Living in Campbelltown has been very strange during the period of bushfires across NSW. We are close to areas of impact but appear not to be directly impacted. There has been no loss of homes here. No loss of life or wildlife. However, we have all been impacted by these fires in different ways. The Camden and Campbelltown areas have recorded some of the poorest air quality readings. It hasn’t just been for 1 week but it has now been months. The most emotional day last year was feeling the heat, looking at the red sky and watching ash fall onto my son’s head as I got him out of the car. We were over 30kms from the active blaze but we were covered in ash. This has continued on a daily basis as the smoke rolls in and out of town.
With conversations I have had with other locals we have been impacted in many ways. We are feeling sick as our eyes sting, noses are irritated and constantly coughing from the effects of the smoke. It’s our friends, partners, business colleagues who are leaving their workplaces in this area to go volunteer with the RFS in another area. We have hosted evacuated friends and family from other areas. We worry about those that live in affected areas. We are upset watching images of beaches we spent time at during our holidays growing up, now used as areas to camp as people evacuate from towns. We have cancelled or altered so many holiday plans. We either cannot get through or fear that if we go anywhere, we may not be able to go home. And the fear is the part that’s weighing on our minds. When will it end? How much more will be lost? How much more can we do?
At this time there seems to be this general outcry for everyone to give. Give money. Give clothes. Give food and essential living items. Give our time. While that is great and we can all give a little to amount to a lot, we are forgetting to give to one person. We need to give to ourselves.
Give yourself permission to look after you!
Create a healthy indoor space
With all of the smoke outdoors, it’s best to create yourself a safe, healthy space indoors. Close your windows and doors, turn your air conditioner on low. If you don’t have air con, do your best to circulate the air in the house with fans and open up when conditions have settled. You may also find essential oils or air purifiers may help with the air quality to ease your feelings of illness.
Tip: Remember to clean your air conditioner’s filter. It’s working hard and clogging full of ash too.
Nourish your body
Our bodies are amazing at working to remove toxins from the body. They don’t need excessive amounts of water, special teas or massage to remove toxins. It’s a myth. We can however support these functions by nourishing our body with fresh food and water (at reasonable amounts). By providing the body with these foods, your body is able to focus on doing it’s job of removing the excessive ash and pollution we are currently breathing in.
We are being bombarded with media about the bushfires. Whether it’s the news updates on TV or social media, there is so much information coming at us. We are seeing the devastation, we are picking up the fear and we are constantly being asked to give. There comes a point where we are so fearful and worn out from the constant stimulation that we need to switch off. Our mental health is also being impacted with these fires.
Download the Fires Near Me app and set your Watch Zone. If anything happens in that area, you will receive a notification. Then, turn off notifications from social media. Also switch off the TV and enjoy some music. Focus on spending time with the family you have, play games, dance, whatever you need to feel well. It’s ok to take a break from it all.
Breathe and relax
Find yourself a quite place and take the time to take a deep breath. You may not realise that while it’s smoky outdoors, you are probably breathing more shallow. Also with feelings of anxiety, you may be taking shorter breaths. Take a moment to yourself and focus on your breathing and relax the muscles of the neck and shoulders where we hold tension.
Sleep is the body’s reset function. During sleep out brain is meant to rest, our body works to repair damage from our daily life and we are meant to wake feeling rested and refreshed. During these times of high stress, anxiety and helping others, we may be forgetting about getting the sleep we need. So take the opportunity to get a good night’s sleep to allow your body to reset and be ready to help the next day.
Plan a Holiday
This might seem like strange advice to be thinking about a holiday but at this time of year we all needed a break. Our holidays were all impacted and we didn’t get the break we needed. So start thinking about your next break. Why not start saving your money and keep an eye on the NSW South Coast. They have missed their tourists this holiday season so when they are ready to host, lets take our holidays down there. We can enjoy a family holiday while helping boost their local economy. So work hard now, save your money and get ready to spend it where it’s needed.
While we may all feel helpless and doing all we can to help, please remember that you deserve self care too. Take time to care for you so that you can continue to help others.