Coping with Trauma, Grief & Loss due to Natural Disasters
Here in Australia, emotions are running high, not only in the evacuation zones but across the whole country. From the anxiety of having to leave homes located in fire zones to the loss of property and even death, this recent bushfire crisis has been a severely traumatic time for many people.
Bush fires are a distressing part of life for many Australians and they have a massive impact on the lives of individuals, families and communities. Even once conditions improve, the effects of a bushfire disaster are felt for many days, months and even years.
Emotional reactions to Trauma
A natural disaster, such as a bushfire, can shatter our sense of security. That being the case, it’s completely normal to feel anxious, overwhelmed or fearful for some time after such a traumatic experience.
While we all deal with traumatic events differently, some common reactions are feeling:
- emotionally numb
- extremely tired and fatigued
- very anxious and stressed
- on edge, as if waiting for anything else that may happen
- overly protective of loved ones, such as family and friends
- very emotional, upset and teary
- scared to leave a particular place, in fear of what might happen
Trauma affects how you think and feel, as well as your physical wellbeing and may also include intense feelings of grief, guilt or anger. You may find it hard to concentrate and remember important details. It may also be challenging to come to terms with what has happened and how your life has changed. It may also affect your appetite and sleep pattern.
Finding Ways to Recover and Cope
Even if you haven’t been directly affected by trauma, you can still feel stressed, sad and upset. Look after yourself and try to minimise your exposure to upsetting photos found on the news or social media.
Prioritise spending time with your loved ones and make sure you keep an enjoyable social routine. This is a big help when it comes to dealing with trauma as it helps to reduce the ‘high alert’ adrenaline state running through the body.
A few other tips that you may want to consider are:
- taking advantage of community support
- getting plenty of rest when possible
- eating well-balanced, nutritious meals
- practising deep breathing
- getting regular exercise
- trying to focus on what you are thankful for, despite your loss
- talking about your experience with trusted ones, such as friends and family
Professional help is available
If you find your symptoms are getting worse, too intense or do not improve in the weeks to come, seek advice from your GP or a mental health professional. Also, keep a close eye on your family members or friends, as trauma symptoms may not show up for a few weeks or even months.
At Positive Mind Works, we can sincerely say that our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the devastating bushfires around our country and we want to help if we can. We have teamed up with a group of professionals to provide outreach support and free sessions to those affected by the fires. As this point, we are waiting to confirm the exact details on this volunteer service, but we will keep you updated.