Time heals all disas­ter wounds, too

Central and North Burnett Times - - READ -

GIVEN time, most peo­ple re­cover well from a nat­u­ral disas­ter. That’s the good news from Dr Rob Gor­don, clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and con­sul­tant through some of Aus­tralia’s and New Zealand’s most tragic nat­u­ral and not-so-nat­u­ral dis­as­ters – think Christchurch earth­quake, Black Satur­day fires, Bali bomb­ing. Dr Gor­don (pic­tured) vis­ited Proser­pine this week to sup­port peo­ple af­fected by Cy­clone Deb­bie and to of­fer re­cov­ery strate­gies to the com­mu­nity. “Peo­ple who do re­cover well of­ten re­flect that they have changed their val­ues,” he said. “They have a dif­fer­ent sense of what’s im­por­tant in life.” Dr Gor­don said three prob­lems fol­lowed a disas­ter. “The first is trauma, cre­ated by a sense of dan­ger and the threat to me and my loved ones,” he said. “You can’t stop think­ing about it, you’re in a height­ened state of arousal and the stress causes you to fo­cus on the im­me­di­ate next task. “The sec­ond is loss. Loss of loved ones, prop­erty, com­mu­nity, amenity. “The ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse to this is grief, but there’s no time to stop and grieve. “Peo­ple are con­flicted. While they’re still vi­brat­ing with the dan­ger they can’t fo­cus on the grief. “The third is dis­rup­tion – to rou­tine, to re­la­tion­ships, to recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties. “We need an or­dered en­vi­ron­ment to man­age our emo­tions.” Dr Gor­don said peo­ple cook­ing a meal in a fa­mil­iar kitchen could func­tion with­out think­ing. “In an un­fa­mil­iar kitchen, it be­comes a te­dious chore. “Rou­tines al­low us free men­tal space and all the time we’re pro­cess­ing and mulling. “Af­ter a disas­ter noth­ing is rou­tine and there’s no op­por­tu­nity to do the pro­cess­ing and mulling. Ev­ery­thing builds up and gets raw and dis­tress­ing.” Dr Gor­don said even if the trauma faded, peo­ple stayed in a state of dis­rup­tion un­til they de­vel­oped new rou­tines. “We’ve dis­cov­ered dis­rup­tion is just as im­por­tant as loss.” Dr Gor­don said it was im­por­tant peo­ple didn’t just fo­cus on the disas­ter. “We need to hang on to our recre­ational and so­cial life, our re­la­tion­ships, or we fall out of the loop. “In­stead of try­ing to do ev­ery­thing quickly, we need to do it slower, stead­ier and hang on to all the other things.” Dr Gor­don said plea­sure and leisure were the key. “To keep the ner­vous sys­tem in the right state, you need plea­sure and leisure, which­ever way that works for you,” he said. “Do some­thing that gives you en­ergy. It could be fam­ily or a walk in the bush, go­ing to a con­cert, read­ing a book. “Leisure means you can un­wind; it gives you time for mulling and pro­cess­ing. From the mulling you get a sense of self aware­ness and that’s what we have to safe­guard. “You need to make a com­mit­ment to take care of your­self, in­clud­ing things like ex­er­cise and a healthy diet.”

PHOTO: LIAM KID­STON

◗ Air­lie Beach res­i­dents Maika McDon­ald,15, Lauren Squires, Karen Gor­don and Katelin Gor­don sur­vey the dam­age at Shute Har­bour af­ter Cy­clone Deb­bie.

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