Tag Archives: mental health

Caring For The Carers: Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips

Caring For The Carers

Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips For Health Professionals (and everyone else too!)

Sarah is a caring 36-year-old nurse working long hours at the local hospital. Sarah is also a wife and a mother to two gorgeous kids. Yet, Sarah is at her wit’s end. You could say that ‘her candle has burned at both ends’.  Sarah is exhausted. Physically, emotionally, psychologically. She feels burnout. She remembers fondly the time she started her nursing studies. She loved the idea of becoming a nurse. These days she shudders at the thought of having to get off the bed to go to work. See, the shifts are just too long, the demand too great and her life seems an endless procession of chores, even with the help of her husband and the grandparents. But what could Sarah do?

Sad as it is, Sarah’s plight is far too common.

Here at the WMHI, we work with organizations from a whole range of different industries. From the public sector, through to private corporations and not for profits, and with people in engineering, finance, education, construction, mining, defence, IT, you name it!

In recent times, we’ve seen much more attention paid to the work of health professionals and those in caring roles.Along with that, we’ve also seen an increased awareness of the importance of the mental health and mental wellbeing of those health professionals themselves. After all, they are people too, and in order to be best able to serve and support their patients, they need to be well themselves.

We were recently asked about mental health and wellbeing for staff in the health & medical industry. Below is our response to three questions we were asked. I think you’ll find many of the ideas can be translated across to any industry. What do you think?

Caring For The Carers: Mental Health And Wellbeing Tips

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Why is it so important for a workplace in the medical sector to be aware of the mental wellbeing of their staff, as well as their patients?

  • Staff in the health and medical sector, and caring professions in general, are well known to be at higher risks of stress, burnout, and mental health issues themselves.
  • Part of this is due to the nature of their work, where staff are often dealing with people in highly emotional contexts and also because of the long hours and shift work. Most people came to the sector because they care about people, and want to help, but without the right working conditions, skills and tools, they can often end up suffering ‘compassion fatigue’ where they simply become tired of caring. For some people this means, they become less effective at their jobs, no longer able to give the patient the emotional support, nor the bedside manner, that benefits the patient so well. For others, this can lead to frustration, angry outbursts, conflict within teams, and even an end to their employment in a particular role (either by choice or following an incident) and, at the more extreme end of the scale, suicide.
  • Another contributor to the increased stress amongst medical staff is that as a customer facing role, they are also many times subject to those people in the general public who may take out their fears, frustrations and anger on service providers. In the worst cases, this can escalate to outright aggression and abuse, where the medical staff are required to maintain their emotional maturity, stay calm and handle each situation appropriately and respectfully. That can be a tall order for someone who is already stressed.
  • These two elements combine with what is often a very busy working environment, with a high volume in terms of workload, time sensitive job tasks, and high stakes work, coupled with many legal obligations and consequences.

Do you have any advice for workplaces in the health industry, about a few ways that they can prioritise mental health for their practitioners?

  1. Make mental health and mental wellbeing a part of the conversation and make people mental health aware from Day 1 of working in your clinic or practice. E.g., make it part of your induction training, share tips for staying calm under pressure, managing stress, and building resilience in your meetings or newsletters, put posters around the office.
  2. Don’t wait for people to be stressed or develop mental health problems before doing something about it. Have conversations early, provide training in personal resilience, managing stress and compassion fatigue, and mental health.
  3. Make sure the leader practices what they preach, use a strengths-based approach when interacting with their practitioners at all times.
  4. Make sure the job demands are doable within the time frames provided. Don’t ask one person to do the work of three people with no extra time (or pay!) provided.
  5. Make sure people have time during the day to get out of the practice, and get fresh air, sunshine, a bite to eat, stretch their legs and have a change of scenery. It does wonders for productivity as well as mental health.
  6. Make an Employee Assistance Program or independent counselling available for staff and their family members, should they need a safe, private and confidential space to get further support.

 What would your top 3 tips be for health practitioners to prioritise their mental health?

Yes! We have more than three tips:

  1. Remember WHY you got into this profession and WHAT you love about it. Write it down and put it somewhere you can see often.
  2. Practice your Self Care activities daily – encompassing the basics like good nutrition, movement, sleep, enjoyable hobbies, and also more advanced strategies like making daily gratitude lists, mindfulness or meditation practice,
  3. Notice ways of talking to yourself that make you feel good, and ways you talk to yourself that make you feel bad. Then do more of the first and less of the second.
  4. Every time you have a success, get a thank you, or positive feedback from a patient, capture it. Put it on a pinboard somewhere, or keep it in a file you can go to whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, disillusioned, or have had a difficult patient/procedure/day.
  5. Make sure to keep talking. Debriefing with colleagues, friends or family members (while ensuring confidentiality is maintained) can be vital for maintaining a healthy perspective. And if you need to get more professional, objective help, reach out early. The sooner you get support, the quicker and easier it is to get back on track.

 

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an Anxiety disorder that is triggered as a result of some serious trauma. The Diagnostic Statistic Manual version V states that “Post traumatic Stress Disorder is characterized by the re-experiencing of an extremely traumatic event accompanied by symptoms of increased arousal and by avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma. (DSM-VI)”

In layman’s terms, this means that some people tend to re-experience the feelings of distress and horror from after having gone through some extreme negative event. This can be very disruptive to the person’s life and cause a high level of dysfunction. In the most extreme cases, people have resorted to suicide in a desperate attempt to obtain relief. The classic example of PTSD is that of the returned war veteran that has experienced severe trauma in the battlefield and keeps having flashbacks to being back in the battlefield.

Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder

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This is serious trauma. If you suspect you or a loved one maybe suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I suggest you to talk to us or to another fully qualified mental health professional fast. In the meantime, make sure you provide appropriate first aid.

On the positive side, note that, while it is normal for people to have a reaction to a traumatic event, most people recover naturally with time, never get to experience PTSD and go on to lead trouble free lives. Yet in some individuals, these experiences do turn into trauma and could be diagnosed as having PTSD. There are good and valid reasons as to why this happens and the good news is that there are effective treatments that can help you recover.

Please, if you suspect you or a loved one maybe suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I suggest you get help fast. If you would like to further your training, you might want to consider running the Mental Health Essentials course in your workplace where we deal with disorders in greater detail and we show you how to apply a first aid response to mental health emergencies at work. (read our blog – First Aid for Mental Health Problems – W.A.R.M.)

Author: Peter Diaz

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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The Rise Of The Senseless Crime – What ’s Mental Health Got To Do With It?

Police-line-do-not-crossJust a couple of days ago, in Brisbane out of all places, a man approached another man, and set him on fire. When the attacker appeared in court, he’s described as ‘numb’. Then we are informed that this man has a history of mental disorders. Is there a connection? I guess we’ll never know for sure what on earth possesses a man to do something as horrible to another human being but I can tell you one thing: a mental disorder rarely does. But, drugs, any kind of drugs, do.

A number of eminent psychiatrists and scientists have been warning us for some time now about the power of drugs, medication in a medical setting, to turn us into ‘unfeeling’, ‘numb’, ‘zombies’. Or as I like to call it, ‘chemically induced psychopathy’.


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Drugs can, and often do, impact on our ability to make decisions. Just ask anyone that has ever had a few too many drinks. So do medicines. Am I saying no one should take medicines? Absolutely not. That would make no sense. What I’m saying is that we need to be more aware of their impact on people so we can monitor the effect of medication more closely.

There’s a reason why so many voices are saying that we, as a society, as people, are over medicated. There’s also a reason, and a valid one, why so many voices, educated, experienced voices, are saying that, on the whole, psychiatric drugs, do more harm than good.

Let’s not rush and stop all medication. But let’s take some responsibility and start having an honest conversation.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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‘Work-Life Balance’ is a trap

Work life balanceA colleague of mine was putting together some guidelines for her company about how to minimize workplace stress, and stay mentally and emotionally well at work, and she asked me to have a look over it and provide some feedback.

Looking at the list of strategies her company had come up with, I noticed that about 90% of them focused on things like limiting work hours to the 8 hour shift, making sure to ‘switch off’ from work as soon as you leave, not accessing work emails and phones outside of work hours, and basically adhering to a strict distinction between “work time” and “life” time. Now this isn’t an uncommon idea, we’ve all heard of the phrase ‘work – life balance’, but let’s delve in a bit deeper.

If you look at the language used in this expression and the subconscious connotations it sends, you might come to the conclusion that it would be better not to use the phrase at all, and definitely not promote it.

Firstly, when we juxtapose two ideas like this next to each other, we are implying that they are opposite of each other, or at least very distinct and different elements. This is especially dangerous when we compare ‘work’ and ‘life’. Let me ask you – what is the opposite of life? …. It’s ‘death’, right? So by juxtaposing work and life, we are actually equating ‘work’ with death! Are you not alive at work? When did ‘work’ become a bad thing?

Now I know this isn’t what is intended when people use the expression, or recommend it to others, but, psychologically, this interpretation can be made very quickly and subconsciously, without us really paying any conscious attention to it. After all, it’s not what we mean, but what is being heard.

If we really buy into the idea of work-life balance, it often is not long before we experience ‘life’ as good, and ‘work’ as bad, and then it makes sense to want to put some limits and boundaries around how long we spend in that ‘bad’ place. As a manager, is that the message you want to send your staff?

But what if work wasn’t bad at all? After all, the research shows that overall, work is good for your mental health and for recovery from mental distress. And what if work was simply a part of life? What if you even enjoyed, looked forward to, and found fulfillment in your work?  Would you want to limit how long you spent in that state?


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Now of course, our lives are rich and full of different aspects. It is important, and most people get a great sense of fulfillment from spending time, energy and attention on other things too, like family, friends, health, travel, hobbies, etc. We should make sure we do have time for these activities. But there is inherent danger in separating work from these areas, and viewing it as a negative part of life.

Our recommendation would be to find work that you do enjoy, and is fulfilling, where you are not spending each day watching the clock and measuring, to make sure you give no more than you have to. If you love what you’re doing its not work anyway.

If you look at the people who are very successful in their field of endeavor, whether its business, sports, creative arts, parenting, or anything else, they don’t usually stick to a minimum number of hours. They don’t need to ‘switch off’ afterwards, because they love thinking and talking about their passion.

So, next time you catch yourself talking about ‘work-life balance’, think about this. It’s all ‘life’ – there are 24 hours a day and your life is made up of how you choose to spend your time. I hope you’re doing something you enjoy.

And if you’re a manager, I’m sure you appreciate a team of people who enjoy doing what they do, and are flexible enough to take on some additional responsibilities from time to time, or do some overtime occasionally. And of course, as a manager who is conscious of mental health and wellbeing, you wouldn’t take advantage of that flexibility, and you would appreciate and recognize that person’s contribution.

Author: Emi Golding
Emi-Golding-blog-imageEmmaline (Emi) Golding is a registered psychologist and Director of Psychology for the Workplace Mental Health Institute. With experience both at the frontline and in Senior Management positions within mental health services, Emi is passionate about educating and expanding people’s knowledge of mental health issues, particularly within workplaces. For her own well being, Emi loves to dance and spend time with friends. She also enjoys learning languages and travelling to new and exciting places around the world.

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Peter-with-Lucas

A dummy in each hand and one in the mouth – values and the smart manager

Pedro Diaz with Lucas DiazToday I’m going to write a different type of blog. Stay with me. I had to share. This morning as I reached into my pocket I felt a weird, clunky thing. I didn’t know what it was but then it hit me, a dummy! My son’s dummy (“pacifier” for our international audience) How cute. It put a smile in my heart. I remembered that my son, Lucas, who is just a little over 2 years old, this morning had lots of dummies. Three to be precise. He had a dummy in each hand and one in his mouth. This morning he had to have all the dummies he could find. I found it interesting because he wasn’t distressed. So, I asked myself, why? and it dawned on me, ‘he just feels good with them’. He feels safe. But not just any kind of safe. These dummies make him feel safe emotionally. So much so that now, he treasures these dummies.He obviously doesn’t need that many dummies but he  appreciates them for what he feels they give him. Safety, peace, balance. Now, obviously the dummies don’t give him these feelings, he creates them out of association. And as a result, he also now feels grateful for the dummies. Lucas VALUES his dummies because, unknowingly, he values how they make him feel.


You can read more on workplace mental health and wellbeing….


Now I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of dummies for babies and children – this isn’t a parenting blog. But it made me think – what about us? Grown ups? Are we any different? Or similar? When most people think of work, their job, how do they feel? Most don’t look forward to going to work. Many even get anxious about going to work, like I did for many years. Why? If we let little people’s experience teach us, it’s because we have not linked the fulfillment of our values with what we do. We don’t think they are linked.

The smart manager will pay attention now. When people feel their values are being met in what they do, they become passionate. They are at peace with themselves. Happy. In short, it’s good for their mental health. Makes sense, right? So why isn’t this happening everywhere? Why aren’t managers helping people link their values to what they do? This is going to make them mentally healthy and more valuable employees, right?

The problem is, most managers don’t know this, and if they do, they don’t know where to start. The values conversation has been relegated to something the company does every couple of years that doesn’t mean much to anyone else but the leadership team. And it’s only a conversation about the company values, not the individual employee’s personal values. That’s what we need to change. We need to make values relevant to all our employees. We need to help them see how the values of the company relate to their individual values. We need to meaningfully engage them in the process of clarifying their own values, the values of the team and the values of the company. And then, the effective leader, will speak of them often. Regularly. Because these values have become your ‘why we do things the way we do around here’.

That makes for good mental health.

By the way, Lucas held onto the dummies until we arrived to childcare. And when we arrive he knows they go in his bag, where he can get them anytime he wants. But he’s usually having too much fun to think about them through the day. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had as much fun at our workplaces as kids do at daycare?

PS if you want help to start a mentally healthy values conversation in your workplace, give me a call and I’ll get my team onto it.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Zen and The Art of Effective Anxiety – 10 Tips To Hold On To Your Anxiety

It’s not always easy to hold onto your anxiety. At times, when you least expect it, a strong feeling of relaxation can come over you. To make matters worse, although anxiety is common, many people out there want to stop you from feeling anxious and uptight. Oh! How much do we love you dear anxiety! The feeling of nervousness, restlessness and discomfort that is caused by some inner storm that does not let us stay in peace. There is absolutely no way in which we would want to steer clear of the path that leads to your home.

If you too love this feeling of uneasiness and discomfort, then we bring 10 tips for you that would help in keeping your beloved anxiety by your side, always.

  • Live in Dreams – This is the best thing that you can do in order to maintain the level of your anxiety. Real fears are far smaller than we imagine them to be. When you plan to stay away from reality and live in a hypothetical world, there is no way in which your stress would lower and your anxiety would go away.
  • Never Face Your Fears – If you don’t see your fears coming, there is no reason why you have to face them. A great way to increase your anxiety is to never face your fears. Running away from stress or social situations that cause anxiety can be a great idea.
  • Never Meditate – Meditation relaxes your mind and also provides you the much needed peace. For holding on to your anxiety, never even think of doing any kind of meditation.
  • Never be social – Being social means spending your time in positive activities around positive people. If you become social, the fear of a gathering will never bother you and this resilience will make your anxiety disappear. Never do that then!

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  • Don’t take responsibility for your problems – There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. If it wasn’t everything and everyone else, your life would be perfect! Remember: Anxiety and stress do not interfere with your personal, professional and social life. Therefore, you don’t have to accept that you have a problem and you don’t even need to make an effort to solve it. So, keep blaming your problems on everything and everyone else and keep telling yourself how great you are.
  • Never Divulge Your Issues To A Confidante – If you talk to people about your fears and your issues or even maintain a log about them, you will never be able to maintain your anxiety. The stress of being with people and talking to them is too much for you to handle. Better be alone and try to be happy with your anxiety.
  • Never believe – whoever tells you that you can get over anxiety is a fool. Don’t trust him. He is just misguiding you.
  • Worst Case Scenario– never think about being ready for the worst case scenario. This would help you in decreasing your anxiety and staying happy. The worst thing you can do for your anxiety is to think of other options.
  • Have unrealistic expectations – whenever you have unrealistic expectations for yourself or for others, you get to increase your anxiety. Why not keep doing it again and again?
  • Don’t get help – anxiety cannot be cured. It is something that you must live with. There is practically no use going to a doctor nor attending a Mental Health First Aid Course. Getting help or treatment would only waste time and money. After all, you are probably the only case in the world that no treatment exists for anyway!
Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Jim-Avoiding-Professional-Burnout

Avoiding Professional Burnout

No matter how much you enjoy your job, there are times when pressure or stress can start to take an emotional toll on you, particularly if you are in a service or healthcare related field. It is important to be able to spot the symptoms associated with professional burnout.

Burnout occurs after a prolonged period of stress under which a person feels that their emotional resources are not good enough to endure or overcome the obstacle. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness and a host of emotional and physical symptoms.

Let’s take a look at Jim, for example. Jim is a healthcare professional who is very committed to his job and genuinely cares for the patients he sees on a daily basis. His job is rewarding but he is also often witness to pain, confusion and sadness as his patients are often ill or dying. Jim works long hours and often takes work home with him or comes in on days off just to check in. Over time the emotional strain begins to build up until eventually Jim starts to feel exhausted, unmotivated, and helpless. He starts to experience sleepless nights, jaw clenching, and elevated blood pressure. His family and friends worry that he “isn’t his usually happy self.”

Jim is experiencing burnout caused by prolonged stress that he did not take the time to deal with properly. There are several self-care actions that you can put into place before letting burnout take hold. Self-care is the practice of activities that individuals perform on their own behalf to maintain life, health and well-being. Jim was dedicated to his career and to his patients, but he neglected to take care of his own personal needs.


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You can start by taking the first few minutes of each day and making them about you. Most people rise from their beds at the sound of an alarm clock and immediately start to “work.” They might get dressed, check e-mail, care for a spouse or child and rush out the door quickly. Instead, take the first ten or fifteen minutes of each day for meditation, or reflection. Spend time mentally preparing yourself for the day by focusing on positive thoughts.

Another way to practice self-care is to be mindful of your diet and exercise. Proper nourishment gives us energy and stamina to get through our day. Building a healthy body through wholesome foods and physical activity decreases the chance of sickness, improves sleep and makes us feel happier.

Limit the burdens you place on yourself. Do not take on more than you can reasonably do in a day and enlist the help of people that care about you when you feel overwhelmed. Do not stay connected to your technology all day long, occasionally take a break. It’s alright to be “unreachable” from time to time. Remember that by not focusing on your own needs and your own health you could be impacting your ability to do your job or take care of your loved ones. By practicing self-care you will become healthier, more positive and more focused than ever before. And obviously you can consider attending to our Mental Health First Aid Training where you will learn the signs and symptoms of these mental health problems, where and how to get help, and what sort of help has been shown by research to be effective.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter-Diaz-AuthorPeter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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