R U OK? Day, the real impact - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

In September we are promoting  R U OK Day?, the suicide prevention and awareness foundation established by Gavin Larkin following his personal experience of loss to suicide. Having a conversation and encouraging those at risk to seek help is the real impact of this very special foundation.

I want to take the opportunity this September to focus on young people. As an EAP we see and support many young people. In fact 10% of our clients are aged under 25. We see young people who are employed by organisations such as food outlets and retailers, or are family members of employees. Indirect support is also provided to young people through their parents who will often seek our guidance through counselling.

The statistics regarding youth are sombre. Suicide is the second largest cause of death amongst people aged between 15 and 24 years, with motor vehicle accidents being the leading cause. Research also tells us that up to 50% of young people admit to thinking about suicide.

With the emergence of social media we have also witnessed some concerning trends in regard to youth suicide, e.g. cyber bullying leading to suicide attempts. Programs such as “13 Reasons why” appeal to youth as it draws attention to youth suicide, and whilst the storyline is controversial, it highlights the concerning trend that suicide is seen as an option for many youth who are struggling.

You may be reading this as a parent, teacher, or manager of a young person, and wondering what you can do about this. The aim of the R U OK Campaign is prevention through reaching out and connecting with each other. This is particularly relevant for our youth who may find it difficult to talk about feelings. I believe the first step is to educate ourselves about the stressors that are faced by young people, and how they cope or don’t cope.  We need to understand why youth suicide and attempts are occurring at rates not seen before in history. We need to find ways of reaching out.

Communication and having a conversation about suicide is a cornerstone of prevention. However, this can also be a challenge when it comes to young people. It can be difficult for example, to know how to connect with someone for whom a string of emoji’s is the preferred form of self-expression. 

To recognise young people's preference for accessing information by audio or video we created the AccessEAP EAP in Focus App. Information on how to access services and the basics of what happens in a counselling session can be listened to discreetly anywhere at anytime, requesting a counselling session can be made via the app or website. Connection to these services via the App is seamless and fast and is an area we are continually investing in to ensure we keep up with the pace of change vital to engagement for all employees. We are also seeing an uptake in the use of email counselling sessions, where written rather than verbal connections can be made. One of our strategic initiatives is to develop chat counselling and online booking as these services will be attractive to young people. Part of my role as a leader at AccessEAP is finding ways to connect with our younger employees, and helping our customers to do the same. This isn’t always easy but I think we have an obligation to expand our awareness and understanding of the challenges of being a young person in 2018. We will be seeking your input in the next Customer Satisfaction Survey this month.
 
At AccessEAP we also employ clinical professionals who are trained and experienced in working with young people, and so if you don’t know where to start a conversation, I’d encourage you to reach out to us for guidance. Also, please take a look at the article “Talking to Young People” in this newsletter for some useful tips.
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Talking to Young People

The rates of youth suicide and self-harm in Australia are concerning. Yet many adults, including managers, colleagues, teachers, and even parents, often struggle to know whether, and how, to initiate a conversation with a young person. It can often be difficult to even identify the need to have a conversation. Signs of depression in a young person may, for example, be dismissed as just part of the emotional struggles faced by all youth while they establish their independence and identity, during the transition into adulthood. A young person may also be actively concealing their struggles from others due to factors including pressure to maintain a positive image, and feeling ashamed or embarrassed. 

The clear message from the R U OK? foundation is that conversation is critical to suicide prevention, and if in doubt, we should reach out. This is not always a simple task, particularly when it comes to a young person. Concerns about intruding on a young person’s privacy, anxiety about how they will react, and fear of making things worse, are all common reasons that an important conversation may be postponed or avoided.   

We’ve put together a few tips which we hope will help you to confidently initiate a conversation with a young person.

10 TIPS for Having a Conversation:

1.    Encourage and show acceptance of different forms of non-verbal self-expression. This may include use of social and digital media, music, etc. Do your own research by trying to understand the appeal of these alternative forms. You don't need to adopt their use but through understanding their importance you may reach common ground faster.

2.    Pay attention to, and show an interest in, these more subtle forms of self-expression.

3.    Try to reflect the emotion when you notice it, e.g. “I can see you’re upset or sad”. The use of digital check in apps can be helpful in framing this conversation. For example, see the AccessEAP EAP in Focus App Check In. 

4.    Validate their emotions, that is, let them know that there is no right or wrong when it comes to feelings.

5.    Give them the choice or option to share with you. Discretion is important so giving an option of how they would like to share with you may also be important.

6.    Choose a time when you are free to listen without distraction.

7.    Select an environment that is safe and comfortable for them.

8.    Avoid referring to your own past experiences or offering solutions, unless they ask you for this. Remember that every generation has had some reason to fear for it's young. Digital, connected mobile technology is today's but previously it was dancing like Elvis Presley or growing your hair like the Beatles! 

9.    Put assumptions aside and ask open questions about what they are experiencing.

10.  Normalise help-seeking and self-disclosure as a coping mechanism. The EAP In Focus App provides an audio FAQ around what happens in a counselling session and why it can be helpful. This is a very non-confronting way to get this information across.

If you would like to know more about these strategies and others, AccessEAP offers a free and confidential counselling service to all employees. Recognising the preference for different styles of communication; counselling is offered face to face, over the phone, by email or video chat at a convenient appointed time.

For further information please contact us on 1800 818 728.

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Customer Shout Out

We love to talk about it when our customers do something quite special. We will be using this space quarterly, to recognise achievements in workplace wellbeing. Often we will know about a particularly beneficial initiative undertaken by our customers as we are part of the project. However, if there is something you would like to share, please feel free to email with the subject line: Customer Shout Out.

Some recent examples are building the AccessEAP Ambassador Program, proactive Domestic Violence Policies, Workplace Wellbeing Challenges and more! Sharing these great initiatives is a wonderful way to recognise excellence and build on learnings.

 

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Top 7 Tips for Happiness

In the 1970’s, when society was slower paced and all about flower power, Thich Nhat Hanh, famously said "There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way". Unfortunately, now this seems like a throw away sentiment that we may find emblazoned on a t-shirt, but the message it sends actually runs far deeper than that. What Buddhist monks, and psychological theory, has been trying to express to us, is that the way we understand and accept ourselves and our environment, is far more influential on our experience of happiness, than the material things which we accumulate. In other words, each and every one of us has the ability to" live happiness" if we allow ourselves the freedom to do so. This in turn allows us to appreciate more fully, our work, our home, and our hobbies.

Here are a few tips to promote self-acceptance, resilience, and psychological flexibility:

1. Stop the comparisons!

When we take the time to stop and appreciate the people around us, and all the things we have already achieved, we open ourselves up to experiencing something wonderful. All too often, this wonder can be rapidly eroded when we compare ourselves to others who appear to be richer, stronger, faster, more beautiful (and the list goes on and on and on). So stop comparing! There will always be people who appear to have more "things" than we do. Constantly trying to catch up to them prevents us from living our own life to its fullest.

2. Commit to seeing life in a positive way.

Focusing on developing an optimistic outlook not only helps to elevate mood by changing the way we feel – for the better - but when practiced often, cultivating an optimistic outlook protects against problems such as depression, anxiety and stress. Thinking optimistically is a skill that can be learnt, and this type of thinking helps to improve our experience of happiness.

3. Move that body.

The link between our mind and body is clear. When we exercise regularly the benefits become obvious, though please remember, training like an elite athlete is not required! To get the benefit that exercise brings we need to find what suits our lifestyle and daily routine. Walking, swimming and yoga are great when it comes to relieving stress.

4. Laugh in the face of stress.

Stress is inevitable and happiness does not mean we eliminate stress in our lives – in fact some stress is actually beneficial. Firstly, we need to take an inventory and identify the things that make us stress out. Then, we need to make plans which allow us to neutralise the impact of this stress.

Some ideas to manage stress include:

  • getting the challenging stuff done first instead of putting it off and dragging out the pressure
  • stimulating our senses with music, pleasurable scents (like aromatherapies), or getting a massage, on a regular basis
  • spending time with people who make us laugh
  • spending time in the outdoors
  • reading great books
  • enjoying time with pets.

5. Improve your relationship with sleep.

Some of our best growth and learning is done while we sleep – and it is important to note that it’s all about quality, not quantity. Understanding our sleep wake cycles and optimising our sleep environment can help us to get a better quality of sleep. When we feel well rested, we promote a state of openness that allows us to appreciate more fully, our work, our home, and our hobbies. So turn off screens before bed, minimise caffeine intake a few hours before sleep, and make your bedroom a warm and cosy place that entices rest.

6. Get an app to help boost happiness.

There are many apps which are designed to keep us calm, train ourselves to be mindful and help us to appreciate the life we have. Popular options are:

The great thing about apps are that they are usually with you wherever you go, and there are so many to choose from that you can find the app that is perfect for you.

7. Pay it forward.

One of the easiest ways to "live happiness" rather than chase it, is to pay it forward. Ever noticed how a smile from a stranger can change your day? Or how helping someone in need helps you feel on top of the world? Acts of kindness and generosity can do so much more for the giver than the receiver, so if someone reminds you how kind people can be – pay it forward and spread it to someone else.

AccessEAP provides confidential counselling services and psychological related training for employees, managers, family and friends. For more information, please contact us on 1800 818 728.

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Food for thought or thoughtful food?

No one wants to be told what to eat. It takes us back to our childhood, memories of “you can’t leave the table until you have eaten your greens” or “your hair will go curly if you eat your crusts”. Unfortunately the take home message with these statements can often lead to unhealthy relationships with food and body image.

When we talk about diet and nutrition at AccessEAP, our focus is on your mental health and wellbeing. We know that what we eat has direct impacts on people’s emotional resilience, and our intention is to help people achieve an optimal level of wellbeing. Australia’s Deakin University recently conducted pioneering research into this and found that diet has direct links to depression.

Eating a poor quality diet can increase the risk for common mental disorders like depression and anxiety. Eating highly processed food has been associated with a smaller hippocampus – a critical part of the brain that is responsible for learning and memory, as well as regulating mood.  It can also encourage a constant, low level of inflammation throughout the body. These are risk factors for mental illness, and gut bacteria may play a role in the regulation of mood. Omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish, appear to be helpful for people suffering from quite serious depression. Similarly, there are studies starting to emerge to suggest that zinc or vitamin B supplementation may be helpful for some.1 

As employers and leaders more and more we find ourselves in the all encompassing workplace wellbeing space. There is an expectation that workplaces will provide healthy solutions in a number of areas not traditionally considered to be an employer's responsibility.

With Food and Mood as our theme this month, how do we incorporate healthy eating options into the workplace without becoming the “food police”?

There are some practical ways that organisations can encourage healthy eating in the workplace without becoming divisive or making employees feel bad about their food choices. Remember the intention is to help your employees bring their best selves to work. Consider what food options you offer at the workplace, including for catered work events. Look at reducing the foods that are known to offer little nutritional benefit and slowly swap them out for healthier choices. At AccessEAP for example, we started by simply adding celery, carrot sticks and grapes to the cheese and dip platter for after work social events. It was incredibly well received.

Also consider whether there is a place set aside for people to eat at your workplace. This is important for several reasons. Firstly it discourages employees from purchasing take-away food (which is usually the less healthy option). Secondly, in addition to what we eat, how we eat it can be very important. Here’s where leadership can play a role, modeling good lunchtime behaviours is crucial. We need an opportunity to take in our lunch and rest for a while before we start back to work. It’s not surprising to learn that a “proper” lunch break will leave you refreshed and much better positioned to be productive after lunch. For this reason, at AccessEAP, our leaders actively discourage people from eating at their desks and encourage designated lunch breaks for mindful eating.

Remember when I said slowly, there isn’t a need to rush and make sweeping changes. Know your people and gauge the right pace of change. We regularly have our Nutritional Consulting partner, Melinda Overall from Overall Nutrition in to help us dispel the myths around food and diet. Straight after her last presentation, which included how milk is processed to become “low fat”, a show of hands unanimously led to the milk order being changed the next day – full cream for AccessEAP!

1. Deakin University Food and Mood Centre http://foodandmoodcentre.com.au/diet-and-mental-health/

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Food & Mood Webinar

Webinar Date and Time:
Tuesday 24 July 11am – 11.30am
It is commonly accepted that there are direct links between physical health and food choices. There is now however also a growing body of evidence to demonstrate that the food we eat affects our mental health and plays a significant role in our overall wellbeing. This session aims to explore the mechanisms through which food choices impact on our brain function and mood. Conatct your Relationship Manager to book in or find out more. 

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How to eat well on the clock

We all have the best intentions but eating well when we have time and budget constraints can really demotivate us. Here are some practical ways to eat well on the clock! Fail to prepare - prepare to fail. This may seem pretty harsh but it sums up the need to plan and prepare where food is concerned. 
 
Some simple meal planning and preparation can help keep you safe from the temptation of fast foods. Knowing you have a nutritious and delicious meal in the work fridge will keep you going, save you $$$ and potentially your waistline. Here is a great recipe for Baked Beans from Melinda Overall. You can find this and other recipes on the Overall Nutrition blog
 
Try taking these baked beans to work, heated on a piece of wholegrain sourdoughbread. Add some ham off the bone, shaved parmesan or even a side of sliced avocado or tomato. These baked beans are good. Whenever. Any season. Any meal. Happy baking of beans.
 
About the beans:
Beans (legumes) are a rich source of vegetarian protein and also an excellent source of dietary fibre that helps to lower cholesterol, supports digestive health and prevents unnecessary spikes in the blood glucose levels (they are low GI). They also provide antioxidants, plenty of B group vitamins and a range of minerals.

What you need:

375g dried white beans ( you can use whatever beans you like…haricot, cannellini, aduki beans..they all work)…soaked overnight and rinsed.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (I used big ones)
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 tin organic diced tomatoes
500ml stock (I used vegetable stock)…you may need a little extra later
3-4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari sauce
Sprinkle of chilli flakes (optional)
Goodly pinch of Celtic sea salt … don’t be shy
Good sprinkle of white pepper

Method:

In a large heavy based pot, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion, garlic and carrot until the onion is translucent. Whilst still on the heat add the beans, tomatoes and stock. As that bubbles away add all the other ingredients and stir well.

Take off the heat and cover the pot (oven-proof lid or foil) and bake in the oven (at about 150 degrees) for about 3 1/2 hours. Check on the beans each hour or so to ensure there is enough liquid in the pot. Add a little extra stock if needed. I added a little extra to mine about 45 minutes before the end. Do some chores or put up your feet and read a book while you do the important "work" of looking after your beans!

Overall Nutrition partner with AccessEAP to provide Nutrition Consultations for our customers. The initial consultation is part of you EAP session entitlement and can get you started in the right direction.

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We appreciate your feedback

Thank you to all our customers who took the time to respond to our March 2018 Customer Satisfaction Survey. We are pleased to report that approximately 90% of respondents were very satisfied by the timeliness of responses to customer requests and needs.  As always the real benefit of the survey is in highlighting areas for improvement.

There have been a number of changes in our Relationship Management area with a focus on Customer Experience. Additional resources have been added to the structure and we are very excited about delivering some innovative new approaches to our customer support services. 

Your support and honest feedback is truly respected and appreciated. We at AccessEAP look forward to continuing to provide best practice EAP service to you and your employees.

Feel free to provide feedback at anytime via our website or email

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How to make a real change?

We live in a society where alcohol is a socially acceptable drug and form of relaxation but what happens when excess becomes a problem? Support is available via counselling or training through your EAP.

The reasons that people consume alcohol and drugs are varied however the misuse of these substances is common and can have harmful consequences for your mental health and wellbeing. All alcohol and drug use (including legally prescribed drugs) causes some change to brain chemistry, although the risks and effects of this are different for each person.

One way to identify whether your own alcohol and/or drug use is having a harmful effect on you is by the impact it’s having on your life. It can sometimes be difficult to notice the effects, especially if the changes have been gradual or you have found ways to adjust. However, make a note of how often you have experienced any of the following as a result of alcohol or drug use:

  • · Unable to attend work
  • · Missed important events or activities
  • · Feel uncomfortable around people
  • · Friends or family have expressed concerns
  • · Intentional self-harm
  • · You felt unsafe, or were harmed by someone
  • · Experiencing a lot of conflict, or strained relationships
  • · Financial stress due to the cost of substance use
  • · Unable to concentrate or remember things
  • · You harmed someone else or caused damage to property
  • · Physical injury or health issues
  • · Unable to function day-to-day e.g. sleeping or eating

TIPS FOR MINIMISING HARM

  1. Take regular breaks from using alcohol or drugs
  2. Keep a limit on how much you consume at any one time
  3. Find a healthy solution to the stresses in your life
  4. Keep away from people or activities that encourage alcohol or drug misuse
  5. Ask friends or family for support with these changes

If you are concerned about the impact that drug and alcohol use is having on your life, our free and confidential counselling service may be able to assist you to identify strategies for making some positive changes.

 

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A little less conversation a little more action - CEO Feature - Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

The late, great Elvis Presley wasn’t singing about improving mental health support for men but it certainly sums up what many men are looking for, according to research conducted by Sydney University’s School of Psychology1

The research found that men tend to want an idea of how treatment is going to work from the outset, a structured plan for working towards recovery, the power to gain skills that help them deal with depression and to feel in control of their lives.

Men account for two thirds of all suicides, have higher rates of substance abuse, and are the main perpetrators of violence against their partners. We see in our own data that men are also much less likely to seek support services such as counselling. This is often attributed to the stigma associated with seeking help. One of the most common findings from research to date is that men believe that showing any form of vulnerability equates to weakness. The reasons for this are likely to stem from the societal expectations that have been assigned to men. Traditional ideas of masculinity expect men to be stoic, invulnerable, and reject displays of emotion.

In my view these expectations are unrealistic as we are all human and humans have feelings, no one is immune. Some common myths about counselling are that you will talk for an entire session about emotion, it’s just a big ‘talk fest’ and how will talking help? Some believe that you have to talk about your childhood and not everyone wants to do that. It is important to help men understand that counselling is talking but there is a goal, there are objectives, strategies which are decided and counsellors do talk to help men understand feelings. In counselling, an individual only talks about what they want, they do not need to talk about their childhood. It is uncomfortable to talk about feelings but like anything new it gets easier with practice.

Our role at AccessEAP is to assist the men in our workplaces, and our personal lives, so that they do not continue to struggle with emotion in silence. We do this by providing skills and education and breaking down stigma. In subscribing to old ideas of masculinity as a society, men are taught to be uncomfortable with emotion so they lack confidence to manage emotion, and perhaps even fear it.

At AccessEAP we offer solution-focused, short term counselling support. Our counsellors understand the importance of helping clients to understand the counselling  process and set goals, while gaining skills to help deal with depression or anxiety. With a plan and skills, these can practiced outside the sessions. The good news here is that managing emotions (both your own and that of others) is a skill that can be learned and developed, much like riding a bike.

Our professionals are trained in approaches that offer practical steps that men can use to improve relationships, and stop the destructive pattern of harm to themselves and others. We want to be part of the solution in every sense of the word.

1.  https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2017/10/30/mental-health-providers-need-to-better-engage-men-with-depressio.html

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Men's Wellbeing

We often hear from men that they feel pressure to be seen as invulnerable, stoic, and fearless. This can lead to unrealistic expectations that as a man you should be able to cope no matter what, and “get on with it”. Emotions become synonymous with weakness and powerlessness. Men may also dismiss their feelings as unimportant and worry about burdening other people with their concerns.

Men experience emotions just as much as women do, however the pressure not to show emotion or vulnerability means that emotions will build-up and result in what appear to be random and unexpected behaviour. Reluctance to talk about or acknowledge emotion can manifest in all sorts of unhelpful ways including:

  •   Excessive alcohol use

  •   Addiction to gambling or betting

  •   Ending relationships prematurely

  •   Resigning suddenly from their job

  •   Stopping activities of interest e.g. sports

  •   Neglecting friends and family

  •   Working longer hours

  •   Communication only via emails or text messages

  •   Aggression or violence

  •   Excessive time watching fantasy films, or gaming

    What can AccessEAP do to help?

    We can provide a comfortable and private space to talk where there isn’t pressure to bottle things up. A person who is experienced in understanding human emotion and behaviour can listen without judgment and without consequence. We can even offer tips or strategies, if that’s what is wanted or needed.

    EAP sessions are free and confidential. You choose how much you want to say and what you want to focus on in the sessions.

    How to arrange an EAP session

    All that you need to do is contact us on 1800 818 728 and our Client Services Team will book you in for an appointment with one of our clinicians.

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Save time to make time

We have been gradually putting together a list of some ways to save time in our everyday lives. Not all will suit everyone but you may find one or two that can make a difference.

  1. Don’t procrastinate when it comes to tasks that can be done in under 5 minutes, just get up and do it. Putting it off can more than double the time spent.
  2. Make important decisions early in the day when you are fresh rather than trying to do this at the end of the day. Things take a lot longer when you are tired.
  3. Play an up tempo playlist to get you moving and up the pace when you are doing physical activities like showering, changing, brushing your teeth, cleaning the house or ironing. It can reduce boredom and add some fun.
  4. Keep distractions at bay – if you need to focus on a task turn off your sound notifications and put your phone out of sight. You will be a lot more efficient.
  5. Don't be available all the time. Check emails at intervals and attend to several, at a time, rather than responding to every message that pops up.
  6. Use an app that blocks your access to time-wasting websites. These maybe online shopping sites, travel sites, you tube or linked in. There are apps you can download that will temporarily block the sites that you know waste your time.
  7. Say no to invitations you don't actually want. Think about what you really want to do with your free time – don’t be rude but don’t say yes just to keep the peace.
  8. Always have a 'to-do' list. Prioritise the most important and dedicate time to focus on these tasks first. Tasks can be rated in terms of whether they save or make money, whether they have a deadline or whether they are critical to other things happening.
  9. Automate as many of your daily tasks as possible so you can focus on bigger things. Online grocery shopping can be time consuming until you have your regular lists set up. Save time and money as you are less likely to be tempted by impulse buys. Meal delivery services are free to join and can be suspended for lengthy periods. They aren’t cheap but may help you get through a particularly busy few weeks. Check out what bills and payments you can automate safely. Make sure you still reconcile at the end of a set period so you keep on top of expenses.
  10. Consume your audio while you do activities that don't require a lot of concentration, like cooking or cleaning. Podcasts, ebooks, even making some phone calls where you know you will be on hold for a period of time.
  11. Avoid sitting at the computer without a plan for what you are going to do there. Your free time can disappear very quickly. Try to put a time limit on how long you are going to spend on Facebook or researching a car, holiday, phone plan etc.

Let us know what works for you by emailing . We will share tips in upcoming newsletters.

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Self-care: if not now, when?

It's easy to put off looking after yourself. There seem to be so many other priorities that keep getting in the way. However, taking some time to notice and act on how you are coping with added demands, could help in all areas of your life. Self-care becomes particularly important when you work in a job that requires a lot of emotional energy. Often the day to day nature of this work can leave you feeling that you have few resources to take care of yourself and little time for the people who are important in your life. It can be common to feel tired and lethargic by the end of the day or week. Sometimes switching off from work can be difficult. Jobs that typically require a lot of emotional energy are also often very rewarding and involve making a positive difference to individuals or communities, and there are ways you can make this work sustainable for you.

Signs that you really need to take care of yourself better may include:

  •   Too little or too much empathy for others

  •   Resentment toward your job

  •   Adopting a negative view of people in general.

  •   Difficulty controlling your reactions to others.

  •   Reduced job satisfaction.

  •   Harmful behaviour to avoid or escape thinking about work. Could include drinking more alcohol than usual.

  •   Distancing yourself from people, withdrawing from social situations where you need to talk to people.

  •   Increase in complaints or conflict at work.

    There are things you can do to take care of yourself to ensure that you are able to keep up the meaningful work that you’re doing now and into the future.

10 TIPS for SELF CARE:

  1. Recognise that this is a common reaction during times of stress or in emotionally demanding jobs, and learn from your peers about different ways of building resilience.

  2. Look for the good in people and situations.

  3. Allow time for healthy distractions away from work e.g. a “feel good” movie, listening to comedy, hobbies, sports, and social outings.

  4. Keep your body healthy through a good diet and exercise.

  5. Remember your personal values and qualities that motivated you to choose this job.

  6. Make note of the positive impact you have through your work.

  7. Focus on what you can control and on small achievements rather than things you cannot change.

  8. Ask for help and support as soon as you notice yourself struggling.

  9. Schedule regular opportunities to formally debrief, e.g. professional supervision.

  10. Look for ways to manage or minimise stress in other parts of your life.

If you would like to know more about these strategies and others, AccessEAP offers a free and confidential counselling service to all employees.

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Mindfulness your way - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Mindfulness, a practice based in Buddhist tradition, continues to be a hot topic and has gained increasing popularity as an effective technique for managing and reducing stress. Many of our counsellors at AccessEAP integrate mindfulness-based strategies, as the results can often be seen and experienced relatively quickly. I think it’s important to point out that mindfulness is very effective but only when used as one of a number of strategies in a holistic approach toward improved wellbeing.

At times, mindfulness is very helpful and at other times it’s just not. When miindfulness works for me, I am truly focussed on the task at hand, engaged in the process, listening attentively, feeling in sync both mind and body and achieving results. Recent research has told us that for mindfulness techniques to work, we must have a methodology around when and how to apply it. Let me share an example from my personal experience. As the CEO of an expanding organisation that deals with the complexities of human emotions and behaviour, I am faced with multiple and competing demands on a daily basis. My job often requires that I: apply critical thinking to make an assessment; think ahead to future strategy; consider past learnings; and put contingencies and plans into place. When involved in these tasks it would not necessarily serve me well to pause and “pay attention to the present moment without judgement’, as the widely accepted definition of mindfulness advises.

At times, however, there are moments when I need to stop, pause and be present in order to be productive. It may be that thinking about the past, or the future or too many things at once, has me in a physical state of stress in which focus and clarity is not achievable at a particular moment in time. For me to notice unproductive stress, I need to be mindful. I need to observe that I am not thinking clearly, that I am overtaken by emotion, or that my body feels like I have just run a marathon. Beyond that, I then need to take conscious steps to be present. It is in these moments where mindfulness is my ally.

My message here is simple. It’s important to recognise that mindfulness is one of several tools that you will need to have in your resilience kit. When, where and how you use it determines its effectiveness – that’s mindfulness my way. Think about what mindfulness your way looks like.

Sometimes I need help to become mindful. I may be so caught up in my thoughts and only notice I am in a state of stress when someone asks if I am okay. At AccessEAP we have many services in place to encourage self awareness and self care. Mindfulness training can be tailored to particular needs or provide a more general introduction to the concepts. Coaching is also available for managers who feel they could benefit from one on one sessions in mindfulness.

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Tips for Courageous Conversations

From time to time we all encounter situations where we dislike a person’s behaviour and we feel we need to say something. It may be that your job requires you to have these conversations with people on a regular basis. A common myth is that raising the issue might make things worse, however a carefully constructed conversation might save things from getting worse. Here are some tips for initiating a potentially difficult conversation:

1. Be Confident with your Concerns

It can be easy to stop ourselves from raising concerns by minimising their importance. For example, we may tell ourselves we are "just being silly" or we are "being too sensitive" or "it’s not such a big deal really". If it is impacting on you or someone else negatively, it is important. Be clear with yourself about the reasons why you are initiating the conversation.

2. Focus on the Behaviour

Let the person know that it is their behaviour which is upsetting or concerning to you. Be careful not to label the person, for example instead of saying "you are selfish and lazy" you could say "when you leave me to clean up everything I feel let down because I am doing it all alone without any help".

3. Be Clear and Specific

Anxiety about how someone might react can lead to messages being "watered-down". We may give a lot of positive feedback in amongst the negative, or we might talk generally to a group about behaviour that bothers us without speaking directly to the person involved. The risk is that your message will not be heard by them.

4. Listen

This can sometimes be the hard part because people can be defensive or angry after hearing your concerns and your feedback. They may attack. They may deny that there’s an issue. They may even convince you it’s "all in your head". Let them talk. Don’t interrupt, explain, justify or defend. First listen. There will be time to respond later.

5. Respond Calmly

Depending on how the person has reacted to your concerns remaining calm can be tricky, however focus on clarifying the factual accuracies of what the person has said. Their feelings are subjective and you can’t change these. The person may be angry with you for some time. Confidently re-state your concerns. If you can, come to a resolution or compromise. You may need some time to think about what each other has said.

Access the ‘Manager Support Hotline’

Managers can contact AccessEAP by telephoning 1800 818 728 and ask to speak with the Duty Counsellor.

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Become a Black Belt in Verbal Judo

There are times when tone and phrase can be used in your defence to diffuse a difficult situation. The best outcome involves some skilled moves while ensuring that things move in the right direction - toward a peaceful conclusion. We call this Verbal Judo and it does indeed require some learned skills and dedicated training.

Verbal Judo provides information and tools to assist staff to keep psychologically safe whilst working with the public. Participants learn to assess the level of psychological risk present in any given situation by better understanding their own signs of distress so as to identify what sort of action to take. Participants learn techniques to de-escalate or diffuse a situation and when it is best to walk away and seek additional support. Please contact your Relationship Manager for more information or to book in this training.

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We need to talk - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

One of the most challenging tasks for a manager is giving feedback to employees about their performance. At AccessEAP we often hear from managers who are hesitant, anxious, and sometimes even fearful, about having a conversation with an employee. The main reasons that managers feel this way is the expectation that a discussion will lead to conflict or distress.

A common reaction from managers is to avoid raising the issue. Researchers have coined this a "passive avoidant style" of leadership; one in which issues will be ignored or only raised when absolutely necessary. Managers with this style are often vague or unclear in their communication, as they want to be liked or don’t want to hurt an employee’s feelings. Research tells us that this style causes anxiety and confusion for employees due to unclear expectations.

It’s understandable that managers will want to avoid speaking with an employee who they believe is going to be angry, defensive or make threats, when confronted with feedback. However, conversations about performance don’t need to be difficult.

The foundations to effective conversations with employees are established in your day-to-day interactions with your team members. Managers with what is called a "transformational approach" have higher employee engagement, and reduced rates of absenteeism. An important aspect to this management style is gaining the trust, respect, and the confidence of your employees.

The relationships I have with my team here at AccessEAP are fundamental when it comes to providing constructive feedback. When my team know that I see their strengths and want to bring out the best in them, conversations about performance are seen by both of us as an opportunity for growth and learning.

A big part of my preparation for providing feedback is thinking about what I need to communicate. I want my team to understand that my intention is to focus on growth and learning not criticism. I want to maintain the working relationship we have built over time, whilst coming up with options for learning using their strengths. This sets a positive tone for the discussion. The focus is on what the individual can do to grow and how the business can support this. We are working collaboratively on an issue for which we both take responsibility.

Trust and integrity are also vital to giving my team feedback. I want my team to know that I will raise and discuss concerns with them as they occur. I will be transparent about my thinking, specific with examples, and focus on the changes required. I take ownership for the issues that I raise, and in doing so will discuss options or opportunities for learning and growth.

At AccessEAP we offer a range of services to assist and support managers who are feeling hesitant about speaking with an employee. We understand that these conversations, whilst important and necessary, are also difficult. With our expertise in human behaviour, we can provide insights around approaches and training on courageous conversations which focuses on learning skills.

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Financial Coaching

Financial stress is a common issue impacting on employee wellbeing. Financial challenges can occur at many times in our life; getting married or separating, planning time out of the workforce due to children, buying or selling a home, retirement, redundancy, change in income, or unexpected medical expenses. Understanding financial concepts can be very confusing and it is difficult to know who to trust and approach for help.

AccessEAP partners with a financial coaching specialist to offer employees confidential guidance and support to expertly and respectfully guide people back to financial control. Employees are entitled to free financial coaching sessions as part of their EAP session entitlement.The sessions will usually occur over the phone.

"We can’t control the market, but what we can control will have a large impact on our financial future. Managing taxes, controlling spending, investing savings appropriately and managing how we react to the market will have a greater impact on your long term level of financial security than what the market does in the next week." IMFG complete wealth solutions. 

How can Financial Coaching help?*

A financial coach will work with you tounderstand your current financial position, and help to identify the areas that require attention,and then start to create a resolution with you. Financial Coaching can help you understand and manage money in areas including:

• General money management

• Creating a money plan that works for you

• Adjusting to a change in pay cycles / income

• Debt reduction ideas

• Bankruptcy / Debt Agreement; the consequences and possible alternatives

• How to approach and negotiate with your creditors

• How to manage disputes with financial institutions

• Planning to purchase a home

• Understanding superannuation

• Transition to retirement

• Understanding investment options (e.g. shares, managed funds)

• Understanding credit contracts and your obligations

• How to find the right finance professional for your needs

• Overcoming barriers to meeting financial goals.

How to Arrange Financial Coaching

Please call us on 1800 818 728 or for more information or to arrange a confidential appointment. Sessions usually occur over the phone.

*Disclaimer: This service does not make financial product recommendations, promote any individual financial organisation or approach, or provide personal financial advice on investments or taxation issues. We do not take the place of your solicitor, accountant, financial adviser orany other third party professionals and will advise you to speak with them directly if specific advice is being sought.

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Managing Diversity and Inclusion

The Australian workplace is changing at a rapid pace as we navigate towards global market trends and witness a significant spike in ethnic and gender diversity, along 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 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:

  1. Developing an understanding of employees and embracing difference

Seek first to understand before being understood - get to know what really makes your team tick. Ask respectful questions with the intention to better understand someone. Recognise and appreciate team members by knowing and using their full range of skills and talents and remove obstacles to their effective participation.

  1. Building cohesive teams through open communication

Recognising that we all have biases shaped through our own life experiences which affect our perception of others. As leaders, it is important to raise awareness of these biases to help build tolerance, understanding and acceptance amongst employees. Understand that we have to adapt our communication to meet individual team members' needs. Culture informs our communication - facilitate a respectful and curious discussion about this in your workplace.

  1. Providing opportunities and encouraging participation in training

Ensure that training is tailored to the needs of a diverse workforce and that both format and content is relevant. Ask team members for feedback. AccessEAP provides a suite of training that aims to promote diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect in the workplace through effective communication that assists to build effective teams. We also provide counselling and training support to manage conflict that may arise as a result of difference in the workplace.

  1. Promoting cultural knowledge and understanding through celebrations

Develop a cultural celebrations calendar and engage employees to organise events as a way to raise awareness and break down barriers. A Taste of Harmony is a great way to do this.

Generally speaking, patience, courtesy and a bit of curiosity go a long way. And, if you are unsure of any differences that may exist, simply ask team members. A workplace in which diversity is valued also gains the productivity benefits of retaining valuable staff and maintaining high staff morale. Ask your Relationship Manager about AccessEAP's Diversity and Inclusion training today.

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Diversity + Inclusion = Innovation, a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Recent data from Diversity Council of Australia reveals that if you work in an inclusive team, you are 19 times more likely to be very satisfied with your job than workers in non-inclusive teams, 4 times more likely to stay with your employer and 2 times more likely to receive regular career development opportunities.1

The advantages of diversity can be seen in organisations that effectively bring employees of different backgrounds together. These organisations cultivate robust solutions by considering diverse perspectives and ideas. Employees work collaboratively and efficiently due to a mutual respect for their individual differences. Workers are more productive and innovation more likely to be an outcome, as they feel valued when their individual strengths are acknowledged.

I believe one of the biggest challenges of a diverse workplace however is that you cannot apply a one-size-fits-all approach to managing your employees. Psychologists suggest that people tend to be ‘cognitive misers’, that is, we use short-cuts to thinking by applying rules and assumptions about people to try and gain a quick understanding of them. We think that if someone is of a particular age, country, religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation, relationship status, or generation, for example, that we can instantly know a range of things about that person.

Organisations need to have an understanding of why racial, cultural, gender, and age-based stereotypes are harmful. We have seen attempts to combat stereotyping in the workplace through anti-discrimination and equal employment laws however this alone is not enough. Organisations also need to ensure their day-to-day practices allow all employees to feel that they belong.

Inclusive practice does not mean that all employees are treated the same way, regardless of their individual backgrounds. This would be to ignore the main principle of inclusion, which is that each employee is unique and has their own particular set of needs and strengths. It takes time and effort to understand the background of each person in your team, and to know how to make them feel valued and bring the best out of them.

What I have learned is that there is no short-cut to effectively knowing each of your employees and therefore managing a diverse workplace effectively. Diversity is about acknowledging and accepting the differences amongst my team here at AccessEAP, and making sure that our individuality is harnessed to bring about the best outcomes. We work towards a common goal whilst respecting each others’ unique backgrounds.

Our team also have inclusive practices when it comes to our clients and customers. Just recently our entire team have participated in cross cultural awareness training for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees and organisations. I was inspired to see how our team embraced the opportunity to understand how we can strengthen our cultural sensitivity to best work with the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees. The concept of Dadirri really resonated with our team, “..an inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness..”, 2. What we do here at AccessEAP is all about respectful listening, asking questions with sensitivity, listening some more and then engaging in a real conversation. We are exploring how we can learn from and better understand Dadirri and enjoy the many benefits of diversity and inclusion.

  1. https://www.dca.org.au/research/project/inclusion-index
  2. Miriam-Rose Ungunmeer-Baumann.
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