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How to stay on top during tough times

How do you get through tough times? Whether it’s a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or flooding, a relationship break up or financial pressure, there are some basic things you can do to help get you through and stay on top.

Massey University Associate Professor of Disaster Mental Health Sarb Johal says it’s important to have a solid foundation in place because life can sometimes get a bit wobbly.

The building blocks of that solid foundation are things like getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, doing something you enjoy and staying socially connected. No matter what type of challenge it is, those building blocks provide a solid foundation to enable you to meet challenges head on and stay on top of things.

He says that being resilient is not an innate characteristic, rather it is something you can learn.

“If you’re looking after yourself physically and mentally then you can problem solve when issues come up,” he says.

“It’s about learning from the past and being able to adapt to challenges by being flexible. Take a step back and look at the challenging situation and don’t necessarily default to the way you’ve always done things.”

And don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

“If, for example, you’re having financial difficulties don’t rush into making big decisions. Get good advice from your bank or other organisations who can point you in the right direction. You don’t want to make decisions you regret.”

Top tips for building resilience

Do something you love, socialise

Getting out and socialising is great for helping you feel better and gaining perspective on things. Dr Johal says it’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re under stress. He says the benefits of social connection is backed by research.

“When you socialise you talk about other things and widen your variety of talk, which is very refreshing. Talking to other people can give you new perspectives too. When times are tough, if you’re not careful, you can forget to get out and talk about other things.”

Comedy nights like the Sons of a  & Mel Parsons Woolshed Tour are great opportunities for people and communities to come together.

“When people are laughing and relaxed they are more open to new ideas and connecting with people. Laughter is very healing for communities going through difficult times. You need to feed the part of yourself that needs laughter.”

However, there are several signs which indicate you might not be on top of things.

Feeling grumpy and irritable or not going out might indicate you’re not getting enough sleep or feeling anxious.

“If you’re feeling low in mood, or things that you normally enjoy aren’t making you happy, then you might need to reach out for help. Or you might start by going out and having a laugh and a chat with your mates.”

Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial to staying on top of things.

“Get as much as possible. Most of us need between 7–8 hours a night. If you don’t sleep you can’t get anything else done.”

Dr Johal says people often fall into the trap of thinking they can play catch up on their sleep in the weekends, but that’s not a viable solution long-term.

“That’s OK for a few days. However, if you miss sleep you start making mistakes. Farmers in particular are often driving or operating machinery, which can be dangerous work if you are low on sleep.”

Eat well and exercise

Make sure you eat regularly and don’t motor through your meal, Dr Johal says.

“You must stop, chew your food and have a break. Let your body recuperate and give your mind time to re-focus. Make sure you’re having a good, balanced diet too.”

He says getting enough exercise is also important.  For some farmers this may not be an issue if their work is very physical. However, if you’re spending a lot of time in vehicles or standing in a shed, look for exercise that’s enjoyable, relaxing and not work-related, such as a walk, golf or a bike ride.

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