Monday, September 21, 2020

Self-care, A Daily Activity

As the restrictions of the pandemic continue (particularly here in Victoria), our mental health has increasingly become an issue of concern. In response, there have been a number of state and nationally funded initiatives established to support the negative impacts COVID-19 has on people’s mental health.
As a mental health professional I have had the privilege of supporting the development of some of these programs. I have also been witness to and involved in the support of many mental health clinicians and professionals as they work to support those in receipt of such programs. Mental health clinicians and professionals who, in the process of undertaking their work to support others, have themselves at times struggled with their own mental health and wellbeing.

Much of my work supporting mental health professionals and clinician’s during this time has been through processes such as de-briefing, clinical supervision and reflective practice forums (albeit via video-conferencing platforms or telephone). Providing spaces where clinicians and professionals themselves can talk about and offload the impact this pandemic, these restrictions (as they have come and gone and then come back again), their increased workloads, pressures on family life, juggling and managing the home-schooling of their children with their own jobs, sharing work spaces in the family home (often the kitchen table) with others in their families and all-the-while carrying increasingly demanding and heavy workloads.

In the first wave of the pandemic, (way back in March), so much of the territory was new (if a little weird). And within the novelty of establishing our workstations from home, understanding the rules of social distancing and the 4 or 5 reasons we could only leave our home for, we were all keen to do the right thing and for those first few months we had the energy to do this. As clinicians moved from office-based work with consumers to video and telephone platforms however, the need to understand and manage the changes to work practice and troubleshoot the problems that could (and did) occur using these mediums became apparent. In the third month of the first lock down I was part of a professional webinar panel looking at tips and strategies for using technology for mental health consultations. Clinical expertise was not enough to get clinicians through these changes and for many, it meant they also had to become technical experts.
Part of my own emphasis on that webinar panel was the importance of taking care of the clinicians. I felt the need to specifically highlight the importance of self-care, right alongside managing the technology platforms many were now using in caring for consumers. This was and still is something that I pay a great attention to - partly out of my own need to self-care, but also because much of my professional work takes me into the business of caring for the carers.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Look For The Silver Linings

There's no argument (perhaps except among those with their heads in the sand) - the last 6 months months has had devastating impacts, worldwide, as we have travelled and navigated our way through unfamiliar, uncertain and at times heart-breaking territory. Yesterday, I was in a discussion with colleagues about the week when the notion of silver linings was raised, and that alongside the experiences of the pandemic and the stage 4 restrictions, there have also been some good things happening

My colleagues example of his own silver lining was in the development and richness of his immediate family relationships. His point reminded all of us in the conversation of the blessings and the positives that have come from some of the negatives of this pandemic.  And, as many of you will echo - alongside the awful, the horrible, challenging and the sad, there have been some amazing and wonderful things that have occurred within peoples lives and communities.  So, I am inspired to pause, notice something about my own silver linings and reflect also on those common gains and positivities that bring us together as people, families, friends, work mates and even strangers in a time in which somedays it has been hard even, to see the sun when it shines, hear the birds when they sing, marvel at the full moon on a clear night and weed out the bad from the good.  But, a reminder that if all we see are the grey clouds and what we focus on is what we can't do in these restrictions, we risk missing the silver linings and the positives that can come from the negatives, the adverse experiences, the pain, the sadness and those things over which we have no control.  It's an ancient proverb - in every cloud there is a silver lining and no matter how bad the situation, there is always some good element to it. 

But, not everyone sees it this way, not everyone looks for the silver lining.  For some, it's the negative over the positive, its the dark over the light, the bad that's always there, the glass that's always half empty over the glass that's also half full. How about you? Do you look for what good you can make of the bad, or do you spend so much of energy in the grey cloud that you fail to see the lighter side of it, let alone the gold (or silver in this case) that can come with it?

Monday, September 14, 2020

Stepping Away - Stepping To

A dear young friend of mine is about to make her first move from home and while this will no doubt be an exciting time, leaving the family home can also be an event that brings an amount of anxiety, nervousness and trepidation, right alongside the need to journey to greater independence.

For some people the departure from the family home and the stepping away is more of a gradual process, with many spending time back and forth from the houses of their partners, until the final move. For others it may be more like stepping away from that which is either no longer supportive, unbearable or worse still, abusive. Different motivations, in different circumstances.

Right now though, I marvel that in these uncertain economic times my young friend, her brother before her and many others have both the confidence and the financial capacity to go their own way.  Well done all of you.
But so too, a young person's leaving can be a momentous time for parents, particularly as they see their last one out the door.  There's movement in it for everyone. One door closes, another opens. In the instance, I am inspired by my beautiful friend's moving out event, to write this piece. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Are You Okay

So, I just had 8 working days off. It was bliss. I started a blog, rode my bike, face-timed my grandson, spoke to my kids and their darlings and my nearest and dearest friends (on zoom).  I baked chocolate peanut cookies (and ate them), gardened, slept in and had lunch in the sun on my deck. Is there more that could make a break from work more blissful in this lock-down? Oh yes - I also walked on my beach (you know, the one I share with everyone else that lives in my part of the world).

But, getting back to my first day back at work (albeit in the front room of my house), I am glad I kept my roller-blades all these years, because at 8am I hit the ground running – rather, skating, and I spent most of my first day back in zoom and teams meetings - virtually back-to-back. 

Here's the thing though, not only did I notice how much had happened in 8 days (and how much I therefore needed to catch up on), but I noticed too, how much more work there is to do and how much stress some of my colleagues and others are under. Of course, not everyone is showing it (and perhaps not even feeling stressed (I want their strategies), but there's an awful lot happening in our work worlds at the moment and you know, only one person, in all of the 7 or 8 meetings I was part of today - mentioned (and bless him for wearing his R U OK t-shirt) that it was R U OK Day today. Today - of all the days through this pandemic. A day in honour and memory of Barry Larkin, who died from suicide in 1995 and the courage of his son, family and others since to champion the prevention of suicide through a simple question, RUOK?