Exploring Positive Psychology - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Newport & Wildman is proudly part of AccessEAP. This month we have a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP.

Throughout this year, we have been bombarded with messages from the media and on social media relating to the pandemic. One common message that stood out was to "be grateful for what you have during these times". It can be incredibly difficult to do this when COVID-19 has taken so much in terms of removing us from a physical workplace, travel and family dinners. To explore this perspective, our clinicians here at Newport & Wildman have turned to the research of Positive Psychology. This has assisted us to discuss situations from a strengths-based lens. The approach, which has been around for decades but is starting to gain momentum, doesn't focus on the sickness or ill health of the individual but rather on their wellbeing. This allows for a shift in perspective.

Positive psychology shifts the focus from anger, depression, fear and jealousy to look at what makes us well: motivation, forgiveness, resilience and compassion. Here is a telling quote from George Valliant, one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, where he describes The Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry.1 It has '500,000 lines of text [with] thousands of lines on anxiety and depression, and hundreds of lines on terror, shame, guilt, anger, and fear. But there are only five lines on hope, one line on joy, and not a single line on compassion, forgiveness, or love." In a pandemic where humanity is still prevailing, despite the whole world being encouraged to stay indoors, looking for and finding hope is even more important.

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. This means that for one month mental health is in focus in the media and the recent budget increase in Medicare support for additional sessions and resources into community mental health, highlights the increase in demand for support which has increased due to the pandemic. Over the last ten years of leading the AccessEAP team, I can see a positive change in many community leaders, customer organisations and most recently the federal budget, recognising that mental health is important to the future of our country. It is, according to the World Health Organisation "a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."2 An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities.

The question for many individuals, organisations and the general community is how is mental health maintained? One of the most concise models of positive psychology was developed by Martin Seligman called PERMA3. The backbone of this theory is that individuals (and organisations, groups and even families) understand, develop and work/live within their signature strengths. PERMA stands for Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishments. PERMA allows for the individual to take their own steps and manage their own wellbeing and can be measured to show growth and success.

Feedback from managers, leaders and even friends and family have asked what role can I play in supporting people around me? On the back of R U OK? Day and now in Mental Health Awareness Month, the answer is about knowledge and empowering oneself to have conversations which are caring and supportive.

We can all play a role in reaching out and having meaningful conversations. We can through talking break down stigma and encouraging people to get help. We know community mental health services are under pressure due to increased demand. This highlights the importance of an EAP within organisations, to provide support to employees and their families. Managers who are in the "frontline" for their people are often ignoring their own mental health. It is timely for themselves and to talk and remind others about mental wellbeing, strengths, stigma and getting support.

Overall, focusing on what we can control, what we can do well, we can see the practical and emotional benefits of building what is strong in our communities and personal lives, rather than only looking at what is wrong. On a national level, this is an example of the tenets of positive psychology – the nation looking at what we are doing well together and building on our strengths. After doing all of the hard work that 2020 has created, 2021 may mean a more aware and mentally healthy world.  I can't wait.

Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

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AccessEAP CEO Feature - Make sure you leave something in the tank

Newport & Wildman is proudly part of AccessEAP. This month we have a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP.

I am starting to hear the words “exhaustion” and “burn out” frequently and earlier than usual this year. Indeed, fatigue is building as we try to find the best path through the current crisis, having navigated through the bushfires and floods from earlier in the year. The cumulative impact of the crises of 2020, taking a toll on us all. At Newport & Wildman our weekly communication channel distributes resources to make navigating this year and the current crisis a bit easier; however, you could be forgiven for thinking “how can I keep this up?”. 

There is something continually buzzing in the background zapping my energy. I am exhausted.  Yes, that’s right it’s a global pandemic – relentless. The situation changes daily and with it my routine, how I can go about my life depends on the latest hotspot. There are so many reasons that our worry and anxiety radars are constantly bleeping. It could be managing childcare or home schooling, having your partner out of work, concern for elderly or at risk family and friends, concern for young at risk family and friends as the economic and social impacts become evident, concern for employees and colleagues as we try to do the right thing when faced with the next new obstacle. Keeping up exercise, health and social (but distanced) connection. Worrying are we taking it too far when I see how much my Mum needs a hug, fearing we are not careful enough when we invite a few friends over for dinner.

Baking and online workouts, Zoom “drinks” or Houseparty apps, scrapbooking, jigsaws, cleaning out cupboards and home maintenance – the things that kept us going through the first lockdowns just don’t cut it anymore – who has the energy? Does it feel like you are in your very own bubble? It becomes all about you not others. Why aren’t people calling me? Well, they are probably exhausted too! It’s not what we want to hear but after months of restrictions we need to dig deeper and work harder at staying connected.

It’s time for some new ideas to breathe life into our tired minds and bodies. Here are some things that are helping me:

Create some space for thinking. At home or in the workplace the same approach can apply. Take time to jot down ideas, sit in the sun with your journal (pad of paper!) or hold virtual afternoon teas and lunches to brainstorm coping ideas and strategies. After building strong connections in the first lockdown, we may have lost some of the impetus, but we all need each other at least as much as ever. We must keep mixing it up and yes, that takes energy.

Speaking of energy, we need to leave something in the emotional fuel tank. In my earlier years I was a car rally navigator and great rally drivers know that going full throttle leaves you vulnerable. You always drive at less than 100% to leave something in the tank for the unexpected. This gives you the reserves that may be needed to cope with obstacles and finish the race. Likewise, we need to keep some emotional capacity in reserve to deal with and cope with the unexpected emotional support we may need to provide to a family member or friend; or even for ourselves when we are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.

Nurture your “Circle of Support” (if you don’t have one – get one). These are the people both personal and professional who you can check in with and rely upon to reach out to you. Remember to share the load and this is where a professional counsellor or coach can help too. It is okay to say your not okay. By showing your authentic self you will develop deeper and rewarding relationships.

I can’t take credit for this tip, but nature can have a way of helping out and as we have passed the Winter Solstice, the amount of daylight is increasing each day. The impact of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is well-documented in terms of affecting mood. More light for the early morning or evening walk?

Finally, to revisit something I talked about a few months back “Pause, Listen, Anticipate and Act”. When you take the time to think and listen to yourself as well as those around you the benefit of perspective comes into play. In many situations, you have more time than you think and using that time may mean your actions ultimately will be more effective.

I appreciate and value your feedback and shared experiences. If the Newport & Wildman team or myself can assist you and your team, please contact us at any time on 1800 650 204. We are here for you and your people.

Sally Kirkright, AccessEAP CEO

 
Photo by Markus Winkler from Pexels
 
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Women's Health Week 2020

#WomensHealthWeek 7-11 September 2020

With the stress COVID-19 has placed on everyone's lives, it’s now more important than ever to look after your overall health and wellbeing. This September, Women’s Health Week will be a great reminder to take time out to check in on your health and to keep making positive changes that can last a lifetime.

For more information and free resources visit the Jean Hailes' Women's Health Week Website. It's time to put your health first.

WHW20

With so many competing demands and expectations, the struggle to keep up with both work and home commitments can be extremely stressful. When stress persists to a point that a person feels they aren’t coping, it can affect the functioning of their day-to-day life as well as their overall wellbeing. The stressors of too much ‘juggling’ together with trying to do things well and be ‘good’ at everything is impacting on women and their ability to sleep, think clearly and make decisions.

For more information about Women's Health and Wellbeing contact Newport & Wildman.

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A conversation could change a life

A common theme for many people this year has been isolation. It's unfortunate that one of our best defences against COVID-19 is something that can negatively impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

Part of the solution to this is to remain connected any way we can. Even when we are not seeing each other face to face as much, we can take active steps towards contacting friends, family and colleagues.

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

You don’t have to be an expert to support someone going through a tough time. You just need to be able to listen to their concerns without judgment and take the time to follow up with them.

1. Know your colleagues

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

2. Approach the person

It may be difficult to do, feeling a little anxious about approaching a colleague to ask them if they are OK is normal, it is necessary that we do it none the less. Think about whether you are the right person to approach your colleague, and if for any reason you think you may not be the best person, employ the appropriate person to approach your colleague you are concerned about. Make sure this is done with discretion and confidentially.

3. Explain why you are having this discussion with them

Be clear that you are concerned about the person and give specific examples of the observed behaviour change that sparked your concern. For example: "you are usually the first one at work and never take a sick day, however, I have noticed that over the past few weeks you have been arriving at work late and have had a few sick days."

4. R U OK?

Ask the question clearly and directly.

5. Listen

Listen to what the person is saying and also listen for how they are feeling. Do not interrupt, just listen and at the end summarise what you have heard to check that your understanding is correct.

6. Do not go into solution mode

It is not your responsibility to "fix" the problem or "save" your colleague – giving solutions can make the situation much worse.

7. Do not counsel the person

You are not a counsellor or psychologist and should not try to be that for the person.

8. Encourage the person to take action

Point the person in the right direction i.e. HR, EAP and/or their GP. You may have to support the person to seek help by going with them to HR, or making an appointment for them with the EAP or their GP and possibly accompanying them to the appointment if possible.

9. Ask what way you can assist

Allow the person the opportunity to explain what would be helpful for them.

10. Follow up

Don’t just leave it there, it is very important to check in with the person regularly to see if they are OK.

For further information about R U OK? visit www.ruokday.com

Newport & Wildman provides confidential counselling services and psychological related training for employees, managers, family and friends. For more information, please contact us on 1800 650 204.

 

Alison Keleher, Director, Newport & Wildman

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Healthy Body & Mind

We all know it's essential to prioritise eating well, exercise and relaxation in this incredibly stressful year but it can be a little easier said than done. Looking after yourself requires a multi-layered approach so below are some tips to help get you back on track.

Exercise 

  • Exercise provides a mood boost and a more energised outlook on life thanks to the release of endorphins. Exercise can help to lift low mood.
  • Exercising with a buddy, or as part of a team, provides a sense of belonging through the sharing of common interest. It also helps motivate and keep you on track toward your health goal.
  • Participating in a sport or reaching a personal physical goal promotes a sense of mastery, accomplishment and increases self–esteem. Set yourself a physical goal no matter what your current fitness level is. Remember tackling small ‘chunks’ of a larger goal will see you mastering your chosen activity in no time! For example, commit to a 20-minute power walk each morning and increase this by 10 min increments each week until you are walking an hour a day.
  • Exercise improves cognitive function. It has been proven decision-making and problem-solving ability improves after exercise. We all know the feeling of going out for a walk and coming back with a ‘clear’ mind. Some may even choose to use their lunch break as an hour to hit the gym, go for a jog, walk or train in a group.

Sleep

  • A good night's sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience. Chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking, depression, anxiety and emotional vulnerability. Being physically active throughout the day can help you get a restful sleep. See here for more tips to sleep well. 

Nutrition 

  • Every meal should include protein to ensure a continuous supply of the amino acid tryptophan to the brain Tryptophan is proven to boost mood. Add some fish, turkey, chicken, meat, eggs, legumes, milk, cheese, yoghurt, nuts or seeds to your meal.
  • Studies suggest omega-3 oil can reduce symptoms of depression. You can include oily fish such as salmon in your diet or even take a daily supplement. Vegetarians get similar benefits from flaxseed oil, walnuts and chia seeds.
  • Excessive weight loss through extreme dieting can make your mood worse and should be avoided. Rapid weight loss and lack of good nutrition will deprive the brain of glucose and other nutrients that control mood. If you are planning to lose a few kilos do it sensibly with a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise.

Water

  • An adult can lose up to 2.5 litres of water daily through the lungs as water vapour, through the skin as perspiration, and through the kidneys as urine. If you do not drink enough fluids to replace this loss you will get the symptoms of dehydration, including irritability, loss of concentration and reduced mental functioning. Replace fluid with drinks such as water and non-caffeinated herbal teas. Aim for about 2.0 litres each day, and increase water consumption on very hot days or when you have been exercising.

Alcohol

  • Alcohol has a depressant effect on the brain and can result in rapid worsening of your mood. Also, the body uses important nutrients to process alcohol; those who consume alcohol excessively may suffer from vitamin deficiencies, which can in turn impact mood and overall health. Limit your alcohol to special occasions and drink moderately, avoid binge drinking altogether.

 

Alison Keleher, Director, Newport & Wildman

 

Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels

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Seeking Sleep?

We know we need sleep but how do we get a good night's sleep? 

It's important to have sufficient, regular, good quality sleep so we can function effectively in our busy lives and help to maintain strong, robust immune systems. 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 bedtime.
  • It is preferable to keep your bedroom as distraction-free zones - no 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 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 body and mind, so you can get optimised times of rest and rejuvenation.

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Boosting your overall health - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

Newport & Wildman is proudly part of AccessEAP. This month we have a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP.
Boosting your overall health during the pandemic

Last month I wrote about adapting to the new normal. As I write in August, the goalposts have moved again, highlighting the importance of maintaining some stability during change and uncertainty. There's no single factor that works better than another or that will be the answer to all we are experiencing. When we talk about mental health and wellbeing we need a combination of strategies which are interconnected. Together they can make a difference. Let's look at food, exercise and environment.

Even though we are modern beings, half of our brain is still our evolutionary brain, keeping us alive when resources are in short supply. Wonder why we eat when stressed? It's our way of keeping fuelled up in case a sudden threat makes us need energy to flee. Why sugary or fatty foods? When our ancestors lived nomadic lives, fruit was our only source of sugar – if you came across a tree laden with fruit, you would eat as much as you could before competitors did. That urge to binge is still here even if we don't fear a shortage of fruit. Or Tim Tams. Likewise, greasy food converts into energy for fight-or-flight. That urge to prep our bodies is instinctual when stressed. (Unfortunately, knowing why your evolutionary brain tells you to eat chocolate or chips doesn't mean your modern body should, at least not daily!)

We all know it's essential to prioritise exercise and relaxation in this incredibly stressful year but never has the saying "easier said than done" been more true. A lack of exercise may be compounded by working from home. Routines which provide incidental exercise such as walking to the bus and leaving the building at lunchtime can easily slip away. Sitting at a laptop all day means your eyes get strained, your posture contracts and indeed your whole world can feel like it's shrinking.  

Fight-or-flight is activated in stressful times, so in a pandemic, we are operating at low-level, permanent fight-or-flight status. Feeling housebound, ongoing distressing news, feeling like you are always 'on' because "Working From Home" can feel like Working 24 Hours. This keeps our cortisol hormones elevated.

Getting out and moving works! Being in sunlight, just walking in nature has calming effects on our brain. If/when you can't currently go outside to exercise I practice Yoga daily and it can be done anywhere. Similarly getting up and walking around while on the phone (not all communication has to be via  Zoom) and setting regular intervals to stretch and drink water. In addition, exercise lowers stress and therefore reduces our tendency to want the unhealthy but tasty food.

Environmental factors have an impact. If you don't have a home office, a dedicated workspace at a table or in your kid's room can help and means you don't associate work with the sofa or your bed. Aim to get up at your regular hour and dress appropriately to mark the start of your workday, even if no-one from work sees you. While most of us transition from work to home with time in the car or on public transport, it's too easy to not have that end-of-day marker. Create your own routine: It might be shutting the laptop, putting it in a drawer and changing from 'office' wear into something casual. The dogs of Australia are finding that 5.30pm is suddenly the time that mum or dad go for a walk – a great transition activity to mark the end of the workday. 

These are important psychological steps to help us feel that work is work, and home is our time. Finishing workdays in a symbolic way and resisting the urge to check emails all night are the emotional equivalents of washing your hands when you get home. These are all parts of our individual roles in fighting the virus. This is for all employees including leaders and HR who might prioritise the needs of their employees but leave themselves off the list of those who need to attend to self-care!

Looking after yourself requires a multi-layered approachGood food. Downtime. Limiting media and scrolling. Meaningful routines. Exercise. Connecting with others. Accentuate the positive. Pause to be grateful. Put all this together, and our personal and national abilities to weather this storm magnify while promoting better health.

Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

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Stress Down this July

Friday 24th July 2020 is Stress Down Day, a fun and easy initiative designed to reduce stress and raise vital funds for Lifeline Australia. Stress Down Day promotes happiness, encourages help seeking and raises awareness of suicide prevention through raising funds for Lifeline's crisis support services. For more information, check out the Lifeline Website.

Self-care and managing stress during the COVID-19 pandemic

It is important to remember that feeling anxious, fearful, stressed, angry or irritable are common and normal feelings during uncertain times like these. It is important to monitor your own physical and mental health, watch for signs which include: 
  • Heightened anxiety and/or fear
  • Increased irritability and outbursts of anger and arguments
  • Difficulty in sleeping and relaxing
  • Worrying excessively
  • Increase in use of alcohol or drugs
  • Having difficulty in communicating or listening
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach pains
  • Feeling depressed or guilty
  • Denying feelings or saying you don’t care
  • Confused, difficulty making decisions.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, focus on looking after yourself with these self-care strategies:

  1. Focus on personal hygiene habits
  2. Keep things in perspective
  3. Identify what you can control
  4. Focus on the people around you
  5. Take breaks to enjoy activities
  6. Eat healthily
  7. Make time to do things that help you relax
  8. Talk about your feelings
  9. Talk about other topics with friends
  10. Find ways to help others.

For more information or to arrange an appointment, please contact us on 1800 650 204.

Alison Keleher, Director, Newport & Wildman

 

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Tackling Stress - a message from Sally Kirkright, AccessEAP CEO

Newport & Wildman is proudly part of AccessEAP. This month we have a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP.

We encourage our children to be kind. We’re kind to those we love and our colleagues. So why is it hard to turn that lens of kindness back onto ourselves? Doesn’t it mean that we are being selfish, wasting time with self-care? Who will do All of Those Tasks if we don’t? This month I’ve been thinking about how hard it can be, especially during a pandemic, to be nice to ourselves. If we drive ourselves on relentlessly, something will give.

At Newport & Wildman, we are talking to a lot of people about their ‘stress signature’. How do you know if you’re stressed? Stress shows up in our bodies (headaches, racing heart, insomnia), in our thoughts (excessive worry and catastrophising), behaviours (drinking to relax, not sleeping well) and relationships (being snappy with people, reactive to situations that normally slide right past us). 

So stress is pretty awful. But it has reasons for putting us on edge. That surge of adrenaline when we are in danger tells our heart to pump blood to our limbs. Non-essential systems like digestion shut down (hence that sinking feeling in our gut when we are scared). This allows us to fight our way out of danger, or flee. All well and good when confronted with a dangerous beast but not so useful in our day to day lives. If we are constantly on edge, our fight or flight status leaves us exhausted. The stress hormone, cortisol, is key to this defence system but long-term it plays havoc with our bodies – blood sugar and blood pressure skyrocket, memory is affected, higher levels at night create insomnia.

Working from home has been a mix of pleasure (no commute!) and challenge (cabin fever!), and just as we adapt to this, it’s time to get our heads around the idea of a “new normal”. Making sense of the new normal and ongoing uncertainty is enough to keep those stress hormones rumbling along.

By identifying our personal stress signatures, we can try and intervene to minimise the short and long term impacts on our lives. This can be as simple as taking a lunch break (not working while you eat), or making sure you have a real weekend with people you care with (not always checking emails). For me, taking the time out to join in on our Yoga Wellbeing Initiative really helped to keep me balanced.

Kind managers encourage staff to have good work boundaries. They do this because their staff are less likely to burn out, more engaged when working. This approach gives a better ‘return on investment’ but more importantly, it’s just the right way to care for your employees.

You wouldn’t let a friend or colleague burn the candle at both ends without asking them to ease up, so I hope we can be that kind, firm friend to ourselves and remember that caring for yourself allows you to find time to recharge for the next challenge. We all know the concept of self-care; eat well, exercise, relax, social connection, get enough sleep. It’s hard to fit what feels like downtime into our busy lives but the benefit is huge in terms of our health, our sanity, and quality time with family and friends as well as increased clear thinking which means higher productivity.

Sally Kirkright, AccessEAP CEO

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Everyday Mindfulness at Work

Whether you're working from home or back in the office, here are some activities that you can do to develop your mindfulness practice.

1. Do one thing well. Multi-tasking might sound high-powered but studies show that it's ineffective. Switching gears repeatedly from one task to another trip up the brain and inhibits focus on any one of them. Focussing on one task at a time generally improves your productivity and accuracy.

2. Make time during the workday to be "present". Chances are, you already do this and don't even realise it. Remember all those times you have been concentrating hard on a work-related task and not heard your mobile ring? That was you being mindful and present in your moment - with purpose and without judgment.

3. Choose to start your day purposefully rather than letting the day start you. Once you have sat down at your desk, spend a few minutes noticing your breath and concentrating on its flow - with your eyes closed.

4. Be present when interacting with a colleague in a meeting. This may mean allowing yourself to focus fully on the message of your colleague and not getting distracted by other sounds in the room or at home.

5. Walk between meetings /clients. Don't do emails or texts. Whether you're at home or your workplace, feel your feet on the floor and the air on your skin. Try to get outside if possible.

6. Start and end the workday by "returning to the breath". Spend 10 minutes focusing on breathing is a great way to centre yourself for the day ahead or to draw the day to a close.

7. Place a few small sticky notes on your computer, phone, or desk. Every time you see the notes, use them as a reminder to pause and bring your awareness back into the present moment.

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Men's Health Week 2020

It's Men's Health Week from the 15th-21st of June. The focus is on Men and Families - Working Together for Men's Health, find out more on the official website.

At Newport & Wildman, 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 s Health Facts page 001

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 Newport & Wildman 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 650 204 and our Client Services Team will book you in for an appointment with one of our clinicians.

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Tips for checking in on those around you

During this unprecedented time, it is important to check-in on those around you. But what does that actually mean and what does it look like when we do “check-in?” Here are some strategies to help you to have these all-important conversations:

A quick message - A simple approach to this is if someone has crossed your mind and there has not been any interaction in some way recently, send them a text (or ring) and say I am thinking about you and I hope you are going well. Also, take an hour out of your week (on a designated evening every week) and check that you have contacted friends and go through all personal communication platforms ensure that you haven’t forgotten to get back to people who have taken the time to reach out to you. Phone calls tend to take more time but some people who dislike texts are better on the phone.

Listening - when ringing someone or meeting for coffee, sometimes they need to vent or just talk through what is going on. Sometimes we really just need to name and verbalize how we are feeling or what we are experiencing. They might not be asking for anything but for you to listen. They may not want advice. If you feel time-pressured, just be honest that you have a little time and you can listen if that is helpful. It’s also ok to say upfront “I have to get back to work soon/pick up the kids/errands to do but I have ten minutes free if you just need me to listen and want to get it off your chest.” Sometimes acknowledging something positive or saying thank you for something they have done, can have an impact on their wellbeing. 

Giving advice - it’s best to ask directly them if they want advice, and then to be clear about why you feel qualified or not qualified to give it and what your limits are. Almost no one wants unsolicited advice, and almost no one wants someone else to act like they can “fix” or “solve” us easily. Don’t give advice without ) knowing if they want it, ii) knowing the limits of your ability to advise, and iii) being prepared and accepting for them to say they’ve already tried that, it isn’t appropriate/relevant to their need, or there are reasons they just aren’t going to do what you are suggesting. Don’t argue. Trust them that they know what is useful for them.

Practical support - if you know they have limited access to things they need or they are unable to do tasks (and you are both willing and able to do those things) offer it. Something like “Hey, I’m going to go and walk/ride/run and just sit by the lake later and wondered if you’d like to come? It’s ok if you do or don’t want to talk, bring a book if you prefer” might take more effort, so only offer them anything that you reasonably can.

Suggesting support -

as you can see, the theme here is that we are trying to illustrate that support is simple; and a check-in can be small. However, we need to acknowledge that there will be times when you check-in and the other person is at the point where they do need more intense, professional support. These are ways of reminding them of very real resources (such as an EAP) that they already have access to and can make use of, but in the moment of spiralling mental illness or crisis, they may not be able to think of those things. It may mean saying “It sounds like you should be seen in person about that, do you know the number of our EAP?” Sometimes we are self-conscious and talk ourselves out assisting the other person for fear of “making a big deal” or worrying someone unnecessarily” or “not being qualified”. You are qualified because you care. But it is ok to say that you are uncomfortable, afraid for them, concerned, etc. and that you feel in over your head but want to help them connect with a professional who really can help. Notice that all of this is still about giving them the right to accept or reject the offered help.

Finally, for yourself find new and interesting ways to find connection in your life and activities that bring you joy. This statement is much harder than it sounds. This could mean that you need to find the time to go for a run/cook a full meal/tune into an online course or show up for your friends organised trivia night (via Zoom). This requires planning, effort, time management and focus. However, we do know that connection is key.

For more information or to arrange an appointment to speak with someone who is trained to help, please call us on 1800 650 204

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Reach out - a message from Sally Kirkright, AccessEAP CEO

Newport & Wildman is proudly part of AccessEAP. This month we have a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP.
Checking in and having important conversations with those around you.

Check-in and stay connected. We hear this so often in social media posts, news reports and written articles around keeping up our connections. But what does that actually mean and what does it look like when we do “check-in?”

This is incredibly personal and in fact, reflecting on what you have done in the past will be useful in building your approach to this. This doesn’t mean that you run down your entire contact list weekly and check-in with everyone with a stock standard message. It also doesn’t mean you are without boundaries around how much you can give and what you are able to offer.

My own approach to this is if someone crosses my mind and we haven’t interacted recently, I contact them and enquire about their wellbeing. I also take an hour out of my week and check that I go through my personal emails/messenger and texts to ensure that I haven’t forgotten to get back to people who have taken the time to reach out to me.

For most of us (if we are very lucky) we have a small group of people whom we trust and know we can contact. Being able to ask for help is probably the most vulnerable thing that we can do and although it feels counterintuitive – it helps to build our connections.

At AccessEAP and Newport & Wildman, we hear that people feel disconnected and would like to have more human interactions, especially during this time of working remotely where there are fewer incidental interactions. There are those of us who feel that we give all of our energy away and there is not a lot given back. Perhaps we don’t give because we fear rejection or that we may be judged or we don’t think it’s worth reaching out to the people we work with, live with and love. Our challenge to you is to show up for these people – because in a pandemic we need you (and everyone else) more than ever.

So, I can hear you asking how do you do this? The short answer is to contact someone that you care about. You could start with someone who will boost your confidence and success rate and ask “how are you?”, then wait for the answer. If they respond with “fine” or “I’m ok”, ask some more questions. People respond if they hear a genuine interest. The act of giving someone a few minutes in your day to ask how they are can strengthen connection. The backlash here is that we sometimes feel that we have to be their counsellor and this is untrue. We encourage you to listen and suggest that they use our services (if needed) because we have professional staff that can assist and support them. Reach out to someone you work with, someone you haven't spoken to, and say hello today. The number is not important. If no one comes to mind, stop by your neighbour’s door and enquire about how they are going with pandemic measures. Click here for some more suggested strategies.

Finally, do focus on you and look to find ways to connect with others and complete thriving activities. This statement is much harder to complete. But looking back on this pandemic we can say to ourselves that we made the effort to reach out to those around us.

For more information and tips on checking in on those around you, see our article here.

Sally Kirkright, AccessEAP CEO

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National Reconciliation Week 2020

What is National Reconciliation Week?
 
National Reconciliation Week (NRW) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia. The dates for NRW remain the same each year; 27 May to 3 June. These dates commemorate two significant milestones in the reconciliation journey— the successful 1967 referendum, and the High Court Mabo decision respectively.
 

In 2020 Reconciliation Australia marks twenty years of shaping Australia’s journey towards a more just, equitable and reconciled nation. 2020 also marks the twentieth anniversary of the reconciliation walks of 2000, when people came together to walk on bridges and roads across the nation and show their support for a more reconciled Australia.

Find out how you can get involved from the National Reconciliation Week Website.

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Coping with COVID-19

Our National Clinical and Organisational Development teams are creating a growing resource bank of tools for you and your people, including COVID-19 webinars.

We have released a new webinar for you on Coping with COVID-19. This webinar has been uploaded and is available for you to view right now. Click the below link and register your name and work email address to view the webinar. 

Please note that this webinar has been provided to Newport & Wildman on behalf of our parent company AccessEAP. The Coping with COVID-19 webinar does display AccessEAP contact details, so please use the Newport & Wildman phone number if you would like to contact us- 1800 650 204.

For more COVID-19 support resources, visit the Employer and Employee Login areas of our website.

 

Coping with COVID 19 Webinar

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Team Connection

One of the most challenging parts of this pandemic for us at Newport & Wildman and AccessEAP has been creating a sense of connection through technology. Whether it is connecting with our customers, clients or each other, each relationship and interaction is significant to us. For more information on connection through COVID-19 see AccessEAP CEO, Sally Kirkright's Feature Article on Connection.  

One connection aspect that has changed for a lot of people is their work environments. For many, that means working from home and having to navigate team dynamics from a distance. Whether your team dynamics have changed or not, see our tips below to help you re-establish your team's goals and objectives and to help you come together with a shared purpose to get through this pandemic. 

1. Review Objectives and Goals

Successful teams have clear objectives that all team members are aware of and working toward. There is a clear vision and shared values. Team members are committed to the goal and live the values.

2. Participation

Active participation is evident and encouraged by all team members. Team members focus on their areas of strength for the greater good of achieving the team outcomes. Effective teams want the team to succeed and place team success above individual recognition and reward. Everyone carries their weight.

3. Trust

Fundamental to effective team functioning is trust. This allows for an environment where people are willing to risk, and to make mistakes, thus pushing the team out of their comfort zone. Trust also enhances team co-operation as team members are not competing; they co-operate to achieve team goals.

4. Continuous improvement/learning

Team members in successful teams are open to learning new things and adapting old ways of doing things if a better way is highlighted.

5. Feedback

Linked to point 4., in order for continuous improvement, individuals are open to providing and receiving feedback about the work and the way the work is done. This feedback is never personal; it is always focused on work and improvement.

6. Interaction

Team members have some fun together and celebrate success. They build healthy work relationships with one another, which lends to contribution and freely sharing ideas.

7. Effectiveness review

Work and processes are constantly reviewed for what worked well and what could have been done more effectively and efficiently. These learnings are then applied in the future, thus review is for a purpose and makes a difference.

8. Clear expectations

Expectations around standards, time frames and behaviour, is explicit, not assumed.

9. Honest communication

Team members are willing to communicate in an honest way with one another about ideas, through feedback and review, sharing both the positive and negative. Successful teams usually house individuals who do have their team member's best interests at heart and genuinely share information and ideas and challenge when appropriate.

10. Transparency

Successful teams explain and understand WHY things are occurring. If for some reason they cannot share information they explain it to colleagues. There are no hidden agendas.

 

Alison Keleher, Director, Newport & Wildman

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Connection through COVID-19 - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

Newport & Wildman is proudly part of AccessEAP. This month we have a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP.
Make sure connection is more than a COVID-19 buzz word

Change is inevitable. Expected changes are situations we adjust to, but it becomes harder when it is unexpected. During the pandemic, we have seen the impact across all aspects of our lives. One of the hardest challenges for myself personally, and for everyone at AccessEAP, has been creating a sense of connection through technology.

In the face of COVID-19, we are already seeing how we rapidly adapt to change when required. At AccessEAP, we strengthened our connection to our customers and their people, by transitioning to a new remote telephone system. In two weeks, I witnessed how people embraced the new system and worked to meet this changeover. For many of us, there was an adjustment, learning the skills of working from home, the usual technology challenges as well as missing that in-person support from colleagues and teammates. Having the shared purpose of supporting our customers helped us to achieve an amazing feat in a short amount of time.

Internally, the importance of ensuring that teams are connecting so they can continue to work well and productively is the current focus.  At AccessEAP, many of our teams have scheduled online video team meetings to start the day, which includes planning the day but also the important opportunity to interact with colleagues. Professor Martin Seligman, one of the founders of the positive psychology movement, notes that happy people have high levels of social connection. We are social beings, and if our work is shaped around the ways we interact with each other in our organisations, then maintaining peer connections electronically becomes a vital form of stability and motivation.

Given this, a high-performing team working virtually is more important than ever for productivity, for job satisfaction and a sense of balance outside of the workplace. How does one achieve that? The factors that hold high-performing teams together, particularly as they negotiate crises, include communication, working with a common purpose and shared goals through effective teamwork and creativity.  Team-members who bond share similar personality characteristics, including hope, curiosity, perseverance and gratitude.[1] [2]

This is not to say that group-thinking and high optimism make for great teams. Some conflict and manageable pressure can be creative and energising. Good leaders in a virtual world ensure that staff feel psychologically safe to share, to challenge and to work through issues. By inspiring their teams with their own sense of hope, energy and clear communication, and by pulling colleagues into their shared vision of purpose, it helps to work towards a stable and productive future [3]. Trusted leaders encourage a sense of control and of achievement and value. Leaders need to notice if people are not sharing or are lacking in energy and try to understand what is happening. Asking questions is a great place to start. 

As we adapt to rapid change; connection, stability and a common sense of purpose become the techniques to build resilience and help us to be supportive of each other. These can be protective factors in regards to mental health. 

 

Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

 

[1] Harzer C., Mubashar T., & Dubreuil P. (2017). Character strengths and strength-related person-job fit as predictors of work-related wellbeing, job performance, and workplace deviance. Wirtschaftspsychologie, 19(3), 23-38.  

[2] Heintz, S., & Ruch, W. (2019). Character strengths and job satisfaction: Differential relationships across occupational groups and adulthood. Applied Research in Quality of Life. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9691-3

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/joefolkman/2016/04/13/are-you-on-the-team-from-hell-5-ways-to-create-a-high-performance-team/#1bff398e7ee2

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Handling Stress

Workplace stress can present in physical symptoms and manifest as fatigue, headaches, indigestion, insomnia and anxiety. Managing stress can be a key factor in feeling more productive and enjoying your work. 

Remember that feeling anxious, fearful, stressed, angry and irritable are common and normal feelings during uncertain times. Identify your responses and feelings and ensure that you look after yourself and get support if needed. It is difficult to support others when we are experiencing heightened stress.

Here are some tips to help you manage your stress levels:

  • Work out your priorities

Write them down each morning, rank them and take one thing at a time. Include the important people in your life as priorities and attend to these relationships. Make tasks achievable.

  • Prioritise relaxation and exercise

Set aside time each day for recreation and exercise. These are not optional extras for handling stress, they are essential. Gentle exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, meditation, yoga, dance and even hobbies are all excellent. Find what suits you best.

  • Practice saying ‘no’

If you feel overloaded, think hard before committing to other people’s expectations. Talk this over with someone you trust. Practice saying “Not immediately, but next hour/day/week/month” to buy yourself time.

  • Accept that change is a part of life

Make allowances for the fact that stress can make you more sensitive in reacting to others. Discuss your feelings with the person responsible for your agitation. If it’s impossible to talk it out, do some physical activity at the end of the working day to relieve tensions.

  •  Don’t dwell on the past

Feelings of guilt, remorse and regret cannot change the past, they sap your energy and make the present difficult. Make an effort to do something to change your mood when you feel yourself drifting into regrets about past actions (e.g activity you enjoy). Learn from it and have strategies in place for next time. Learn to forgive yourself.

  • Don’t let people rush you

Allow extra time for the unexpected, slow down your pace, slow down your breathing. If you are frantic, you actually reduce your efficiency at work.

  • Identify your stress situations

Make a list of events that leave you emotionally drained, with ways to reduce the stress for each. When they occur, use them as an opportunity to practise stress relief. Keep notes on what works.

  • Learn to “reframe” statements

It is a waste of time and energy to be oversensitive to imagined insults, innuendo or sarcasm. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Talk over the situation with someone. They may have another spin on what was said.

  •  Practice Mindfulness

This is where you let your frantic thinking be put aside and notice the present moment, without making any judgments, good or bad. Try this; pause for a moment, look around and notice five things you can see. Name them. Notice five things you can hear. Name them. Notice five things you can feel in contact with your body. Name them.

  • Enjoy Circuit Breakers

Reduce stress by taking breaks, talk to someone, have a bath, laugh regularly, read for pleasure or even learn something new (language/musical instrument etc).

 

COVID-19 Resources

Resilience through COVID-19 - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

 

Alison Keleher, Director, Newport & Wildman

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Resilience through COVID-19 - a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP

Newport & Wildman is proudly part of AccessEAP. This month we have a message from Sally Kirkright, CEO, AccessEAP.

This month I’m writing about managing stress and building resilience. It’s been a stressful summer across Australia as the drought led to the worst bushfire season in memory. Then the rains that should have been so soothing caused floods in many areas. And no sooner did we accommodate that development, COVID-19 appeared.

Being resilient is the ability to bounce back after challenges. If you fail your driving test, you can lick your wounds and never get your license – or do more practise and try the test again. However, when one challenge after another appears, it’s harder to catch your breath and keep bouncing back. During this unprecedented time, we all find ourselves in, building resilience and trying to manage our stress levels can seem even more difficult than usual. As a manager or leader, you will be experiencing your own emotions as well as feeling responsible for your people or teams. As leaders, we are used to being in control and providing guidance and support to others, but we are also human. Remember that feeling anxious, fearful, stressed, angry and irritable are common and normal feelings during uncertain times.

Managing stress goes alongside resilience, and this is certainly a stressful time for many people. Stress can emerge in small, sneaky increments. When a challenge arises, you feel a rush as adrenalin hits your system: It increases blood pressure and heart rate as part of our fight-or-flight mechanism. Sometimes our day has so many challenges that we load up on adrenalin before we have the time to work the last dose from our body. When we stay at that elevated level, our body is working above capacity. Short term, that’s OK. If it goes on without reprieve, we get worn out, making it harder for that resilience ‘bounce back’ to arrive.

We feel stress, physically and emotionally. Knowing where your body holds it – tight neck, sinking feeling in your gut, heartburn, a sensation of pounding blood in your hear or chest – allows you to stop and see what’s happening. You or those around you might notice behavioural changes, like being snappy in a conversation that you would not normally worry about, or being abrupt towards someone you care for. Sleep disturbances, needing a drink after work, difficulty concentrating (or obsessing on bushfires, floods or viruses!) all indicate that we are stressed.

Use a STOP technique at a moment like that:

  • STOP whatever you are doing
  • TAKE a few slow breaths
  • OBSERVE what you are thinking and feeling –remembering that thoughts and worries are not facts
  • PROCEED. Feeling calmer? Go on with the task. Still tense? Get up and move, make a cup of tea, walk the dog, do the dishes. A five-minute break is really restorative!

Building resilience includes examining previous events or times where you faced something daunting at the time, but you got through it. Remind yourself that you can and will get through this. Building resilience also includes taking care of your mind and body, so exercise and mindfulness are important. Walking, running, yoga or gardening move your body, boosting natural endorphins. And setting time aside with a mindful activity can calm your mind. Being mindful means setting worries aside and enjoying one task in the moment, be it a long hot shower, watching comedy or your morning walk. These boost your serotonin, a mood-lifting brain chemical whose presence can carry you through later stresses. At AccessEAP & Newport & Wildman, we are engaging our minds and bodies through weekly Zoom Yoga sessions throughout our Active April Wellbeing Initiative.

Focus on the people around you, such as family, children, friends and colleagues. Keep in contact and stay connected through technology. The benefit of experiencing positive emotions is that we restore physically and emotionally from stressful events, including a quicker ‘cardiovascular recovery’. Doing a little of each of these each day builds your resilience reservoir!

It feels hard to justify taking a break when the pressure is on – but in reality, a stress short-circuit works in terms of productivity and is crucial for physical health, and our emotional stability, enabling us to lead our people.

Sally Kirkright, CEO AccessEAP

 

COVID-19 Resources

Our National Clinical and Organisational Development teams are creating a growing resource bank of tools for you and your people. This includes tools on how to support your people who may find themselves now working remotely due to social distancing requirements. It also includes tools to share with your people on how they can manage their own anxiety, support for parents and support for managing relationships. These resources can be accessed through the Employer and Employee Login Areas of our website.

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Building Resilience Wellbeing Tips

See our 10 Tips for Building Resilience below.

For assistance or more information on our Stress Awareness and Building Resilience Webinars & Training, speak with Newport & Wildman today.

Newport Wildman Resilience Postcard

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