Today is R U OK? Day - a conversation could change a life...
A reminder to check in on one another, to listen, and to support those around us. It is crucial to foster open conversations about mental health and well-being. These times may be challenging, so please read on to ensure that you have the resources and support that you, or your loved ones may need.
By asking the question, R U OK? you can make a difference. Here's how...
Or you can watch this short video to see how to open the conversation...
Here are a few resources and initiatives you may find helpful:
24/7 crisis lines
You can call these crisis lines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you or someone you are with is in immediate danger, please call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.
Talk to a trained mental health professional any time of the day or night. Calls are confidential. They will listen, provide information and advice, and point you in the right direction to seek further support.
24-hour crisis support telephone service. Lifeline provides 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services.
A telephone counselling support line for children and young people ages 5 to 25 and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
A mental health professional will answer your call about mental health concerns for you or someone you are concerned about, including children, teens, adults and older people.
National services that provide free 24/7 phone, video and online professional counselling to people who are affected by suicide.
If you would like to talk through difficult issues, and work on ways to improve things in your life, get in touch with me to book an appointment either in person, or online.
ph:0414 99 66 13
Our Comfort Zone is the space or activities in our life where we feel confident, a sense of ease and familiarity, and not at risk in any way. Many factors can create changes to the how comfortable we are engaging socially with our friends, in our work, and in our environment.
At times in our life, we may notice our comfort zone is smaller than we would like, limiting our enjoyment of life. Experiencing things like anxiety, depression, fear of COVID, bullying, poverty, marginalisation etc., can result in our comfort zone becoming smaller, contracting to protect ourselves.
For example, if we are frequently overwhelmed by noisy, chaotic social settings, or with people who don’t respect our boundaries, we may decide not to accept invitations and stay home instead, losing connection with friends over time. Or at work, we may not back ourselves to take on something new.
However, by challenging ourselves to expand our comfort zone, we can embrace more experiences and grow our confidence. If we identify the social settings, activities or people that suit us better, and challenge ourselves to meet healthy friends in those environments, we increase our comfort zone. Or at work, we could opt in to be part of a new project or training opportunity, and encourage ourselves to take a manageable step forward.
At times, we can feel way out of our depth, overwhelmed and highly anxious or uncomfortable - we can call this the Chaos Zone. It is important to notice when we are in the chaos zone, so we can move back to safety where possible. Chaos for too long can cause our comfort zone to shrink.
What is your Comfort Zone?
When and where do I feel safe, confident and comfortable?
Who do I feel safe, confident and comfortable with?
How is my comfort zone limiting me?
Next... the Challenge Zone
Stepping out into the challenge zone is the space where we are gently pushing ourselves, creating a healthy stress response, using greater concentration and focus. Ask yourself:
What stretches me?
How, when and where can I step slightly out of my comfort zone, in a way that challenges me, without it feeling chaotic?
What do I need to learn or change to help me cope better in the challenge zone?
How would I recognise the growth points, or moving towards the goals I am setting?
The chaos zone is the space and activities where we feel anxious, not in control, or overwhelmed and at risk in some way, creating a high level of discomfort.
When and where do I feel overwhelmed or unsafe?
Who do I feel at risk, overwhelmed or unsafe around?
What causes me to feel overwhelmed, chaotic or out of control?
How can I decrease the time I spend in the chaos zone?
While we can’t always avoid the Chaos Zone, it can be helpful to identify it in order to understand ourselves better. Similarly, by identifying any limits to our Comfort Zone, we can take small steps work towards challenging ourselves to overcome these limitations, and live a bigger, more satisfying life.
Take a look at your Comfort Zone, answer the questions above, and see if you’d like to challenge yourself... just a little.
Let's re-brand the message...
I'm calling it Physical distancing, rather than social distancing, because what we still need is social connection - just in different ways. The benefit of our internet world is that we can still connect with others without the risk of spreading infection. Yes, keep the recommended physical distance from others, but it's important to stay connected with yourself, and others - in different ways. Let's explore some ideas...
Stick to a routine
Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
Get dressed in neat and comfortable clothes each day. Have a shower, wash your face, brush your teeth. Put on some bright colours.
Stay hydrated and eat well. Stress and eating often don’t mix well and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, or avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat nutritious food, and challenge yourself to learn to cook something new.
Stay active and connected
Get out at least once a day for at least 30 minutes. If you are concerned about contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening, or in quiet areas/streets. Open the windows and let some fresh air in.
Similarly, find time to move for 30 minutes each day. If you can’t get outside, there are many videos and apps that offer free workouts and movement classes. If all else fails, turn on the music and dance.
Reach out to others at least once a day. Try to do FaceTime, Skype, phone calls, texting. Connect with others to seek and provide support. Do this for your children as well. You can set up virtual movie nights on Netflix or do online workouts together.
Find a project (fix something, learn a language, take up a musical instrument, do a giant jigsaw), or re-engage with creative activity.
Practice radical self-acceptance. We are doing too many things in this moment, driven by fear and stress. This does not make a formula for excellence. Instead, give yourself what counsellors call “radical self-acceptance”: accepting everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. Check out this 2 minute video:
Reduce your (information) exposure
There is no benefit to constant exposure to information about COVID19. More information will not reduce the risk to you or your loved ones, so limit social media and COVID conversation, especially around children. One can find tons of information on COVID-19 to consume, and it changes minute to minute. The information is often sensationalised, negatively skewed, and alarmist. Find a few trusted sources that you can check in with consistently, limit it to a few times a day, and set a time limit for yourself on how much you consume (consider 30 minutes max, 2 times daily). Keep news and alarming conversations out of earshot from children—they see and hear everything, and can become very frightened by what they hear.
Notice the good in the world, the helpers. There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information to take in about this pandemic. There are also plenty of stories of people sacrificing, donating, and supporting one another in wonderful ways. It is important to counterbalance the heavy information with the hopeful information.
Manage your worry
If you are struggling with worry and anxiety, try practicing mindfulness: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/default-source/psychological-toolkit/7-mindfulnessineverydaylife-(with-gp-notes).pdf?sfvrsn=6),
and worry management techniques such as worry postponement: https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/~/media/CCI/Consumer%20Modules/What%20Me%20Worry/What%20Me%20Worry%20%2003%20%20Negative%20Beliefs%20About%20Worry%20Uncontrollability.pdf).
Reachout.com has a great app called ‘worry time’ that can help you to take control of your worry (https://au.reachout.com/tools-and-apps/reachout-worrytime).
We cannot think or worry our way out of this situation, particularly by focusing on the ‘what ifs.’ It can help to write down your worry, and decide if it is a current problem (the negative consequence has already happened or is definitely going to, in which case you can problem solve) or a ‘what-if’ (something that might happen in the future, so worrying leads to pointless rumination: if it hasn’t happened yet, you can’t fix it).
Make some time in each day to explore the things you are grateful for. You might consider things like family members, the delicacy of a leaf or flower, your health Whether big or small gratitudes, connecting with them can be a powerful way to re-frame your situation and soothe anxiety.
Change your focus
If you notice you are anxious about things that are more difficult ,or that you don't have access to, try to 'flip it' by acknowledging what is the benefit of the situation, how adaptable you and others are, notice kindness wherever you see it Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can't, what you have rather than what you don't.
Taking care of family and children
If you have children, spend extra time playing with them. Children often can’t communicate clearly about how they are feeling, but will often make a bid for attention through play. Don’t be surprised to see themes of illness, doctor visits, and isolation play through. Play is cathartic for children – it is how they process their experience and problem solve.
Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and practice patience. A lot of cooped up time can bring out the worst in everyone. Each person will have moments when they will not be at their best. It is important to move with grace through blow-ups, to not show up to every argument you are invited to, and to not hold grudges. Everyone is doing their best to get through this. So...
Some of this content was adapted by Fiona Shand from a social media post by health professional Eileen Feliciano
I hadn't planned anything for this blog, but came across the following from the Simple Savings Newsletter this morning and thought - I couldn't have said this better...
If the holiday season currently has you feeling overwhelmed, or stressed, or panicking, or worrying how you are possibly going to afford things, or how you are going to be able to live up to everyone's expectations, STOP for a moment and read the following words, slowly. Read them as many times as you need to.
0414 99 66 13
Our view of any situation – the way we perceive things - is our Reality. You may have noticed that your Reality isn’t always shared with others! In fact, we all have our very own Reality about things (which is at the heart of most disagreements and a great subject for a future post!).
Vanessa Steele: counsellor, mum, partner, blogger... listening and learning every day.