As we turn towards the second quarter of the year, it's a good time to reflect on how we are travelling and what we want to create as the year continues. With recurring lockdowns and travel restrictions, many of us did not have the break we were hoping for at the end of last year – and without that break, batteries could be a bit low and edges a bit frayed. And now we are facing floods and the loss which accompanies the damage. So if your energy levels are low, you're feeling overwhelmed or a bit "blah", it is not surprising. To support those that may have been affected by the recent events or if you have been directly impacted, please see our article, Support through the NSW & QLD Floods, which includes individual support strategies as well as information for managers and leaders.
Stress can show itself in many forms. As a leader, I am on the lookout for signs of stress and low energy in the people I lead – and in myself. Stress might take the form of headaches and tension; it might be losing your confidence or being irritable; it might be having difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Or stress might cause you to reach for that extra drink, that extra piece of cake, or you might lose your appetite altogether. These are all signatures of the effect of stress to be aware of.
Resilience is a word that is used a lot when it comes to discussing how to respond to stress. The trick is to make the word meaningful for yourself and for those in your organisation, and not just an expression that is equivalent to 'move on and get over it'. The word resilience has been around since the mid-1600s. It's from the Latin meaning 'to spring back.' And that meaning is part of the problem. Sometimes springing back to the way we were is absolutely not what is needed. If I notice my golf-swing is not producing the results I want on a particular course, it may need to adapt to the unfamiliar conditions rather than persist with what I usually do. I like the definition of resilience given by CSIRO Research Fellow Brian Walker – "Resilience is… the ability to adapt and change, to reorganise, while coping with disturbance. It is all about changing in order not to be changed." Resilience is about:
- having available to you a diversity of styles of responding
- being self-aware and open to challenges
- not being over connected with others and your environment (you might get overwhelmed), or under-connected (in which case you may not learn and you might miss the bigger picture)
- being able to respond quickly
- being ready to transform if necessary.
This is a much more nuanced version of resilience than the one we are often told about.
So, how might we all put this version of resilience into practice? I believe it starts with being curious. Curiosity lies at the heart of the joy and excitement of discovery, of finding new ways of doing things, of finding our unique approach to the world that uses our strengths and insights. Curiosity also means we aren't afraid to make mistakes. It's said that when a reporter asked him, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps." A growth mindset is vital.
Being resilient is the ability to bounce back after challenges. During this unprecedented time, we all find ourselves in, building resilience and trying to manage our stress levels can seem even more difficult than usual. As a manager or leader, you will be experiencing your own emotions as well as feeling responsible for your people or teams. As leaders, we are used to being in control and providing guidance and support to others, but we are also human.
Remember that feeling anxious, fearful, stressed, angry and irritable are common and normal feelings during uncertain times. Identify your responses and feelings and ensure that you look after yourself and get support if needed. It is difficult to support others when we are experiencing heightened stress. If you notice behavioural changes like being snappy in a conversation that you would not normally worry about, or being abrupt towards someone you care for, take a moment to use the STOP technique.
- STOP whatever you are doing
- TAKE a few slow breaths
- OBSERVE what you are thinking and feeling –remembering that thoughts and worries are not facts
- Feeling calmer? Go on with the task. Still tense? Get up and move, make a cup of tea, walk the dog, do the dishes. A five-minute break is really restorative!
Click below to refesh on our top ten tips for Resilience.
Stress & Resilience Training
Stress is a natural state which allows our minds and bodies to prepare for the unexpected. Some stress is good: It helps us prepare for a big task and protects against imminent threats. However, a constant state of stress is exhausting and bad for our physical and emotional health.
We show stress in four ways:
Physically: feeling the rush of adrenaline, headaches, muscle tension.
Emotionally: becoming snappy or teary with little provocation; losing our confidence and vitality.
Cognitively: black and white thinking; catastrophising and dwelling on unhealthy thoughts; being indecisive.
Australia is a country of extremes which can challenge us and impact our lives in profound ways. Twelve months ago, we were coming out of one of the worst bushfire seasons in many years, followed by floods and hail storms and then a global pandemic. Right now, parts of NSW and some parts of QLD are experiencing a 1-in-100-year weather event which is causing floods, losses and damage across the State. Natural disasters like the current storms and floods disrupt lives physically and psychologically, creating intense emotional distress for individuals, families and whole communities.
It is important through times such as these to identify those of your people who may have been directly impacted by the storms and floods and provide assistance where possible. Storm and flooding events such as these can be challenging, as the combined uncertainty about the immediate situation as well as fear and concern for what may lie ahead over coming days and weeks as storm waters continue to rise can exacerbate our thoughts and feelings.
As a leader, your organisation plays a vital and valuable role in assisting and supporting your people and their families in the immediate aftermath and moving forward. We encourage you to help your people feel they can focus on their immediate priorities, which is the physical safety of family, friends, loved ones and their homes and possessions. As a leader, take the time to check in with your people, and where appropriate, remind them that their EAP is available and able to help support them through these challenging times. Many people will want to be seen as “coping” so asking how they are going is really important. Being prepared to provide initial and long term support for people will enhance and promote their own personal coping strategies and resilience.
- Normalise reactions: Accept that people will experience a range of emotions and that it is normal. Once the event is over, it doesn't mean people's feelings go away. Acknowledge their feelings and reassure people that their intense feelings are normal given the disaster.
- Ask how you can help: Ask if there's anything that you can do to assist employees or if there is anything they need? e.g. flexible hours, transport or belongings. Keep talking to gain clarity on what assistance they need.
- Do not catastrophise: It is common to reflect on the "what ifs" or "what might have been". Do not speculate on how much worse it could have been. Avoid comparison of stories as each person has a right to their feelings.
To support those that may have been affected by the event, we have included documents for individual strategies (download pdf here) and tips as well as information for managers and leaders (download pdf here). These tools are also available through the AccessMyEAP App.
If you have any questions or would like to better understand what you can do that will meaningfully support your team, the experienced clinicians on our Manager Support Hotline are able to help you help your people. As manager, your individual needs matter just as much. Reach out for support when and if you need it. We are here to help. Contact AccessEAP on 1800 818 728.
It’s been another difficult week for many people around Australia who have suffered physical losses and hardship, which will continue into the next week. A tough 12 months just got tougher for many people now affected by floods and storm damage. It is normal to feel sorry for ourselves and then do a quick check and rank our suffering. We’ve had some of our own people be directly impacted, or had their friends, family and loved ones be impacted.
No matter the scale of the impact to our lives, from wellbeing, physical loss through to hurt we still need to process our feelings, get some support (and maybe some empathy), put it in perspective and keep going. This can be easier said than done, but that is exactly where AccessEAP can help. We're turning our spotlight on the AccessMyEAP App and how it can help you and your people to recognise the importance of looking after your wellbeing and building it into your everyday.
We've created tools that highlight how taking steps to look after your wellbeing can be empowering, as well as suggesting ways to help your people proactively use the resources available to them as part of your EAP. Find our wide range of Leader Tools and Personal Tools, in the Employer and Employee Login Areas of our website. Reach out to here at AccessEAP on 1800 818 728. As always, our people are here to help support you and your people be their best in life and work.
How many of us can truthfully say that we regularly feel fully rested and refreshed after the year we’ve had? Many people often underestimate the importance of sleep to our overall mental health and wellbeing. In the ‘busy-ness’ of our lives, in the general day to day, it is a common habit to prioritise and value an action bias. We value ‘go-getters’, envy those hyper-achievers who can operate on less than 5 hours of sleep every night and daydream of how much more we could fit into our days.
A month ago, we highlighted the large increase in Google searches for insomnia last year. With World Sleep Day last week, it may be just the opportunity to help your people who are struggling to get a good night’s sleep. A restful sleep balances our body and brain. It restores hormonal and chemical balance, and processes the events and experiences we have been through. As leaders, we can promote positive lifestyles and behaviours to our people through some simple messages and show that balancing and integrating work and life is important so we can be our best.
To stay strong and healthy for the next twelve months is probably going to take more self-management than it has in the past – simply because we are facing uncertainty. Self-care has a big part to play, so we will keep reinforcing its importance and offering practical applications. Looking at our sleeping habits is a vital component of a good self-care practice. We've created tools to highlight how to set yourself up for success by implementing good sleep practices, as well as outlining ways to recognise fatigue and start the conversation around the mental health impacts of a lack of sleep. Find our wide range of Leader Tools and Personal Tools, in the Employer and Employee Login Areas of our website. Reach out to here at AccessEAP on 1800 818 728. As always, our people are here to help support you and your people be their best in life and work.
Natural disasters like floods, bushfires, droughts and cyclones, disrupt lives physically and psychologically, creating intense emotional distress for individuals, families and whole communities. Organisations play a vital and valuable role in assisting and supporting their employees in the immediate aftermath and in the days, weeks and months following a disaster. It’s important to be aware that everyone will respond differently and everyone’s needs will be different, initially and over time. Being prepared to provide initial and long term support for your employees will enhance and promote their own personal coping strategies and resilience. The following information may also be of assistance:
For individuals, see our tips and strategies (download pdf here).
As a manager, there are a few things you can do to support your employees (download pdf here):
1. Normalise reactions: Accept that people will experience a range of emotions and that it is normal. Once the event is over it doesn't mean people's feelings go away. Acknowledge their feelings and reassure people that their intense feelings are normal given the disaster.
2. Try to keep calm and lift spirits through community involvement: Provide reassurance that "we will get through this together" and focus on the things that were managed well, e.g. the brave responses of emergency services. People feel united in the shared experience and can support and comfort each other. This connection and sense of helping is critical to coping.
Over the past few weeks, the media has been increasingly filled with challenging stories about allegations and reports of workplace misconduct. The overarching themes are around abuse of power, disrespect, inequity and fear. The recognition of Grace Tame as Australian of the Year 2021 may have encouraged many other women to draw courage and to come forward and tell their stories. These testimonies are coming out in different types of organisations and industries and are challenging leaders to look at their own organisational culture and behaviours within. As leaders, we often look closely at team dynamics to help find ways to support individuals and teams to be their best. It's timely we're talking about the next Quarter of our Wellbeing Calendar, which emphasises positive behaviours in the workplace to identify issues early, raise awareness, build engagement, and embed behavioural change.
This week we turn our spotlight to launching the next quarter of the AccessEAP 2021 Wellbeing In Focus Calendar. We have also created an extra Leader Tool - Championing Dignity and Respect, to support your leaders. Find our wide range of Leader Tools and Personal Tools, in the Employer and Employee Login Areas of our website.
The Wellbeing Calendar and associated tools have been created to help you. Your Wellbeing in Focus Calendar Toolkit includes a Q2 Leader Tool and How-to Guide as well as the Q2 Wellbeing Tools/Tip Sheets. They are available in the Employer Login Area as well as through monthly updates on the Employee Login Area and AccessMyEAP App.
We need to keep the conversation about mental health and wellbeing going. We know it isn't easy, but we are here to support you and your people. Reach out to here at AccessEAP on 1800 818 728. As always, our people are here to help support you and your people be their best in life and work.
Harmony Week is about inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, united by a set of core Australian values. Held on the 15th-21st of March, the week coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21st.
The Australian workplace is changing at a rapid pace as we navigate towards global market trends and the process of working together with First Nations people and the inclusion of multi-cultural, gender diversity together with a growing ageing workforce. For more information on Celebrating Difference and what training we have to support you and your organisation, see here.
At AccessEAP we usually celebrate Harmony Week by participating in A Taste of Harmony, with each employee bringing in a dish to represent their cultural background and sharing the story behind it.
With changing workspaces and food sharing restrictions, how can we keep this great tradition going?
Looking after our physical health is a significant part of looking after our overall wellbeing. Having a healthy lifestyle includes making the right choices such as healthy eating, being active and maintaining a healthy weight. Another aspect is getting a good night's sleep.
We know we need sleep but how do we get a good night's sleep?
It's important to have sufficient, regular, good quality sleep so we can function effectively in our busy lives and help to maintain strong, robust immune systems. Nine hours a day is the standard health professionals suggest while realising that for many people, because of multiple competing demands, this is often difficult to achieve. The importance of short “nana naps” cannot be underestimated, as well as short, still “zone out times” during the day to help us to refresh our brains and bodies. If we review our sleep pattern there are probably some small things we can do to make our routine healthier – and we’re likely to then be surprised by the difference they make.
Some Useful Tips
- Aim to go to bed at a similar time as often as you can so you can have enough hours to help repair and heal the body from the stressors of the previous day.
- Spend a quiet period immediately prior to turning in to help your body and mind settle. That means no phones, tv, tablets etc.
- A warm bath or shower before bed can trick the body into calming down, loosening.
- Get to know your body and the effects of alcohol, spicy food and other stimulants too close to your bedtime.
- Darkening the room so your body automatically prepares itself for rest can be helpful.
- If you regularly wake up during the night and have difficulty falling back to sleep, remember that it may help to get up, have some water or a soothing tea, sit and quietly breathe, rather than lying in bed tense and frustrated that you are awake. Once we notice you are feeling more soothed and settled return to bed.
- Some people find it helps to read for a while or have a shower before trying again. It is to do with interrupting the pattern of tension and trying something different that may help to soothe your mind and body.
It is worth formulating your own list of practical, healthy, accessible, common sense ways to soothe your body and mind, so you can get optimised times of rest and rejuvenation.
As we head further into 2021, I’ve been thinking about ways in which we can take control over areas of our lives and how this increases resilience and overall health. In particular, the connection of mind and body, looking at where Eastern and Western understandings of health can both give guidance.
Finding ways in which we can regain a sense of control in our personal lives despite what is happening all around us can help us with managing our feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. What are things we can do in terms of looking after our physical health? And what are the flow-on effects in terms of our mental health? In the West, we used to look at the mind and body as related but separate systems and illness as a faulty body part. While your sore wrist may be RSI from using a mouse, one way of treating it would be painkillers and maybe a steroid injection. A holistic response looks at your posture, how much time you spend on a computer, what forms of exercise you are engaging in. The Eastern understanding of the body would look at is as a connected system that includes diet, social connections, spiritual engagement – the totality of your life away from work.
A simple way to bring all of our systems together is to have awareness of what we eat and how we move. Both of these activities impact the body and mind. We know the relationship between exercise and mood. There is now a growing understanding of how food impacts our mental clarity and emotional wellbeing: what we eat and how we move influences how we feel, how we sleep – and how we think and work.
Problem-solving capacity increases after exercising – so the idea of clearing your head by going for a walk is an easy starting point; it also increases endorphins, thereby lifting mood. The previous image of the dedicated employee who only eats lunch at the desk has been replaced by a workforce – led by compassionate leaders who lead by example – think walking meetings! At AccessEAP, we know how quickly time passes, so our Wellbeing Champions work with our employees to implement initiatives to remind everyone to take mindful and active breaks. As a leader, role-modelling good habits is essential. Recharging your batteries increases satisfaction and productivity and minimises burnout. Getting away from the workplace, whether on a break from your workspace or around your neighbourhood and enjoying the season – the shade of a tree in summer or bracing wind while rugged up in winter – activates a range of our senses, a key aspect of mindfulness. If you haven’t exercised much, start with a walk, and increase the time and the intensity. No matter what your current level of fitness is, working towards a physical goal promotes mastery and self-esteem.
High sugar/high-fat foods give a short term lift which is often followed by a sugar slump or binge-regrets. I’m certainly tempted by the array of quick and easy local café options but the majority of what I eat I try to be mindful about. The gut and the brain are intimately linked – what you eat affects the production of neurotransmitters. Serotonin is produced in the gut, and so good gut health has a significant impact. Looking after the gut means a high-fibre diet, low in processed food and sugars – which includes regulating your alcohol intake. As with exercise – make changes gradually, so you don’t set yourself up to fail. You may also notice that regular exercise and mindful eating will impact the quality of your sleep. You can get the benefits of small changes as well as a sense of control in a year which still feels unusual.
We're excited to talk about diversity and inclusion this month. With awareness days in general and Harmony Week in particular, it's easy to fall into a tick box routine, invitation to morning tea sent, social media post drafted and approved, and in our busyness to get on with the day to day, we can miss the opportunity for real reflection or discussion. The pandemic has leaders more than ever explaining the "why" behind what we do.
We're turning our spotlight on diversity and inclusion and the strategies we need to foster and develop to achieve real progress personally and in our organisations.
We don't have to look far to see the value in committing to diversity and inclusion in our teams. The benefits are evident when we get it right, but the wins don't always come easy in this area. What does Harmony Week mean for us 12 months on? As leaders, what more do we need to be mindful of when our experiences of workspaces and ways of working are so very different? How can we rise to the challenge of the shifts required to ensure that all of our people's needs are met?
Our leader tool we've created provides practical ways to ensure diversity and inclusion are part of how you and your teams work, while our personal tool provides day-to-day ways to support diversity and inclusion. Find our wide range of Leader Tools and Personal Tools, in the Employer and Employee Login Areas of our website. Reach out to here at AccessEAP on 1800 818 728. As always, our people are here to help support you and your people be their best in life and work.
This month we will be celebrating International Women's Day and Harmony Day within Harmony Week. Harmony Day is about inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, united by a set of core Australian values.
These are just two days that are highlighted but we encourage you to celebrate and implement diversity and inclusion in the workplace across all of March and throughout the year. To support your organisation through this, below are two great resources.
National LGBTI Health Alliance
Inclusive Language Guide: Respecting people of intersex, trans and gender diverse experience
Learn how to use inclusive language in a respectful way with this Inclusive Language Guide
The Australian workplace is changing at a rapid pace as we navigate towards global market trends and the process of working together with First Nations people and the inclusion of multi-cultural, gender diversity together with a growing ageing workforce.
Our business leaders can no longer afford to overlook diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The challenge to organisations is the 'how to' effectively harness and embrace the richness of difference in a way that generates wide ranging solutions and boosts the wellbeing of staff. The current workforce is looking to their leaders to ensure all employees are considered when programs and opportunities are offered - that unique strengths and struggles are taken into consideration.
What do we mean by diversity and inclusion?
Diversity means all the ways we differ, all the ways we are unique. This includes, for example, cultural heritage, gender, sexuality, age, physical and mental ability. Some of these differences we are born with and cannot change. Inclusion puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect and connection where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value. Organisations need both diversity and inclusion to be successful.
Businesses can maximise the productivity and efficiency of their diverse workforce through:
One of the elements that underpin personal and organisational resilience is planning. Planning done right means that we have taken the opportunity to think clearly about the environment our organisation currently operates in and where we are heading into the future. When we take stock of our organisational strengths, culture, people and teams, we can identify those areas where there are gaps to grow into.
We've turned our spotlight to managing through change. How can we as leaders, identify the areas within our control that we can positively support growth and balance the needs of individuals, teams and our organisation?
Our new tools highlight the importance of a “life audit” and offers some practical tips to identify whether we are working towards those goals that are important. They also explore strategies to help your people achieve their goals while recognising the ever-present need to keep pace with change. Find our wide range of Leader Tools and Personal Tools, in the Employer and Employee Login Areas of our website.
Being proactive when planning and preparing our people for change can quickly move the dial into positive territory. More and more, we are talking about the importance of a growth mindset, both personally and professionally. Our Organisational Development Team are experts in this area and are here for you. If you have any questions or require support, reach out to here at AccessEAP on 1800 818 728. As always, our people are here to help support you and your people be their best in life and work.