Lessons from last night's emergency ... #Tip 3

Nov 23, 2023

Today, I want to share a personal experience that happened just last night.

I'm going to be totally real with you. To say it made me anxious would be an understatement. I felt overwhelmed. This morning, it has made me reflect on the resilience we discover when faced with a challenge seemingly beyond our experience. 

Things started at 4.47pm. I was obliviously tapping away at my laptop organising the last few things for my trip to Malaysia this weekend.

My phone buzzed. An emergency automated text. It told me there was an uncontrolled bushfire in my area and evacuations were underway. Some streets were already being told to shelter in place to survive. I could not have been more shocked. 

I had absolutely no idea anything was happening, although I could see it clearly when I walked outside (picture is the sky above the roof of my house taken when I got the first message). Living in the suburbs, this is not something I'd experienced before.

As I watched over the next few hours the fire rapidly spread 10km getting closer and closer to me and the homes of family and friends.

I was home alone. My husband was still at work and my son was at my mum and dads place. I definitely felt the weight of a challenge for which I was not prepared.

How do you face a situation when your usual skill set becomes seemingly irrelevant?

I sought support. I reached out to friends who lived in the area and we started a What's App chat. Sharing the load lightens the emotional weight and also provides different perspectives and insights. We were in different locations, could see different things and had different information.

I called my husband at work. He'd been involved in disaster management before and had a much better handle on what our risks were. 

I found trusted sources of information. My social media (and mainstream media) was blowing up with pictures, advice and of course, a lot of misinformation and panic. I set myself up with the state emergency alert page and streamed it to my TV so I could keep an eye on new alerts as they came out. 

I made a list. I went to the fire departments website and read about what to do to prepare for a bushfire evacuation. I wrote myself a list of what I'd need to do, and collected some essentials together in easy reach (passports/birth certificates/medications). 

I called my mum. I made sure she was aware and checked to make sure she had everything she needed to take us in, if the evacuation zone expanded a few more streets to reach us. 

I managed the overnight risk. I used the advanced features on my iPhone so any text messages from the emergency alert number would sound (loudly) on my phone even while everything else was muted in sleep mode. 

I didn't sleep much last night. I did get a message at 3am letting me know the evacuation zone was now right up to the edge of our suburb, just a few streets away.

But this morning, I am reflecting on the lessons in here. So today's tip has become about overwhelm and feeling out of your depth and how to manage it.

Whether it is a real life emergency or your boss giving you a project you fill equipped for, you can handle it.

Here are my key reflections on how I manage those times where I feel ill-equipped, underskilled or overwhelmed.

  • Stay calm. I took lots of slow deep breaths and focused on what I could control. 
  • Break it down. I looked at the situation and broke it down into small manageable tasks. Things I could control. It made the situation feel less daunting.
  • Ask for help. I am never shy to reach out to others who have knowledge I lack. I knew my other friends had lived in regional areas and had worked in emergency services, so knew more than I did at that moment.
  • Learn quickly. Tune out the 'noise' of all the advice coming from other people who are also overwhelmed and ill-equipped. I always go to the most trusted source I can find and follow their advice to the letter.
  • Stay flexible. I made sure I had a good eye on the situation and knew what my plans were, but also I was able to stay flexible enough to change as the information did. I learned a great saying at my recent AICD course - "Have strong opinions, held lightly." Such great advice. I was confident on my plan, but ready to change when the situation evolved. 
  • Take care of yourself. People like us tend to be carers. We worry about everyone around us, so make sure whenever you're feeling overwhelmed you make time for checking in on what you need. If you're mind and body is in a good place, you will always make better decisions.

I hope my experience from last night resonates with you.

While the world of social media and digital marketing could not be more different from facing a bushfire and loss of life; I know a lot of people I work with experience a great deal of stress and overwhelm around it.

My heart and thoughts are with all the people still displaced, protecting their property or still watching the fire creep closer to their doors. 

But in the meanwhile, I hope some of my advice above can be applied to any situation of overwhelm you may be facing too. 

Find someone you trust, get good advice, share your feelings with others and take care of yourself. 

And of course, if you're ever feeling completely lost or confused about anything digital marketing, you can always shoot me a message.

You'd be amazed how many emails I get from people with questions that I can answer really easily or send people in the right direction. So don't be afraid to ask for help.

I'll update my socials and let you know how I'm doing if we do get evacuated, but at least I feel prepared (if tired).

Have a wonderful - and safe - day,
xx Alecia

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