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Managing anxiety when your fear comes to life

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Bushfire trauma can have a profound impact on existing mental health issues. Finding the right support is key to getting through disaster recovery and bushfire anniversaries.

The town of Wolumla, on the New South Wales south coast is a small village just south of Bega, surrounded by picturesque farmland. But over the summer of 2019/20, the landscape changed. On New Year’s Day, a ring of flames surrounded the region, with fires burning to the north and south. The sky turned orange, blotting out the sun. The ground was blanketed in ash. Fear gripped the town.

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Taking steps to rebuild relationships through bushfire recovery

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Bushfire trauma puts huge pressure on even the strongest relationships. It’s important to realise you’re not alone as you recover.

Bushfire disaster is a perfect storm for anxiety. A lack of control of the situation combined with the threat of loss can be a fertile ground for feelings of despair, uncertainty and hopelessness.

Grace, from Long Beach NSW, knows this all too well. She and her family were evacuated three times during the Black Summer fires. And while their house survived, her childhood home, where her parents still lived, was lost to the flames – an event she describes as heartbreaking.

The menacing fires and displacement both brought out strong anxious feelings for Grace. “It’s hard when you suffer from anxiety as it is,” she says. “Then, when you’re faced with that fear, it’s even harder.”

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Finding a way through your own bushfire recovery

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Bushfire recovery is different for everyone. Finding a way back can take time, but there are green shoots on the other side.

Experiencing disaster takes a significant toll. The added pressure of being responsible for others – whether they’re family members, friends or people in your community – can make it really hard to find time and space for important self-care. But not doing it can have devastating effects.

Butch lives in Moss Vale, in the New South Wales Southern Highland area. In January 2020, a fire jumped a river and raced towards homes, sandwiching his town between two major blazes. Although he and his family were safe, Butch got a call asking if he would be part of an emergency response team in Batemans Bay.

When he arrived, the town was cloaked in smoke and lit by the red glow of flames.

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Top tips for coping with anxiety during COVID

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As part of SANE's COVID mental health series, one of our Help Centre counsellors shares their top tips for coping with anxiety. 

Does uncertainty make you anxious? If you’re like most people in Australia, you’ve been dealing with uncertainty and change because of COVID. If this has caused you anxiety, you’re not alone. It’s natural to experience challenging emotions during a pandemic! But, if you’re finding you can’t get a break from anxiety, stress and worry, it’s important you have strategies to help you get through. 

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The effects of bushfires on those living with complex mental health issues

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The constant smoke haze and news reports serve as a reminder of the bushfires that still burn across Australia. Exposure to details and graphic images relating to the fires can be extremely distressing and can have a negative affect on our mental health.

The effects of such devastating events can be even more profound for vulnerable people within our communities, such as those living with complex mental health issues. People living with a mental health issue may find their symptoms return or become more intense during this time. For example, someone living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might find that graphic images trigger flashbacks to their own trauma.

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How to connect when you feel alone

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Despite the world's population growing rapidly, many of us feel lonelier than ever. The drive to connect with others and forge meaningful social relationships is an essential part of what makes us human. From a neurobiological perspective, we are wired for connection.   However, loneliness in Australia is an issue. A 2016 survey by Lifeli...
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What's the biggest challenge people with mental illness face?

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What's the biggest day-to-day challenge people living with mental illness experience?

We asked 10 SANE Peer Ambassadors for the biggest challenge, fear or obstacle they face.

And they said their biggest challenge is . . .

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Battling life's ups and downs

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Why is the cliché 'life has its ups and downs' so difficult to apply when we find ourselves in a down moment?

If you find it a struggle to reverse a down day, remember we have the cliché because 'ups' exist as well.

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Ways to unwind and destress when you live with a mental illness

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There's a proven relationship between stress and mental illness. It can worsen an episode, or even result in symptoms returning.

A balanced lifestyle and coping strategies can help with the management of stress. But how do you start?

The following suggestions can be implemented right now, or they can form part of an ongoing plan. 

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Self-care for managing mania

Self-care for managing mania

Mania and hypomania are symptoms of bipolar disorder. Mania is the ‘high’ euphoric end of the mood scale, with hypomania similar but with less intensity.

If you think you’re experiencing mania, or symptoms are coming on, these strategies may help prevent or reduce the severity of an episode.

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