Resilience is key to adapt to change
Some communities have shown a remarkable ability to bounce back after disasters, writes Simon Makker, of the NZ Red Cross.
With earthquakes, drought, floods and fires, many New Zealanders have had it rough over the past few years. It’s often been a challenging time, with some people having to deal with more than one major natural disaster in quick succession.
While it’s common to feel grief and sadness after these traumatic events, everyone reacts differently to a disaster. This depends on your experience at the time, your social networks, psychological and physical wellbeing, the impact of secondary stressors (dealing with insurance or infrastructure damage), and the extent that the disaster has altered the normal day-to-day routines of your life. All of these things can affect your ability to bounce back from adversity and adjust to ‘‘the new normal’’.
During a door-knocking programme in neighbourhoods affected by the November 2016 earthquakes, New Zealand Red Cross found that some small communities such as Culverden and Ward have a remarkable ability to pick themselves up and continue with their lives.
What’s their secret? How have the people in these communities developed an inherent ability to adapt and ‘‘keep on keeping on’’ when things go south?
The answer lies largely with the R word – resilience. Resilience defines your ability to continue when life doesn’t go as planned. It’s about adapting to changing circumstances and evolving to a different way of life.
But being resilient isn’t just about your own ability to overcome hardship; it also contributes to a healthier community that’s better able to manage and recover from emergencies.
One of the main keys is being able to tap into your personal strengths and the support of whanau, friends, neighbours and community. Being active in your suburb, town, village or district opens doors to connect with others and provides a unique opportunity to find out what makes your neighbourhood tick.
Taking care of your personal wellbeing and learning techniques to better manage stress can also go a long way to building your resilience.
Here are some tips that could help you better withstand the waves when life throws up a storm.
Develop coping skills and practise stress management activities such as yoga, exercise and meditation.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Get plenty of sleep. Maintain social connections to people and groups that are meaningful for you, and join Neighbourly to get to know the people who live close by. Volunteer in your community. Get training in First Aid, CPR and Psychological First Aid.
Create evacuation and family reunification plans.
Make a disaster kit and stock supplies for up to three days.
Regularly engage in things that bring you pleasure and enjoyment.
It boils down to this: strong, resilient individuals build strong, resilient communities.
Resilience contributes to a healthier community that’s better able to manage and recover from emergencies.