfort with family

Plan fun activities. Prepare for an evening inside with lots of fun activities that will distract you from the flashes. Watch your favorite movie, or play video games with a friend. Remember to shut all doors and windows in your home and don’t forget to close the blinds. If you have pets, make sure to walk them prior to the events.

Comforting Fearful Pets

Train for the event. If you know you have a pet that responds negatively to unexpected sounds, you can help by training him to accept firework noises. Several days leading up to the event, you can de-sensitize your pet to fireworks by gently introducing the animal to sounds of quiet recordings of fireworks, and gradually increase the volume daily. Be sure to offer praise and rewards for good behavior.

Cannabidiol. Dogs, cats, and other animals have endocannabinoid systems just like we do. CBD can helps calm pets’ stress responses and lowers aggression and anxiety. If your dog’s taking pharmaceutical drugs for anxiety, CBD may make it possible to use lower doses of the drugs to achieve therapeutic effects without nasty side effects. And don’t worry. Animals cannot get high on CBD.

Exercise your pet. Just like with people, activity is a great way to manage stress response in animals. Exercising your pet a few hours before the fireworks begin can help settle their anxiety.

Prepare the environment. Bring dogs and cats inside before celebrations start. Animal shelters report the biggest increase in strays during the week of the 4th. Close the curtains and windows and turn all the lights on for you pet. Music and television can drown out the sounds.

Music soothes the beast. Music can come as a welcoming relief to pet owners dealing with firework anxiety. Certain types of music encourage calmness more successfully than others do for animals. A recent study found dogs appeared to be more calm and relaxed after listening to classical music.

Comfort your pet with words. Remember while humans communicate with words, animals communicate with energy, and will look to their leader for clues on how they should behave.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!


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