I want to start this article off by saying I hope everyone out there is safe. It’s been an epic two months in Australian history as an area larger than Holland and Belgium put together has burned, with more predicted to come. The fires are triggering anxiety in many even if we may be in the safe zones.
A National tragedy of epic proportions. Although fires have been burning since November the escalation of urgency came, sadly, too late.
I was away on honeymoon, only vaguely aware of what was going on because I had no TV, was not on my phone and was immersed into life in a Northern New South Wales beach town that is not greatly impacted by the fires.
Hopefully, for Byron Bay, it will remain so.
I came home, and got connected again and am shocked and appalled by what I see. The images are terrifying. Heartbreaking. Shocking. Anxiety triggering to say the least.
I am sad and angry, and stressed and shouty in my home because don’t my kids understand what a tragedy is going on out there?
How can they bicker constantly when I’m so frayed from watching all of this news and reading these articles?
How can they want endless snacks when my stomach is in knots from the atrocities I’m seeing?
What I’ve noticed is that once I make my donations, and drop the food and water to the people making runs to the frontline, I then watch on with nothing else to do. No way to help. Helpless.
What we are experiencing and witnessing is impacting everyone in different ways and the anxiety levels of people are apparent as we scour social media.
While I don’t think an ostrich approach of sticking our head in the sand and ignoring what’s going on out there is appropriate (and for thousands of people in the thick of it, it’s quite impossible,) however I wonder if watching the live feeds for hours on end, reading every article, watching all the videos and consuming the vitriol pouring out on social media is helping anyone’s mental state?
It’s certainly not helping to stop the fires. Yes, it has drawn international attention, which is excellent, but if the prolonged absorption of tragedy is impacting your negatively, maybe we need to find a balanced way to get through this.
If you are in a safe zone, but feeling constant anxiety, stress and fear (or feeling those emotions regularly unrelated to this particular issue,) here are a few ways you can help to alleviate the pressure you feel and keep your cool –
Unplug from technology
Getting daily updates will give you the information you need, whilst constantly staying plugged into the media coverage, the opinion debate and bombarding yourself with the imagery is creating ongoing stress, and pressure on your nervous system. If your home and people are safe, you do not need to have constant updates.
Every update spikes your cortisol, and over time will increase your feeling of anxiety.
It is normal, and in fact, preferable in many ways to have empathy for our fellow man. However, at times of great stress such as this asking yourself the question “Is this my stress and fear, or collective stress and fear I’m feeling?” If you are actually safe, but still feeling anxiety and fear, do a self-check.
Take five big breaths and ask yourself –
“Am I in physical danger right now?”
“Do I have anything to fear personally this minute?”
Then do something to ground you in your physical reality for a minute. Put on a song and dance, do 10 star jumps, call a friend.
Do something kind
Do something kind for someone else. If you are able to, making donations of either food or money to definitely increases your happy hormones and gives you a burst of oxytocin. That said, this situation is ongoing, and we can’t make donations every day.
What other kindness can we do daily that won’t tap us out financially but will tap into our happy hormones?
Simple; smile at a stranger, donate time to someone, bake your neighbour a cake, send a card or a letter to someone who would like to hear from you, steal flowers from your neighbourhood and put them on someone’s doorstep (don’t get caught and if you do I’ve never heard of you.)
Go outside in nature
I know many of us have often had questionable air quality, but if you get a clear day, and you are somewhere safe, go and appreciate the nature around you. This glorious country of ours has so much to offer by way of soothing our frayed edges. Go for a walk, go for a swim, get amongst nature and thank our land for all she does for us.
Remember, we need Mother Earth more than she needs us, so every bit of help we can give her by way of changing our habits to support climate change will go a long way.
Research has shown that hugging releases oxytocin which helps to lower our heart rate and decreases our cortisol level. Stay a little longer for a hit of the reward hormone, dopamine, and you’ll be stimulating your pleasure receptors (and wondering why the hell you don’t hug every single person you meet.)
It is normal that this situation would be triggering anxiety. It’s normal to feel frightened and scared during times of great stress, but allow yourself to live your life well, side by side with this tragedy, as we all get through it together.
If you are struggling to manage your anxiety, depression, fear and stress – whatever is causing it right now – PLease PM ME, or email at [email protected] and I will give you some more tips to help you through.
I am here for you if you need some support. You got that, babe?