Practising self-care, even as wildfire closes in on me

Published on October 12, 2021 by Kimberly Brayman

Photo: Dr. Kimberly Brayman
Flames threaten homes in West Kelowna.

I was evacuated from my home this past summer as flames crept over the mountain ridge. Packing, “in case” of evacuation, had been on my to-do list because of the dry and dangerous conditions.

The list, however, was buried in paints, brushes, and papers.

I packed essentials. Paintbrushes and paints came, medications, a wine glass and some wine – sure. Dog poop bags – no. Insurance paperwork – no. Random clothes – check.

Practicality, I do not excel at, and so within 24 hours of being out of my home I was at Opus cruising art supplies. I forgot the big paper. It was needed, but what was it really needed for?

When I think of life, I visualize a teeter-totter. The more heaviness, crisis, grief, or fear we experience, the more we need to balance it with beauty, art, music, and positive thoughts. In a crisis we need to act. Move away from fire. Get to a safe location. After these necessary practicalities, choose wisely. I fill my soul with gratitude, inspiration, and with positivity.

Hear me out.

We make choices which have consequences. I am living through a pandemic in an active fire zone. Those are facts. The cumulative stress of those facts can steal our joy and lead us to despair and hopelessness. But, here is the great news. How we deal with the facts, we have control over. That is why I was shopping for big paper. I directed my attention to something positive during my time away.

Dr Kimberly Brayman's art

Some of the art created by Dr. Kimberly Brayman

David Wylie wrote a book called The Monster in the Underwear Drawer. It is a great story and I love the monster, who, by the way, lives in the underwear drawer at David’s house.

As Riley gets carried away, his monster gets scarier. When Riley changes his thoughts, it gets less scary. Such is life I think – much of our experience depends on attitude. I was, and still am, creating… children’s books, illustrations, a front hall bench, a wonderful new recipe of scones, and on and on. Other worries (even big ones like my house burning down) recede in those moments.

The house did not burn down. I am grateful. I sit on my deck writing, and look at the lake. I listen to birds sing see purple petunias. I choose to turn my attention, over and over and over, to things – inside and out – that fill my soul. I will bury my father in 10 days; today is the anniversary of my nephew’s murder. I do not lead a life without tragedy. I flounder. I cry. I grieve, I rise. I have the self-care tools to rise.

Suggestions for a 30-day experiment:

1. Find beauty many times a day – the lake, a flower, a shade of orange.

2. Focus on gratitude – I find three things I am grateful for every meal. Be grateful often. Make it a habit.

3. Do anything (not harmful or illegal) that brings you joy, peace, delight, inspiration, and do more of it when times are tough.

What a great lesson this fire was, I tell myself. Do not freeze up and focus on negativity. Look for a positive outlet. When under stress – resist inertia, resist obsessing, resist creating more chaos with inner turmoil.

Create, Act. Make choices. Reach for joy.

About Dr. Kimberly Brayman

Dr. Kimberly Brayman is a licensed psychologist (#2464) in British Columbia. She is a children’s author and writes stories full of magic and positive messages for your child. You can find her books on Amazon or at