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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

Self-care is key as we rise from the ashes

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The past few months have seen an outpouring of support for those affected by the bushfires, with millions making donations and rolling up their sleeves to help.

But are we doing enough to care for ourselves?

It might seem self-indulgent to be thinking about self-care in the face of so much suffering.

However, there is considerable evidence to suggest that communities are more resilient during times of crisis and tragedy when they look after themselves as well as each other.

For instance, a study of those affected by the 2010 Mount Carmel forest fire in Israel, found that those who practiced self-compassion during and after the event were less likely to experience post-traumatic stress, depression and panic disorders.

Those on the fringes of a natural disaster, as many of us in the Northern rivers are with respect to the bushfires, also benefit significantly from self-care practices.

Research into the 2010 and 2016 Christchurch earthquakes found that those who engaged in regular self-care practices were able to support their communities in more sustainable and effective ways both during the disaster and during the rebuilding process.

Potentially adding to the need for these practices in Australia is the general anxiety that the bushfires have caused about the future of the planet.

Anecdotal evidence from psychologists and counsellors suggests that ‘eco-anxiety’ – anxiety about ecological disasters and threats to the natural environment such as pollution and climate change – has increased noticeably in recent months.

‘There’s been an increase in people feeling hopeless and helpless about the future of the planet,’ local psychologist Kate Mutimer says.

‘In the face of threatening climate changes there is a level of uncertainty and fear that can leave people with a sense of doom on a daily basis.’

Ms Mutimer is co-teaching an 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course in Mullumbimby starting on February 24 that provides tools to help in times of crisis and suffering.

‘Mindful Self-Compassion can help us attend to our own suffering and our uncomfortable emotions,’ she says.

‘By helping us to hold ourselves when times get tough, we’re in a better place to take compassionate action in the world around us.

‘Even if things seem dire we still have a choice to provide hope and comfort to those around us. But to do that we need to first provide comfort to ourselves.’

For more information about the Mindful Self-Compassion course in Mullumbimby see the Facebook event, or the eventbrite page.


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