The bush fires that are wreaking havoc across Australia are having devastating effects on the lives of people, animals, wildlife, property and the environment. With worldwide media coverage, social media, local radio and newspapers, even those not directly involved are impacted by the enormity of the disaster.
So many people are feeling traumatised, triggered, stressed, anxious and/or grieving what they have lost, experienced or witnessed. Our hearts are with you.
Here are some practical ways you can help yourself start to put your life back together.
TRAUMA MAY NOT SURFACE FOR MANY WEEKS OR MONTHS
People affected by fires are responding to their immediate physical requirements such as trying to find somewhere else to live, or cleaning, packing or moving that often their emotional response is parked in the background.
We know that trauma might not surface until many weeks or months after the fires have been extinguished and people are trying to put their lives back together and the emotional and human impact starts to surface.
It can often take people by surprise when they wonder why they’re feeling flat or why they’re angry or irritable all the time or they can’t stop crying.
LOWERING STRESS LEVELS
If your stress levels are high and you’re feeling restless, distracted, numb, anxious and/or reactive, it’s important to settle down the sympathetic nervous system – your alert system. When stress continues over weeks, as it has, the alert system is switched on all the time.
We need to consciously make an effort to settle this chemistry of our emotions through deep relaxation practices, exercise or talking to someone who will deeply listen to you and help you find your strengths and pathway forward.
One of the most effective ways of settling your sympathetic nervous system and activating your parasympathetic nervous system – your rest, digest and relax system – is the practice of deep relaxation.
Please join Petrea for a weekly practice on Mondays 7.30pm-8pm on Petrea King Meditation Group Facebook page. Ask to join and there’s a year’s worth of weekly practices on the page. You can settle yourself in the comfort of your own home or bed to do your practice.
Practical ways to get back on your feet
People have found the following ideas helpful in getting back on their feet. Consider the following suggestions and implement those that resonate or feel right for you.
1. LIMIT EXPOSURE TO DISTRESSING IMAGES
Consider limiting your (and especially your children’s) exposure to distressing images. This is particularly relevant to those of you who are already facing significant challenges. Being constantly confronted with suffering over which you have no control will only weaken and disempower you. Endlessly talking about the situation will likewise focus your energy in a negative and useless way. Turn off the TV and don’t have it constantly on in the background.
2. MAKE SOME QUIET TIME
If you can, try to find 10 or 15 minutes every day to just sit in quiet. Follow your breathing and quieten your mind. Try Coming to your senses
Available to purchase from our online shop
3. ‘FLUFF’ YOURSELF UP
Review the activities, environments or things that you do or have that bring you to peace and make them your number one priority. In other words, identify the things, places and activities that ‘fluff you up’ and replenish you and make sure those things are happening on a daily basis.
Once you’re well fluffed up you’ll be able to discern how best to be of service to the whole.
4. CONNECT TO NATURE
Even though there might be a smell of smoke lingering in the air, try to focus on bird song or a patch of green and be connected to nature through listening, seeing, immersing yourself in natures presence whether that’s tending a pot plant on the terrace, being in, on, under or near water, going for a walk, acknowledging the wonder of the stars at night, feeling the warmth of sunshine on your skin, breathing in air – and do all this with gratitude and wonder.
5. DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE
Cook a meal, pop in on someone living alone to see how they are, volunteer, fundraise, phone someone who is having a difficult time and let them know you’re thinking of them and keeping them in your heart.
Exercise plus plenty of water is a powerful way to shift the chemical consequences of distress and get them out of your body.
7. PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Gratitude for your safety, for every breath you take, for every moment you have, for the presence of love, for friends, for nature, for the opportunity of being alive and experiencing it all.
8. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE
Remember that you are never alone and that what you hold in your heart is flowing out to touch the lives of everyone else.
When you sit to meditate you join in the company of thousands of others across the planet who are immersed in the eternal stillness of their essential nature. At that level, we are One. Be at One as much as possible.
Join Petrea King Meditation Group on Facebook and meditate together with Petrea most Mondays from 7.30-8pm.
10. BE GENTLE
Be gentle with yourself and each other. Practice compassion and kindness as many people are feeling upset or distressed and your presence can uplift and encourage them.
HOW QUEST FOR LIFE CAN HELP
Quest has over 30 years’ experience in working with individuals and communities living with the aftermath of, or during, natural disasters and we know there will be many people who will require professional support in dealing with their trauma.
We are putting together a program of FREE Bushfire Recovery workshops to meet this need and will share the details with you in the next weeks. In the meantime, if you would like to speak to us about arranging or sponsoring a workshop for your community, please contact our General Manager Mary-Jane Wardrop.
1-DAY LIVING MINDFULLY WORKSHOPS
Our 1-day Living Mindfully workshops provide a concentrated dose of what we deliver on our residential programs and enable Quest to take the programs on the road. Help yourself regain control over your life and move forward towards greater peace of mind and a deeper understanding of yourself and others.
- 8 February Living Mindfully: Change Your Brain – Change Your Life – Parramatta
- 14 March Living Mindfully: With Post-Trauma Symptoms – Wollongong
- 4 April Living Mindfully: With Cancer & Illness – Central Coast
- 16 May Living Mindfully: Happiness is an Inside Job – Penrith
- 20 June Living Mindfully: With Mental Anguish – Canberra
These programs have helped thousands of people to recover from their challenging emotions and trauma in all kinds of situations such as natural disasters, death, disease, loss, divorce, depression, and anxiety.
People who have lost their homes in the fires are welcome to attend at no cost due to a donation from Marcus and Caroline Blackmore.
- Healing Your Life: This 5-day residential program offers an effective and holistic approach to working through challenging emotions in a confidential and safe environment.
- Moving Beyond Trauma: If you are living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and want to heal the past and bring relief to the troubled body, mind and spirit in a confidential safe environment, we can help you.