Bushfire impact

Submitted by Adam Szmerling on 23rd Jan 2020

Australia has experienced an unparalleled season of bushfire horror that has reeked utter carnage on the natural world, destroyed hundreds of properties and businesses and culminated in the loss of life. And summer down under is only half over.

The nature of the 2019/2020 bushfire crisis has inflicted a psychological toll on many in Australia and citizens around the world. This includes those who unfortunately found themselves trapped in a rapidly escalating catastrophe to those who took heed of warnings to evacuate homes located in stricken areas and people who unwittingly became swept up in following live coverage as the crisis unfolded on social and online media.

For many Australians the bushfire season has shaken their previously established notion of the summer dream where days are spent at the beach, hanging with friends and family, reconnecting with nature, basking in a deep sense of peace and relaxation. It has been replaced with a fear of nature itself and the devastating wrath it can unleash with little warning, choking smoke and a sense of doom and gloom. The bushfire crisis has in a way provoked a crisis of identity as a country as our traditional way of life has come into question and is not necessarily guaranteed to continue in the decades ahead.

The psychological consequences of this threat to one’s quality of life along with witnessing scenes of apocalyptic destruction through media images or real time experience are varied and can include:

Guilt
Anxiety and Fear
Sadness
Anger
Numbness
Feeling irritable or on edge
Racing thoughts
Feeling restless
Disturbed sleep and nightmares
Intrusive images popping into mind
Difficulty concentrating

These reactions are usually temporary and lessen over a few weeks and can be managed by:

-Talking to someone about how you’re feeling or what’s going through your mind
-Regulating emotions through body based experiences such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, exercise
-Ensuring basic needs (food, sleep, physical ailments) are being attended to on a consistent basis
-Avoiding substances including alcohol and other drugs

If changes persist, become more intense or are harder and harder to cope with it can be a sign to consider seeking professional support.