Managing Mental Health at CFA Module 9: What about your health? Self-Care

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1 Managing Mental Health at CFA Module 9: What about your health? Self-Care

2 The program has been designed by AP Psychology & Consulting Services Arthur Papagiannis, Managing Director Any queries or requests for further information should be directed to: AP Psychology & Consulting Services 404A, 9-11 Claremont St South Yarra Melbourne, Victoria Australia

3 What about your health: Self-Care There may be times when you have concerns about your mental health and think that you may be experiencing some of the symptoms of a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety. As part of your role at CFA, you may be required to support fellow members in dealing with their mental health issues, and this can in turn have an effect on your mental health. It is important that you take steps to care for yourself and that you think about your wellbeing to help maintain your mental health at all times. It is not always easy to reach out and ask for help for a mental health related issue as people tend to seek help more readily for a physical injury. Here are some guidelines on caring for yourself by building resilience, managing your role as a support person, and seeking help. Remember that these are guidelines prepared to support you in managing your psychological wellbeing and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a health professional if you require expert advice. Caring for Yourself As a CFA member you may need to support other members in building their resilience as well as your own. Building resilience means that you will become stronger and more prepared to deal with psychological challenges in the future. Whether you are supporting fellow members experiencing mental health issues or attending to your own mental health, it is helpful to: Understand as much as you can about mental health issues Manage your boundaries and be clear on your role when supporting other members Identify trigger factors and know when you are most vulnerable Develop skills to effectively deal with conflict, communication, and problem solving Use effective time management strategies Manage sleep and stress Maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise, nutrition, balance Use relaxation exercises Talk to your friends and family about how you feel Engage in normal daily activities as much as possible Access support from internal CFA services, or a doctor Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle To maintain your own wellbeing and minimise the effects of stress or other mental health issues, it helps to ensure that you maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This includes keeping regular patterns of: Sleep - People who sleep well at night experience better mental health and emotional resilience. Sleep problems are more common in people experiencing mental health issues, so part of being aware of the state of your mental health is to take note of how well you sleep. Diet - A balanced diet includes eating food from a variety of food groups, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as minimising the intakes of sugar, salt and

4 saturated fats. It also critical to drink plenty of water and limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Relaxation - Everyone benefits from some relaxation in their day. For those experiencing signs of anxiety such as racing thoughts, there are various relaxation strategies that can help, such as meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation. Exercise - Regular exercise is a key factor in maintaining your wellbeing and dealing with symptoms of a mental health issue. Regular aerobic exercise also helps you sleep better. Regular Exercise Regular exercise has positive effects on your mental health, and even moderate levels of exercise can make you feel a lot better. The benefits of exercise include: Increase energy levels Improves sleep Distracts you from worries Can provide social support when you do it with other people Increase your sense of control about managing your wellbeing. Guidelines for recommended physical exercise: A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on all or most days of the week, for example brisk walking with a slight increase in breathing and heart rate At least 10 minutes at a time, so the 30 minutes does not need to be completed in one block To get started you may like to build up slowly from 10 minutes to 30 minutes per day You don t need to join a gym, do the exercise you enjoy and incorporate variety, such as walks, swims, yoga, bike-riding, gardening or bush-walking Being as active in as many ways as you can during the day, for example using the stairs Always remember to include a warm up and cool down to your workout, and consult a medical professional before beginning a vigorous intensity program Allow some time to observe the benefits as it may take up to 8 weeks Time Management Another practice that can help you to relieve stress and manage your mental health is time management. Planning and organising your time can make a big difference to your ability to cope with the set of activities you need to complete. Effective time management includes: Scheduling your time properly if you have a lot of tasks to complete, starting by making a list. This can help to relieve the feeling of being overloaded. Prioritising tasks into urgent versus important, and spending time on the tasks of higher importance before those that are urgent but less important. People often attend to urgent requests and then feel overwhelmed when they need to complete important tasks at the last minute. Grouping tasks into easy versus difficult. This means not just spending time on the easy tasks, but prioritising so that you allow time for problem solving or important activities that take longer to resolve.

5 Delegating tasks and not trying to do everything yourself. Given the benefits of relaxation to your mental health, it is critical that you prioritise time for relaxation. Understanding Roles and Boundaries What are boundaries? Boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that are created to identify reasonable and safe ways for other people to behave around an individual. Boundaries also indicate how that individual may respond when another person steps outside those limits. Boundaries help you to recognise what is your responsibility (and what is truly within your power to control), and what is not your responsibility or what you cannot control. Boundaries are an essential ingredient to creating a healthy self. They define the relationship between yourself and everyone else around you. What are work-related boundaries? Most organisations have a code of ethics/conduct or fixed rules of behavior. These may include work hours, process for taking sick leave, and confidentiality. In addition, many organisations also have a code of conduct that outlines acceptable and unacceptable behavior. These fixed rules of behavior are organisational standards and boundaries that help keep every member of the organisation on the same page about what is acceptable behavioural conduct. Boundaries are important in an organisation, such as CFA, because they define the limits and responsibilities of the people who make up the membership within the organisation. When boundaries are clearly defined, CFA works more efficiently and members are clear about what is acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour and interaction. Healthy boundaries result in: Maintaining productivity Creating positive social dynamics in the work-related environment. Maintaining clarity around priorities, roles and responsibilities Clarity around accountability and reporting lines Good performance can clearly be identified. Unhealthy boundaries result in: Members not adhering to the code of conduct Members not clear about accountability of reporting lines Decreased productivity due to a lack of understanding about priorities, roles and behavior Lack of clarity may result in members blaming others for their failed or inadequate performance.

6 Setting and maintaining boundaries When professional boundaries and priorities have been clearly defined, a group can function more effectively. If each member understands what to do, how and when to do it, CFA will be a more productive environment. Role Responsibility Boundaries Professional boundaries are clear when members: Understand their role and duties Know who sets their task priorities and who they report to Know who gives them feedback Understand how CFA and personal information is kept secure Know how to treat all members fairly without positive or negative feelings influencing decisions Interpersonal Boundaries Members need to consider interpersonal boundaries in all interactions with others at CFA, including: The tone of voice members use to speak to one another The attitude and approach members use with each other The ability to focus on task objectives even with members you do not like or have been in personal conflict with The ability to set limits effectively with other members who have poor boundaries Defining consequences when a boundary is violated and sticking to it. Interpersonal boundaries can also include limiting work conversations, interactions and e- mails to appropriate topics, i.e. no sexual or personal topics. Personal Boundaries Setting personal boundaries can contribute to a better environment and increased wellbeing for all members. Personal boundaries at CFA may include: Taking breaks Taking care of your own health and safety Being mindful of your own triggers and stress levels Discussing any CFA concerns with relevant CFA managers so that any issues may be addressed and do not escalate. Boundaries when supporting a member It can be difficult and challenging to support a member experiencing mental health issues. This can become increasingly difficult when members are not clear about where their CFA

7 relationship begins and ends, what their role is within this context or what the appropriate boundaries are. When supporting fellow members with a mental health issue, it is important to remember what is part of your role and what is not. Do: Be clear about what your role and responsibilities are at CFA Know your limits, what you can or cannot assist with Listen and direct them to more appropriate sources of help. This may be to internal organisational supports (Member Assistance Program) or by providing relevant information, or it may include assisting them to contact their GP or family member Respect and maintain privacy Do not: Act as a counsellor Attempt to diagnose the issue Give advice - unless it is about how things operate at CFA Make yourself the only point of contact for the member with a mental health issue Spend too much time worrying about the other person or doing too much for them Call family members to mediate and assist without informing the member experiencing difficulties Talk about the member s issues or illness with other members When supporting another member with a mental health issue, it is important to provide support to your fellow members in a way that is professional and consistent with CFA policies, while respecting another person s privacy and personal circumstances. This can be especially relevant when providing services to people in small communities who may have established long-term relationships. An important aspect of managing boundaries when supporting a member with mental health issues is to not engage emotionally. Remaining calm and not showing your emotions is a key part of being able to support someone who shows signs of anxiety or distress. Case Example Alex and Graeme have been living in the same small community for years. Alex only joined CFA in the last year and over the last few weeks he has been displaying some out of character behaviour. He is withdrawn and agitated. Graeme became aware that his behaviour changed after he attended a MVA where there was a fatality. Alex has just arrived at the Brigade in a highly anxious state. Graeme can see that Alex is not fit to be at CFA today. Graeme asks Alex to come and meet with him privately to have a chat. Graeme says: I can see that you haven t been yourself lately and you seem more agitated than usual. I wondered whether you would like to talk with me about what has been going on?. Alex felt uncomfortable discussing his anxiety with Graeme as they have known each other in social settings. In future, it would be best for Graeme to refer Alex to CFA or other sources of support.

8 Getting Help Whether you are supporting fellow members experiencing mental health issues or attending to your own mental health, there may be times when you need some additional help. A good place to start in getting help to manage your own mental health is to visit your local general practitioner (GP). Let him or her know if you think you are experiencing symptoms of a mental health issue. Your GP will conduct an assessment for you and support you in seeking further support either by a psychologist or psychiatrist where required. It is also important to realise that many presenting symptoms of mental health issues could be caused by or related to other things, such as physical illness, the effects of medications, or stress. Seek help early as struggling alone can prolong the issues of concern. When supporting or responding to someone who is experiencing mental health issues, remember that it can be very demanding on you to provide that support. At times you may experience difficulties coping with these situations. It is therefore important to acknowledge this and be aware of your own wellbeing during this time. This will help you to decide when you need to seek support for yourself. Maintain your awareness of your mental health. Take the time to self-reflect and check in on how you are coping. This is relevant at any time, not only when you are supporting another member. Seek out sources of support and people to debrief with or talk to. This may be a friend, family member, fellow member, and professional support service, such as the Member Assistance Program or a help line. Remember that you can only do your best to assist someone and that sometimes despite best efforts some people may still experience serious mental health issues and will even take their own lives. There are a number of referral sources available internally at CFA and other external services available to all members, including: Internal CFA Services Peer support can be accessed through the Rostered Duty Officer, Office in Charge, Line Manager, or the Peer Coordinator Psychologists/Counsellors can be contacted directly through the Member Assistance Program on Chaplains can be contacted directly or by contacting Converge International on Additional support services: Beyondblue: Black Dog Institute: blackdoginstitute.org.au Mens Line Australia: or Sane: or Lifeline: or lifeline.org.au

9 Remember that the information provided here is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you have any concerns about your mental health, please refer to a qualified health professional e.g. GP, Psychologist. Refer to the Getting Help Essential Resources Module 13 booklet for details on other resources.

10 References: Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School. Sleep and mental health. p-and-mental-health Mind Tools Ltd ( ) Bite-Sized Training Stress Busters Sane Australia (2005) Psychosis Fact Sheet.

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