Newsletter

Support through the Festive Season 2023

Thank you for partnering with us in 2023. We hope you have a relaxing and refreshing festive season.

Please be assured our counselling and critical response support services remain available throughout the holiday season by calling 1800 818 728. 

Our other services and offices will break from Friday 22nd December 5pm and return Monday 8th January 9am.

It’s About Time

As we approach the end of the year, some of us may have time off coming up or some of us may be busier than easier. Whichever category you fall into, it can be a great time of year to think about how we spend our time and if that matches how we want to spend our time. 

We all know logically that time is a finite resource.

Yet many of us live as if it can be stretched so that we can fit more and more into a 24-hour day.

So given time is limited, deciding how we want to spend it is important.

  • Do you feel you have choice about how you spend your time? Could you exercise more choice?
  • As well as deciding how you spend your time doing things, what do you spend your time thinking about?

“With our thoughts we make the world” said the Buddha.

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Managing Loneliness

Why is it that we can feel lonely in a crowd? How can we feel lonely when we have so many “friends” on social media or apps? The fact is, feeling connected to others depends on the quality of our relationships and how we think about them – loneliness is perceived social isolation. It is normal to feel lonely sometimes, just as it is normal to feel sad or anxious or tired or hungry. However, loneliness becomes a problem when it causes us distress or impacts our ability to get on with everyday life. Although simply “getting out there” and meeting people may be enough for some, for others this may not be enough. Many people live with chronic loneliness and may require a more considered approach in order to feel more socially connected.

1. Accept that sometimes feeling lonely is a normal part of life. Loneliness is a feeling. As with any feeling, loneliness serves a purpose. Rather than viewing loneliness as something bad, we can interpret it as a signal – it motivates us to maintain or repair our relationships. Once we acknowledge that loneliness is a signal and accept it as a normal part of life, we can then attempt to get on with everyday life despite feeling lonely.

2. Monitor your loneliness in different situations. Keep a diary, recording how lonely you feel at different points throughout the day (give it an “intensity rating” out of 10). After a week or two, you may notice patterns in terms of how lonely you feel across different situations.

3. Recognise the power of thoughts. Reflect on the thoughts that run through your head and how they may influence what you do or how you feel. 

4. Be aware of your own behaviour. If you feel anxious about social situations or believe you need to keep your distance to protect yourself, you may tend to avoid forming new social connections. Even though it may feel uncomfortable, try doing something different – talk to your neighbour, join a club, go to a party, or eat your lunch in the common area at work.

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The year comes to its end… What does it all mean?

As the year comes to its end, we might be planning get-togethers for friends and family, perhaps thinking about what this year has been about, and starting to think about what we want for the year that is coming. For some, it’s a time to celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, or the summer or winter solstice (depending on which hemisphere you live in). Whatever we do, or not do, there is something significant about us reaching the end of a year – that point in time where we come to an ending and then re-start, where January 1 marks the re-beginning of a journey that will take us all the way through to the end of December again.

For thousands of years, humankind has marked significant social and natural events through ritual. Rituals are symbolic events, often participated in by large groups of people. They are ways to create meaning. At this time of year, you may want to spend time reflecting on what all the activity, the interactions, and the effort of the past 12 months means to you. Do you look back over the year with a sense of ‘well, that was good’, ‘thank goodness that’s over’, or some combination of both? Do you want to live the same ways in the coming year, or do you want things to be different? And if you want things to be different, what are you going to do so that you create something different? 

So we at AccessEAP invite you to take a moment to reflect – perhaps create your own small ritual. You could light a candle, sit in a favourite chair, go to a place in nature which you find particularly peaceful or beautiful, and take time to think through what this year has been like for you, and what you want for yourself in the year to come. If we are always involved in doing, it’s very hard to break out of the existing patterns of our life. If we make time to reflect and consider, it creates a gap, a small space of new possibility where we can insert a new thought, experiment with a new way of being and behaving, make change so we move in a different direction. When we do that, something different will happen. It can be an experiment we run within our lives.

So try something new, something that inspires you a bit more, that moves you towards something that you will be proud of. A way of being, that when you look back from the vantage point of approaching the end of next year, you can say ‘that was good!’

Wishing you a restful, replenishing and reflective time as this year closes and the next begins.

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Support Act & Ausmusic T-Shirt Day 2023

This November Support Act is partnering with triple j, the Australian Recording Industry Association and other key partners for Ausmusic T-Shirt Day. It's a great way to show support for Australian music - and the people who make it. The day will be held on Thursday the 30th of November and will help raise funds to provide crisis relief and mental health services to artists, crew and music workers who are doing it tough.

"Ausmusic T-Shirt Day is an annual day of fun and awareness, to celebrate Aussie music and raise urgently-needed funds for music workers in crisis. We deliver this through short term financial support; funeral support; mental health prevention, education and training programs; the Mentally Healthy Workplaces Program; and the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline." Visit the Ausmusic T-shirt Day Website here.

Did you know that AccessEAP partners with Support Act to deliver the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline?

The Support Act Wellbeing Helpline is a free, confidential counselling service that is available to anyone working in Australian music (all genres), or the Australian Performing Arts, who needs to talk to someone about any aspect of their wellbeing. It is delivered in partnership with AccessEAP, and is staffed by professional counsellors who offer expertise in all areas related to mental health (e.g. depression, anxiety, addiction) as well as issues which can be mental health-related (such as loneliness, relationship breakdown, financial worries, illness and workplace conflict).

The service is accessible 24 hours a day, 365 days per year by calling 1800 959 500 within Australia. Find out more information about the Support Act Wellbeing Helpline here.

Ending Violence Against Women

With the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th, November is a great opportunity to bring people together – in person or online - to raise awareness and commit to action to prevent violence against women. 

On October 17th 2022 State and Federal governments released the National Plan to end violence against women and children. This 10-year plan includes a framework of actions to end violence against women and children in one generation. It highlights how all parts of society, including governments, business and workplaces, media, schools, and communities must work together towards a shared vision of ending gender-based violence.

Read more about the plan and how AccessEAP can support you and your organisation here - Release of the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032.

The government has now released the First Action Plan (2023 2037). The First Action Plan provides a roadmap for the first 5-year effort towards achieving the vision of the National Plan. It sets out the initial scope of activities, areas for action and responsibility with respect to outcomes, and outlines how they will make the commitments set out in the National Plan a reality. Read more about the First Action Plan and the ten action items they are committing to implement here.

Men's Health - Reach out

Visit the Movember website for additional resources

November is a big month for Men's Health, with Movember spanning across the whole month and International Men's Day on the 19th. Both initiatives are all about promoting men's health and wellbeing, encouraging men to get the support they need. One of the biggest challenges for many men in Australia is opening up and having conversations that can help with health and wellbeing.

The great thing about having a chat is that we can get it out of our heads and find ways to deal with what’s stressing us. Having that conversation early on can mean that we deal with something in the moment and stop it from escalating into something bigger. AccessEAP can help coach you to develop your own coping strategies, ways of thinking and how to work through tough times. These are life skills that can be learned and used when needed.

Here are some tips to help men reach out in times of need:

  • Take action sooner rather than later. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today when it comes to your mental health.
  • Just having a conversation is positive for your mental health. It is not a sign of weakness.
  • Maintain social contactkeep in touch with family and friends. Try a new sport, or activity with others, which is good for physical health and social connection. Sporting clubs are often just meeting places where playing the sport is a bonus.
  • Make looking after yourself a priority. Set goals for sleep, exercise and time out, whether that be fishing, football, or reading. You can’t look after those around you if you can’t look after yourself.
  • Remember that the best health can be achieved by looking after both your physical and mental health. See your GP for regular check-ups and address health issues if and when they present.
  • Ask for help. Challenging life events happen to us all at some point; no one is immune. Has your loved one or partner suggested you get some help? They may have noticed you are not yourself. Equipping yourself with the tools and strategies you need to cope with life’s events can be helpful. Start with your EAP and a confidential appointment to start kitting up.

For more information or to book an appointment, call us on 1800 818 728.

Kindness & Compassion

The month of November is often known for ‘Movember’ – when men across Australia grow not-particularly-good-looking moustaches to raise awareness around men’s health issues including men's mental health.

And the month of November is also about kindness and compassion – with World Kindness Day on 13th November and World Compassion Day on the 28th.

While no-one would argue against the importance of kindness and compassion, their role in the workplace may be seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’. Yet evidence suggests otherwise.

What is compassion? It’s defined as empathy plus action. Empathy is the ability to sense and understand others’ feelings. If we then add insightful and responsive action where our motivation is to assist – an authentic desire to help - then that creates compassion.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review[1] the authors discuss the vital roles of kindness and compassion in the workplace.

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Are you being understood?

In a recent nation-wide study, involving over 4,000 people, almost 1 in 3 Australians reported feeling lonely, with 1 in 6 experiencing severe loneliness.[1] And while 40% of people who said they are lonely live alone, 30% of people who live with others also report feeling lonely.

All this suggests loneliness is a problem in this country.

Continuing on from World Mental Health Day, it is a good time to consider your own degree of social connection and sense of belonging – both important ingredients for good mental health.

When we feel connected to others, we feel understood by them. And feeling understood and connected is a basic human need. It begins from the moment we are born. Loving caregivers want to understand what a baby needs – are they hungry, too cold, too warm? Do they need to be picked up and held? Babies are very good at communicating when they are not understood – they become unhappy and let others know it! And they are also very good at communicating when they are understood – they look into an adult’s eyes and smile, or perhaps laugh and make ‘happy sounds’. It’s obvious when a baby feels understood – they look happy and connect with those around them.

But as we become adults, we can learn to hide when we are not feeling understood – we learn to pretend that we are happy, but inside we know we’re not. Why do we do this? Perhaps we tried to get people to understand us, but we just couldn’t make it happen. Maybe no one really got what we were about. And maybe we started to feel ashamed about that. We started to feel that this was somehow our fault.

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Keep Talking after Mental Health Month

As Mental Health Month comes to an end, it's important to keep talking and checking in with your friends and family as well as colleagues that you are close to. You don’t have to be an expert to support someone going through a tough time. You just need to be able to listen to their concerns without judgment and take the time to follow up with them.

Listening 

A major part of communication is listening. We spend a lot of time talking about listening, and how important it is to demonstrate active listening, how important it is to “be heard”. Listening is a crucial part of what happens when you ask “R U OK?”. Being present, having empathy and risking missing out by putting down your phone and giving someone your undivided attention, is easier said than done. Yet it is fundamental in gaining understanding, having meaningful conversations and establishing or nurturing connections. It is a skill that few truly do well, but when we find a good listener, they are often a very valuable person in our lives.

Listening is so much more than just hearing, or waiting your turn to speak (without interrupting), it is an active skill. Practice active listening by paying attention, asking questions and taking in behaviours as well as what is being said out loud.

10 Tips on how to have an R U OK? Conversation

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Why do we ask R U OK?

R U OK? Day on Thursday 14th September is a reminder of how important it is to check in with each other. We all need a feeling of connection with others for good mental health, and sometimes we see people around us who seem more reserved or less sociable than usual. This is the time we can consider asking R U OK?

RUOK? Day was founded by Gavin Larkin as a response to the suicide of his father. Gavin was determined to try to help others. He championed the fact that a conversation, starting with “are you OK?” can change a life – perhaps save a life. Out of that was born an extraordinary Australian organization whose mission is to inspire and empower people to meaningfully connect with those in their world and lend support when they are struggling.

R U OK? Day creates an opportunity for us all to start a dialogue about mental health, to create an environment of acceptance, and to normalise asking for help. At work, Managers and Leaders play a vital role in the culture of their workplaces. The most direct way to encourage discussion is through talking and encouraging others to talk, especially about what might be uncomfortable topics for some – such as their mental health. Leaders can empower their employees and facilitate a culture where it is normal to talk about how you feel, and for others to actively listen without trying to ‘fix’ anyone. R U OK? Day is an opportunity to discuss the importance of learning the steps and skills on how to ask those who may be struggling if they are OK. Lots of great guidance can be found on their website.

Our emotions are our friends. They tell us how our inner world is going. Learning to listen patiently to our emotions, to hear what they are telling us, and then acting in a way that adds to our wellbeing is a skill learnt over the course of a lifetime. Talking with others about how we feel can help clarify what we need to do to take good care of ourselves. Having someone ask you, genuinely, “are you OK?”, and then them waiting quietly for what you have to say, might be the difference between you feeling confused and lonely, or feeling there is hope and a way forward. The RUOK? website says there are four components to asking – 1. Ask, 2. Listen, 3. Encourage action, 4. Check in.

If there is someone you are concerned about, be courageous and ask “are you OK?” It might make a world of difference. 

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How we view the world

There is a fascinating book written by the psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist about the differences of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. One of his arguments is that the differences are not so much about what the two hemispheres do, it’s about how they approach the world - the left hemisphere sees the world as something we can make use of, while the right hemisphere sees the world as a place we are part of[1]. Both views are needed, and when the system works well the way we make use of the world is seen in the context of our place in the wider picture. But, he argues, we are increasingly losing our way, pushing the view of the right hemisphere into the background as we become fascinated with how we can make use of the world, and increasing the power of the human race over the world. We are forgetting that we are an intrinsic part of the planet that we are constantly using.

This view of humankind’s relationship with our planet Earth – that it is a place we are part of rather than simply a place we make use of – is reflected in many indigenous belief systems. August 9th was the United Nations International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. To quote from the UN website: “There are an estimated 476 million indigenous peoples in the world living across 90 countries… Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment.”

Being curious about these different ways of relating to people and the environment can widen our view on what it means to be human. Without curiosity of others’ views we can become biased that the way we habitually think and the views that we hold are ‘right’, and we can become blinkered to other possibilities, holding on to views that are perhaps lessening the richness of our experience of living.

We are in an era of unprecedented access to the world’s cultures. Through the internet, museums, art galleries, music and dance performances we can experience a huge variety of ways that humans represent their experience of relating to other people and their environment. Being curious about these differences and exploring them might show us different ways of paying attention to the world that makes us question our assumptions – prompts us to ask the question ‘am I sure?’ about a belief or way of being in the world that up till then we have assumed is just the way it is.

So this month we invite you to consider International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples as a reminder – a reminder to take time to explore the different ways indigenous peoples view the world and humanity’s relationship with it. If you come across beliefs that push against your usual ways of thinking, take a moment to ask yourself ‘am I sure?’ and see where that thought leads you.

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2023 Wellbeing Calendar - Quarter 3

Quarter 3 of the Wellbeing Calendar has launched! Building connection is key so we have created the Quarter 3 Pack to help get you started. 

The theme for Quarter 3 is Building Connection, highlighting the following key awareness days: 

  • 2 - 9 July - NAIDOC Week
  • 7 August - Aged Care Employee Day
  • 9 August - International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples
  • 25 August - Wear it Purple Day
  • 4 - 10 September - Women's Health Week
  • 10 September - World Suicide Prevention Day
  • 14 September - R U OK Day

Download the Quarter 3 Pack - Building Connection
Access the calendar and the Q3 Pack (Poster, Infographic & Activity) via the Employee Login Area - https://www.accesseap.com.au/employees/index.php

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Reach out this R U OK? Day

You don’t have to be an expert to support someone going through a tough time. You just need to be able to listen to their concerns without judgment and take the time to follow up with them. If you would like to speak to someone about how to have the conversation or you would like some support for yourself, you can call us on 1800 818 728.

10 Tips on How to Have a Conversation on R U OK? Day

1. Know your colleagues

Relationship building is very important when it comes to mental health in the workplace. You will need to feel comfortable to approach a colleague that you may be concerned about. Also in order to pick up that someone is behaving out of character you will need to know how they usually behave.

2. Approach the person

It may be difficult to do, feeling a little anxious about approaching a colleague to ask them if they are OK is normal, it is necessary that we do it nonetheless. Think about whether you are the right person to approach your colleague, and if for any reason you think you may not be the best person, speak to the appropriate person to approach your colleague you are concerned about. Make sure this is done with discretion and confidentially.

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Mindfulness, getting to the heart of it

Where is your attention right now? Part of it will be on these words, and part of it may be elsewhere. Are you thinking about plans for the weekend? Worries about the cost of living? Remembering that wonderful holiday you had last year? Frustrated at the way a recent conversation went?

All this thinking can make us feel emotionally and mentally jumbled, and, if you consider it, rarely leads to anything useful.

Now, try focusing on just one thing. Your breath. Unlike your memories of the past and worries of the future, your breath is real – here and now. Feel into your experience of breathing in, and feel into your experience of breathing out. Please pause and do this, right now, for a few breaths.

You may notice how your attention can be pulled in other directions other than the breath. That’s OK – just bring it back to the experience of your in-breath and out-breath. Practising mindfulness is not about ‘getting it right’; it’s about practising bringing the mind back to where you would like it to be – on something concrete and real - after it has moved on to something else.

So many words have been spoken and written on mindfulness.

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Feeling Stressed?

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.
  • Behaviorally: avoiding people and places; increasing our drinking; eating comfort food or not eating at all; insomnia.

By identifying indicators that we are stressed, we develop self-awareness that allows us to intervene before we feel overwhelmed. 

Download our 10 Tips for Handling Stress here for a reset, or if you are feeling overwhelmed, book an appointment on 1800 818 728.

Men's Health Week - Challenging Stigma

Many of us have heard the statistics in relation to men's mental health, and it can be very confronting. This Men's Health Week on the 12th-18th of June, is an opportune time to check in with yourself and the people in your life. At AccessEAP, we often hear from men that they feel pressure to be seen as invulnerable, stoic, and fearless. To challenge the stigma around men's mental health we invite you to think about what it means to be a man.

Take a moment and ask yourself, “what does being a man mean? What attributes do I associate with a man?” To find your answer to this, you might try finishing this statement in as many different ways that occur to you: “A man is….” Just write down or speak out loud whatever immediately comes to you.

Whatever you wrote or spoke is indicative of the mindset you hold around ‘maleness’.

When I was around 12 years old, I was playing rugby league at school one afternoon, and during practice, my jaw was hit and pushed up, and to my shock, I was spitting out bits of tooth. I stopped running and looked at the bits of tooth in my hand. The next thing I heard was someone saying, ‘don’t be a sissy!’. Being a ‘sissy’ was clearly not something I was supposed to be.

We all have ideas about what we believe is right/wrong, good/bad, who we are supposed to be/ who we are not supposed to be. These ideas are formed by our upbringing, the society we live in, and our inherited characteristics. In other words, the reasons why we hold certain views is an intricate web of interconnected influences. It can be useful to ask ourselves, ‘do my views support me and the people around me to live a life where I and others move towards a flourishing life?’

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Managing Financial Stress

The way we view our financial situation can shape our thoughts and feelings more generally. Financial challenges can occur at many times during our lives – buying or selling a home, getting married or separated, illness, reduced work hours or redundancy. Understanding financial concepts can be confusing, but getting your finances in order will help reduce stress and get you back on track. Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available.

Here are some basic tips on reducing finance-related stress:

1) Learn to budget: If your financial situation is causing you stress, it’s vital to create a budget. Record all income and expenditures and know exactly what you spend on non-essential items. Be critical of what you are spending and cut down on any unessential items if necessary.

2) Pay off debt: Review and consolidate loans to help get them under control. Pay off your credit card debt and remember to start with the credit card with the highest interest rate.

3) Review fees: It’s important to review your bank and bank products as your life circumstances change. Compare and contrast bank fees and ensure you have the best products for your individual situation. Your bank manager can help talk you through the best options.

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Take Your Dog to Work Day 2023

Friday, June 23rd is this year's Take Your Dog to Work Day. If you are lucky enough to have a well-behaved pup that can come in, make sure you get approval from your employer before you bring your pet in. With many people still working from home, we also encourage you to bring your dog and any other pets to your online meetings (with permission first of course)! 

What should I consider before taking my dog to the office?

It’s important to ensure this does not adversely impact on the health, welfare or working environment of employees, volunteers or visitors to office, or on the health and welfare of the animal or other animals in the office. For tips to make the experience run smoothly check out the RSPCA's Website.

So why bring pets into the office?

If you are an animal person, you are likely to already know that pets can boost your physical and mental health. There are some solid reasons for this.

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Diversity and Inclusion – It’s always been a good idea

The benefits of diversity and inclusion are all around us.

Let’s start by looking at the natural world. To quote the European Commission: “Biodiversity is the key indicator of the health of an ecosystem. A wide variety of species will cope better with threats than a limited number of them in large populations. Even if certain species are affected by pollution, climate change or human activities, the ecosystem as a whole may adapt and survive.”

It’s not a huge leap to see how this quality of our natural world applies to the world of human communities and the community of ideas that those humans generate. Adapting and surviving applies just as much to individuals, groups, teams and organisations as to an ecosystem.

Start with considering what happens inside your own head. Is your habit to think the same recurring thoughts, reading, listening to, and talking about the same viewpoints all the time? Or do you sometimes entertain ways of looking at the world that are less common for you so you have an opportunity to consider situations from a different perspective?

And when we have a group of people who all come from the same background, with similar life experiences and education, these people will all tend to think the same. This might make coming to agreement a piece of cake, but it also can create shared blind spots. Group-think often occurs in teams and organisations where there is lack of diversity. Decisions don’t get questioned, the overall status quo doesn’t get challenged, and as the external environment changes, as inevitably it will, and different threats and opportunities arise, they may go unnoticed or not seen with sufficient clarity until the opportunity is missed or the threat is too great.

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AccessEAP acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Peoples of the lands we live and work on throughout Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters, culture and community as we pay our respects to the Elders past, present and future. We extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples who connect with this website.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are advised that this website may contain images, voices and names of people who have since passed away.

indig_flags.jpg

AccessEAP acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the First Peoples of the lands we live and work on throughout Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to land, waters, culture and community as we pay our respects to the Elders past, present and future. We extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples who connect with this website.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are advised that this website may contain images, voices and names of people who have since passed away.