Wheatbelt Professionals Wellbeing Portal

Welcome to the Wheatbelt Professionals Wellbeing Portal
a comprehensive inter-active platform for self-care and wellbeing resources.

 

We recognise that many professionals who work in a nurturing environment, often prioritize the needs of others before their own. This portal encourages you to embed self-care practices to assist with maintaining positive wellbeing. This platform will also assist professionals / para-professionals to ensure that their ways of working are safe, inclusive and supportive of their own health and wellbeing needs.

We acknowledge that working in small communities or across the entire Wheatbelt, coupled with the complexities of the health, education and social care sectors can often be challenging.

This portal has been developed by local Wheatbelt people who care about wellbeing and the invitation is for all to collaborate and share this journey.

The page promotes professionals to engage and connect with each other, provide peer support to colleagues and be empowered to become a local Wellbeing Champion.

All things Wheatbelt:

 

 

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TEN - The Essential Network for Health Professionals

12 May 2022

Helping healthcare professionals find resources and support to manage burnout and maintain good mental health.

Designed by health professionals for health professionals, TEN makes accessing support quick, easy and confidential.

TEN understands that confidentiality is extremely important to health professionals. Resources can be accessed anonymously. TEN is not funded by Medicare and your interactions with the service won’t be recorded on ‘My Health Record’.

Navigating Burnout program

The online TEN Navigating Burnout program has been developed specifically for health professionals to reduce the impact of burnout in a way that is sensitive to the unique challenges they face.

Available 24/7, through the online program health professionals can access step-by-step guides and advice from peers who have lived through burnout.

It includes practical, evidence-based strategies and CBT-based activities to help prevent and minimise the impact of burnout on health professionals.

For leaders who are looking for strategies to create mentally healthy workplaces, there is a section that includes strategies on how to support teams and improve the workplace culture.

This program/resource is divided into nine sections. Each section is an independent topic so you don’t need to progress in any particular order. It’s best to start with the Introduction as it covers important information about the program. Then feel free to explore the other sections in your own way.

Course Outline

Women and Mental Health across the Lifespan

26 Apr 2022

Our Australian population is diverse and addressing mental health issues from a gendered perspective is tricky. No two women are the same, and their experiences with mental health may be determined by a mix of factors such as, genetics, biology, age, gender, culture, environment, lifestyle and life experiences. We do however know, statistically, that certain mental health problems can be more prevalent for women, and that these can shift across stages of life.

Did you know? Women account for higher occurrences of some mental health concerns such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, non-suicidal self-injury and depression.

We can support women in our homes, schools, workplaces and communities by recognising and responding to the signs of developing, worsening or crisis point mental health problems.

Girls during the school years

It’s never too early to start talking about mental health for children and young people. This is true for boys and girls. Experts suggest that around 1 in 7 Australian children (4 to 17) will experience a mental health problem. These numbers have been predicted to rise due to increased pressures on young people with the global pandemic. Adolescence is also a peak time for emergence of mental health problems – with around 50% of diagnosable adult mental health problems having onset before the age of 14 (ADGP, 2018). General population preventative mental health education is important, but so are efforts to capture the differences between girls, boys and students who are non-binary.

Snapshot of issues:

  • Anxiety commonly affects girls at a disproportionate rate than their male counterparts
  • A study by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found that girls were more likely to suffer from bouts of depression in the teen years than boys.
  • Presentations of non-suicidal self-injury/self-harm are notably higher among girls and rates of hospitalisation for self-harm for young females have risen in the past decade (AIHW,2020).
  • Suicide is a leading cause of death for young people and the teen years are high risk (ABS,2020). While rates for boys/young men are higher, suicidal ideation and attempts are prevalent amongst girls/young women and intervention is crucial.
  • Adolescent girls are statistically at the greatest risk of developing eating disorders or disordered eating behaviours (Eating Disorders Victoria).
  • Bullying is an issue impacting boys and girls, however recent studies suggest “covert bullying” (which as significant psycho-social impacts) may be more common among girls.
  • An estimated 20% of girls experience sexual abuse, many before the age of 15 (Bravehearts, 2022). Teenage girls are the most likely to be victims of sexual assault (AIHW, 2020). Abuse, assault and harassment have long-term mental health impacts.
  • Coping with stress was a top issue highlighted by girls in the latest Mission Australia Survey.
  • LGBTQI+ youth experience much higher incidence of mental ill-health and suicide risk than cis gender peers (LGBTQI+ Health Australia, 2021).

Adult women – working, family (“doing it all”) and well-being

Adult women of working age experience all manner of stressors. This can include balancing education, work, family, social commitments, finances and household duties – all of which can impact mental health. This is again a diverse experience. Factors such as biology, heredity, socio-economic status, relationship status, culture, lifestyle and life experiences can all have a bearing on whether a woman develops mental health problems. It can be helpful to know that many problems are a fairly common, and something which women can receive support for.

One thing up for constant discussion is whether “doing/having it all” is possible for women. This centres on the notion that women need to have a family, maintain a home, build a career, and be socially active, while also looking and acting a certain way. This can put pressure on anyone. While many women like to care for others (as parents, partners and friends) while quietly “juggling the load”, no one should be expected to shoulder pressure without support. Women need to know that help is available – from the women and men in their homes, workplaces and social circles, and from professional services.

A limiting factor in help giving and help seeking are biases, stereotypes and stigmas about the way women and men handle mental health problems. Women for example are often seen as more likely to a) express emotions, b) talk about their problems with others c) seek help from a professionals such as a GP (comparative to many men). However this is not always true, leaving many to suffer in silence. There has also been a historic tendency for medical professionals and others to dismiss women’s health and wellbeing issues as ‘overly emotional’, ‘dramatic’ or ‘hysterical’ – none of these stereotypes is correct or helpful.

Snapshot of issues:

  • Around 1 in 6 women experience depression in their lifetime. 1 in 3 experience anxiety. These issues disproportionately impact women at various ages (ABS, 2018).
  • More women overall report high to very high levels of psychological distress (ABS, 2018).
  • Some mental health disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are more than twice as likely to be experienced by women (AIHW, 2020).
  • A recent study of over 10,000 employers found that work stress and inequity is damaging to women, and that women trail men on several wellbeing indicators at work. Areas of concern included: insomnia (from stress), bullying and discrimination (Superfriend, 2020).
  • Family, domestic and sexual violence are significantly more likely to be perpetrated against women, with 1 in 3 women experience violence in their lifetime (ABS, 2017). This has significant impacts for safety, mental health and wellbeing.
  • Mental health problems relating to fertility, childbearing or parenting are a common burden. Around 1 in 5 mothers experiences post-natal depression (AIHW, 2010), and experiences such as ante-natal depression and post-partum psychosis are not uncommon. For other women, pressure around having children or inability to conceive can cause distress.
  • Work-life juggle continues to be a major problem for parents, but more often women bear the brunt. A report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found tthat 57% of employed and partnered mothers took part-time work to care for their children comparative to 9% of fathers. A lack of flexibility continues to be a source of family stress. Overall, Australia ranks 27th out of 35 OECD countries in terms of work-life balance (AIHW, 2017).
  • Relationship struggles are not unique to women, however a 10-year study with over 31,000 observations of gendered behaviour concluded that women are less happy in their long-term relationships (marriage and de facto) than men. Relationship struggles rank as a key problem impacting mental health (HILDA, 2015).
  • Suicide remains a concern for women across the lifespan. While suicide rates are higher for men, women still account for 25% of annual suicide deaths (ABS, 2020).

Older women – ageing populations and mental health

Around 4.2 million of Australia’s population are aged over 65 (as at June 2020) with 53% of them women. As people age their ability to maintain physical, mental and social health can be hindered. Older Australian women may have to deal with stressors such as: social or physical isolation; changes to their bodies and primary health such as injuries and illness; personal loss and grief; and loss of financial independence after working age. Another factor impacting older people are preconceived stigmas and beliefs about mental health. Many older generation Australians may still believe in not sharing personal or private details which can make conversations about mental health challenging. Positively, various studies have shown women thriving beyond the retirement years, many with reduced incidences of issues such as anxiety from earlier life pressures.

Snapshot of issues:

  • Depression for older people due to factors such as illness and personal loss is common (beyondblue). As people require intervention and living assistance, the likelihood of depression increases. Rates of depression for people in residential aged care for example are up to 35% (National Ageing Research Institute, 2009).
  • Adults over the age of 75 are in the age group most likely to experience loneliness (APS & Swinburne University 2018). For older women this can be due to physical and social isolation.
  • Physical and lifestyle factors for elderly women were found to have a large bearing on mental health in a longitudinal study by Monash University. Things such as poor physical activity and nutrition, and previous adverse life events, had impacts well into elder years.
  • Grief and loss is a common reality for older people. They will experience the loss of friends and loved ones. Often this will include a life partner such as a spouse. For women, with an overall longer life expectancy, this can be a more common and lengthy occurrence.
  • International studies have found that many older people fear loss of independence more than death. Worries about staying in their homes, self-care and moving into aged care facilities can cause distress.
  • Various studies have demonstrated that women often experience significant disadvantage from financial stress in retirement age due to a lack of superannuation and other income.

How can we support women of all ages?

There are things that everyone can do to support the girls and women in their homes, schools, workplaces and social circles.

  • Breaking the bias: We all have a role to play in understanding how some groups in society can be at inherent disadvantage through systemic inequities. Challenging stigmas, biases, myths and misconceptions about women’s mental health helps drive positive change.
  • Talk about women’s mental health: It’s good to talk generally about mental health and support for all, but it is also helpful to let girls and women know that some problems may more readily impact them, and to create positive dialogues about support options.
  • Look out for the signs and act: If you see a girl or woman you know dealing with something challenging or exhibiting worrying emotions, moods or behaviours it may be an indication of a mental health problem. Your support in a calm and genuine way can connect them with care.
  • Create supportive environments: Everyone deserves to thrive. Schools, workplaces and communities can consider the mental health needs of women, men, boys and girls and people who are gender diverse when designing supports.
  • Give women an active voice: Include girls and women in your mental health committees, decision making, resources and support roles. Giving women opportunities for equity and inclusion across all domains of life has benefits across community.
  • Model positive wellbeing and support: Women can consider the example they set particularly for younger women and girls in terms of mental health literacy, self-care, help-giving and help-seeking. Our women Mental Health First Aiders™ and Instructors are prime examples of this in action.
  • Create positive connections: Peer-to-peer connection is vital for social and emotional wellbeing and also community support networks. Girls and women can be empowered to support each other and themselves.
  • Get training! If you would like to support women (and men) in your school, workplace or community, then Mental Health First Aid® is a great first step. There are courses across the lifespan including: Standard MHFA (adult); Youth MHFA (for adults supporting young people); Teen MHFA (for young people supporting other young people); and Older Person MHFA (for adults supporting older people).

Article provided courtesy of MHFA https://mhfa.com.au/

8 Workplace Wellness trends for 2022

07 Apr 2022

Taking into account expert insights, research and the current context; what trends will we see in the workplace wellness space this year, and what are the most relevant benefits that you can offer to see a healthier and happier team?

  1. Conquering fatigue

If there’s one thing we’re all feeling after two years of pandemic pressure, it’s fatigue. Employers and employees have weathered immense change and stress, and – even though there might be some light at the end of the tunnel – at the moment, Covid’s grip on us is harder than it’s ever been.

While the heightened fear and anxiety may have lessened with familiarity – pandemic fatigue and burnout has really set in. In 2022, employers will need to use tips and strategies to conquer this sense of exhaustion, which may be a driver of employee absenteeism. Refreshing mindsets and providing safety nets will be key. Not sure where to start? Consider supplying your team with an employee assistance program (EAP), which provides confidential counselling services to your team.

  1. Occupational satisfaction

One of the biggest events to shake up the last twelve months has been the Great Resignation – a phenomenon that has seen millions of people make a move from their workplaces in search of new opportunities. While everyone has a different reason for doing this, including a lack of opportunities, or appreciation at their current workplace, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that there has been a shift in how we think about occupational satisfaction. According to research from Gartner on employee attitudes, 65% of workers are rethinking the place that work has in their life.

Occupational satisfaction, or occupational health, can be defined as how fulfilled you are by the work that you are engaging with. It measures how strongly you associate with the values, beliefs and goals relating to the work that you do. This year, the why of workplaces will become much more important. If employers do not create a values set and mission that resonates with their employees, they may see more disengagement and movement.

  1. Workplace hyper-personalisation

The workplace of the past has always been a static thing. Employees fit into the designated workspace and the five day, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm working structures. The workplace has been built around the traditional needs of the industry, as opposed to the ways that individual employees work best. In 2022, we’ll see a shift away from a one size fits all approach and shift into what experts call a ‘workplace hyper-personalisation’ mindset.

Gartner’s Aaron McEwan (one of our HR leaders to watch in 2022) recently spoke with the ABC about this emerging trend. “The balance of power has shifted towards employees. They’ve got a golden opportunity to say, ‘This is what I want from this job. To what degree can you meet me here?’”

Elements up for negotiation or discussion could be anything from working location, working times, management style, communication style and benefits. It’s all about giving employees a greater range of choice. “When we design work around the optimum performance profiles of each individual employee, we end up with, obviously, much better productivity, but also happier and more engaged employees,”.

  1. Fostering belonging

Diversity and inclusion needs to be an essential part of any workplace HR function. While we always need to be interrogating discrimination, internal biases and exclusion within our workplaces, we need to go one step further to create equitable workforces. If diversity is being invited to the party and inclusion is being asked to dance; belonging is hosting the party, picking the music and inviting others. It’s the antithesis to the feeling of being an outsider.

Belonging fights all the signs of decreasing employee engagement. A 2019 study from BetterUp found that workplace belonging can lead to an estimated 56% increase in performance, a 50% reduced risk of turnover, and a 75% drop in sick days. On the flipside, the study also found that a single incidence of “micro-exclusion” can lead to an immediate 25% decline in an individual’s performance on a team project.

When a person feels a sense of belonging in their workplace, they feel comfortable being their authentic selves. When a business has a company culture that embraces all of its workers, employees are more likely to engage. Everyone benefits from this increase in diverse thought, problem-solving becomes easier, and the team can achieve an overall better sense of wellbeing.

  1. Mindful working for mental health

How many times have you read (or written) a job ad that puts ‘multitasking’ as a must-have skill? Even though we try to multitask with the best of intentions, the practice actually hinders performance and leaves us vulnerable to greater human error. Our brains are simply not designed to jump between intensive tasks at short intervals. It divides our attention, causing the quality of our work to drop. We need to help our teams take a more mindful approach to work.

Mindfulness has been a hot topic around stress management and mental health for the last decade or so. When you do something mindfully, you give your entire focus to it. You build greater awareness of the distractions that pop up, and are able to keep your attention fixed on the task at hand. What does this look like in practice? You might help employees resist email addiction, reduce notifications and create set times for collaborative and quiet work. You may choose to reduce communications throughout the day, or run them on a consistent schedule that your team can work around. Anything to help cut down the noise, reduce workplace stress, and focus on their priorities.

  1. Parental wellness programs

The pandemic put the struggles of working parents in the spotlight. As they juggled working from home during lockdowns and childcare, the pressure and uncertainty that they sustained were insurmountable. This stressful time illuminated many questions about work-life balance, caring responsibilities and the overlap of personal and professional life.

In 2022, workplaces will be giving greater consideration to parental wellness than ever before. Considering their individual needs, build a program around the pillars of flexibility, empathetic leadership and a culture that celebrates family life.

Not sure where to start? Download our free guide to managing and supporting working parents.

  1. Local socialising

As the Omicron peak passes and the pandemic (hopefully) fades into coexistence with our daily lives, workplaces will once again consider the role of in-person interactions. How can we fulfill a sense of social connection and wellness but retain the benefits of remote working? How can we support employees with ‘remoteliness’ without returning to the rigid 9:00 am -5:00 pm?

At Employment Hero, we take a ‘remote-first’ approach to work where we ‘work remotely and socialise locally’. This means that the bulk of our employees’ work can be done remotely, but we meet up in local teams to enjoy time together.

Making the most of key opportunities to socialise – like at the end of the year or EOFY, for team retreats, for celebration lunches when we hit goals and targets – helps remote workers keep a sense of connectedness and build team relationships. The time we spend together is so much more meaningful than it would be if we were forced to work in the office every day.

  1. Financial health

Financial stress is one of the most pervasive threats to emotional wellness out there, and the mental health impacts can be severe. Struggling financially can cause depression, anxiety and withdrawal from working life. People can also experience financial stress secondhand, it’s actually the leading cause of relationship breakdowns.

Wellbeing programs designed to relieve financial stress levels of the ongoing pandemic will be a major trend this year. Just a couple of ideas for this include; virtual appointments with a financial advisor or engaging the services of a Financial Wellness Officer.

HEALTH IS WEALTH !!!

This year we’re looking far beyond all of the traditional hallmarks of workplace wellness. No longer is wellbeing balanced on free healthy food and on-site fitness classes. Leaders are taking a deeper look at the influencers of our employee experience, and they’re taking a holistic approach.

The top workplace wellness trends of 2022 are at once holistic and personalised. It’s about offering programs, benefits and tools that touch each part of human wellbeing – and encouraging your employees to take what they need.

Article provided courtesy of Employment Hero https://employmenthero.com/

Finding the Right Work-Life Balance

30 Mar 2022

By developing — and sticking to — a daily routine, we can bring a sense of order back to our lives. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Working from home can be stressful. As human beings, we naturally crave certainty, and we’re more prone to feeling stressed and anxious without it. By developing — and sticking to — a daily routine, we can claim a bit of that certainty back and help bring a sense of order back to our lives.

A good night’s rest is best

woman sleeping at work We all know that sleep is our body’s way of restoring itself after a hard day of work, but how much sleep does the adult body really need? You might remember being told as a teenager that “growing teens need at least 8 hours of sleep a night”. Well, it turns out not much changes for us as adults.

On average, adults between the ages of 18 and 64 need around 7-9 hours of sleep a night and just as importantly, we should maintain a regular sleep cycle. Having a regular bedtime each day helps keep our circadian rhythm in check. Putting your phone away 30 minutes before bed is also a great way to rest your eyes and let your brain relax before sleep.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail

Just as important as getting your 8-9 hours of sleep, starting the day with a plan is a great way to build a routine. Not having to travel into work means lots of people have more hours to sleep-in, but using that time to plan out the rest of your day has numerous benefits. It helps you keep track of the time within your 9-5 workday (making sure you’re not pushing too much of your work past 5:00 pm just because you can), and allows you to set goals for your tasks.

A simple way to ‘plan ahead’ is to jot down a rough draft of your to-do list the evening before. Once you’re up and running in the morning, you can take stock of the day’s activities at a quick glance. There are countless productivity systems out there to try. There are bullet journals to replace your traditional day planner and methods like the Pomodoro technique that can help you better manage your time. What’s essential is researching and finding one that works for you and your needs.

Drop the juggling act

Achieving a work-life balance is tough for many people. Think of integrating the two instead and drop the idea that you have to balance them. This might mean going for a morning walk while simultaneously tuning into your daily team briefing. If this is feasible and you’re not required to be on your laptop/PC, then why not? Two birds, one stone.

Integration can also mean openly discussing work at the dinner table with your family. A conversation about what you did at work can help your family better understand what you do. Letting them understand the hard work you do each day might make them more empathetic when you’ve had a particularly challenging day. Often when we try to juggle the two, we “drop the ball” with either one. By letting work and life integrate together, you might find yourself enjoying both more.

Eat well, exercise and entertain

It’s really easy to get caught up in work, and with working from home, the blurred lines between work and relaxation can cause more strain on your brain. It’s essential to take time to eat well and away from your keyboard.

Make sure you use your lunch break as a time to take care of yourself and not use it to catch up on work. Go for a walk around your block each day or a run (whatever works for you). Finding 30 minutes across your day to do some moderate exercise is vital for your overall wellbeing. Between work, eating right and exercising, you want to take time to relax, unwind and entertain yourself. Whether that be reading a book or playing games with your household, just remember to do something that brings you joy.

Before you go…

It’s crucial that while we deal with these unprecedented times, you continue to take care of your health, both physical and mental. By also taking the time to sleep well, plan, and integrate your work-life situations you’ll be well on your way to achieving better results in both areas of life.

Article provided courtesy of Employment Hero https://employmenthero.com/

Easy mindfulness and meditation for a calmer & peaceful life

04 Mar 2022

Did you know practising mindfulness can improve your mental health? Quietening a noisy mind can be difficult at the best of times. Yet the benefits of mindfulness are clear, with research showing reduced stress, rumination, fretting, depression and anxiety.

Think of mental health like a muscle, the more you practice, the stronger it gets. Mindfulness is like a gym session for your mind. You might struggle to nail the techniques to begin with but over time you will improve, becoming better at building on your mindfulness muscles.

Here’s a number of guided meditation videos for you to enjoy.

Short meditations (under 5 minutes)

Mindfulness Minute #1 – Winding Down

Had a busy day? Just feeling a bit tense? Take a minute to be mindful and wind down from your day. All you have to do is press play, and watch the screen or close your eyes as you listen to the instructions.

Mindfulness Minute #2 – When you’re overwhelmed at work

We can all feel overwhelmed from time to time, but when it feels like there’s too much going on at work, it can be hard to know what to do.

Just take one minute to be mindful by listening to the instructions in this video.

gPause – Google Meeting Starter

Ran at the 2014 Happy Workplaces, a surprising hit was the Google-led meditation meeting starters prompting many organisations to consider starting internal meetings with this guided meditation.

Medium meditations (under 10 minutes)

Good Morning Medication | 8 Minutes

Looking after yourself is more important than ever. That’s why we’ve created a guided meditation series, Present, to help bring a little calm to your day. This morning meditation helps you start your day with energy and intention.

Body Scan Meditation (tame anxiety) | 9 Minutes

Feel more settled and calm by bringing awareness to each part of your body, noticing your experience with a sense of curiosity and openness. A Body Scan mindfulness meditation created by Stop, Breathe & Think.

Email Pause Meditation | 8 Minutes

This stretch and relax meditation encourages you to take a gentle break from emails to find a moment to get into the body and breath.

Calm Your Nerves (before a presentation, audition, test, or interview) | 10 Minutes

Meditate and relieve some anxiety before you walk into an audition, interview, test, or maybe just an awkward conversation. Meditation can help you walk into the room fearless, with confidence, and clarity!

Body Scan Meditation | 6.5 Minutes

This body scan meditation focuses on gently guiding awareness through the body to encourage a deep sense of relaxation and peacefulness.

Long meditations (20 minutes +)

Beginner Meditation | 19 Minutes

This simple meditation is perfect for those new to the practice of meditation.

THE WRAP UP !!!!

The good news is you don’t have to be a yogi expert to get the benefits of practising mindfulness and meditation in your daily routine. It doesn’t cost anything, and can be done from almost out of anywhere in the world.

These guided meditation videos are a great way to get started and learn what style works best for you.

Sit back, relax, unwind and enjoy.

'Learn to Look After You' campaign

01 Mar 2022

The Mental Health Commission (MHC), in partnership with specialist mental health provider THIS WAY UP and non-government organisation partner Cancer Council WA (CCWA) has launched the ‘Learn to Look After You’ a new state-wide Think Mental Health campaign.

The ‘Learn to Look After You’ campaign aims to promote positive mental health in response to emerging community anxiety.

Research shows people gravitate toward dwelling or ‘ruminating’ about things out of their control (whether that’s perceived or actual), which exacerbates negative feelings. ‘Learn to Look After You’ acknowledges these feelings, and provides practical, evidence-based strategies to help manage how they feel and reduce stress and anxiety.

The campaign will run for an initial three-month period until mid-May, across state-wide television, catch-up television, radio and social media platforms.

All campaign advertising will link to the Think Mental Health website, where people can find practical information about strategies to support their mental health and wellbeing. The website will also assist people to seek out appropriate helplines and support services.

The key messages of the ‘Learn To Look After You’ campaign are:

  • Treat yourself with kindness and cut yourself some slack.
  • Shift your thoughts and focus on the good stuff.
  • Do what brings you joy.
  • Remember that things change, and you might have to roll with plan B.
  • Connecting with others.

Also included in the Community Toolkit are downloadable links to:

  • Television commercials
  • Radio Ads
  • Posters
  • Social Media assets
  • A Resource Order Form

For more information about the campaigns key messages and to learn ways to integrate these strategies into daily life, click here.

Download the Community Toolkit.

How can we support our workplace/teams in light of Omicron

04 Feb 2022

It’s hard to know how to respond when something you’ve been dreading becomes a reality. As is always the case with Covid-19, one day you’re feeling like this whole thing might finally be coming to an end, the next day you’re thrown back into the pit of deep and unnerving uncertainty.

Bad news travels rapidly, and it can turn our anxiety into a runaway train. With so many unknowns, how can we face the possibilities of yet another concerning Covid-19 variant? Especially when we’ve been burned before.

How can we support our teams in light of Omicron?

Tip 1: Validate your team member’s feelings, but don’t validate unhelpful assumptions

There’s no faster way to shut someone down than by telling them to ‘relax’, ‘don’t worry about it’ or by saying ‘it will all turn out ok’. But it’s not necessarily a great idea either to agree with everything they say, especially if they are spiralling.

This situation requires leaders to walk a fine line. You should welcome and validate your team member’s feelings; whether they’re experiencing stress, anxiety, fatigue or despair. Be there to listen to their concerns and don’t try to minimise their feelings.

At the same time, we recommend that you don’t indulge any catastrophizing about Omicron at work. If employees believe that we are returning to lockdown, it’s not helpful to agree with them if there is no evidence that it will be. This is why bringing an informed perspective to discussions with your team and colleagues is so important. Gently remind them that while you completely understand their stress, we still know little about the virus, we are yet to know what the outcomes will be. Tell them that whatever happens, you will be there to support them.

Tip 2: Regular check-ins

We often talk about the importance of one-to-one meetings (1:1s) at Employment Hero. They’re an incredibly valuable tool to help keep up to date with your team, and can provide a confidential space for them to share any feelings or fears they may have about Omicron.

As we approach the end of the year, it’s easy to let weekly meetings like these slip out of your calendar. In light of the current events, however, we would recommend prioritising them more than ever.

If you’re sensing a person is feeling anxious in a 1:1, try asking open-ended questions like “I’m sensing you’re feeling stressed out – I’m feeling concerned, how are you going, and what can I do to help you?” This can help bring the walls down between you and the person you’re concerned about.

Tip 3: Encourage taking time for mood boosters to alleviate anxiety

Under uncertainty, there are tools that we can use to gain some headspace from our stress. In her chat with our CEO Ben Thompson, Dr Jodie Lowinger of the Sydney Anxiety Clinic shared six “powerful mood boosters” to help alleviate anxiety under uncertainty.

  • Breathing and meditation exercises can take the brain out of the ‘fight or flight’ mode that occurs with anxiety. Slowing the breath with counting can help people quickly regain calm. Share this helpful video to help your team get started.
  • It’s a well-known fact that exercise and movement releases endorphins that help boost mental wellness. Can you encourage members of your team to finish work early so they can catch a walk in the nice weather? Or maybe they would like a later start so they can hit the gym?
  • Achievement, challenge or mastery can give our teams a lift. Is there an opportunity to help them with a small win right now?
  • Organise something fun to do – whether at work or outside of work.
  • Approach situations with kindness and patience. If your team member seems uncharacteristically short or snappy, it’s probably because they’re feeling stressed. Take a patient and caring approach.
  • Connecting with your team, through one-on-one meetings, general discussions or casual messages can remind them they’re not in this alone.

Tip 4: Connect your EAP provider or helplines

Utilise your Organisations EAP provider and encourage employees/staff to access support online if required.

Using Anchors to help ground ourselves during uncertain times

Article provided courtesy of the Blue Knot Foundation

In this article we present the concept of anchors and their use as a self-care practice. We offer some ideas around finding your own anchors and explain how to use them – but remember, these are only suggestions. It is up to each person to explore and find what helps them.

This description by Russ Harris p.92 of The Reality Slap can help us understand more about anchors: “Painful feelings can be like a tidal wave; they rise up and bowl us over and carry us away often before we are aware of it…Developing a mental state of expansion, by stepping back and looking at the waves with curiosity, we can become like the sky, vast open spacious. And then we have created room for the waves no matter how turbulent they are. We can do this by keeping ourselves anchored.”

An anchor is often something concrete which comes from your own life. Try to find your own anchor which is associated with positive memories in both your mind and body. Your anchor may be a person, (grandmother, partner, teacher) or an animal/pet, a place, an object (boat, tree, stone) or even an activity.

A suitable anchor gives you a feeling of relief and wellbeing emotionally and in your body. Support systems can also provide anchors and help us overcome difficulties in life.

Questions to ask yourself: What anchors you? And where do you draw your strength from?

You might like to draw or write out your anchors. Think about new sources of anchors for yourself. Think about how to strengthen anchors which may have weakened.

Perhaps you can write down the names of people in your support system and the specific ways they help/support you.

You might like to try this short strategy: Take five to ten seconds to do the following: Push your feet hard into the floor and straighten your spine. As you do this, take a slow, deep breath.

  1. Taste one thing.
  2. Smell two things.
  3. Touch three things.
  4. Listen carefully and notice four things you can hear.
  5. Look around and notice five things you can see.

Notice where you are and what you are doing. When we use anchors consistently in our day-to-day life, we usually feel more grounded and less overwhelmed. See how you go.

For further information please visit https://blueknot.org.au/survivors/survivor-self-care/using-anchors/

Self-Care Planning

Self-care is often the first thing that gets sacrificed when life is busy and stressful, but that’s when it’s most important. Taking time to care for your health and wellbeing isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Self-care refers to the activities and practices that we deliberately choose to engage in on a regular basis to maintain and enhance our health and wellbeing.

Regular practices may include exercise, reading, meditation, disconnecting from technology, or talking with a friend or family member.

Dr Jan Orman, GP Services Consultant says incorporating these kinds of activities into your day or week are an effective way of preventing stress and anxiety, and increasing your productivity. “When you take time for yourself to rest, reset, and rejuvenate you will actually have more energy to meet the demands of daily life as well as reduce or avoid the symptoms of mental ill-health.”

Black Dog Institute has developed a self-care planning template to help you identify what strategies help to improve your wellbeing, what may be triggering or unhelpful activities, and what you can do to cope during challenging times.

Self-care planning is like taking tried-and-true advice from yourself. Write your plan when you’re feeling mentally healthy and able to think clearly. Consider things like who were the co-workers you felt were able to listen and support you during a challenging period? What were the activities you engaged in that brought you the most peace of mind when you last felt stressed or unwell? Refer back to your plan and account for changes to your needs or demands that you may be facing personally and/or professionally.

Create your own self-care plan

Learn how to build your own daily self-care plan by downloading our template below. It will guide you through the 4 steps of self-care planning:

Step 1 | Evaluate your coping skills

Step 2 | Identify your daily self-care needs

Step 3 | Reflect. Examine. Replace.

Step 4 | Create your self-care plan

Download your Self Care Plan https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Importance-of-selfcare-planning.pdf

SETTLES approach

In addition to your self-care planning, it is important to find an approach that SETTLES the mind. Our advice is:

  • Stay focused on the here and now and avoid thinking too far into the future and take each day one step at a time.
  • Engage and stay connected to friends, family and support networks. Working together with communities, united as a country we can move through this.
  • Thoughts are thoughts, not necessarily facts. Be alert to negative thoughts and don’t give them power.
  • Treat people with kindness, support others through this time of uncertainty.
  • Limit information and time on unhelpful media. Constant exposure to anxiety-fuelling stories drives panic and uncertainty.
  • Exercise is key, research shows that good physical health is critical for a healthy mind, focus on good sleep, eating well and working out.
  • Seek help, if you are concerned about yourself or others talk to your GP, the Black Dog online clinic is a good place to start with a self-assessment.

Article supplied courtesy of the Black Dog Institute http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/

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      While the Australian Government Department of Health has contributed to the funding of this website, the information on this website does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Government and is not advice that is provided, or information that is endorsed, by the Australian Government. The Australian Government is not responsible in negligence or otherwise for any injury, loss or damage however arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided on this website.