Take the time to feel your emotions

THERE comes a dawn - but only after the night. Things will be better, then worse and then better.

This article is written in the context of knowing that many readers have recently experienced at some level the effects of Cyclone Debbie and other climatic events.

I offer the following advice and life lessons that hails from working with many communities over the years in bouncing through the events of floods, bushfires, droughts and other community challenges.

It's your turn. We will all experience bad events - I wish it wasn't true but it is. Accept the support offered and when it's others' turn, commit to yourself to repay the favours and help them.

These hardships will not break you. You have been through this before and have thrived. This is not to understate the challenge - it's hard, confronting and a damn nuisance, but it's what you do. These big things don't break you - the little things do.

Again, it's the cycle - things typically get better, then worse and then better again.

Immediately following the event, things gets better as people get busy fixing things and getting things right. Activity distracts. Sadly, there have been fatalities so those emotions and processes must be managed.

Typically, in about three months, the emotions will kick in and it gets worse. This is where you truly realise the effects of what happened, how much it affected you and how much these events may have set you back.

Then your spirit will kick in and things get better as you start to apply the resilience strategies of acceptance followed by positive problem solving behaviour.

You will experience emotions. Don't fight them. Rather, acknowledge and honour them. But separate yourself from these emotions and re-frame them - rather than saying "I am sad (or whatever emotion)” say "I feel sad”. You are not your emotion.

It's ok to ask for help. That help can come in many forms - from formal and official assistance from financial institutions/advisors, government bodies such as Centrelink to ringing your neighbour and organising a catch-up to have a good old-fashioned chat.

Reach out - there are plenty of people who are there for you in the short and medium terms. In fact, for some of us, that's why we exist.

Engage with your children. Children need certainty and they need to know that one or both of their parents have a plan and are in control. If you don't have a plan - don't fib.

Children have a very perceptive radar - just tell the truth and let them know that you are working on a plan.

Watch their behaviour - like carrying a bag with their special possessions with them. Use it as a great opportunity to get these children to understand and get comfortable with their emotions.

It's not your fault. Early this year, I watched a person in Dubbo break down on an ABC interview when discussing how he was able to save his sheep from a fire - but not his neighbours. Mate, it is okay.

You can only do what you can do and no one expects anything else. Survivor Guilt, where people ask "why not me?”, is real. Challenge this thinking - put it in your gratitude bank and make a commitment to keep helping people out in the future.

Go back to the basics of ensuring you sleep, eat and live well. During these times of recovery, we forget the basics, which delays the process in itself. You can't pour from an empty cup - look after yourself so you can look after others.

You will witness the good and bad of people. In these times, the best of people can be seen helping others, volunteering and showing a genuine care and concern of people.

You will also see the worst - the abuse of generosity, the looting of other people's possessions and other reprehensible behaviour where you find yourself saying "you have to be kidding”. I choose to focus and honour the good. I choose to believe in karma and ignore or pity the bad. I recommend you do the same.

Allow yourself to reflect and look for the good. In most situations, there is always some good or some lessons to be learnt. What is it for you? A new business practice? A renewed belief in your capacity to positively respond to these challenges?

Whatever it may be, believe that everything happens for a reason. I reckon our challenge is to understand this reason, learn from it and thrive.

Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine.

Topics:  cyclone debbie

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