Archive for the ‘Member Wellbeing’ Category

MEMBER WELLBEING – The President’s health message

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

I want to share with you my recent can­cer diag­no­sis in the hope that my per­son­al sto­ry will moti­vate you to tack­le your own health con­cerns. I want you to hear this straight from me rather than whis­pers, and I want you to be able to freely speak to me about it.

I’m not telling you this for sym­pa­thy – I want this sto­ry to encour­age you, and I want you to think about our club’s Well­ness Pro­gram with a renewed inter­est.

My issues start­ed short­ly before Christ­mas when I strug­gled to uri­nate and so I went to the doc­tor. He pre­scribed antibi­otics that failed to do any­thing and then I was sent to a urol­o­gist. She also pre­scribed antibi­otics and when that didn’t work she arranged for a “scope test”.

It was late Jan­u­ary – the busi­ness end of the sea­son when Coun­try Car­ni­val had been and gone and almost every com­ing week­end includ­ed a com­pe­ti­tion – and I found myself in a hos­pi­tal with a cam­era broad­cast­ing the inner work­ings of my blad­der on to a screen. Ini­tial­ly, the cam­era did not detect any­thing abnor­mal, but as the device turned around the enor­mous “bun­dle of coral” appeared on the screen.

It was a tumour. A big one.

I have strug­gled to find the words to tell this sto­ry as I’m a log­i­cal thinker and this diag­no­sis still seems com­plete­ly illog­i­cal – this sim­ply makes absolute­ly no sense to me what­so­ev­er.

I’m 45-years-old – which the spe­cial­ists say is a young age for this type of tumour. I am fit and I lead a healthy lifestyle, and in the sim­ple terms used by the doc­tors — I’m unlucky.

But we don’t choose the hand we are dealt, we can only play it as best we can.

The diag­no­sis was unex­pect­ed and came as a com­plete shock, with one ques­tion burn­ing in my mind – what does that mean? The test was com­plete and surgery was planned for 18 Feb­ru­ary to remove the tumour. I walked out of the hos­pi­tal to my wife Michelle, but would not share the diag­no­sis until we were alone togeth­er in the car.

She was fright­ened. This was the most alarm­ing health issue I had faced in my life to date. Telling my teenage sons was also an extreme­ly dif­fi­cult task.

The sub­se­quent surgery suc­cess­ful­ly removed the tumour which the doc­tors described as “high-grade” but “non-inva­sive”. Oth­ers words includ­ed “self-con­tained” and “fast-grow­ing”.

All of this trans­lat­ed into the best pos­si­ble news for this par­tic­u­lar type of tumour.

I’m not yet out of the woods and I cur­rent­ly have a ureter­al stent from my kid­ney which is a con­stant source of pain that I will be liv­ing with for the next few months.

In addi­tion to the pain, the stent pre­vents me from train­ing. This is my main source of frus­tra­tion at the moment – exer­cise is a big part of my life at our surf club.

I was in peak phys­i­cal con­di­tion just before this in readi­ness for the WA Mas­ters Surf Life Sav­ing Cham­pi­onships at Sor­ren­to in March and, despite being two weeks post­op­er­a­tive (much to Michelle’s hor­ror), I was amazed and proud to take away a Gold in the Beach Sprints and Sil­ver in the Beach Flags – a goal I had to achieve.

Aussies are on but I could feel my phys­i­cal form suf­fer­ing through the lack of train­ing and I, there­fore, can­celled our fam­i­ly trip in favour of pro­gress­ing my treat­ment.

In April I will com­mence immunother­a­py – once a week for six weeks deliv­ered direct to my blad­der which car­ries its own risks, and may con­tin­ue month­ly after that for up to three years, but I know the alter­na­tives are far worse.

Fur­ther to this, I will under­take quar­ter­ly scope tests. The prospect of this tumour return­ing is gen­er­al­ly regard­ed as high giv­en the nature of the tumour that was removed.

I don’t want peo­ple to treat me dif­fer­ent­ly. It is what it is and you have to get on with it.

I want to remind every­one that every­one has some­thing going on in their lives – even though it may not be obvi­ous on the face of things.

I want to encour­age our won­der­ful surf club com­mu­ni­ty to take the time to ask oth­ers how they are going, it doesn’t take much.

I have seen this Club pull togeth­er in a very spe­cial way this sea­son. I have seen it in com­pe­ti­tion – with ath­letes from dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines jump­ing in to assist their fel­low club mem­bers at car­ni­vals.

I have seen it on our incred­i­ble beach each week­end dur­ing club days with the old men­tor­ing the young, and the young re-ignit­ing the pas­sion of the old.

I have seen it with major events such as the Nip­pers Car­ni­val host­ed at Mul­laloo in Jan­u­ary.

Club mem­bers have pulled togeth­er in sup­port of me since my diag­no­sis and this has been tru­ly heart-warm­ing – it’s also a major rea­son I want peo­ple to talk about their own issues. There’s always some­one there to lis­ten, help or to speak to, you don’t need to go through things on your own.

It is impor­tant to ask oth­ers if they are ok but it is equal­ly impor­tant to lis­ten to what they are say­ing and how they are say­ing it as com­mu­ni­ca­tion takes many forms. Fur­ther, it may encour­age anoth­er to care­ful­ly con­sid­er their own health and, where nec­es­sary, take action.

For me – I am going to con­tin­ue serv­ing as your Pres­i­dent, albeit with a small break now the sum­mer sea­son is com­plete to recov­er from the ini­tial treat­ment. It’s a role I feel priv­i­leged to have and in this role, I con­sid­er it my duty to share this mes­sage to help oth­ers. Men, in gen­er­al, are extreme­ly poor at deal­ing with health issues or ask­ing for help and I’d like this to change.

Do not suf­fer in silence.

Thank you to Luke Eliot and Pam Bubrzy­c­ki for your con­tri­bu­tion to this mes­sage.


Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Recent­ly, there has been an increased focus and aware­ness of sleep and many Aus­tralians are report­ing sleep issues.  Step into your local book­store and you will find a whole sec­tion ded­i­cat­ed to sleep and many of us now pur­chase items such as can­dles and herbal med­ica­tions to help us sleep and wear elec­tron­ic devices which track sleep allow­ing us to scru­ti­nise sleep pat­terns on a dai­ly basis.  Yet, many peo­ple don’t actu­al­ly under­stand the process of sleep, why we need it and how our actions and behav­iours inter­fere with and inter­rupt this impor­tant bio­log­i­cal process.

The sleep/wake cycle is trig­gered by a com­plex inter­play between exter­nal cues such a day and night, hor­mon­al influ­ences and oth­er phys­i­o­log­i­cal func­tions such as eat­ing and exer­cise.  Each night, we pass through sev­er­al stages of sleep which are bro­ken down into Non-REM (rapid eye move­ment) sleep and REM sleep.  Most of the night is spent in Non-REM sleep with about 20–25% of our time in REM sleep when most dreams occur.  REM sleep is more fre­quent ear­li­er in the night and decreas­es in length and inten­si­ty as the night pro­gress­es.

Non-REM sleep starts with a relaxed state with a pro­gres­sion through sev­er­al stages where brain waves slow, breath­ing deep­ens, and your heartrate slows as your blood pres­sure falls. After a while, you enter REM sleep where your phys­i­o­log­i­cal state rep­re­sents that of being awake yet your mus­cles are in a paral­ysed state only mov­ing for twitch­ing and spasms pri­mar­i­ly seen in the eyes which flick­er back and forth.  The whole cycle lasts about 90 min­utes and you progress through around 4–6 of these cycles through­out the night with peo­ple sleep­ing less as they age.

Sleep allows the body and brain to rest and recov­er and it is essen­tial for opti­mal health and well­be­ing. Sleep makes us feel bet­ter.  It increas­es our ener­gy, helps us to con­sol­i­date mem­o­ries and learn­ing, pro­motes brain cell con­nec­tions and improves over­all func­tion­ing and well­be­ing. Yet, accord­ing to the 2016 Sleep Health Sur­vey of Aus­tralian Adults(1), 30 to 45 per cent of Aus­tralians have poor sleep health.

Poor sleep has been asso­ci­at­ed with weight gain, the onset of dia­betes, an increased risk for car­dio-vas­cu­lar dis­ease, depres­sion, anx­i­ety, a com­pro­mised immune sys­tem and poor­er cog­ni­tive func­tion­ing includ­ing risk assess­ment and sleep depri­va­tion has been asso­ci­at­ed with high­er error rates of impor­tant tasks such as dri­ving.

Sleep reg­u­lates the metab­o­lism and is impor­tant for the release and reg­u­la­tion of hor­mones such as ghre­lin and lep­tin which is impor­tant for appetite con­trol. Peo­ple who sleep less than six hours per night are more like­ly to have a high­er body mass index (BMI) than peo­ple who sleep for 8 hours.  In fact, lack of sleep is the third high­est risk fac­tor for obe­si­ty after lack of exer­cise and overeat­ing.   Sleep­ing also reg­u­lates the release of insulin which reg­u­lates our blood sug­ar lev­els and reg­u­lates the stor­age of fat.  High­er lev­els of insulin are asso­ci­at­ed with weight gain and dif­fi­cul­ties metabolis­ing fats in our blood.  Poor sleep also inter­feres with the sig­nals from the brain which sig­ni­fy the sense of full­ness after eat­ing and can increase crav­ings for sug­ary foods.

Sleep also plays an impor­tant part in our men­tal health.  When we sleep, our brain reg­u­lates the release of cor­ti­sol, the ‘stress hor­mone’.  Poor sleep increas­es cor­ti­sol which is linked with increased symp­toms of anx­i­ety and chron­ic sleep depri­va­tion has been cor­re­lat­ed with the onset of clin­i­cal depres­sion.  Alco­hol and drug abuse prob­lems are also more preva­lent in peo­ple who expe­ri­ence poor sleep as peo­ple often attempt to ‘self-med­icate’ using alco­hol and or drugs in an attempt to bring on the onset of sleep.  Whilst alco­hol and drugs ini­tial­ly make you feel sleepy, they then stim­u­late the brain mak­ing remain­ing asleep dif­fi­cult and can increase the like­li­hood of devel­op­ing an addic­tion dis­or­der.

The Sleep Health Study (1)found that near­ly 50 per cent of all adults report hav­ing two or more sleep-relat­ed prob­lems which impact­ed on sev­er­al of their life domains.  Some of the prob­lems report­ed by par­tic­i­pants includ­ed expe­ri­enc­ing sleep dis­or­ders such as; insom­nia where it is dif­fi­cult to fall asleep or stay asleep, Nar­colep­sy where peo­ple sud­den­ly fall into REM sleep dur­ing nor­mal day­time activ­i­ties, Sleep Apnea where peo­ple stop breath­ing dur­ing sleep and night­mares and night ter­rors all of which not only affect func­tion­ing and well­be­ing but can be high­ly dis­tress­ing.  Whilst some of these con­di­tions have a neu­ro­log­i­cal basis, the best way to avoid sleep issues is to not mess with the sleep/wake cycle and to have good sleep hygiene.  Like every­thing else which is good for us, this requires dis­ci­pline and rou­tine.

Our reliance on dig­i­tal devices and social media is prob­lem­at­ic and is hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant impact on our sleep with con­cern­ing con­se­quences.  Night time com­put­er usage is a major con­tribut­ing fac­tor to poor sleep with 44 per cent of adults report­ing inter­net usage just before bed every night.  This rate increased to 75 per cent in the 18–24 yr age brack­et.  Twen­ty nine per cent of adults report dri­ving whilst drowsy at least once a month and 20 per cent report hav­ing nod­ded off at the wheel whilst dri­ving.  Twen­ty one per­cent of men and 13 per cent of women report hav­ing fall­en asleep at work, and 29 per cent of those sur­veyed report mak­ing errors at work due to feel­ing sleepy (1).  Being too tired was also a com­mon rea­son for miss­ing out on social activ­i­ties with 45 per cent of 18–24 yr olds report­ing that they missed out on at least one social event in the past month due to being tired.

With poor sleep impact­ing so many areas of our lives, here are a few things you can do to improve your sleep;

  • Have a reg­u­lar rou­tine for wak­ing, eat­ing, exer­cis­ing and going to bed.
  • Spend time out­doors, this pro­motes hor­mones which help set and main­tain your body clock
  • Try to avoid day time naps
  • Exer­cise dai­ly
  • Avoid caf­feine in late after­noon
  • Prac­tice relax­ation tech­niques to wind down after a busy day
  • Avoid excess alco­hol use and quit smok­ing
  • Have a good bed­time rou­tine and only go to bed when you are sleepy
  • Avoid tele­vi­sion and oth­er elec­tron­ic devices in the bed­room which can keep you awake or wak­en you dur­ing the night
  • Check out web­sites (dur­ing the day­time) which have plen­ty of tips to help you get qual­i­ty sleep like Beyond Blue and the Sleep Health Foun­da­tion.
  • Above all, if sleep prob­lems con­tin­ue to be an issue, vis­it your GP.
  1. Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults


Monday, January 21st, 2019

Many of us use the month of Jan­u­ary to set our­selves some goals for the year. Typ­i­cal­ly, we aim to change some­thing we are not hap­py with, for exam­ple our health. Whilst it is great that we reflect upon and revise our health sta­tus and lives in gen­er­al, set­ting goals which are dif­fi­cult and unre­al­is­tic can leave us feel­ing dis­heart­ened, upset and like fail­ures. Equal­ly, set­ting goals which are too easy can also be prob­lem­at­ic in that the changes we make are unlike­ly to be sus­tain­able, sim­ply because we did not have to work that hard to get there. Any change requires plan­ning and true change can take up to two years to incor­po­rate into our lives ensur­ing that change not only hap­pens, but the changes we make then become the new way of being.

Some sim­ple ways of increas­ing our chances of suc­cess in set­ting and achiev­ing goals and ongo­ing, sus­tain­able change can be to set what are called SMART goals. SMART stands for Spe­cif­ic, Mea­sur­able, Achiev­able, Rel­e­vant and Time Based. Here is how you can incor­po­rate SMART goals into your desired change set­ting you up not only for increased oppor­tu­ni­ties of suc­cess but also plan­ning for those lit­tle hic­cups which might occur;


What exact­ly is it you want to change? Name it, write it down, tell trust­ed oth­ers.


What will the change look like, how will you know you are mak­ing a change?

What is the high­est lev­el of change you are aim­ing for, what is the low­est lev­el you would still be hap­py with and where is some­where in the mid­dle? How will you know change is occur­ring? Per­haps a dai­ly, week­ly, month­ly progress chart can help here. If it is some­thing phys­i­cal, take a pho­to, take some mea­sure­ments.


Is the goal real­is­tic? Typ­i­cal­ly, you want to be about 70% con­fi­dent you can make this change. The con­fi­dence rat­ing of 70% ensures the goal isn’t too dif­fi­cult or too easy. Find­ing a bud­dy or join­ing a group who is also inter­est­ed in mak­ing this change increas­es your like­li­hood of suc­cess. It’s much hard­er to walk away or not turn up when you are account­able to oth­ers besides your­self.


Does it mean some­thing to you? Is it your goal? Are you invest­ed in the change? Change which means noth­ing to you or which you may be try­ing to do to please some­one else is just hard work and can leave you feel­ing guilty, frus­trat­ed and like a fail­ure. Here, you need to be hon­est with your­self and hon­est with oth­ers.


How long are you going to give your­self to make the change? Can you break this time­frame into incre­ments with small goal ori­en­tat­ed reward points along the way? Be care­ful not to reward your­self with some­thing which is a step back­wards towards the behav­iour you are try­ing to change! To increase your chances of suc­cess, look for­ward, what events which are com­ing your way and may be a threat towards goal achieve­ment? Plan for them.

Oth­er tips that can help are con­sid­er­ing the fol­low­ing:

  • Write your goal down, say it out aloud and share it with some­one you know who will be sup­port­ive. There are many tem­plates for SMART goals on the inter­net, have a look and down­load one.
  • Plan­ning is the key. What prepa­ra­tion will you need to do to increase your chance of suc­cess? Who can help you and what does that help need to look like? Are there cer­tain sit­u­a­tions which you might need to avoid where you know you will be tempt­ed in the ear­ly stages of change?
  • What can you replace the behav­iour you want to change with? For exam­ple, going for a walk at a time when you might nor­mal­ly do the behav­iour you want to change.
  • Think about last time you tried to intro­duce change, what worked well and what didn’t? Can you use some­things you learnt from your past attempt to increase your suc­cess this time?
  • Would help from a pro­fes­sion­al increase your like­li­hood of suc­cess?

Above all remem­ber, along the way you are like­ly to face some hic­cups. Hic­cups are lit­tle speed bumps on your road to change. You know the ones, the days where work or home are stress­ful and despite the best laid plans, life just gets in the way or when you get sick or injured and you just feel like giv­ing up. Again, be real­is­tic, here, accep­tance is the key. Every­one has bad days when it all seems too hard. It’s when you con­vince your­self that the bad day has ruined all of your efforts and there is no point in get­ting back on track when the hic­cups become a major prob­lem. Here are some things you can do to stop a hic­cup from becom­ing a total dis­as­ter:

  • Reflect – what hap­pened and why? What might you need to revise to make the goal achiev­able again?
  • Time­frame – allow your­self to feel like this/behave like that for an after­noon or 24 hours but then, it’s back on track. Pick your­self up and dust your­self off!
  • Turn to one of your sup­ports – some­times hav­ing a bud­dy who will help you get back on track or just lis­ten to you is all you that you actu­al­ly need­ed.
  • Remind your­self – why did you set this goal and what was so impor­tant about it in the first place?
  • Be kind – don’t say any­thing to your­self that you would not say to your best friend!

Final­ly, if you have already start­ed your 2019 goals and are hav­ing a few hic­cups, don’t wor­ry, you can always use some of these sim­ple tips to help you get back on track. Some­times, you just need to take a step back to be able to move for­ward again.

Next time, we’ll look at sleep, some­thing we increas­ing­ly strug­gle with yet if we can get it right, has major impacts on our over­all well­be­ing.


Friday, January 11th, 2019

As announced by our pres­i­dent Alis­tair Cook in Decem­ber, the board has approved a three year plan aimed at increas­ing our member’s and in turn our com­mu­ni­ties’ well­be­ing.

This ini­tia­tive is ground break­ing for surf life­sav­ing clubs in West­ern Aus­tralia and brings surf life­sav­ing into line with oth­er organ­i­sa­tions and sport­ing codes.

The ini­tia­tive is aimed at increas­ing your under­stand­ing of what actions you can take to keep your­self and sup­port oth­ers to keep well. It will increase your aware­ness of how your men­tal health is pos­i­tive­ly impact­ed by your phys­i­cal health and how clubs such as Mul­laloo SLSC have a vital part to play in encour­ag­ing and enabling behav­iours which increase well­be­ing.  It will edu­cate our younger club mem­bers (and be a good reminder for the not so young) on the impor­tance of pos­i­tive life habits such as good nutri­tion, good sleep, the effects of reg­u­lar exer­cise, hav­ing a rou­tine, how to build resilience and the impor­tance of belong­ing and giv­ing to a com­mu­ni­ty.

The Back to Front Christ­mas Tree which recent­ly saw many gifts being dis­trib­uted to the hun­dreds of home­less peo­ple in Perth was the first event to be held under this port­fo­lio. Thank you to all who con­tributed, the gifts were grate­ful­ly received by Ruah and brought much joy to those who oth­er­wise would have gone with­out. Next year we hope to build on this activ­i­ty and pro­vide a Christ­mas morn­ing break­fast to ensure that no one is alone in our com­mu­ni­ty on Christ­mas morn­ing.

The edu­ca­tion­al aspect of this plan will see Patrol Cap­tains and Age Group Man­agers giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to par­tic­i­pate in a two day Men­tal Health First Aid Train­ing Course. This is aimed at giv­ing these lead­er­ship roles the skills and knowl­edge required to iden­ti­fy and respond to those who may be show­ing signs of men­tal health chal­lenges in the same man­ner that we respond to those who need some phys­i­cal first aid. This train­ing is high­ly valu­able and will be run twice dur­ing the off sea­son.  It is impor­tant to under­stand that whilst the train­ing helps to iden­ti­fy, under­stand, and pro­vide an ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion­al response to men­tal health issues, it does not qual­i­fy hold­ers to pro­vide treat­ment. How­ev­er; it does teach some good sim­ple tech­niques equip­ping trainees with the abil­i­ty to sup­port peo­ple to seek treat­ment from either their GP or a qual­i­fied men­tal health prac­ti­tion­er.

The ini­tia­tive will also see impor­tant sup­port num­bers such as Life­line not­ed on our clubs home page and reg­u­lar arti­cles placed in our newslet­ter, the first will be on how to set your­self up for suc­cess when set­ting New Year’s Goals. No doubt the hordes of novice run­ners, cyclists and swim­mers who hit our won­der­ful Perth beach­es, pools and roads every year around this time will be think­ing about!