What rural Australians can teach us
about coping in difficult times

As Australia has been brought to a virtual standstill over the past five months as the Covid-19 pandemic swept through the nation, rural communities in NSW have been faced with yet another huge challenge in addition to the devastating drought and recent bushfires.

With many rural towns across NSW concerned about the spread of the virus and how it would impact on them, they relied on a strong sense of community and looking out for those in need; they also relied on what has brought them together in the past: uniting to get through challenges.

As with the drought and bushfires, rural communities have been quick to adapt to the pandemic, and have been keen to adhere to lockdown restrictions, not only to protect locals but also not to put too much strain on the region’s smaller hospitals’ resources. But even with these quick responses, rural families, couples and individuals have undoubtedly been feeling anxious, stressed, isolated and worried about the future. Especially as many have already had so much to deal with before this pandemic.

So what have been some of the life lessons and skills in resilience they have learnt from the bushfires and the drought to cope during these difficult, lonely and uncertain times?

They include:

  • Being responsive to helping others, especially the elderly and vulnerable members of the community.
  • Embracing hope and celebrating the small wins – during the drought and bushfires, communities welcomed rainfall or the easing of weather conditions. During this lockdown it is the flattening the curve, the easing of restrictions, and hoping that a vaccine or treatment will soon be found for Covid-19.
  • Being aware of the little things that can make a difference to someone’s day like taking out someone’s bins, phoning a friend to have a chat, baking a cake for an elderly neighbour, reaching out to someone who may be doing it tough.
  • Appreciating your importance as an individual member of the community and wanting to be connected to it.
  • Not being afraid to ask for help from others or local organisations offering support, while knowing they will respect your need for privacy.
  • Realising there is no need to be stoic all the time, you are allowed to have good and bad days and it is okay to vocalise that you aren’t okay.
  • Take things one day at a time, focus on the present so that the big picture does not overwhelm you.
  • Respecting and supporting those who do so much for others in the community, such as fire fighters, health workers and essential workers.
  • Learning from our past, thanks to organisations such as the Country Women’s Association, during a period when women faced isolation and a lack of health facilities. Organisations like the CWA rallied to support education, health, medical and social facilities in their community and support women and their families during difficult times
  • Encouraging those who are struggling emotionally, mentally or physically to talk to a friend, neighbour, partner, family member or someone they trust, or talk confidentially to a professional counsellor. And letting them know there are many local organisations that can help, including Relationships Australia NSW. We are currently offering free, confidential counselling on the phone from the privacy of your home.

If you would like to organise some over-the-phone counselling with one of our counsellors, please email enquiries@ransw.org.au or call 1300 364 277. We are continuing to offer our usual counselling services for couples, individuals and families over the phone and via video link.

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