Strategies to cope with fire threat

REGION - Concerned residents have attended community recovery meetings at Dadswells Bridge, Halls Gap, Stawell and Pomonal in the last few days.

About 100 people attended the Grampians Community Health Centre in Stawell on Sunday where they were kept up to date with fire activity and provided with strategies to cope.

Grampians Community Health chief executive officer, Jill Miller told the gathering the hardest part is being able to stay alert, but not worried to the extent where it begins to affect your health and ability to function.

"If you are feeling pretty cool about life, just make yourself a list of the things that either you like doing or that you feel that you need to do," she said.

"Stick that up on the fridge. Then when you're really feeling tense and worried a bit later on, or the smoke is accumulating again and just don't know what to do with yourself that's the time to look at the list.

"You won't be able to think of anything you want to do with yourself when you're feeling worried and tense, but if you look at the list, at least you can pick something off that and make yourself do it, just make yourself divert."

Mrs Miller said anger is a natural reaction to what is going on, but it won't help the situation.

"If you're starting to feel the anger inside yourself, the last thing you want to do is take it out on your partner, your dog or your friend or any of the people like the firies, because you're going to maybe say something you're going to regret later and sometimes that's hard to untangle," she said.

"So if you're feeling that anger raise up, just take a walk, come back and finish whatever you wanted to say. Once you're feeling that anger go down a bit, take that walk because the anger isn't useful at this time, yet it is such a normal response."

Mrs Miller said people could be experiencing a range of emotions including tears, finding it hard to sleep, exhaustion or being wired.

"Again try and force yourself to get back into some of your normal habits, like going to bed at the right time that you normally went to bed, get up in the morning when you usually get up," she said.

"You're not possibly going to be able to sleep for the next couple of days really well anyway. It's one of those things when your under a lot of stress and tension and your a bit worried about something then your not going to sleep so well.

"Don't get too upset about it, because that just adds to it, if you're getting worried about it then it will make it worse if you're trying to sleep."

Mrs Miller said it was important people while on a heightened level of awareness of the situation were also aware of the people around them.

"All of us are on our own mental journey about this, some of us have been through fires before so for some people when the flames are visible or smoke is in the air it triggers all sorts of things inside," she said.

"The main thing is to look at people around you, not judge them because everybody's on a different journey.

"Some people who aren't affected because the fires not actually right on their doorstep but maybe they are feeling affected and you don't know why, it may be things that have happened in the past and you don't know.

"Keep talking to people, keep yourself out there amongst friends, whatever you would normally do. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself and make the worry go round and round."

A recovery centre is open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday at the Grampians Community Health, 8 Patrick Street, Stawell.

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