Resilience and recovery from natural disaster

Image supplied by 5th Aviation Regiment - Australian Army

Natural disasters such as floods and 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 external elements, such as 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 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 or community 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:


  • 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 that might be able to support you.


  • 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. See: Exercise

If you are struggling to use these strategies it can help to talk to someone. You can call Open Arms on 1800 011 046 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.