Archive for the ‘Member Wellbeing’ Category

MEMBER WELLBEING: Identifying & Managing Trauma from the bushfires

Sunday, January 19th, 2020

We have all been shocked by the feroc­i­ty of the bush­fires which are rav­aging our land­scape, threat­ing and tak­ing lives and homes.  Tales and images of dis­tressed peo­ple and ani­mals have dom­i­nat­ed all forms of media and are part of our dai­ly con­ver­sa­tions.  Expres­sions of despair and dis­may and help­less­ness are now part of our dai­ly rhetoric and there is no sign of relief.  Whilst the major­i­ty of fires are in the East­ern States, media reports bring them into our lives on a minute by minute basis mak­ing the threat seem very real, no mat­ter where you are.  It is nor­mal for us to find this dis­tress­ing.  How­ev­er, for some peo­ple, espe­cial­ly young peo­ple or peo­ple who may have per­son­al­ly expe­ri­enced trau­ma of a sim­i­lar nature or who may already be of an anx­ious nature, the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion may be more dis­tress­ing, and feel­ings of threat may be height­ened.

When we feel threat­ened, we tend to revert to behav­iours con­trolled by our prim­i­tive brain which is respon­si­ble for sur­vival.  You may have heard of the fight, flight or freeze response where­by when threat­ened the per­son either fights the threat, runs from the threat (flight) or freezes.  All are valid respons­es to threat and depend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion, the brain acts to secure sur­vival.  How­ev­er, you do not actu­al­ly have to expe­ri­ence the threat face to face to react in this man­ner and for you to expe­ri­ence trau­ma from the threat.

Trau­ma is the phys­i­cal and or psy­cho­log­i­cal reac­tion which comes from threat and can occur from one inci­dent or from mul­ti­ple inci­dence.  Trau­ma can be very dis­tress­ing and life chang­ing for both the per­son expe­ri­enc­ing the trau­ma and for those around them.  Expe­ri­enc­ing dis­tress from an event which we have not direct­ly expe­ri­enced is called vic­ar­i­ous trau­ma.  Vic­ar­i­ous trau­ma can present in the same way as oth­er trau­mas from sit­u­a­tions where we have been threat­ened.  Reac­tions to all types of trau­ma can be phys­i­cal or emo­tion­al and gen­er­al­ly indi­cate that some­one is strug­gling to process what they are see­ing, hear­ing or read­ing.  Signs and symp­toms that some­one has expe­ri­enced trau­ma and is not cop­ing can include height­ened anx­i­ety, prob­lems with sleep, being teary, with­draw­ing from nor­mal­ly plea­sur­able activ­i­ties, hyper-vig­i­lance, changes in eat­ing habits, reliance on alco­hol or drugs to cope, feel­ings or numb­ness or feel­ings of rage.  Symp­toms can arise in the months after the trau­mat­ic event and dif­fer­ent peo­ple will respond dif­fer­ent­ly to trau­ma.  We know that trau­ma leaves an imprint on the brain and changes our response to future trau­ma.  Remem­ber where you were when the ter­ror­ist attack occurred on the twin tow­ers, how much did this change your behav­ior towards trav­el­ling or low fly­ing air­craft?

So, what can you do if you or some­one you know appears to be suf­fer­ing from trau­ma?  First­ly, pre­ven­tion is the best cure.  Lim­it the num­ber of images and sto­ries peo­ple are exposed to, espe­cial­ly young peo­ple.  If you think some­one is strug­gling, talk to them.  Allow them to express their emo­tions or fears and nor­malise them rather than dis­miss­ing them with state­ments like ‘yes, this is very upset­ting, and it would be nor­mal for you to be sad or upset by what you have seen’.  Remem­ber that trau­ma aris­es from a threat, real or per­ceived to safe­ty so pro­vide reas­sur­ance to the per­son that they are safe, par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant with chil­dren.  Con­tex­tu­alise the trau­ma to the events, ie express that we are very for­tu­nate in WA that we are not under threat.  Change feel­ings of hope­less­ness to ones of action by doing some­thing to help those affect­ed.  Pay extra atten­tion to make sure you are doing stress free activ­i­ties such as play­ing games, spend­ing time with pets, going out­doors, doing things which remove the stress chem­i­cals from your body, yoga, laugh­ing, swim­ming etc.  Most of all, if the symp­toms do not go away, seek the help of a pro­fes­sion­al such as your GP or a men­tal health pro­fes­sion­al.

Pam Bubrzy­c­ki

MEMBER WELLBEING: Tough vs Resilient

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Tough (adj) able to endure hard­ship or pain, strong and prone to vio­lence.

Resilient (adj) able to with­stand or recov­er quick­ly from dif­fi­cult con­di­tions.

When rais­ing our young peo­ple, it is some­times easy to get con­fused between the mean­ing of the above two words.  Yet, the mean­ings are very clear.

One (tough) means that we are rais­ing our young to endure things which if inflict­ed by a stranger, we would be out­raged and seek­ing ret­ri­bu­tion.  The oth­er (resilient) means that we are rais­ing a young per­son who has enough resources in their tool box to bounce back from what life may throw at them.

Par­ents who aim to raise ‘tough’ chil­dren, often use the lan­guage fail­ure, dis­ap­point­ment, hard­en up or it’s all in your head, tough­en up. Par­ents who raise resilient chil­dren are more like­ly to use lan­guage which acknowl­edges hard­ship and dif­fi­cul­ties and encour­ages reflec­tion upon dis­ap­point­ments or fail­ures as oppor­tu­ni­ties from which to learn and grow.

Young peo­ple who are raised to be tough, are often taught that their emo­tions and fears are irrel­e­vant.  That what is sup­posed to be their safe place to run to in times of dif­fi­cul­ties or dis­tress (their par­ents and men­tors) are not safe.  These young peo­ple are more like­ly to inter­nalise their emo­tion­al states and are more like­ly to have low self-esteem and expe­ri­ence poor men­tal health in adult­hood, lack con­fi­dence or turn to risky behav­iours such as alco­hol or drugs and self-harm to man­age what they have been told is irrel­e­vant, their feel­ings and fears.

Young peo­ple who are resilient still make mis­takes and still fail.  How­ev­er, they are more like­ly to own their mis­takes, devel­op healthy prob­lem-solv­ing skills, have con­fi­dence in them­selves and those around them and know that when life does send them a curve ball, then can pick them­selves up and dust them­selves off and they can turn to adults who are safe and pre­dictable in their behav­iours for com­fort and sup­port.

Com­pet­i­tive sports can be fun and a great place to learn and devel­op life skills, life­long friend­ships and resilience.  It is not a place to teach our young peo­ple to be tough, life will even­tu­al­ly do that for them as they enter into adult­hood.

Pam Bubrzy­c­ki

Member Wellbeing: Hope, Peace & Joy

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Of the many dec­o­ra­tions I have hang­ing on my tree; three come to mind as hav­ing the most mean­ing.  They are the sil­ver words which say Hope, Peace and Joy.

At this time of year, we often choose to reflect on what has been and what has not.  We think about those who are close to us and remem­ber those who are lost or who have gone.  We come togeth­er with our fam­i­ly and friends hop­ing that we will all be togeth­er for many years to come.  Some of us, spend this time of year alone, either enjoy­ing the soli­tude or hop­ing that next year, things will be dif­fer­ent.  We look around our world and see the chal­lenges we face as humans try­ing to make mean­ing of the crazi­ness of our world, hop­ing that some­how we can all come togeth­er to make  the places in which we live in safe, sus­tain­able and hap­py.  We hope that what is to come will either be as good as we have it now or bet­ter and for our lit­tle ones, they just hope that on Christ­mas morn­ing, the par­cel under the tree brings them exact­ly what they asked for from the man in the big red suit!

Peace is some­thing we all aim for in one aspect or anoth­er and often seems dif­fi­cult or impos­si­ble to achieve.  Peace from the demands of life,  the peace we could expe­ri­ence  if we learned to appre­ci­ate and respect our dif­fer­ences as well as our com­mon­al­i­ties, peace from the beep­ing of tech­nol­o­gy, peace from those who demand our atten­tion and time when we are exhaust­ed and peace from the things that keep us awake at night.  Peace from the kids, argu­ing and fight­ing now that school is over.

Joy, this one makes me smile just see­ing it as this one feels the most sim­plest to achieve.  Joy comes from the buzz we get on putting a smile on some­one else’s face as well as hav­ing one on ours.  It can be the most sim­plest of things, look­ing at one of our glo­ri­ous sun­sets, watch­ing the nip­pers on our beach every Sun­day morn­ing, see­ing the crusty oldies hav­ing their cof­fees at Boardie’s try­ing to solve the prob­lems of the world, watch­ing our young peo­ple flour­ish as they embrace their lives going off on their adven­tures, wak­ing up to the sound of the mag­pies and Kook­abur­ras who sig­nal sum­mer is well and tru­ly here.  We find joy in our com­mu­ni­ties with cel­e­bra­tions abound.  Shops full of peo­ple buy­ing presents for the ones they love, and the joy of putting a gift for some­one under the back to front Christ­mas tree in the club lounge know­ing what that will mean for the women and chil­dren who will be hav­ing their Christ­mas day in a refuge, safe and cared for by peo­ple who get joy out of giv­ing up their time to care for oth­ers.

So as the year comes to an end, spend a few moments think­ing about what Hope, Peace and Joy means to you and to oth­ers.  Make time to spend it with those who mean the most to you, look­ing out for those who may be strug­gling and tak­ing care or your­selves and those around you.

Mer­ry Christ­mas every­one!

Pam Bubrzy­c­ki

Member Wellbeing: School’s out!

Sunday, December 15th, 2019

Yes, it is that time of year for our young peo­ple.  School is out and for those who have fin­ished year 12, every­one is won­der­ing, what next?

Schoolies is done, dust­ed and becom­ing a dis­tant mem­o­ry.  Some are await­ing their ATAR results, try­ing calm­ly to remem­ber that ‘You are not your ATAR” filled with a mix­ture of dread and hope.  Oth­ers are hop­ing to, or are head­ing out into the work­force, not quite sure what this form of adult­ing might look like and what it might mean.  For oth­ers, they are throw­ing every­thing to the wind and head­ing off on a care­free adven­ture, want­i­ng to find out what is out there and who they are.  What­ev­er path you choose, or find your­self faced with, remem­ber one thing, there is a whole com­mu­ni­ty behind you who you can turn to no mat­ter what.

Just because your life is chang­ing and you can now do things with less restric­tions and more inde­pen­dence, doesn’t mean that you can’t fall over.  You can and prob­a­bly will and it is total­ly okay.  Adult­ing is fun and excit­ing and some­times tough.  To put in the words of many faced with hav­ing to pay board or their car rego for the first time “it sucks”.  The choice you made for next year and beyond may now not be where you real­ly want to go.  Doors which you thought might be open might now need a bit of a hard­er push or an alter­na­tive door to be found.  Adult respon­si­bil­i­ties which seemed at first fun and excit­ing, might now seem daunt­ing.  Friends and rela­tion­ships which you thought were sol­id and going to last ‘for­ev­er!’ change.  The key to man­ag­ing all of this is to talk to some­one.

You didn’t get this far with­out some­one behind you.  It could be your par­ents, oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers, coach, men­tor, mate, teacher etc., etc.  Those peo­ple are still there for you, have like­ly gone through what you are going through, total­ly messed up at least one thing in their life and deeply care for you and want you to be healthy and hap­py.  Adult­ing and inde­pen­dence does not mean hav­ing to go it alone.  It means, build­ing upon the skills and con­nec­tions you already have to make this next stage safe and okay.  Okay to enjoy, okay to stuff up, okay to not have any idea what you want to do.  The next lot of biggest learn­ings you have will not come from class­rooms and books, they will come from life.  Share it with the peo­ple you care about and who have your back for this will make the dif­fer­ence in what from here and beyond looks like both going for­ward and look­ing back.

Most of all, as you rush for­ward throw­ing cau­tion to the wind, take care, be kind to your­self and oth­ers and go get what­ev­er it is that you want know­ing that your com­mu­ni­ty is here for you and cares.

Pam Bubrzy­c­ki

MEMBER WELLBEING: Movember — Supporting Men’s Health Month

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

It’s been just over six months now since I wrote my ini­tial arti­cle on my own health jour­ney and with Movem­ber now well under­way I felt it time to pro­vide an update.

My ini­tial can­cer diag­no­sis back in Feb­ru­ary now seems like a very long time ago as there have been many oth­er things tak­ing over my life, pos­i­tive­ly.

Since April I have been through six week­ly immunother­a­py treat­ments fol­lowed by a biop­sy which iden­ti­fied fur­ther high grade tumour polyps in my blad­der. It was explained to me that this may be new growth or have been rem­nants of the orig­i­nal tumour which were missed — obvi­ous­ly I hoped for the lat­ter! As a result, I was pre­scribed three fur­ther weeks of treat­ment.

Now all of this takes time. Between each course of treat­ment and sub­se­quent check is a wait of about six weeks. If noth­ing else, this process has taught me to be extreme­ly patient! It’s just over six weeks now since I went in for my lat­est biop­sy. The good news is the sur­geon found no new growth and noth­ing vis­i­ble that war­rant­ed a biop­sy. The down side was she now want­ed me to under­take a fur­ther course of what they term ‘main­te­nance treat­ment’.

I wasn’t told how long the main­te­nance would be but assumed it was anoth­er three weeks of fun. When I received the call from the Oncol­o­gy team to book in, I was shocked to learn that my main­te­nance treat­ment was now a once a month event for the next twelve months. Well that was kind of a blow to the sys­tem! For sev­er­al days I felt defeat­ed that the jour­ney was now going to be extend­ed by a fur­ther year…not what I want­ed to hear! As the days passed, I slow­ly let it sink in. I spoke with Michelle and the boys along with my very under­stand­ing boss, and it all fell into the thoughts of ‘it’s only twelve ses­sions’.

What I’ve learnt about this treat­ment is how much it actu­al­ly takes its toll on the body. First­ly, the anx­i­ety and stress of actu­al­ly going through it — I’m not going to lie, catheter­i­sa­tion is not a pleas­ant expe­ri­ence, and the after effects of treat­ment are becom­ing cumu­la­tive. For those of you who have expe­ri­enced cys­ti­tis, the day of treat­ment is effec­tive­ly that all day…on steroids! After that, because I am being giv­en a dose of live BCG vac­cine (used against tuber­cu­lo­sis), the immune sys­tem kicks in the next day and I then get flu like symp­toms for some days after that.

On the pos­i­tive side I’ve had a great year keep­ing my mind busy. I have final­ly fin­ished my Grad­u­ate Cer­tifi­cate in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion that I start­ed through Surf Life Sav­ing Australia’s lead­er­ship path­way, and which I sank plen­ty of time into (thanks for your patience Michelle). Work has cer­tain­ly been busy and chal­leng­ing, and not for­get­ting my role of Pres­i­dent of this won­der­ful Club which has allowed me to have many con­ver­sa­tions with many awe­some and sup­port­ive peo­ple. Add to that nor­mal home life with my eldest son Josh going through his ATAR ‘expe­ri­ence’ and my youngest Aron choos­ing his sub­jects for his upcom­ing year 11 jour­ney. Life has been busy but extreme­ly reward­ing.

Any­way, my first two month­ly treat­ments are now com­plete with the next two booked in, fol­lowed by my next check in January…not my pre­ferred birth­day present, but nec­es­sary!!

The point of my mes­sage is this. In what has now been termed men’s health month, if I can save one per­son, help some­one face their health fear or just sim­ply start a con­ver­sa­tion about some­thing that is trou­bling them, then I’m glad to have shared my per­son­al sto­ry. There are oth­ers going through much worse than me, and those who have already endured some­thing and come out the oth­er side. It’s easy to tell some­one you’re there for them to help but how many of us actu­al­ly ask for that help when we need it? Men espe­cial­ly are extreme­ly stub­born, and some feel it a weak­ness to seek help or advice from oth­ers. With this mes­sage I’d like to chal­lenge that and say it’s ok to speak out.

My own con­tri­bu­tion to Movem­ber is to take part and raise mon­ey to assist in the sup­port of men’s health, much to the dis­gust of Michelle who hates me with any facial hair! It’s only for 30 days in total which is a very short time in the scheme of things. My ask of you is to sup­port your fel­low Club mem­bers who are par­tic­i­pat­ing this month and we’ll check out the mo’s on Fri­day 29 Novem­ber.

Alis­tair Cook
Pres­i­dent

MEMBER WELLBEING: Back to Front Xmas Tree

Monday, November 18th, 2019

Our club has a Well­ness ini­tia­tive, which encour­ages club mem­bers to look after their own well­ness as well as con­nect to their com­mu­ni­ty and reach out to oth­ers who may be strug­gling or who are less for­tu­nate.

Last year, club mem­bers were giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to spread Christ­mas cheer by plac­ing a gift for some­one who was expe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness under the back to front Christ­mas tree in the club lounge.

This year, you are being asked to help spread a lit­tle bit of Christ­mas cheer to women and chil­dren who will not be spend­ing Christ­mas as home, sim­ply because home for them is not a safe place to be.  These fam­i­lies will be spend­ing Christ­mas in one of the refuges which sup­ports women and chil­dren who are escap­ing domes­tic vio­lence.

So, if you would like to let these fam­i­lies know that they are not alone and that some­one does care, kind­ly con­sid­er donat­ing a small wrapped gift under the tree which will short­ly be placed in the lounge.

I have spo­ken with refuge staff, and sug­ges­tions for ide­al gifts are;

  • Ladies pam­per kit, sham­poo, con­di­tion­er, hair brush­es and slides
  • Lip sticks, chap sticks, mois­turis­ers
  • Eye shad­ow, mas­cara, eye lin­er
  • Sun­screen, mois­turis­er, razors,
  • Feet care, nail-pol­ish, nail pol­ish remover,
  • Nail pol­ish, emery boards, hand crème
  • Face masks, eye mask, mois­turis­er
  • Mag­a­zine, show­er gels, body sponge/glove
  • Hair treat­ment, brush­es, combs, slides, scrunchies
  • Dry sham­poos, deodor­ants, leave in con­di­tion­er or hair masks
  • Hat, sun­screen, lip balm, sun­nies
  • Oil dif­fuser (no can­dles please), book, face mask

Chil­dren (placed last only because the kids are nor­mal­ly well looked after at Christ­mas, it’s the Women and Mum’s who tend to go with­out)

  • Lego (please place age appro­pri­ate­ness on label)
  • Card games eg, uno, skip-bo, snap-bo)

Any­thing you give will be very much appre­ci­at­ed and will cer­tain­ly bring a smile to someone’s face who is doing it very tough over the Christ­mas peri­od.

Pam Bubrzy­c­ki

Member Wellbeing: Mental Health Week

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

This week is Men­tal Health week in WA and the theme is ‘how we work, live, learn and play’ recog­nis­ing that men­tal health, more specif­i­cal­ly good men­tal health, incor­po­rates all aspects of our lives.

One of the most com­mon ques­tions asked about men­tal health is “Why do so many peo­ple suf­fer from poor men­tal health?”  The answer is very com­plex and as the theme of this year’s Men­tal Health week sug­gests, mul­ti-faceted.

As men­tioned in pre­vi­ous arti­cles, how we work has changed sig­nif­i­cant­ly over the past few decades most­ly due to advances in tech­nol­o­gy.  You don’t actu­al­ly have to be in one phys­i­cal loca­tion to work any­more with many work­places encour­ag­ing flex­i­ble work­ing arrange­ments such as work­ing from home and mobile work­places.  What this means is that the lines between work and home becomes blurred and the sense of belong­ing expe­ri­enced from attend­ing one’s place of work dis­ap­pears.

Humans are rela­tion­al and hav­ing a sense of con­nec­tion to each oth­er helps us to cre­ate our iden­ti­ties and feel as though we are val­ued and belong.   The sim­ple act of see­ing the same peo­ple each day and the rela­tion­ships we build from our work used to last a life­time, how­ev­er, these expe­ri­ences are dis­ap­pear­ing with many peo­ple hav­ing sev­er­al career changes in their lives and the chance to build long and mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships with col­leagues often no longer exist.  If we add to this the fact that many young peo­ple now have to delay their pro­gres­sion to adult­hood until late into their 20’s due to extend­ed peri­od in edu­ca­tion and lack of long-term employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, work no longer pro­vides the same sta­ble oppor­tu­ni­ties to devel­op mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships that it once did.

The same can be said for how we live. It has been sug­gest­ed that this gen­er­a­tion of adults are the loneli­est we have ever been as a soci­ety.  We are indi­vid­u­al­is­tic, liv­ing in our own homes, not know­ing our neigh­bours and many fam­i­lies no longer live in the same coun­try, state or town as their rel­a­tives.  The rate of mar­riage break­downs adds to the dis­con­nec­tion between mem­bers of fam­i­lies.  Sim­ple acts like the fam­i­ly din­ner have dis­ap­peared and rather than com­mu­ni­cat­ing face to face, we text or email each oth­er, some­times whilst under the same roof.

Our places of edu­ca­tion and learn­ing have had to adapt to the changes in fam­i­ly and the make-up of the wider com­mu­ni­ty.  Teach­ers have to add resilience and how to appro­pri­ate­ly express one’s emo­tions to their cur­ricu­lums.  Some schools have tak­en the step of hav­ing a ‘Kind­ness Week” which is actu­al­ly real­ly sad.  We are born to seek out oth­ers and to live in packs and to form mean­ing­ful attach­ments with those we care about who are pre­dictable in their behav­iours and with whom we can share a sense of safe­ty.  Kind­ness is for most, an innate behav­iour and schools hav­ing to ded­i­cate a week to teach our chil­dren how to be kind is frankly quite con­cern­ing.

As for how we play, the obe­si­ty cri­sis in Aus­tralia is tes­ta­ment to the fact that play time is also dimin­ish­ing in our com­mu­ni­ties and with it the chance to prac­tice impor­tant skills like shar­ing, win­ning, co-oper­a­tion and loos­ing.  Like every­thing else in life, if we don’t have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to prac­tice skills, then we don’t know how behave when we win, lose or fail.  There­fore, we sim­ply do not have the lan­guage or skills to be able to cope when life throws us a curve­ball.

Add to this, 9,000 peo­ple sleep­ing rough on our streets every night, the ever increas­ing rates of sui­cide and domes­tic vio­lence in our soci­ety, it is no won­der that our rates of men­tal ill­ness are also increas­ing.

So, what can we do about what seems to be an over­whelm­ing prob­lem?  Like every­thing else that seems unsur­mount­able, we need to start with the sim­ple acts.  Here are a few sim­ple things you can try this week to improve not only your men­tal health, but the men­tal health of those in your com­mu­ni­ty;

  • Pay atten­tion to how many elec­tron­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tions you are send­ing this week. Can you replace some of those with a face to face con­ver­sa­tion or some­thing more per­son­al?  For exam­ple; instead of send­ing a sms or emo­ji for a birth­day, spon­ta­neous­ly vis­it them, phone them to say ‘Hap­py Birth­day’ or send a card with say­ing some­thing thought­ful.
  • Say hel­lo to your neigh­bour when you see them. If they are elder­ly or poor­ly, offer to get them some shop­ping or put out their bin.  A sim­ple act of kind­ness can mean so much, if you do this with your kids, they will learn to care for oth­ers from your exam­ple.
  • Have a board game night with friends and fam­i­ly, let the kids loose and show them that this can be okay (you can also let them win one or two and remind your­self that loos­ing is okay too).
  • Attend one of the local com­mu­ni­ty events for Men­tal Health Week or go to a com­mu­ni­ty event like a school fete. Click here for events.
  • Have a go at doing the well­ness wheel it might help you to iden­ti­fy areas of your life that you may need to pay atten­tion to.
  • Want to know how to invest in your own hap­pi­ness, watch this Ted talk 
  • Go for a walk with the kids around the block before or after din­ner with no devices, you might find out a lot in that walk.
  • Watch a fun­ny movie, laugh­ing togeth­er builds bonds and good mem­o­ries.
  • Book a hol­i­day, you are prob­a­bly due one!
  • Leave work ear­ly or at least on time.
  • If you want to know how lost con­nec­tions adds to the expe­ri­ence of anx­i­ety and depres­sion, watch this Ted talk by Johan Hari or read his book, Lost Con­nec­tions.
  • Final­ly, if you haven’t watched old people’s homes for 4 year olds yet, give it a look. It gives a very insight­ful look into how the sim­ple acts of con­nec­tion and kind­ness change the rates of depres­sion and anx­i­ety.  It pret­ty much sums up the entire theme of men­tal health week and gives some real­ly good feel good moments too!

MEMBER WELLBEING – FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Monday, September 16th, 2019

There has been a huge body of research and evi­dence around the con­nec­tion between what we eat and how we feel and func­tion.  It is now under­stood, that the gut, and specif­i­cal­ly the bac­te­ria in the gut, help to cre­ate and reg­u­late impor­tant hor­mones and enzymes which direct­ly impact our mood and well­be­ing.  Basi­cal­ly, it is like every­thing else in life, the qual­i­ty of what you put in, direct­ly impacts the qual­i­ty of what you get out and how long our bod­ies can work effi­cient­ly with­out suc­cumb­ing to dis­ease.  Check out this arti­cle for a sim­ple yet impor­tant mes­sage which might make you change your mind about what your next meal may be or at least will help you under­stand and track the impact your food choic­es are hav­ing on your well­be­ing.

Pam Bubrzy­c­ki

MEMBER WELLBEING – Achieving a healthy Life and Work Balance

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Most of us are spend­ing more and more of our wak­ing hours at work.  Whilst there has been a sig­nif­i­cant increase in part-time work­ers, many part-time work­ers have more than one job.  Cur­rent sta­tis­tics show that the aver­age Aus­tralian spends some­where between 39 and 50 hours a week at work with those in min­ing, trades and the health sec­tor mak­ing up the major­i­ty of those work­ing long hours.  With these sorts of trends, it is no sur­prise that we spend more time with our work col­leagues than we do our fam­i­lies.  So how do we main­tain our work/life bal­ance, when work is increas­ing­ly creep­ing into our out of work hours?

If your home is like most, you prob­a­bly have an office (or an unused din­ing table) where the work office slow­ly creeps into the home space.    Your mobile phone is prob­a­bly linked to your work email and your car to your phone.  You start the morn­ing check­ing emails on your phone, then jump into the car and busi­ness begins.  You eat lunch at your desk or whilst dri­ving from one appoint­ment to the oth­er and fin­ish the day, parked in your dri­ve way end­ing the last work calls for the day.  Sound­ing famil­iar?

Here’s a few sim­ple ways you can claim back your life and bring bal­ance into your work and home space;

  • Try to avoid eat­ing lunch at your desk. Instead, use your unpaid lunchtime to increase your well­be­ing and decrease your stress lev­els.  Go out­side, to a park, read a book or catch up with a friend.
  • Try doing some lunchtime exer­cise or yoga with a col­league. Hav­ing a laugh with a friend at lunchtime reduces stress and gives you that extra burst of feel good hor­mones to get you through the after­noon.
  • Get into the habit of only check­ing your emails when you get to work. Even bet­ter, don’t have your out­look set to open up at your email.  Try set­ting it to open at your cal­en­dar.  That way, you can start your day on your terms, not every­one else’s.
  • Take your work emails off your phone, or at very least, turn off the noti­fi­ca­tion sound.
  • Leave your lap­top and work phone at work at the end of the day, or at least turn them off.
  • Avoid using your phone on the way to or from work. Instead, play your favourite CD or pod­cast and enjoy the dri­ve.
  • Plan to take your hol­i­days and take them.
  • If you find you can’t get your work done in your work­ing hours, have a con­ver­sa­tion with your employ­er. They may not be aware and may be able to get you some sup­port.  Warn­ing here, more mon­ey will like­ly only bring your more respon­si­bil­i­ty, not nec­es­sar­i­ly improve your well­be­ing.
  • When you get home, do some­thing to end your work day like change your clothes and take the dog for a walk or the kids to the park. This sets the bound­ary between work and home.
  • Leave work doc­u­ments at work. This stops your home office becom­ing an extend­ed ver­sion of your work­place where you are like­ly to do many unpaid work hours.
  • Last­ly, clear that din­ing table and start using it for what it is meant for, fam­i­ly meals. You’ll be sur­prised what you actu­al­ly find out when you sit down as a fam­i­ly or with friends and con­nect over a meal hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion.  I chal­lenge you to use Sep­tem­ber as the “Bring back the fam­i­ly meal month!”

Pam Bubrzy­c­ki

MEMBER WELLBEING – Exam Stress & Anxiety

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Exams can be stress­ful and be anx­i­ety pro­vok­ing. Stress is what you expe­ri­ence when you start to become over­whelmed by a stres­sor (approach­ing exam) and your cop­ing meth­ods are either not help­ful (avoid­ance or risky behav­iours) or not enough.  Anx­i­ety is future based. That is, we wor­ry and feel anx­ious about some­thing we are about to do although our feel­ings and asso­ci­at­ed thoughts may be dri­ven by past expe­ri­ences.

Whether you are in the final years of high school or at uni­ver­si­ty, there is no escape from the expe­ri­ence or pres­sure of exams. Some peo­ple approach exams with a pos­i­tive mind­set, see­ing it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to demon­strate what they know and per­haps pre­fer­ring the short pain of an exam to that of an assign­ment.  How­ev­er, it would be fair to say, these peo­ple are the minor­i­ty.

Exam peri­ods can also be stress­ful for fam­i­lies, as the per­cep­tion and often real­i­ty is that a lot depends on exam results. Whilst there are many path­ways to future aca­d­e­m­ic stud­ies and career choic­es, schools still por­tray exam per­for­mance as a path­way to future suc­cess. So, what can we do to man­age and alle­vi­ate the stress and anx­i­ety asso­ci­at­ed with exam times and what are the signs to look out for if nor­mal stress and anx­i­ety start to become some­thing more.

First­ly, it is impor­tant to under­stand that some stress and some feel­ings of being anx­ious are nor­mal.  Our brains are wired to iden­ti­fy risk and our bod­ies are designed to respond to it.  When faced with a sit­u­a­tion which brings on fear (exam), the brain and body respond by get­ting ready to either fight, flight (run away to safe­ty) or in some cas­es we freeze.  A lit­tle bit of stress is actu­al­ly good for us and has been demon­strat­ed to improve per­for­mance. Why? Because it increas­es arousal and makes you alert.  Under these cir­cum­stances, the brain is able to use the pre-frontal cor­tex (front of brain, respon­si­ble for log­i­cal think­ing, prob­lem solv­ing and con­trol) to approach the stres­sor and use cop­ing strate­gies to solve the prob­lem or resolve the threat. Too much stress and this expe­ri­ence cre­ates a chain reac­tion with the release of hor­mone and chem­i­cals which may make you want to run or freeze. So rather than being able to use high­er order prob­lem solv­ing and think­ing, here, the brain goes into prim­i­tive mode.  Typ­i­cal­ly, this is when you feel over­whelmed and unable to cope with the sit­u­a­tion. Here, the pre-frontal cor­tex is unable to func­tion and the more prim­i­tive part of the brain, the amyg­dala, along with the hypo­thal­a­mus and the pitu­itary gland takes over, releas­ing adren­a­line and cor­ti­sol which can lit­er­al­ly leave you frozen in fear, unable to recall any­thing from all those hours of study and pos­si­bly want­i­ng to run as far away as pos­si­ble.  The more you pan­ic, the worse it gets.

So, what can we do to help man­age stress and anx­i­ety?

Let’s begin with par­ents, why because they can actu­al­ly be cru­cial in help­ing young peo­ple to remain calm.

Parents;

  • Aim to choose your bat­tles and words wise­ly. Do you want your child to do well at school or have a tidy bed­room?  It is unlike­ly you are going to have both so decide ear­ly and stick to it.
  • Pay atten­tion to your child’s emo­tion­al health and well­be­ing. Pos­i­tive mes­sages and sup­port from you in times of stress and what your child learns about them­selves and you at this time will set your child up for life, more so than exam results.
  • Look out for changes in behav­iours and sleep­ing and eat­ing pat­terns. Is your child par­tak­ing in more risky behav­iours ie drink­ing and oth­er sub­stances?  These can be ear­ly warn­ing signs of some­one who is not cop­ing and needs sup­port.
  • Make sure you have a good rou­tine for your child, ie reg­u­lar meal times (even if they don’t eat it or binge at KFC) and good qual­i­ty food.
  • Find some­where in your house where they can study away from oth­er noise and dis­trac­tion. Bed­rooms do not make the best study places as they are for sleep but yes, this will take some nego­ti­a­tion and pos­si­bly a trip to buy some fan­cy study items!
  • When your child tells you that “you don’t under­stand”, they are prob­a­bly right! It is so much hard­er now than when you were at school.  Kids mature lat­er and job prospects real­ly are quite poor.  They are already putting enough pres­sure on them­selves; you load­ing on more is often not help­ful.
  • If your child doesn’t want to exer­cise, go do it your­self. It will help with your stress lev­els too.
  • Let them know that you love them, tell them it is okay to feel stressed and ask them what you can do to help.
  • If they don’t get the results you or they are hop­ing for, it’s okay, we all learn as much if not more from fail­ure than we do from suc­cess.
  • Avoid ask­ing oth­er par­ents or young peo­ple what their results were. Instead, just con­grat­u­late them for try­ing their best and get­ting through the exam peri­od.
  • Focus on sup­port­ing your own chil­dren. Com­par­ing your child to anoth­er is not help­ful and can actu­al­ly be harm­ful.

Students;

  • Break your study down into lit­tle bits and do it often with decent breaks in between.
  • Reward your­self for your efforts with healthy activ­i­ties or treats.
  • Find a study bud­dy, make it fun but get the task done. Being pre­pared is the best way to tack­le exams.  You are less like­ly to want to run if you are feel­ing pre­pared and con­fi­dent and this takes some com­mit­ment from you.
  • Have a good rou­tine, eat, sleep, relax, study, socialise. Rou­tines make life pre­dictable and pre­dictabil­i­ty reduces stress and feel­ings of being anx­ious.
  • Exer­cise doing some­thing you like with peo­ple you like. Exer­cise reduces the feel­ing of being anx­ious, it helps to get those chem­i­cals out of your sys­tem and cre­ates bal­ance and makes you feel good (tru­ly!).
  • If you are feel­ing stressed or over­whelmed, talk to some­one you trust. Peo­ple will lis­ten if you let them know how you are feel­ing.  If they aren’t lis­ten­ing, find some­one who will.
  • Avoid the temp­ta­tion to par­ty hard. Rely­ing on drugs and alco­hol to fix your prob­lems will only bring you more prob­lems.
  • Seek feed­back and guid­ance from your teachers/lecturers/tutors. It is their job to guide you on what you should be study­ing and most of them will do this hap­pi­ly, espe­cial­ly if they see that you are putting in the effort.  If ask­ing in front of oth­ers is intim­i­dat­ing, ask to see them on your own and out of class or send them an email.
  • When faced with the nag­ging bed­room drag­on, give a lit­tle. Just tak­ing up your dirty dish­es to the kitchen is like­ly to cre­ate some sort of har­mo­ny.  Remem­ber, your par­ents real­ly do love you; they just have a weird way of show­ing it some­times!
  • When exams are done, they are done. The results can’t be changed and they are your results.  Com­par­ing your­self to oth­ers is often not help­ful for you or them.  You are all dif­fer­ent and will all get there in the end.
  • Learn from the expe­ri­ence, what worked for you and what might you need to change for next time. It is okay to fail an exam, it is not the end of the world, it might just sig­nal that some adjust­ments need to be made.

For more infor­ma­tion and some use­ful tools for par­ents and young peo­ple on exam stress, anx­i­ety and sur­viv­ing school or uni­ver­si­ty, have a look at the fol­low­ing:

What is real­ly impor­tant to remem­ber is that some feel­ings of being anx­ious are nor­mal.  Feel­ing anx­ious does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean you have anx­i­ety.  Clin­i­cal anx­i­ety requires a diag­no­sis from a qual­i­fied med­ical pro­fes­sion­al and has cer­tain cri­te­ria which must be met.  Clin­i­cal anx­i­ety has a sig­nif­i­cant impact on your abil­i­ty to func­tion, dai­ly and over a peri­od of time or is extreme in cer­tain, sit­u­a­tion­al cir­cum­stances.  If you have any con­cerns about your­self or a loved one, a great place to start is your GP.