Resilience. A word we often hear circulating during times of crisis. But what does it mean? And how can we, as a community, practice and develop our resilience?

In simple terms, resilience reflects our capacity to bounce back after an event that has caused acute and mild physical, phyco-social?, or financial strain on communities, families, social systems, and individuals. 

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction defines resilience as – the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards, to resist, absorb, accommodate, adapt to, transform, and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions through risk management. 

Put simply, it is tricky to predict how we will react in response to life threatening events; whether it be a flood, a bushfire, global financial collapse or indeed a pandemic, but there are ways we can plan and prepare for resilience. 

Stay Informed and Stay Prepared 

We know the daily news can be heavy on the heart; With war in Eastern Europe, geo-political unrest, the Northern Rivers under water, the looming climate crisis, (and the actions of government) can leave us feeling helpless and afraid for our future. 

Despite the testing realities that we all face, we can engage with information in a helpful and productive way. 

  • Tune into your local radio when you make your morning cup of tea to catch up on top stories 
  • Diversify your source of local news and be aware of what information you consume (especially the dreaded social media!) 
  • Be sure to take breaks from the TV or social media if it’s making you angry or depressed. 
  • Read your insurance paperwork details in preparation for a potential claim.  
  • Listen to podcasts on topics that interest you.
  • Familiarise your family with emergency contacts and the Bureau of Meteorology sources. 
  • Equip your household with emergency packs for possible evacuation. 
  • Make informed decisions and act for causes you believe in or things you want to change. 
  • Join Facebook groups that advocate the needs of your community. 
  • Limit exposure to risks by understanding the hazards around your home and in your local area.

Patience and compassion for yourself and other

It is tough to comprehend the enormity of life’s challenges, particularly in the face of adversity.  It is important not to rush the healing process and have compassion for your own experience and that of your friends and families. Research has shown that taking the time to articulate your emotions and write about how you are feeling, has proven to be a restorative means to recover from distressing, traumatic events. Before you can help others, it helps to better understand yourself. When you work to deepen your relationship with your mind and body you can better serve your community. 

  • Seek the help you need through local mental health and financial support services 
  • Prioritise food, movement, sleep, and relaxation in your routine 
  • Get outside in the elements for a brisk walk or a casual stroll 
  • Take time for yourself, have a bath, read a book or learn to mediate 
  • Reflect on the practices that have aided you in the past during testing times 
  • Stimulate your mind beyond usual activities, learn to knit, or attempt the crossword 

Get to know your neighbours and your local community 

Research shows that loneliness has similar long-term effects as smoking the body and brain.  When we are isolated (as we have been for last two years) we detach ourselves from reality and we can lose connection to the relationships that once served us. Humans are primarily tribal.  Living alone can be ultra-challenging, it’s encouraging to get out and about, to engage with those around you, and look for ways to brighten your day.  

  • Introduce yourself to your neighbours and find common ground 
  • Join local community groups and attend events 
  • Look to volunteer with the RFS, SES or the local Red Cross if you have the capacity to assist 
  • Spark up conversations with people who inspire or appeal to you 
  • Experiment with vulnerability when building and developing relationships 
  • Raise topics of concern amongst friends and family whilst having an open mind 
  • Discuss collective strategies that may work to enable and empower others 
  • Help where and how you can, as happiness grows from helping others 

From what the last two years surviving COVID 19 has taught us, it is evident we are all in this together. Each step you take towards strengthening your own capacity to respond to and recover from disasters is another step you can take for the greater good of your community and its resilience. We can choose to campaign for the changes we want to see in the world. By cultivating constructive dialogue and nourishing social connections we are already on the path to become well equipped to understand our sense of self, others, and the environment around us. 

Laura Sheed 

Masters in Disaster Resilience and Sustainable Development 

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