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MENTAL HEALTH STRATEGIES - Are You OK?

2019/2020 have seen Australia in particular facing unprecedented situations. From November 2019 significant parts of Australia was under threat from bushfire. As a nation  we have rallied together.  Just as many communities  were starting to contemplate the recovery process, Australia and for that matter the world is now facing an unprecedented situation as our health authorities and governments act to manage the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus).

It is understandable and very normal to not feel OK in challenging times such as these. Many of us have had to rethink the way we do business, how we interact with people and how we go about our daily lives without the luxury of being able to gently transition in to our new way of life.

We are being bombarded with some much information and misinformation that we often feel overwhelmed by what we read.  At the present time, despite the requirements of social distancing the ever increasing shut down of non-essential services, we must continue to promote a sense of community by asking them “Are you OK?

The other day, I saw a young lady who was tasked with disinfecting the baskets and the handles of the trollies at the supermarket.  I noticed that despite the large spray bottle and the even larger pile of paper towel, she was not wearing any gloves.  I told her that she need to get some gloves to protect herself. In walking off I realised that I had pair of nitrile gloves in my bag so I turned back and gave them to her. She was very thankful and when I saw her later, I noticed that she was smiling, because someone had bother to care about what she was doing and her safety.

If you’re feeling well and able to support someone, practically or emotionally, here are some practical things that you can to do improve your mental health and others. Going into a period of social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine may feel daunting or overwhelming, and can contribute to feelings of helplessness and fear.  So here are some things that may help you through this period

Manage your exposure to media coverage - Restricting news items to 2 per day – using a reputable and reliable source

Show compassion and kindness to one another –

  • Ask people at the beginning of each meeting – R U OK! It is important that we ask people if they are OK or if we can do anything to assist – that may be a simple as helping them with navigating online shopping or walking a dog for them or just being there to listen to how they are feeling.
  • If your normally socialise with a group of people for “Friday night drinks” or morning coffee then have Friday night “virtual” drinks or  “virtual “coffee”
  • Don’t assume that everyone has the same mastery of the internet and technology that you do.
  • What help or training can you offer other people – it may be as simple as helping them with Zoom, or social media.

Actively manage your wellbeing –

  • Setting up a regular schedule of work /daily routine
  • Set up regular times to speak to students, team members, friends and family
  • Make sure you allocate yourself time to get some fresh air (walk, bike ride, a bit of gardening etc being mindful of 1.5 m social distancing requirement)
  • Developing daily goals of what you want to do (do not be too ambitious only needs to be 1 or 2 things)
  • Setting too many daily goals can have the opposite effect.
  • Reflect on what you achieved in the day.

Staying connected through the COVID-19 crisis

If there is someone you think may struggle through social isolation, it is important to reach out to them and let them know you care:

  • Call them to check on their welfare
  • Send an email
  • Leave a note under their door
  • Don’t underestimate the power you have to offer hope to another person.
  • We encourage people to get creative with how they interact, here are some ways to stay connected if self-isolating:
    • Participate in neighbourhood events like – neighbourhood bear hunts
    • Set up a gratitude tree – where every member posts a message or sends a text to other members to share something they are grateful for.
    • Find a buddy, or group of, to set daily challenges with. These could include a healthy habit, a mindful practice, a creative pursuit. Be sure to encourage and check in daily to stay motivated.
    • Set dates and times to watch the same TV shows/movies with someone and message each other your thoughts along the way… 
    • If your local community has one, join its social media group! This will keep you up to date with what’s going on directly around you. It may also include ways you can perhaps reach out and connect with someone less fortunate than you and ways to assist them

 Follow a “calm yet cautious” approach – do you best to remain calm and be mindful not to contribute to the widespread panic that can hinder efforts to positively manage the outbreak. Ensure you are following directives issued by the government, medical advice and observe good hygiene habits.

Strategies to cope with social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine - Going into a period of social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine may feel daunting or overwhelming, and can contribute to feelings of helplessness and fear. In addition to the above, we encourage the following;

  • Perspective – try to see this time as unique and different, not necessarily bad, even if it something you didn’t necessarily choose
  • Connection – think of creative ways to stay connected with others, including social media, email and phone
  • Be generous to others – giving to others in times of need not only helps the recipient, it enhances your wellbeing too. Is there a way to help others around you?
  • Stay connected with your values. Don’t let fear or anxiety drive your interactions with others. We are all in this together!
  • Read that book, watch that show, take up that new hobby.
  • Try to see this as a new and unusual period that might even have some benefits.

For more information and assistance: 

Lifeline - 24 hour telephone counselling service. Phone: 13 11 14  http://www.lifeline.org.au/

Mensline Australia  - A dedicated service for men Phone: 1300 78 99 78
http://www.mensline.org.au/

Kids Help Line - young people aged between 5 and 25. Phone: 1800 55 18 00
http://www.kidshelp.com.au/

beyondblue Support Service  Information and referral to relevant services for depression and anxiety related matters. Phone: 1300 22 46 36
http://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/get-immediate-support

R U OK? www.ruok.org.au

Black Dog Institute - The Black Dog Institute is a world leader in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.
http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/gettinghelp/overview.cfm

Carer Gateway - Are you one of the 2.5 million Australians who care for a loved one, friend or neighbour? www.carergateway.gov.au

Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation. http://www.headspace.org.au/