It seems almost inevitable that the recent bushfire crisis in Australia will change not only the landscape, but also us, as both a society and as individuals, forever. For many of us, sitting at home, images of devastation have transfixed us; the crisis appeared acute, intense and short-lived. The potentially chronic problems engendered by the cumulative stress associated with adversity were hidden from view. For those individuals, families and communities affected, however, recovery to a ‘new normal’ will be a challenge, and the pain revolution message is of great relevance to recovery from the grief, depression and pain that can be generated.
Life experiences such as bushfires, disasters, accidents, assaultive violence or persistent pain can challenge our sense of safety, or, as we say, they can tip the scales between safety in me (SIMS) and danger in me (DIMS). Want to find our more about DIMs and SIMs – check out this blog. One skill central to restoring the balance between danger and safety is the notion of resilience. Being resilient does not mean that the adversity or pain is not bothersome, or that you should 'learn to live with it'; but rather it means that you have acquired a set of skills that help you to live life and regain mental health, despite experiencing adversity.
Prior to the work on resilience and its role in recovery, much of the research on adverse life events had a reverse focus. Instead of looking at areas of strength and growth, it looked at areas of vulnerability, investigating the experiences that make people susceptible to poor life outcomes. Persistent pain sufferers can battle the same reverse focus, for example 'normal age-related changes' found on a scan can lead to negative expectations/predictions about a person’s prognosis (for example, someone may see a scan and make a statement such as 'you'll be in a wheelchair in 10 years') or about their pain (for example; 'that must hurt'). Learning the skills of resilience can offer protection against some of the effects of negative expectations that often accompany adversity.
Resilience is multi-faceted, and can be worked on in a number of ways. Here is a sample of some general psychological strategies from the Australian Psychological Society to help you to cope, recover and grow.
For more information on resilience and recovery from the trauma of bushfires, please visit the Australian Psychological Society bushfire recovery tip page, here.
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