It is normal to feel stressed and worried during this time of year, and this may be worse for people who have been affected by bushfires in the past.
If stress and worry turn into increased anxiety with thoughts, emotions and physical sensations that are difficult to manage, you should visit your GP.
Getting emotionally prepared for bushfire season
Preparing for the bushfire season is not only about physical preparation, such as getting your house or property ready. It is also important that you prepare yourself emotionally. You might think of this as becoming mentally fit and prepared.
As summer and a new bushfire season approaches, it is normal to feel stressed, worried and anxious, especially if you have been impacted by bushfires before.
Now is the time to emotionally prepare, so you are better able to manage if there is a new fire near you.
How do I become emotionally prepared for bushfire?
You can prepare by understanding how you are likely to respond in stressful situations. Take some time to think and learn about the following three main areas:
Anticipate – that the bushfire season and the occurrence of bushfires will be stressful and will cause your body and mind to react in a very specific way. Recognise your body’s stress response and think about how it may affect your ability to respond in the event of a bushfire. For example, you may find it difficult to think clearly and to make decisions.
Identify – the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that a bushfire is likely to trigger for you.
Manage – the different aspects of your body’s stress response. Learn strategies that help you to manage your stress. This can help you to function effectively when faced with a bushfire.
Media coverage and advertising triggering trauma
If you witness a traumatic and distressing event like the images in the advertising, you may have a strong emotional or physical reaction. This is completely normal and there are things you can do to recover.
If you have lived through a major catastrophe or disaster, you are more likely to re-experience grief and strong emotional reactions when you are reminded of it.
Seeing images in the media and in advertising can be an emotional trigger and remind you of the traumatic event – even if the subject matter is different.
Signs you may still be affected can include you reliving the traumatic event, or feeling angry, afraid or even numb. Or maybe you will find yourself struggling at work, with study or in your personal relationships.
Please do not ignore the warning signs. The sooner you receive treatment, the better the outcome is likely to be. See a doctor for a mental health assessment.
If you are concerned about someone you know, you can encourage them to seek help or make your own appointment with a doctor to discuss your concerns and find out what help is available.
General telephone counselling services can also provide advice:
If you were affected by the 2019-20 Victorian Bushfires, you can access the Victorian Bushfires Case Support Program, which can link you to support, counselling and advice for you and your family, delivered by local community organisations.
To access Case Support:
Reviewed 16 February 2021