By Clinical Psychologist, Cherie Dalton
As we welcome in the new year, it’s a time to focus on new goals and a fresh start, yet, with recent acts of terrorism, the Ebola crisis and airline crashes many Australians might be facing 2015 thinking ‘What is the World Coming To?’ While these events are confronting and frightening, they are extremely rare, particularly in Australia. Such events are unlikely to impact on us or those we are close to.
It is valuable and human to feel compassion and care for those affected, yet it is also important to keep things in perspective when reflecting on our own lives, particularly if it is affecting our own wellbeing. The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health highlights the “effect of fear and worry is often well in excess of the actual threat (of an attack)”. Maintaining this perspective is helpful. Despite our uncomfortableness with what we sometimes see and hear in the media, there are many actions that we can take to look after the things that matter to us that can offer us comfort and stability. We can:
- Do activities we enjoy and try to do something enjoyable each day.
- Spend time with family and friends and stay connected with people that matter to us and leave us feeling positive. Get in contact with friends or family we haven’t seen for a while.
- Focus on what matters most to us and put energy into that – perhaps family, relationships, health, work relationships, study goals, making friends, helping others, prayer, participating in our community.
- Limit exposure to media, particularly rolling coverage of incidents, especially before bed and around children.
- Keep to normal routines and predictable schedules yet also being mindful of welcoming a sense of spontaneity.
- Practice good stress management strategies such as incorporating exercise, healthy eating, relaxation or meditation and keeping alcohol intake at a healthy level.
- Engage in positive activities for ourselves and others such as Meals on Wheels volunteering, fun runs or sporting clubs, church communities, walking, noticing the beauty of nature, fundraising for charity.
- Keep to the facts and watch for people ‘hyping-up’ drama and threat. Keep things in perspective.
- Ask ourselves each day what we are grateful for.
- Remember how unlikely an event is to impact on us directly.
- Focus on the countless positive examples of kindness, helping, courage and compassion around us.
- Notice the extensive help, preparation and protection response that comes from security and health organisations and governments.
- Be careful how adults speak around children about events and be aware of conveying a message of calmness and stability in words, reactions, tone and attitudes.
- Answer questions from children in a caring, reassuring, truthful way. Listen to their feelings, be patient and keep explanations at their level with the over-riding focus on comfort and safety.
- Watch for signs of becoming preoccupied with things that are beyond our control and turn attention to things that are within our control.
The actions we take each moment and each day make a difference to our wellbeing. Take with you a sense of empowerment and confidence into the New Year.
For more information on Cherie and the team of Psychologists at Psychology Consultants, visit www.psychologyconsultants.com.au