Bushfires – resilience and recovery

Across the country we are all either directly or indirectly experiencing the impact of bushfires. Natural disasters such as bushfires can sometimes undermine our capacity to cope but they are also an opportunity for us to show our resilience. In the short term, it is quite normal to experience feelings of helplessness and at times find the situation overwhelming. 

Resilience is possible

There are a number of strategies we can all use: 

Stay connected to people who care

  • Maintaining social connections and allowing others to care for you, will help both yourself and those around you. 
  • Talking about events with those you trust and who can assist you to make sense of what is occurring.
  • Stay or get back involved in your local ex-service organisation. This provides connection to other veterans and the work our ex-service organisations do to build resilience in our local communities.

Maintain your health

  • Remember to sleep, eat and drink plenty of fluids. 
  • Do some physical exercise - yoga is a great indoor activity if you’re in an area impacted by bushfire smoke.  
  • The physical care of your body will support your mental health and maintain resilience.

Build in time for activities you enjoy 

  • Sometimes it can feel wrong to be enjoying yourself, but time out reduces stress levels and ensures that you are refreshed and able to assist others.

Balance your exposure to media

  • Constant exposure to graphic images can lead to feelings of distress.  It is important to remain informed but this needs to be balanced with other content.
  • Social media can be an important tool for connection, but focus on content that does not make you distressed or angry.

Maintain routines and re-establish routines

  • Routine is important to having a sense of control or meaning in a day. 

Take action to assist

  • This can be as simple a donation to a charity to assist bushfire services or the recovery efforts
  • Plan a holiday in the future to an impacted area or buy online from impacted businesses. 
  • Donate blood or plasma at your local Red Cross, as these are always needed.
  • Get active in an ex-service organisation.  
  • Small actions collectively can make a difference.

Practice kindness and gratitude

  • Take the time to thank frontline services personnel, our ADF, our veteran community and other volunteers.
  • Take time to read the stories of courage, hope and recovery.

Dealing with triggering events

If recent events are triggering distressing emotions or PTSD symptoms remember that these are symptoms that you have managed in the past. The first step to dealing with triggers is acknowledging the impact they are having and having a plan to lessen the impact.  

There are number of simple strategies that can be utilised and resources on the internet to assist you to put these into practice. These include:

Relaxation

  • Our Self-help tools and High Res app have a number of relaxation tools including; controlled breathing, grounding and muscle relaxation

Accessing social support

  • Identify individuals. Redsix is an app that allows you to identify and link to ‘Battlebuddies’ to support you.

Exercise

  • Exercise is a quick and effective way to distract you from negative thoughts and manage emotion. Do not wait for the trigger - make a plan. Visit the: High Res app

If you are struggling to use these strategies it can help to talk to someone. You can call Open Arms on 1800 011 064 to get some hints and ideas. You do not have to come in for counselling to get this support, you can simply call our Open Arms Client Assist Centre for a chat.

Helpful resources

  • Publication

    Sleeping better factsheet

    If the bushfires have affected your sleep patterns, we have some tips and programs to help you get a good night’s sleep

  • Phoenix
    Website

    Recovering from trauma

    Phoenix Australia provides information on how people react to and recover from trauma. Visit their website to find out how to help yourself or someone else after trauma.

  • Head to health
    Website

    Mental health for veterans

    Head to Health is a digital mental health gateway providing information on mental health resources, with a page tailored for veterans and their families.  The site links to resources about recovery after a disaster.

  • APS website
    Website

    Coping with natural disasters

    Australian Psychological Society has some helpful tips on coping with natural disasters. There are a range of fact sheets for problem solving, staying connected, and the importance of coping behaviours

  • Black dog
    Website

    Self-help tools

    Black Dog Institute delivers numerous mental health resources including self–help tools and apps to better understand and face the challenges you may come across. 

  • Emerging minds
    Publication

    Disaster toolkit

    Emerging Minds have created a toolkit with resources to help and support adults and children experiencing a disaster. The recourses will help in understanding impacts of disasters and how you can help lessen the impacts.