Self-care and wellbeing when working in school communities impacted by bushfire

This page includes self-care tips and suggestions for those working in a school community impacted by bushfire. 

You can also download this information as a hand out: Self-care and wellbeing when working in school communities impacted by bushfire (docx - 104kb)

Overview

Working in a community impacted by bushfire is challenging. Yet it also has the potential to be immensely rewarding.

Community recovery happens over the years following a disaster and many people, particularly in rural areas, both work and live in an affected area. For these reasons, it's likely that exposure to traumatic and distressing information will be frequent.

To reduce the likelihood of negative health effects and to promote wellbeing, identifying and putting in place strategies to manage your health across the duration of recovery is vital.

People who have higher levels of wellbeing generally also have higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

Self-care refers to the strategies, practices, habits, and routines that help create and maintain a state of wellbeing. Key strategies that promote wellbeing must be remembered and maintained in a post disaster context. They are represented by the acronym RAC:

R – Rhythms and routines

These should be restored as soon as possible after a disaster to help maintain work life balance and ensure adequate relaxation.

A – Active management

Active management of the pillars of wellbeing including sleep, exercise, diet, recreation, as well as leisure and pleasure.

C – Community and social supports

Being connected to community and taking the time to preserve and maintain relationships is an important element of remaining socially supported.

Individual self-care

Physical self-care

Regular physical exercise, healthy eating, avoiding excessive amounts of stimulants such as coffee, tea and energy drinks, getting massages, good sleep hygiene, and taking regular rest breaks and holidays.

Psychological self-care

Meditative and mindfulness techniques, reading literature that is not about work, decreasing stress in your life, writing in a journal, notice your inner experiences (listening to thoughts and emotions), and undertaking new activities to stimulate creativity and thought.

Emotional self-care

Engaging in positive activities, spending time with family and friends, staying in contact with important people in your life, doing things that make you laugh, and saying positive affirmations to yourself.

Spiritual self-care

Spending time with nature, praying, meditating, singing, reading inspirational literature, identifying what is meaningful in your life and noticing its place in your life, trying at times not to be in charge or to be the expert.

Balance

Striving for balance within your work-life and workday, among work, family, relationships, play, and rest.

Self-reflection

  • Decide on how you'll set aside time for self-reflection.
  • After an activation, take time to self-reflect and consider any reactions that you might be having. This involves ‘digesting’ experiences to gain a healthy perspective.

Professional development

  • Be confident in knowing that your leadership team are key in supporting you in your workplace.
  • If you're experiencing difficulties or have questions, do not hesitate to talk to your leadership team. They can help you to build on skills and knowledge by providing advice and feedback.
  • Consider what you can learn in this unique situation and suggest themes for professional development or training that will achieve learning.

Workplace management

  • Ensure that you're familiar with workplace protocols and systems. 
  • This may relate to general work duties as well as activations after emergency events.
  • Familiarity with such protocols and systems will help to lower your own anxiety and give you an increased sense of confidence.

Supporting colleagues

It's important to know how to support colleagues. Being able to recognise typical stress reactions is an important first step. Reactions include being upset and emotional, irritability/anger, physical agitation, forgetfulness and becoming confused.

  • Be aware that for most people such reactions settle quite quickly.
  • Give them some space to digest their experiences. However, also make use of informal time such as tea breaks/lunchtime where through general conversation, people are able to support one another.
  • Avoid judging or giving an opinion.
  • Try to ‘depersonalise’ difficult interactions and recognise that it is created by the situation everyone is in.
  • Avoid advising people what they should be thinking or feeling.
  • Provide support in practical ways.
  • Remind them of their own plan for self-care.