Don’t forget to ask yourself: Are you okay?

With R U OK day today, we thought it was timely to share what we have learnt…

Trent Savill is a consultant therapist and the Director of Complex Care. Trent has delivered a range of workshops for WorkUP Queensland including self-care, working with children and adjusting to COVID-19. We asked Trent to share some reflections and top five tips from the wellbeing and COVID-19 workshops. 

Working in the domestic and family violence sector exposes professionals to a whole range of stressors, potentially on a daily basis and it’s important for ourselves and for our clients that we take care of ourselves. Additionally, COVID-19 has brought a whole range of new stressors for our clients and for us as practitioners. Cumulative exposure to crisis, risk, and trauma can start to impact on our mental health, slowly shifting us towards higher levels of physiological arousal.

The greatest challenge is continuing to invest in self-care and wellbeing strategies, even when we are time-poor or under increased stress. Here are some tips to embed self-care into our daily lives.

Creating routines, rules or rituals – can help change habits.

  1. Sleep: For healthy functioning, our brain needs to get 8 hours of solid sleep on a regular basis, as it is towards the end of our sleep cycle that we have the most REM sleep. Creating rules around bed-time, such as no technology in bed, can break habits that contribute to poor sleep. Making rules around caffeine intake, such as not drinking coffee after 12pm can also support this. Even building a routine around going to bed one night a week can go a long way in maintaining your mental health.
  2. Exercise: Find exercise that you enjoy and plan it into your week. Research shows that exercising for 30 minutes per day at vigorous intensity can completely burn off excess cortisol from our body, that we would otherwise be carrying in our system for 2-3 days. It also releases calming hormones and neurotransmitters, improving mood and promoting positive emotions. Exercising with a friend has the added bonus of keeping you connected.
  3. Diet: We all know about the benefits of a healthy diet for our body’s physical wellbeing, but we often don’t consider its impact on our mental health and mood. 95% of our Serotonin  (feel good happiness chemical) is actually produced by the micro-flora in the lining of our gut. Try to avoid eating too much processed foods, particularly foods high in sugar, sodium and fat. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables rich in vitamins, and foods with anti-inflammatory properties like turmeric, ginger and garlic, are associated with promoting brain health and positive mood.
  4. Mindfully monitoring: Working in this sector can place us at higher risk of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and emotional constriction. Some people may notice that they are holding the emotions of others in their body, or that they leave their feelings at the door when they step into a session or pick up the phone. We want to resonate with our clients’ experiences so they feel genuinely connected and not alone in those big feelings. There are also times where we need to step back to provide containment and hold a space for them and ourselves. This process of actively attempting to not feel, in many ways, goes against the connections of our brain and nervous system, and repetitive attempts to step away from what we are experiencing can start to lead us towards feeling increasingly numb.If you are frequently having moments where you need to leave your feelings at the door, make sure you have strategies for picking them back up on the way out. This could mean setting up daily prompts on your phone that cue you to pause, take a deep breath and notice what you are feeling Mindfulness apps allow you to program these prompts into your day so that you can engage in calming and centring activity that reconnects you with your emotions.
  5. Transition rituals: Planning transition rituals, that signal the end of your work-day and support you to leave it behind, can be really important to maintaining our self-care and relationships with others. This may involve taking some time on your commute home to reflect and process the day, and then playing a particular song to symbolise your decision to leave that stress until tomorrow. If working from home, it may be that you take your dog for a walk to decompress or have a shower and change your clothes to symbolise that transition.

This content is an excerpt from a longer piece written in the context of COVID 19 response, click here to read the full article. 

Authored by Trent Savill, Complex Care after WorkUP Queensland Professional Development events
(held on 19 April and 11 May 2020) 

Save the Date! SPARK webinar #3 Examining Whiteness and Racism 30 September, 12pm

Save the Date! SPARK webinar #3 Examining Whiteness and Racism
30 September, 12pm

The global Black Lives Matter demonstrations have uncovered some unsettling, raw and painful truths in Australia. For Aboriginal people and people of colour, this moment is part of a centuries-old fight against colonisation, white privilege and institutionalised racism.

Dr Tracy Castelino will deliver this SPARK webinar drawing on her 20 years of experience working to challenge and eliminate racism. She will explore how white ways of relating, of speaking intentions of solidarity, whilst important, reinforce the status quo: institutionalised whiteness.

This SPARK webinar offers the opportunity to explore the critical issues of responding to racism and institutionalised white privilege. Tracy will focus on naming the politics of whiteness, highlighting the benefits and unintentional pitfalls of solidarity and anti-racist work, and how we can use this moment to disrupt the way racism systematically destroys our relations with each other and ourselves.  Participants will also have the opportunity to reflect on what this means for themselves and their practice.

We invite you to join us to explore how we can use this moment in time to disrupt racism and step in to find new ways to relate to ourselves and to each other.