The silver lining to every natural disaster

Whether it be storms, earthquakes, bushfires or floods, life can hurl some unexpected hurdles our way at any moment. Our ability to overcome them, rebuild our lives and start again is not only a product of our personal resilience, it is determined by the collective power of our families and communities. We simply cannot recover on our own.

The silver lining to every natural disaster is the opportunity for us to step forward and claim our inner strength and power and to choose to recover. I often cry when I hear the stories of good men and women helping those less fortunate in the face of natural disasters. It is such a refreshing change when the media focuses on bringing us good news stories, amongst the news of the devastation. Mother nature has such incredible power that can be unleashed in ways that can wreak havoc in our homes and communities. No matter what part of our blue orb that you call home, natural disasters can call on any of us at any time.

These days we are encouraged to think ahead and have disaster plans, which is a wonderful idea. On top of this, one of the best forms protection that we can build before any unexpected natural catastrophic event is to build the connectedness of the community in which you live. Know your neighbours – no matter what culture, age or possible disability they may inhabit, it is only together that we can come through these things. Help each other in the week-to-week existence – keep an eye out for the mail if your neighbours are away, bring their bins in and be respectful of keeping the noise down at a reasonable hour at night. These are only little things however they make us feel safer and that someone cares.

If you have the ability, please consider joining the SES or if you live in the country the Rural Fire Service. These organisations are seriously made up of the invisible heroes of every community. Their members go out in all weather to help keep us all safe. If you are unable to join a volunteer service to do the physical rescuing, please consider volunteering to help keep them fed. I know how grateful they are for any good home-baked food that is dropped at their door while they are engaged in rescue operations or training operations.

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Be prepared. Here in Australia, some of the flooding or bushfires can occur so rapidly that saving human lives is the only priority that matters. However, having a radio with batteries, some emergency supplies, a weather-proof box containing your important documents and photos, and an escape plan will all improve your capacity to survive. Never presume that your neighbours know of any imminent danger. Always double check and forewarn of any changes in circumstances that could endanger life.

Finally focus on the great things in your life and express your gratitude often. ‘Awfulising’, or thinking of the worst things that can or are happening, ensures our brain keeps us triggering cortisol, the stress hormone. Work out ways to lift your mood and your spirit and make a conscious effort to nurture yourself! One of my mottos when things are tough is “This too will pass!”. Another is “When all else fails — there is always chocolate!” (actually, maybe make sure you’ve got chocolate in your emergency kit too now I think of it).

Naturally times of crisis can be extremely distressing for our children too so please see my article on Helping Children Cope in a Crisis for more tips on that.