Know what you've got before it's gone ... a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is an all too common sentiment. Appreciation, gratitude, stopping to smell the roses, then going a little further and seeing the best in people and situations. Its not always easy but it’s a crucial part of success. I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance who told me that they didn’t realise how valued and important they were to their organisation until they announced their resignation. Numerous compliments and words of praise were sent their way when colleagues found out they were leaving, however this positive feedback was largely absent throughout their time at the organisation. This story is not unusual and troubled me motivating me to write this article.

Traditional workplace practices encourage providing feedback to staff early and regularly when they are not performing or meeting expectations. This approach encourages managers and supervisors to focus on and be fearful of, errors and inefficiencies amongst their team. Other workplace practices encourage managers to start a performance discussion with positive feedback, then provide constructive feedback and then end with positive feedback. The thinking behind this is that if you consistently offer feedback around problems and issues, then staff will learn from this and get better at their job.

Current trends in psychology suggest that focusing on someone’s strengths and being generous with positive feedback, produces much better results.

How? This is so clear to me when I consider it from another perspective. I am an avid golfer and have been for many years. If I had a coach in my early golfing years whose only feedback had been that my swing wasn’t right, my grip was off, and I wasn’t hitting the ball far enough despite my best efforts, I would very likely feel defensive, lose confidence, and may even have given up on golf. On the other hand if my coach encouraged me and gave me praise for my efforts, I’d be motivated to do my best, and I’d even be more likely to take on feedback about what I can do better.

A big part of motivating a team when you are in a leadership role is seeing someone’s potential and expressing that you have confidence and trust in them to do the job. The focus is on identifying and enhancing people’s unique strengths and capabilities. This does not mean avoiding areas of development and learning, it means using an individual’s strengths as an opportunity to discuss growth and learning.

One of the most challenging aspects of managing people is that there is no ‘text book’ approach. Each person has their own unique blend of personality traits, skills, experience, and capabilities. As a leader you can use this knowledge with job design to create new levels of motivation and bring out the best in people. Leaders need to adapt their styles and approach to different personalities within their teams. Appreciating what the individuals in your team or organisation have to offer allows you to fit tasks/roles to people and to position staff strategically where they will do their best work, much like a coach does in a football team.

At AccessEAP we want to help you bring out the best in your staff. Our Relationship Management team have recently completed a very successful strengths project, a case study on the results and process will be available via our website this month. In addition we offer a range of services which can assist you with understanding your team, and identify how to support and develop them in their roles. This may include consultation with one of our senior clinicians for tips on communicating with your team, and perhaps even utilising our coaching service.

I am delighted to add that I have a new golf coach who praises my swing, my grip and overall ability. Directions for improvement are delivered with lots of positive encouragement. Last game I lost a stroke off my handicap!  

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10 Tips on Self-Motivation

1. Revisit your New Year’s resolutions

Choose ONE and stick to it! If you can manage to do so, you will feel like you have achieved something and have a sense of accomplishment which is highly motivating.

2. Think of undesirable tasks as a means to an end

Spend some time each day planning your day – this may feel like a waste of time, however, when you are managing to stick to your plan and productivity is enhanced, it will motivate you to complete an undesirable task.

3. Think about all the ways in which your job benefits others

To increase self-motivation, you can list all of the positive outcomes of your job.

4. Set goals 

By setting goals you’ll know exactly what it is you want to achieve. Sub-goals enable you to have small wins along the way. When you have a direction to follow and a sense that you are on the right track, it can be very motivating to continue toward the goal.

5. Break tasks into smaller pieces

Do one piece at a time and celebrate each milestone. Putting together an entire forward planning presentation for the year may seem overwhelming but you can get there by doing a little at a time.

6. Tell someone what you intend to do

Research shows that we are more likely to actually act on our intentions if we tell someone about it. By building in accountability we can increase motivation to complete the task.

7. Manage your time

It is very motivating if you feel like you are in control of your work and not that it is controlling you – so practise time management techniques to prioritise and take control.

8. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today

It is normal not to feel like doing tasks that are of lesser interest, even though we know they have to be done. Motivation is increased when those not so desirable tasks are out of the way. So don’t procrastinate.

9. Reward yourself

Make an agreement with yourself to give yourself a reward when you complete a task. For example, buy yourself a specialty coffee for completing smaller tasks, or send yourself to the spa for a massage when you finish a major one.

10. Create an accomplishment log

Use this to record all of the times when you were able to motivate yourself to complete a task or keep moving forward. The log can inspire you the next time you need some extra motivation.

For more information or assistance, contact us on 1800 818 728.

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Tips for connection - multiple sites

Many organisations face the challenge of promoting the EAP across multiple offices, worksites and even international locations. As EAP typically falls under the list of responsibilities of an HR professional or team of professionals residing in only one location, we would like to assist you in making sure that all of your locations and worksites are both aware of and encouraged to access the EAP benefit.

Appoint EAP contacts at each site

Each site should have a manager or someone in a leadership position that is aware of all major processes that may need to be utilised for the EAP including the following:

  • How to access the service and book an appointment
  • The procedure for requesting support for a critical incident (CI)
  • Know who has authority within organisation to book CI’s, trainings and mediations
  • Know how to ensure promotional materials are replenished onsite
  • Be registered for AccessEAP Online to access tip sheets, etc.

Recruit or Nominate AccessEAP Ambassadors at each site

Should your organisation choose to take part in this valuable and complimentary peer support training program, the easily–accessible webinar training format will be easy for your staff members to attend.  AccessEAP Ambassadors are employees outside of the HR arena that are trained in understanding the EAP, how to access the service, and how to guide employees to support confidentially and without judgement.

To implement this program, please contact your Relationship Manager.

Webinars

AccessEAP Webinars are an excellent tool for both raising awareness of important mental health topics and the EAP overall.  Webinars are also extremely cost effective and easy to promote over e-mail. Ask your Relationship Manager to provide you with a list of our current webinar offers.

Toolbox Talks and Teleconferences for sites without computer access

For some worksites, it is the lack of access to technology that inhibits the promotion of an EAP.  For those working in construction, mining or other fieldwork, the best way to promote these services is through word of mouth.

There are two great ways your Relationship Manager can assist you with this issue:

  • Providing you with a short PowerPoint presentation with notes to present your own Toolbox Talk on the EAP
  • Your Relationship Manager can teleconference with main contacts at each site to deliver an awareness session over the phone to make sure leadership at every site is clear in common EAP processes and how to guide someone to the EAP.

Promote AccessEAP Online and EAP in Focus App

It is important to choose a date to promote AccessEAP Online and the EAP in Focus App. 

There are both Employee and Employer areas of the site. Your relationship manager will provide you with instructions.  If this information has been uploaded to the intranet, employees can be directed there as well.

Encourage employees to take a few minutes at work to register for this resource and download the app.

EAP In Focus is now available for download free of charge from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

It provides a direct call function to put your employees straight in touch with support and assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Booking appointments and e-counselling can also be organised conveniently within the App making it easier for your employees to access EAP services.

In addition to making accessing your EAP service easier, the App helps to remove the stigma and perceived barriers to accessing the service by explaining what happens in the initial counselling session and walking clients through the common myths held around counselling and mental health.

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Mental health awareness, it's what we do - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

As we start another year at AccessEAP, and reflect on what’s ahead for us and our customers, I can't help but feel inspired by the opportunities before us. AccessEAP is all about helping people and we are privileged to be part of an industry that can enhance and improve people’s lives.

An assumption which is commonly made about EAP’s is that we only assist people when they are experiencing issues which relate specifically to their work. Given work and personal issues are intrinsically linked we take a holistic view and understand that when there are issues at home, e.g. conflict with a partner, parenting issues, or financial strain this is going to have an impact on people at work.

Employees who see our counsellors regularly tell us that situations which are occurring for them in their personal life have a direct impact on their ability to focus, concentrate and be productive at work. This can often even lead to unplanned leave. Our aim at AccessEAP is to help employers to identify issues and provide support early on, so that issues don’t build up to the point that employees feel unable to stay at work, or are unable to function effectively in the workplace. Early intervention is key to good mental health outcomes and what better time to plan how to keep a mentally healthy workplace than the beginning of a new year.

My vision for AccessEAP in 2018 is for us to continue to “walk our talk” in terms of our own employees wellbeing. We are doing this through a number of people engagement and culture initiatives including a renewal of our team values and behavioural standards. I encourage anyone in a leadership role to embrace the New Year as an opportunity to focus on employee wellbeing.

Mentally healthy workplaces provide employees with supportive leadership, resilient working relationships, a degree of flexibility in their roles, and the ability to use their skills and experience to their fullest potential. This appears to have a direct positive link to productivity and engagement.  Good reasons to make a commitment to the mental health and wellbeing of your team!

Supporting your team involves more than simply handing employees the AccessEAP phone number or brochure and suggesting they call us. It is about understanding your culture and workplace by speaking with your employees and listening to their ideas and suggestions. Our wellbeing strategy at AccessEAP included the entire team in a consultation process to understand their needs from their leaders and from each other; we are working on collaborative strategy that the entire team is committed to.  I will provide an update of our progress in the coming months.

This is a big undertaking and requires commitment from the whole team. It’s our business to make this easier for you and I’d encourage you to take advantage of the organisational support services that we can provide to help support you and your employees, in creating a mentally thriving workplace.  

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New Promotional Materials

Please find a range of new service flyers available for download from the Employer Login section of our website. These flyers provide concise information on the variety of services available to you through AccessEAP. The flyers fall into three categories:

Organisational Services

  • Coaching
  • Critical Incident Response
  • Domestic Violence Support for Organisations
  • Manager Support Hotline
  • Mediation and Conflict Resolution
  • Organisational Change

Specialty Counselling and Consultation

  • Cancer Counselling
  • Domestic Violence Support for Individuals
  • Financial Coaching
  • Legal Consultation
  • Nutrition Consultation
  • Perinatal Counselling

Wellbeing Partners

  • Career Transition – Trevor Roberts
  • Physical Health and the Workplace – Vitality Works

 Login to the Employer Area of our website for these and many other useful resources to make using your EAP easier than ever.

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5 Tips for Staying Calm and Connected

As we approach the December period and prepare for the festivities, it’s easy to become distracted with long ‘to-do’ lists; calendars booked up with extra social events; and perhaps finalising work in preparation for a well-earned break. These distractions can impact on our relationships with the people we care about most, so here are some tips for maintaining positive relationships during "the silly season".

1. Take Time to be Present: it’s so easy to be on auto-pilot and not notice the passage of time. Stop yourself from “doing” and pay attention to the moment. Observe without judgement the sounds, smells, sights, and people around you.

2. Give Hugs and compliments: Research shows that hugs can alleviate feelings of stress, increase our self-esteem, and even improve our physical health. Everyone loves to feel valued, tell the important people in your life the things that you like or love about them, often.

3. Be Inclusive: A sense of belonging is critical to our wellbeing and overall happiness. Think about the people you care about, do they feel included? Have you invited them to join in, in conversations, activities or just asking them about their plans for the weekend or Christmas break? Everyone can make a small difference by asking.

4. Respond don’t React: If you feel upset by someone’s behaviour, take a pause or walk away. Be clear about why you’re upset, and if you want the person to know or understand why you’re upset, find a time when you can calmly express yourself.

5. Connect to Values: Be clear about your own values, the things which are important to you, and which guide your decisions. Behave consistently with your values and let go of the small stuff.

Oops, almost forgot a really important one:

5.1. Add Humour: Make sure that there is plenty of room for fun, humour, and silliness in your relationships. Humour and jokes about shared experiences and those things which are out of your control, help relieve stress or frustration.

 

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Stay Calm and Connected - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

 

The most wonderful time of the year … if only a few extra free days would appear in my diary! For many the festive season means making time for family, friends, community and workplace social events. For others the lack of social activity in their lives may become all too obvious at this time.

At AccessEAP relationship issues continue to be one of the major reasons that people seek our counselling services. Approaching the end of year with busier routines than normal, it’s particularly important to stay calm and be present in the moment. Connection to others is key to maintaining support and wellbeing. During this frantic time it can be easier to take out frustrations on those closest to us.  

It makes sense and recent research findings certainly reinforce the importance of social connection:

  • A study, of 25, 000 people published in August, found that when a person’s sense of social connectivity declines, within 12 months their mental wellbeing also significantly deteriorates.
  • Numerous studies link social connection to a longer lifespan. A 2010 review, found that feeling socially disconnected had more impact on mortality rates than smoking, obesity or alcohol misuse.

  • A Harvard study following people over an 80 year period, has shown that having close relationships is much more important than any other factor in predicting a longer, happier, healthier life.

  • Researcher, George Vaillant captured this well when he stated “the key to healthy ageing is relationships”.

    The festive season is an ideal opportunity to build stronger and healthier connections with others. Take some time out from this busy time of year to focus on the people in your life. Stop and have a face to face conversation, and allow time for authentic, rather than digital, connection.

    Most of us have at some stage worked in an office environment where there is conflict or tension. Think about how disruptive this was to the team, and even customers, clients or other stakeholders.

    While in every workplace there needs to be purposeful and goal-driven action, an important part of an effective and happy workplace is the rapport and connection between peers. This is particularly relevant at this time of the year, when there is pressure to complete projects, meet deadlines and plan for the festive break.

    Take a moment to reflect on the types of relationships you have with your colleagues. Think about how you approach tasks; think about not only about what you are doing, but who you are doing it for or with? When initiating a conversation at work, do you reflect not only on what it is that you want to discuss, but how your words are influencing your connection with those you are speaking with? Focus on what is important and how you can make a difference. For more practical suggestions please take a look at the “Tips for Staying Calm and Connected” in this newsletter. Wishing you a peaceful and safe break!


 

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White Ribbon approved Domestic Violence Awareness Training

AccessEAP provides White Ribbon approved training programs and trainers to assist organisations in their commitment to support the victims of domestic violence in the workplace. This training may form part of your DV Plan or may be part of your White Ribbon accreditation process. AccessEAP supports companies in educating employees as part of creating a domestic violence action plan based around three elements; Recognise, Respond, Refer. The training includes raising awareness and understanding and challenging stereotypes.

Recognise

When a woman is experiencing domestic violence, it is likely that her patterns of behaviour will change. Managers should remain connected to their team to be able to recognise any changes. Some behaviours to look out for may include;

  • Frequently arriving to work very early or very late
  • Frequent personal phone calls that leave the employee distressed
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Not attending out of hours work functions or engaging socially with colleagues
  • Stress
  • Ill health and increased leave usage
  • Wanting to resign or relocate

Respond

If someone has taken the difficult step of sharing their experience of violence or abuse, it is vital to respond in an appropriate and supportive manner. Firstly, you should believe the person and listen without judging. Be supportive, encouraging, open and honest. There are also some practical considerations which will help make the person feel safer and more supported.

  • Screen their phone calls or install caller ID on their phone
  • Change their email address and remove their details from the organisation’s directories
  • Encourage the employee to alter their daily travel route
  • Arrange for priority parking close to the building entrance
  • Organise for them to be accompanied to and from their car
  • Alert key staff with full consent and ensure they are discreet at all times
  • Ensure employee’s workstation is not easily accessible for someone entering from outside

Refer

While provisions such as additional special leave, financial assistance and security measures will go a long way towards supporting women to remain in the workplace, other external supports may also be required. Referring employees to an expert domestic violence service can provide crisis counselling, information on crisis care facilities and refuges, information on domestic violence orders and court support and information on longer term counselling services.

For more information please contact your Relationship Manager or 1800 818 728.

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You can play a role in preventing domestic violence - a message form Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

Domestic violence is a common problem in Australia with one in six women having experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner. Violence against women is estimated to cost the Australian economy $21.7 billion a year.1 Ninety four percent of employees agree that employers should take a leadership role in educating their workforce about respectful relationships between men and women.2 However, a National Domestic violence workplace survey revealed that 48 per cent of respondents who had experienced domestic violence disclosed it to a manager and only 10 per cent found their response to be helpful.3

Workplaces have an important role to play in supporting women experiencing violence. Often, for these women, the workplace provides a sanctuary away from the perpetrator. The organisation has a duty of care and needs to have an action plan in place outlining how to handle domestic violence situations. Many managers feel anxious about having conversations about violence with employees. With White Ribbon Day taking place on November 25th, it’s the perfect time to examine current policies and consider training managers and employees to understand domestic family violence.

Providing a supportive environment for employees experiencing domestic violence is vital but it’s not easy. There are a number of different ways employers can do this. Some workplaces include an entitlement to domestic violence leave in their enterprise agreements. Others offer flexible work arrangements, special leave, the ability to change extension numbers or leave a bag of belongings in a safe place, the possibility of working in another office, and domestic violence support information through workplace training and induction.

Education and training that identifies domestic violence as a workplace issue and equips workplaces to respond effectively can offer pathways out of violence for those experiencing it. I am pleased to advise AccessEAP is a White Ribbon approved trainer for training on domestic violence which is available to your organisation.

An important first step is for workplaces to begin a conversation about domestic violence so employers can send a clear message to their employees that:

  • domestic violence affects everyone in the workplace and is unacceptable;
  • those experiencing it are not alone;
  • victims should feel confident that disclosing a violent situation will not jeopardise their employment;
  • their employer will support them and work with them to find solutions to their situation, for example by developing a safety plan;
  • disrespectful, aggressive and violent behaviour is not tolerated and bystanders need to feel they can stand up to it in the workplace. Violence can spill over from the home into the workplace. Perpetrators of domestic violence may also bully or be aggressive towards colleagues, though this is not always the case.

With the number of women experiencing domestic violence it stands to reason that perpertrators are working in our organisations and continuing abuse via text or phone during work hours. Helping to educate employees and communicating a zero tolerance for abusive, harassing, inappropriate language (including jokes) is a step towards changing attitudes and stereotypes.

Failure by workplaces to acknowledge or address domestic violence can indeed compound the harms of such violence. Women experiencing domestic violence usually live in a cycle of fear, fear for their safety and that of children, fear of not being able to keep up the façade at work and fulfil her duties and responsibilities while dealing with the unpredictable actions of her partner. Ultimately fear of poverty, which is a major reason for victims and survivors remaining in violent or abusive relationships, the support that a woman receives from an employer can make the difference. 

1.PwC, Our Watch, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (2015) 2. Pennay, D. & Powell, A. (2012). The role of bystander knowledge, attitudes and behaviours in preventing violence against women. 3. McFerran, L. (2011). Safe at Home, Safe at Work? National Domestic violence and the workplace survey. Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse 4. Thinking outside the (family home) box: domestic violence as a workplace issue Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, 23 October 2012

 

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Thank you for your feedback

Thank you to all our customers who took the time to respond to our September 2017 Customer Satisfaction Survey. We are pleased to report that approximately 90% of respondents felt their organisation had benefited from using the EAP and would recommend AccessEAP to other organisations. 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 the objective of providing better overall service. A realignment of customer accounts has occurred to appreciate the individual strengths, experience and interests of our Relationship Managers and ensure these are aligned to meet your specific orgnisational needs. We understand that these changes may have caused some short term disruption and are confident that the benefits to you will be welcomed and enjoyed in the near future, and will continue to build and increase to provide you with the quality of service you expect from us.

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.

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Your Mental Health Champions

What is the AccessEAP Ambassador Program®?

The AccessEAP Ambassador Program® is a voluntary and complimentary program AccessEAP provides to all organisations as an additional way to both promote and de-stigmatise mental health concerns and seeking mental health support. This program provides training to employees outside of the HR arena on the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as well as common mental health concerns and how to support those around them in seeking help.

How will this program benefit my organisation?

Peer support has been proven time and again to be most effective in normalising common mental health concerns and reducing the stigma around accessing counselling for such issues. Having employees outside of Human Resources take on such a role communicates that mental wellbeing is not just an HR initiative, but a company-wide initiative.

Who is an AccessEAP Ambassador?

AccessEAP Ambassadors are employees that have a passion for mental health and want to play an influential role in improving the way their colleagues view mental wellbeing. They are communicative, highly approachable, non-judgemental and supportive. They respect confidentiality and want to make a difference in the lives of those around them.

How can my organisation get involved?

Conatct your Relationship Manager to access the dedicated AccessEAP Ambassador Login area and resources to get you started.

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Share the Journey - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

This year, Share the Journey is one of the themes for Mental Health Month, with the focus around keeping connected. Reflecting on this here at AccessEAP, I see people having a laugh together in the office, stopping to listen to someone who needs a hand, or sharing stories enthusiastically over lunch. What I am observing is a team of people that truly value each other, and show a genuine interest in getting to know one other. This is an important part of our culture and one that provides a sense of community and wellbeing.

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Make a difference - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

One of the most important questions that you can ask your employees as a manager can also be one of the hardest. R U Ok? Day evolved from a need to raise awareness around suicide and to have a conversation with someone if you are concerned for their wellbeing. These are very simple words to ask of employees, and colleagues, however often managers will tell us that they don’t feel equipped to deal with the potential response.

The statistics in Australia are very disconcerting revealing that suicide is prevalent in our community. It is estimated that 8 Australians die each day from suicide. Three quarters of these are men. Additionally, Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to die from suicide as non-Indigenous Australians. For those in employment, the highest risk of suicide is between the ages of 40-54 for men and 45-49 for women.

Whilst these figures are cause for action, understandably, managers will often described feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the perceived responsibility this brings. One key message that AccessEAP would like to convey to managers in these situations is that they are not alone. Help is available and it’s important to have someone to talk through these situations with. We offer managers professional advice by experienced clinicians via our Manager Support Hotline. Our experienced clinicians will help managers to develop a plan for supporting their employee moving forward, and depending on the urgency of the situation, this may simply include tips for having a conversation, or it may involve more direct intervention.

The following tips may help you to identify when and how to have a conversation with an employee, but also remember that every situation is different and if in doubt it’s important to always speak with a professional:

  1. Know Your Team

By having regular contact with your team you will be in a position to notice if there are any changes in their behaviour that could indicate that they are finding it hard to manage.

  1. Have a Conversation if You are Concerned

A simple conversation in a discrete and private manner will give you the option to clarify your concerns with the employee, and may be a first step to helping them find support.

  1. Listen

Listen to what the person is saying without interrupting. Do not make judgements or assumptions about what they have said.

  1. Explore Options

Find out if there is anything that could be done at work to help the employee cope better. If possible, offer some flexibility or offer some adjustments.

  1. Know when to Escalate

If an employee makes any indirect comment about suicide or makes a direct statement about suicide, immediately escalate to another person for advice. This may include calling us on 1800 818 728 to speak with a member of our clinical team via the Manager Support Hotline.

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Tips for Self Care

There are many things which can get in the way of prioritising ourselves and our own wellbeing on a daily basis. Whether it be dependent family members, a demanding job, or both, at the end of the working day it may seem that there is little time or energy for looking after ourselves. Eventually however the costs of not prioritising our own wellbeing can be significant. Here are some tips for creating and maintaining a self-care routine:

  1. Find the Time

It is easy to feel helpless about the day-to-day demands of life, and to feel that we have no control over how we spend our time. Do an inventory of how you spend the hours of each day for one week. You may be surprised at how much spare time you actually have, focus on the things you choose to do and those which you must do. A good way to measure this is by the consequences of not doing them.

  1. Create a Complete Life

There are many ways in which you can divide up the pieces of the “pie” of life, depending on your personal values, however some areas which are commonly important to people are: vocation, connection to others, physical health, and emotional wellbeing. Decide what regular activities ideally go into each of the important areas of your life. Then, pay particular attention to whether you are doing these things, and if not, make space for them. 

  1. Mention Your Needs

It’s common to feel guilty about taking time out for ourselves when we know that other people need us. Taking others’ needs into account is integral to maintaining healthy relationships, however ensure that your needs are also part of a conversation with people in your life, at work and at home.

  1. Notice the Signs

Understand the warning signs that you are not taking care of yourself properly. This will be different for everyone so pay attention to your body, your mind, and your emotions. Notice if you are feeling stressed or irritable and take pause. Listen out for messages from others. These may be cues - you need to look after yourself.

  1. Make Room for Change

Often patterns of neglecting our own needs can start very early on in life and are almost impossible to detect. Habits of constantly prioritising others can be so entrenched and automatic that we are not aware of them. We may be fearful of what will happen if we make real changes. Take charge of your wellbeing in order to make positive and sustained change.    

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Tips for Achieving Work Life Effectiveness

Work out what is important to you: e.g. regular exercise, more time with your kids, regular holidays. Identify your life goals and work backwards from there. What does this mean? What does this look like?

  • Set clear and specific goals for your time at home/work. Write them down and tell your family and workmates.
  • Avoid taking work home as much as possible. Limit it to two nights per week at the most.
  • Make time to have dinner with your family or friends.
  • Let your workplace know about your choice to have more time at home.
  • In your own way, plan to make your family time positive and encouraging.
  • Aim to leave work on time, at least twice a week.
  • Do some exercise at lunch time.
  • If you do have to take work home – have a break first.
  • Learn to diarise effectively.
  • Make technology work for you- don’t be a slave to it. (Turn email alerts off, turn work emails, phones and computers off at home)
  • Investigate your workplace’s Family Friendly Policy (If it’s not written yet, ask for this to happen).

Some things to look out for:

  • Conflict with colleagues who don’t have families or don’t value personal time highly.
  • The professional pressure to climb the ladder. It’s OK to not want to climb the ladder.
  • Workplaces, or work practices that do not promote balance. E.g. Lots of overtime, after-hours meetings, unplanned schedules. Lots of travel.
  • When you find yourself spending more time and effort at work, because problems are brewing at home.
  • Community pressure to have the latest car, house, furniture, etc – the ongoing pressure to spend more, earn more and therefore work more.

For more information regarding Work Life Effectiveness and Supporting Working Parents please contact your Relationship Manager.

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Take time for you - caring for the carer - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

The majority of people reading this article would know of and work with, a woman who is a carer.

I can put my hand up and relate to the challenges faced looking after an elderly parent. It’s not just the physical aspects of care, it’s making the tough decisions and the emotional demands faced on a daily basis.

Think about how many women you know who provide some type of informal care on a daily basis, for example, ageing parents, partners, or children, with mental illness, disability, or physical incapacity. More than two thirds of all unpaid carers in Australia are female and the majority (96%) of the time care is provided to a family member*. On top of this, at least 56%* of primary carers are also engaged in the paid workforce.

What do we know about the impacts of caring on women’s personal wellbeing? Research tells us that financial stress is one of the main contributors to stress and anxiety for primary carers. Female carers’ ability to participate full-time in paid employment is impacted by the needs of those they care for, and the average annual income of carers is well below that of non-carers. To add to this, there are many out-of-pocket expenses associated with being a carer, for example, to compensate for gaps left after government subsidies and pensions. The unique demands associated with being a carer places many women at a significant financial disadvantage across the course of their lifetime.

Perhaps ironically, carers will also tend to place others’ needs over and above their own, often neglecting themselves and their own health. Carers have the lowest wellbeing of any large group measured by the Australian Unity Wellbeing index. They are also 40% more likely to suffer from a chronic health condition than non-carers, including anxiety and depression. Free time appears to be a rare and precious luxury for carers. Between looking after others and keeping up an income to subsidise the needs of those they care for, it seems that there is little time left for them. Carers often also report feeling guilty about taking time out for themselves, and so will choose not to. Yet it seems that self-care and respite are two of the key factors to long-term resilience for carers.

Being a carer to someone can be satisfying and fulfilling. We know that the hormones such as oxytocin which are released through bonding and connecting with someone can enhance wellbeing. Additionally, there are many benefits to living life in a way that is consistent with personal values, e.g. connection, compassion, or generosity.

Here are some tips for supporting a woman you know is juggling the personal, social, and financial demands of being a carer:

  1. Offer some flexibility around time wherever possible, understanding that she is more than likely trying her best to support and meet everyone’s needs. 
  2. Encourage and make room for her to take time out for herself; to re-charge and rejuvenate.
  3. Offer some practical assistance if possible to help relieve some of the demands on her.
  4. Check in regularly and ask if she’s okay. Let her know you’re aware it’s not easy being a carer and remind her that she’s not alone.
  5. Know that she may not always be proactive in taking care of herself, and encourage her to be more assertive about expressing her needs.

*Australian Bureau of Statistics (2015) Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.

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Tips for Sleep and Recuperation

Recent research has highlighted the importance of having sufficient, regular, good quality sleep so we can function effectively in our busy lives and help to maintain strong, robust immune systems.  Seven to nine hours a day is the standard health professionals suggest, while realising that for many people, because of multiple competing demands, this is often difficult to achieve. The importance of short “nana naps” cannot be underestimated, as well as short, still “zone out times” during the day to help us to refresh our brains and bodies.

If we review our sleep pattern there are probably some small things we can do to make our routine healthier – and we’re likely to then be surprised by the difference they make.

SOME USEFUL TIPS

  • Aim to go to bed at a similar time as often as you can so you can have enough hours to help repair and heal the body from the stressors of the previous day.
  • Spend a quiet period immediately prior to turning in to help your body and mind settle.
  • A warm bath or shower before bed can trick the body into calming down, loosening.
  • Get to know your body and the effects of alcohol, spicy food and other stimulants too close to your bed time.
  • It is preferable to keep your bedroom as distraction - free zones - no fax, internet, phones, TVs, iPads etc.
  • Darkening the room so your body automatically prepares itself for rest can be helpful
  • If listening to music, keep the volume low enough and the type of music soothing enough, so you are likely to drift off.
  • If you regularly  wake up during the night and have difficulty falling back to sleep, remember that it may help to get up, have some water or a soothing tea, sit and gaze at the stars or quietly breathe, rather than lying in bed tense and frustrated that you are awake. Once we notice you are feeling more soothed and settled return to bed.
  • Some people find it helps to read for a while or have a shower before trying again. It is to do with interrupting the pattern of tension and trying something different that may help to soothe your mind and body.

It is worth formulating your own list of practical, healthy, accessible, common sense ways to soothe your bodies and mind, so you can get optimise times of rest and rejuvenation.

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Choose Life and Positive Connections - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Australian research consistently tells us that there are two major differences between men and women in regard to mental health outcomes. One is that men are far more likely to complete suicide. The other is that men are around twice as likely as women to be experiencing a substance use disorder, including alcohol and other drugs.

Both of these trends are concerning, as they suggest men will respond to emotional distress in ways that are highly destructive to themselves and those around them. It appears that men are more likely to seek solutions to difficult emotional experiences which lead to them acting impulsively, and placing themselves and others at risk of harm. The harmful effects of using alcohol1 and other drugs to manage emotions can include violence, aggression, accidental injury, and suicide attempts.

Men are far less likely than women to seek help, both from friends and professionals. While there has been progress, there is still an ongoing stigma around men asking for help. At AccessEAP we are working at breaking down the stigma and suggesting ways in which we can better support men to manage their emotions in a more positive way. It seems that many men don’t see the value in talking about their problems. Male friends of mine will say “talking about it won’t change anything”. They are right. Talking alone does not make the situation better but is a step in the right direction, keeping feelings inside does not make them go away.

Our aim at AccessEAP is to engage men in healthy solution-focused strategies. The benefits of talking to a counsellor are in the practical tools and solutions that can then be explored. The first step is to acknowledge the painful or negative emotions, but this is not where counselling stops. The next important step is to look at what has been tried and tested, and uncover new or different ways of managing a situation.

If you are concerned about a man that you work with or a man in your personal life, here are some tips and suggestions:

Normalise Emotion. Emotion is a natural part of the human condition and is neither good nor bad. If you have just received bad news or had a loss, for example, it is natural to feel sad or upset. Make sure you allow men in your life to experience and express emotions the same way that you would allow this for anyone else.

Don’t Enable Substance Abuse. If a man you are concerned about is drinking heavily or taking drugs, make sure he knows you are worried about him and don’t join him in these activities. Suggest doing something other than going to the pub. Join him in a hobby; go for a walk or a run; watch a game or TV show. Encourage men to talk about what is happening and tell them help is available – it is not weak to ask for help.

Take Threats to Himself Seriously. If he is getting aggressive or threatening harm to himself or others, get professional help. It can be easy to think “he won’t do it” or “he’s just letting off steam”. The statistics tell us he might just act on it.

1. Globally, alcohol kills 6 times more men than women. http://www.menshealthweek.org.au/En/Pages/571e6c/Male-Health-Infographics.aspx

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Food and Mood - trust your gut - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

When we think of the personal impact of our diet and food intake, we typically focus on our physical health, and on our body shape or weight. Until recently, less thought has been given to the effect that the foods we consume may have on our moods and emotional wellbeing. However, this has now become an area of increasing interest and research.

The gut, or gastrointestinal system, has been coined by researchers as our “second brain”, due to the complex way in which this part of our body influences our wellbeing and communicates back and forth with our brain. These messages are much more sophisticated than our gut telling our brain that we are hungry or our brain triggering the release of saliva and stomach acids after seeing or smelling what it anticipates will be a tasty treat.

It appears that the gut also plays a very important role in regulating our emotional system. The fact that there are links between the gut and our emotional states is not new. You are probably familiar with phrases such as “I have butterflies in my stomach” or “I just have a gut feeling”. It is well established that if we are in a mental state of depression and anxiety, this can have physical manifestations such as diarrhoea, nausea, and changes in appetite.

Research around the impacts of our diet on our moods suggests however that the relationship between the gut and our mental wellbeing is bi-directional, that is, our gut can also have a specific influence on our emotional states. Studies have shown, for example, that patients with diagnosed clinical depression experience an improvement in subjective mood when receiving a healthy diet combined with counselling, as compared with those who only received counselling.

Take pause and think about how you feel before and after eating certain foods. Notice the impact not only on your energy levels but also whether you feel able to focus, whether you have a good nights’ sleep, and your general sense of wellbeing. The relationship between our gut health and our emotional wellbeing is complex, however being mindful and aware of how you are responding to your food choices appears to be a step in the right direction.

Of course everyone’s body responds differently to particular foods, and there is no particular diet that suits every person. You may see this anecdotally among friends and family, where the food that one person can “stomach” is different from another. Research on gut bacteria also demonstrates that what constitutes a healthy gut is unique to each person. That is why the expert advice of a nutritionist may be a very important part of your overall personal wellbeing strategy.

At AccessEAP, we embrace this holistic approach to managing your mental wellbeing, and are pleased to announce that we now offer a free nutritionist consultation as part of our service offering. This gives you and your employees an opportunity to better understand the potential links between food intake and your mental wellbeing.

Making changes to your diet is not always easy, and counselling is also an important part of helping you to make sustainable change through goal-setting and values-based choices.

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Tips for Dealing with Worry and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are an everyday part of the busy family and work lives we lead. The way we recognise our responses to stress and anxiety and how we manage these emotions directly effects how quickly we can navigate periods of higher stress and steer a course to overall wellbeing.

  • Watch your thinking. Beware of “What ifs” and a tendency to assume the worst in your mind. This is called catastrophic thinking. For example, a simple negative comment about one aspect of your work could trigger “What if my manager is not happy with me… I am performance managed…. I lose my job… I can’t pay the mortgage….” This leads to a lot of unnecessary fear and anxiety.
  • Try not to focus on or visualise the “What ifs” playing out in your mind. Research shows that revisiting it over and over does not prepare you for the worst case scenario in any way and chances are you are focused on things that may never eventuate. In fact, greater than 90% of these things never actually happen. • How likely is it that your worst case scenario will actually happen? Think through this objectively (or ask a “chilled out” friend).
  • Focus on the NOW, not the past or the future. Watch your body Anxiety tends to impact everyone’s body differently. Do you get an upset stomach, a tense neck? Other signs of stress and anxiety?
  • Do a simple relaxation - close your eyes and scan through your body from your head to toes, relaxing the muscles in each area, letting them be loose and heavy. If you deliberately relax your body it will give your brain the message that it does not need to continue to send out ‘stress’ hormones and both your body and mind will calm down. Plan your worries
  • Set aside 15 minutes a day ‘worry time’. If you find yourself worrying about the same things over and over again and not making any problem solving progress try restricting your worries to a set time. When it is finished, leave them aside until the next day. If you start to worry during the day, jot down the topic and leave it for your ‘worry time’.
  • Write down your ideas for’ problem solving’ whatever issue is causing your worries. If after 5 minutes of thinking about them again you cannot add anything new to the list tell yourself: “I’m not achieving anything new now. I’ll revisit this when I can add something to my problem solving list”.

Some relevant websites: • Australian Centre for Post-Traumatic Mental Health • Anxiety Treatment Australia • Shyness and Social Anxiety Treatment Australia  • Beyondblue  • Black Dog Institute

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