Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Relationship during Lockdown

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Relationship during Lockdown


For some, being cooped up all day long with your hubby can be a dream come true. While for others it can be well, an incredibly challenging experience.

Here are some tips to ease the strain this may be causing on your relationship.

Take care of yourself

If you’ve ever been on an airplane you will have been told that in the case of an emergency you have to put your own oxygen mask first before helping others with theirs. This is a great metaphor for life too. We need to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of others. For some, this might seem selfish but the truth is, putting your own oxygen mask first does not show a lack of love or care for the others – it shows care and love for oneself. Essentially, looking after yourself isn’t just for you.

In the case of a pandemic, we are all feeling some degree of anxiety and concern. This is normal. But stress and anxiety drain us of our patience and energy. How are you filling yourself back up each day?

Nurturing your relationship with your partner, or your children, has to start with nurturing yourself. Find ways to help calm and soothe your mind and the world will be better for it.

Develop a routine

In normal pre-COVID days, families managed to juggle busy schedules and always had a ‘break’ from each other. Now there is no ‘normal’ schedule. Everyone is in the same space, under the same roof, all the time.

As easy as it might be to allow one day to roll into the next without leaving the house, develop an exercise schedule you can stick to. Take a break and go outside for a breath of fresh air. Alone time is so important for anyone, especially in times like these.

Maintain open communication

Just because you’re physically together doesn’t mean you’re spending that time communication. It can be easy to ‘veg out’ and watch endless shows on Netflix without addressing the elephant in the room. We all respond differently to stress and in unprecedented times like these, it’s important to talk openly with your partner about how this is affecting you and how you can help each other through this.

You can do this by intentionally sitting down with your partner without any distractions or phones around. Choose the right time and be ready to talk openly and honestly. Be accepting of their points as well as your own.

Think about the big picture

Coronavirus is an incredible time in history, and one that we will probably forever change the way we are as human beings in the world. There will be stories and tales of these times together, what will yours be?

Our patience is certainly going to be tested, and there may be days that we struggle but sometimes it helps to zoom out of the details and into the big picture. Right now is a perfect opportunity to enjoy uninterrupted time together and take advantage of it as much as you can.

However, there is a definitely a limit and sometimes even when we try our best, a relationship keeps clashing. That’s okay too. There is nothing to be ashamed about and we can help you find a professional that suits you.

If you are looking for a mental health professional to help your relationship get back on track then check out our ‘Fostering Better Relationships‘ page.

 

Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Face COVID

Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Face COVID

 

The following article was written by Russ Harris, an internationally acclaimed acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) trainer and author of the best-selling ACT-based self-help book The Happiness Trap.

 

If you are new to this form of therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) aims to maximise human potential for a rich, full and meaningful life by:

a) Teaching you psychological skills to deal with painful thoughts and feelings effectively – in such a way that they have much less impact and influence over you (these are known as mindfulness skills).
b) Helping you to clarify what is truly important and meaningful to you – i.e your values – then use that knowledge to guide, inspire and motivate you to change your life for the better.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy gets its name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. It’s a perfect time right now to use A.C.T. to cope with the Coronavirus crisis and the effect it has on our well-being.

Many of us are dealing with the very real challenges of associated with a global infectious illness, overwhelmed healthcare systems, economic fallout, job loss and financial problems, and major interruptions to virtually all aspects of life. When facing a crisis its normal to feel fear and anxiety. These are natural responses to challenging situations filled with danger and uncertainty. It’s easy to get lost in worrying and ruminating about all sorts of things that are out of our control. However, while it’s completely natural to get worries, it’s not useful or helpful.

The acronym ‘FACE COVID’ offers a set of practical steps for responding effectively to the Corona crisis, using the principles of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

F = Focus on what’s in your control
A = Acknowledge your thoughts & feelings
C = Come back into your body
E = Engage in what you’re doing

C = Committed action
O = Opening up
V = Values
I = Identify resources
D = Disinfect & distance
——————————-

F = Focus on what’s in your control

The more we focus on what’s not in our control, the more hopeless or anxious we’re likely to feel. The single most useful thing anyone can do in any type of crisis is to focus on what’s in our control. You can’t control what happens in the future. You can’t control Coronavirus or the world economy or how the leaders of countries are managing. You also can’t magically control your feelings, eliminating all that perfectly natural fear and anxiety.
But you can control what you do – here and now.

The reality is, we have more control over our behaviour, than we do over our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, our number one aim is to take control of our behaviour to respond effectively to this crisis. This involves both dealing with our inner world – all of those difficult thoughts and feelings – and our outer world – all the real problems we are facing.

How do we do this? Well, when a big storm blows up, the boats in the harbour drop anchor – because if they don’t, they’ll get swept out to sea. Dropping anchor doesn’t make the storm go away (anchors can’t control the weather) – but it can hold a boat steady in the harbour, until the storm passes in its own good time. Similarly, in an ongoing crisis, we’re all going to experience ‘emotional storms’: unhelpful thoughts spinning inside our head, and painful feelings whirling around our body. And if we’re swept away by that storm inside us, there’s nothing effective we can do. So the first practical step is to ‘drop anchor’.

A = Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings

This step is extremely important. All you need to do is acknowledge whatever is ‘showing up’ inside you: thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, sensation, urges. Instead of resisting it, observe what’s going on in your inner world. As you do this, often it’s helpful to put this into words, and silently say to yourself something like, ‘I’m noticing anxiety’, or ‘I’m experiencing feelings of depression’, or ‘There’s my mind worrying’ or ‘I’m having thoughts about getting sick’. And while continuing to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings.

C = Come back into your body

Come back into and connect with your physical body. Here are some ideas you could try:

• Slowly pushing your feet hard into the floor.
• Slowly straightening up your back and spine; if sitting, sitting upright and forward in your chair.
• Slowly pressing your fingertips together
• Slowly stretching your arms or neck, shrugging your shoulders.
• Slowly breathing

Note: you are not trying to turn away from, escape, avoid or distract yourself from what is happening in your inner world. The aim is to remain aware of your thoughts and feelings, continue to acknowledge their presence and at the same time, connect with your body, and actively move it. Why? So you can gain as much control as possible over your physical actions, even though you can’t control your feelings. (Remember, F = Focus on what’s in your control)

E = Engage in what you’re doing

Get a sense of where you are and refocus your attention on the activity you are doing. Find your own way of doing this. You could try some or all of the following suggestions, or find your own methods:
• Look around the room and notice 5 things you can see.

• Notice 3 or 4 things you can hear.
• Notice what you can smell or taste or sense in your nose and mouth
• Notice what you are doing
• End the exercise by giving your full attention to the task or activity at hand.

Please don’t skip the A of ACE; it’s so important to keep acknowledging the thoughts and feelings present, especially if they are difficult or uncomfortable. If you skip the A, this exercise will turn into a distraction technique – which it’s not supposed to be.

Now for the COVID part:

C = Committed Action

Committed action means take effective action guided by your core values. This is action you take because it’s truly important to you, even if it brings up difficult thoughts and feelings. Once you have dropped anchor, using the ACE formula, you will have a lot of control over your actions – so this makes it easier to do the things that truly matter.

That includes all those protective measures against Coronavirus (frequent handwashing, social distancing, and so on). But in addition to those fundamentals of effective action, consider: What are simple ways to look after yourself, those you live with, and those you can realistically help? What kind, caring, supportive deeds can you do? Can you say some kind words to someone in distress – in person or via a phone call or text message? Can you help someone out with a task or a chore, or cook a meal, or hold someone’s hand, or play a game with a young child? Can you comfort and soothe someone who is sick? Or in the most serious of cases, nurse them and access whatever medical assistance is available? And if you’re spending a lot more time at home, through self-isolation or forced quarantine, or social distancing, what are the most effective ways to spend that time? You may want to consider physical exercise to stay fit, cooking (as) healthy food (as possible, given restrictions), and doing meaningful activities by yourself or with others.
Repeatedly throughout the day, ask yourself ‘What can I do right now – no matter how small it may be – that improves life for myself or others I live with, or people in my community?’ And whatever the answer is – do it, and engage in it fully.

O = Opening Up

Opening up means making room for difficult feelings and being kind to yourself. Difficult feelings are guaranteed to keep on showing up as this crisis unfolds: fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and many more. We can’t stop them from arising; they’re normal reactions. But we can open up and make room for them: acknowledge they are normal, allow them to be there (even though they hurt), and treat ourselves kindly.
Remember, self-kindness is essential if you want to cope well with this crisis – especially if you are in a caregiver role. If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’ve heard this message: ‘In event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.’ Well, self-kindness is your own oxygen mask; if you need to look after others, you’ll do it a whole lot better if you’re also taking good care of yourself.
So ask yourself, ‘If someone I loved was going through this experience, feeling what I am feeling – if I wanted to be kind and caring towards them, how would I treat them? How would I behave towards them? What might I say or do?’ Then try treating yourself the same way.

V = Values

Your values might include love, respect, humour, patience, courage, honesty, caring, openness, kindness, or numerous others. Look for ways to ‘sprinkle’ these values into your day. Let them guide and motivate your committed action. Of course, as this crisis unfolds, there will be all sorts of obstacles in your life; goals you can’t achieve, things you can’t do, problems for which there are no simple solutions. But you can still live your values in a myriad of different ways, even in the face of all those challenges. Especially come back to your values of kindness and caring.

Consider: What are kind, caring ways you can treat yourself as you go through this? What are kind words you can say to yourself, kind deeds you can do for yourself? What are kind ways you can treat others who are suffering? What are kind, caring ways of contributing to the wellbeing of your community? What can you say and do that will enable you to look back in years to come and feel proud of your response?

I = Identify Resources

Identify resources for help, assistance, support, and advice. This includes friends, family, neighbours, health professionals, emergency services. And make sure you know the emergency helpline phone numbers, including psychological help if required. Also reach out to your social networks. And if you are able to offer support to others, let them know. You can be a resource for other people, just as they can for you. One very important aspect of this process involves finding a reliable and trustworthy source of information for updates on the crisis and guidelines for responding to it. The World Health Organisation website is the leading source of such information as well as the website of your country’s government health department. Use this information to develop your own resources: action plans to protect yourself and others, and to prepare in advance for quarantine or emergency.

D = Disinfect

This has been said many times, but it’s worth repeating: disinfect your hands regularly and practice as much social distancing as realistically possible, for the greater good of your community. And remember, we’re talking about physical distancing – not cutting off emotionally.
There are still ways to connect with friends and family, it will just have to be virtually for now.

If you need to talk to someone, you can find help on Radiant now.

5 Tips for Working from Home During the Coronavirus

5 Tips for Working from Home During the Coronavirus

This article originally appeared on Relationships Australia website.

As a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, schools and work places are closing indefinitely around Australia. Which means a lot of us will be working from home for the next few weeks. Many would not choose to work at home because of the interruptions, the value of seeing their team each day and the difficulty staying in “work mode”. Others will relish the opportunity to try a different approach.

There is no need to panic; there are ways you can avoid going stir-crazy, from setting up a good work space or encouraging constant conversation with your team. Here are our 5 tips on what you can do to stay productive while working from home, and maintain your own well-being:

1. Create a schedule

Trying to create a somewhat normal routine is not only important for you but also for your children (if you have kids). Setting a schedule that replicates a school day or a normal work day will be really beneficial. You should still wake up and get dressed as if it is a normal day, this will help with focus and productivity. It is important to still take a lunch break or coffee break and for kids it is still great for them to have a lunch hour, and in that time send them outside into the backyard to play. With your children/child set aside some time to write out all your schedules, you can have a reward system in place for whoever sticks to their schedules the best each day.

2. Keep up communication

Having regular chats with your colleagues is just as important as talking with your loved ones in this time. Being home over the next few weeks may get lonely for some, so having regular communication will not only keep morale high but is a good way to ensure you can stay focused, energised and productive. Most people will be trying to manage the same challenges e.g. work and life balance, so the best thing you can do is be open and honest with your team. If you’re jumping into a video conference it is okay to give them a “heads up” that a child may come into the room or be making some noise in the background.

You may have family members or a friend who lives alone, so make sure you check in on them and let them know you’re only one call away. It is also beneficial to you to have conversations with those outside your house and if necessary have a vent or chat about what is going on at home.

You may live in an apartment block or have elderly neighbours or someone with a compromised immune system. If you’re heading to the shops it could be nice to slip a note under their door or give them a call and ask if they need anything. You will be surprised how many people would appreciate these small gestures and return the favour. Maintaining our community is good for us all.

3. Set up a work space and work boundaries

As tempting as it is to stay in your pyjamas and send emails from bed, it won’t be beneficial in the long run. It is important to treat working at home like a real job. If you already have a desk or office that is great, but if you don’t, setting up a space that is specifically for you is important. Up until now you might work on the dining room table for an hour at night. If you are now based at home, you might need to create something more established and more private. Setting up something similar for your children and creating a space that is just for them where they can do their school work will help keep them on track.

It is also a good idea to set boundaries for the people you live with, if you have children let them know if parts of the day are “do not disturb” time. You can have a sign on your door or a little note on the table with “thumbs up” or “thumbs down.” If you know that parental responsibilities could affect your work time, speak up openly with your team about your plans to work flexibly. You might need to have more breaks and to then log in again after dinner if you have home distractions.

4. Stay active

Staying active while being at home can be tricky. We don’t know when or if the country will go into complete lockdown but it is good for your overall wellbeing to get out of the house. This may be a walk around the block before you start your work day or going for a walk/run in your lunch break. It is important to take breaks throughout the day, this could be as simple as sitting outside in your backyard for 10 minutes to get some sun or taking your dog for a walk after a long meeting. It is tempting to do some jobs like the washing or put on the dishwasher. That should be perfectly fine and is no different than at work; we need short breaks to stay fresh and alert.

If we do go into lockdown there are so many great videos on YouTube or Instagram that can help keep you active while in the house. From yoga and Pilates classes to high intensity interval training there is something for people of all fitness levels. You could also do some on-line professional development that would normally be on your long wish list; now is the time you could invest in yourself.

5. Plan out your weekend activities

With restaurants and cinemas closing down it is important to plan out your weekend activities to avoid the whole household from going crazy. Creating a bowl where each family writes on a piece of paper a different activity you can do is a fun way of keeping yourselves entertained. A few ideas that are good ways to pass the time whether you’re a family or a couple are:

  • Board games
  • Drawing or painting competitions
  • Backyard sport – soccer, cricket, handball
  • Movie marathons/start a new TV series
  • Baking snacks for the week
  • My Kitchen Rules home edition (split the family into groups and have one group cook entrée, the other main course)

If are feeling completely overwhelmed, there are people who can help you:

RANSW Counselling Services
Online Counselling Services

Coronavirus: How to Get Mental Health Support Now

Coronavirus: How to Get Mental Health Support Now

As the world grapples with the ripple effects of Coronavirus, many of us are left feeling frightened and confused. It’s a natural response to feel afraid in extraordinary times like these. If you feel like your mental health has been severely affected it’s important to know that there are many services that are available to you right now.

In our previous post, we mentioned how Scott Morrison has funded $1.1 billion dollars into Medicare, mental health, domestic violence packages meaning that there are plenty of services to help Australians manage during this difficult time.

As of Monday 30 March 2020, bulk-billing is now available for online and over-the-phone appointments with eligible mental health services.

Additionally, many private health insurance will also now cover one-on-one psychology teleconsultations.

First, get a Mental Health Care Plan from your Doctor

In order to get a mental health care plan you need to book an appointment with your GP either in person, or via a telehealth appointment (most GPs are offering these during this time). Tell them about the mental health issues you’ve been experiencing and they will help you find a mental health professional. You can read more about this in our other blog post How to Get a Mental Health Care Plan.’

When you speak to your doctor, they will probably ask if you’ve found a mental health psychologist or professional to see.  You can request a certain mental health professional or go on your doctor’s advice. It is important to spend a bit of time researching to find someone that suits your needs. If you decide to change after a couple of sessions that OK, but you don’t restart your ten sessions with the new mental health professional. Remember just because a psychologist is popular does not mean that they are necessarily right for you. Use Radiant or google the person, we recommend reading as much information as you can about the professional and what their approach will be like.

A Mental Health Care Plan is still required to claim from medicare during the COVID-19 crisis, and its always a good idea to have one anyway before you see a psychologist.  A doctor will be able to understand your needs and offer any medication if required.

If you are currently in isolation and need to see a doctor you can video call any eligible doctor, nurse or mental health professional and be covered by Medicare. People in vulnerable groups can additionally see a health provider via telehealth for a non-COVID-19 matter if they have seen that provider face-to-face at least once in the previous 12 months.

Secondly, find a Radiant mental health professional who I can talk to online, via zoom, skype, or phone

Here is a link to our Radiant mental health professionals who are available online and can claim via medicare.  They can help you right now: online medicare mental health professional support

Some points to help find the right professional for you:

  • Use the filters to shortlist on what you think are the most important criteria to suit your needs
  • Read the detailed profiles. Is there someone you feel you could connect with?
  • When you contact the professional, please ask questions, such as how it the session will work? what are the costs? Are there are any gap payment after the medicare rebate?

We believe that its worth spending some time to find someone who maybe the right match for you.

Where else can I access other telehealth services?

Beyond finding a Mental Health Professional on Radiant, below are some other telehealth services across Australia you can connect with right now:

A new phone service released by Relationships Australia NSW, Time 2 Talk is a free service for people experiencing any number of difficulties during COVID-19 that could be relating to their families, households, their personal situation or work life and just want to talk to someone.

Call: 1300 022 966

The helpline offers you the option of having a phone or video call with a GP during afterhours. Eligible patients are referred to a video call by a registered nurse. You can use your smartphone, tablet or desktop computer to speak to them.

Contact: 1800 022 222

Lysn provides psychology & counselling via video or phone no matter where you live.  This service is a paid for service.

Click: welysn.com/

Call and book an appointment and a telehealth coordinator will arrange your consultation. You’ll then receive a call back from a doctor, psychologist or specialist at an appointment time of your choice. This service is a paid for service.

Contact: 1800 870 711 (within Australia) or +61 2 9308 9400 (International).

Alternatively, you can also use the map locator on the Australian Government’s Doctor Connect website to see if Telehealth is available in your area.

Where can I seek urgent mental health support?

As most of us have had to dramatically alter the way we live, it’s important that we know where we can seek immediate mental health support. Here are some 24/7 crisis lines that you can call at any time of day. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Emergency 000
If you or someone you are with is in immediate danger, please call 000 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

Beyond Blue
Talk to a trained mental health professional any time of the day or night. Calls are confidential. They will listen, provide information and advice and point you in the right direction to seek further support. 1300 22 46 36

Lifeline
24-hour crisis support telephone service. Lifeline provides 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services.131 114

Kids Helpline
A telephone counselling support line for children and young people ages 5 to 25 and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 1800 551 800

NSW Mental Health Line
A mental health professional will answer your call about mental health concerns for you or someone you are concerned about, including children, teens, adults and older people. 1800 011 511

Suicide Call Back Service
National services that provides free 24/7 phone, video and online professional counselling to people who are affected by suicide.1300 659 467

For more please visit NSW Government Health website.

We are aware this is a highly stressful time and want to do our best to support you, please don’t hesitate to reach out and get the help you need. We are all in this together and want to help you through.

$1.1 billion Medicare, mental health, domestic violence package in response to Coronavirus crisis

$1.1 billion Medicare, mental health, domestic violence package in response to Coronavirus crisis

At Radiant, we are aware there is a lot of uncertainty right now. Therefore we aim to post information as it becomes available. The following is a conglomeration of what we have found through multiple news sources regarding the Governments mental health response to the Coronavirus Crisis.

Please note that this information is changing daily, so if you’re looking for mental health support via telehealth it would be best to check with your health professional to ensure your needs can be supported under medicare.  

There have been two recent government announcements:

On 11 March 2020, Scott Morrison MP, announced a $2.4 Billion health plan to fight COVID-19 to protect all Australians, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly, those with chronic conditions and Indigenous communities, from COVID-19.

On 29th March 2020, it was announced that from 30 March 2020, telehealth (video-conference) and phone consultation items would be available to all Australians, as a temporary six-month measure.

What are the changes to mental health services?

The changes include measures to support mental health and wellbeing for Australians during this crisis, giving people direct access to online support and counselling services when and where they need it most.

What is included in mental health funding?

Beyond the expansion Medicare funding, the Government is providing the following extra mental health support to Australians at this time:

  • Dedicated Coronavirus digital resources and a 24×7 phone counselling service led by Beyond Blue and staffed by accredited mental health professionals to help people experiencing stress or anxiety associated with the impacts of the pandemic, such as health concerns, employment changes, business closures or family pressures. Beyond Blue will establish this service, supported by a $5m donation from Medibank, an ongoing Beyond Blue partner.
  • Funding to bolster critical phone and online support services, including Lifeline and Kids Helpline, ensuring they can meet anticipated increased demand and providing job opportunities for Australians to be trained as counsellors. Extra funding will bolster other existing services including digital peer-support to people with urgent, severe and complex mental illness who may be experiencing additional distress.
  • A dedicated mental health and well-being program for front-line health workers will provide online and phone services, giving front-line workers support when and where they need it.
  • The Community Visitors Scheme will be expanded, with funding for extra staff and volunteers to ensure older people receiving aged care support, stay connected on line and by phone even though they may be physically separated from others.
    headspace will expand its digital work and study service, to help younger Australians stay on track in their education and training and prepare them for the workforce.
  • For First Australians, new culturally appropriate mental health and well-being resources will be developed by Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) across a range of platforms.
  • Increased funding for Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) to bolster its free helpline (1300 726 306) and produce new tool kits and resources to support expecting and new parents cope with increased stress and anxiety.
  • Funding to continue to deliver psychosocial support to Commonwealth community mental health clients for a further 12 months. This will allow additional time for people with severe and complex mental illness to complete their applications and testing for support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
  • A targeted mental health communications campaign as part of the broader Coronavirus communications campaign. This will include wide-ranging advertising, social media engagement, education and awareness initiatives to keep the conversation going about mental health as the full impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic emerge.
  • Continued expansion of the resources provided on the Government’s digital mental health gateway Head to Health, giving people access to trusted mental health information and services.

How can I access support?

Below are some more information about how to access different types of mental health support.

  • Digital mental health resources: Many reputable websites are providing information about how to manage mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak. Phone and online mental health services are also available to support you in managing the impacts of COVID-19 on your mental health and wellbeing, such as stress and anxiety, isolation and loneliness, or feelings of depression. Check out Head to Health for digital mental health resources.
  • Health professionals and Medicare items: Medicare has also made several telehealth mental health services several telehealth mental health services bulk-billable in certain circumstances, for the period 13 March 2020 to 30 September 2020 inclusive. This means eligible people can access mental health services through videoconferencing or telephone instead of attending a face-to-face session. Check with your health professional to see if you will be able to access these new telehealth items during the period.

Who benefits?

In the coming week or so telehealth should be available to all Australians, however, as the Medicare claim items are still being rolled out to health professionals you may find that the following groups are only currently eligible:

  • Are self-isolating because you have returned from overseas recently, have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or have otherwise been advised to self-isolate by a medical practitioner
  • Are aged over 70 (over 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples)
  • Have a chronic health condition or are immunocompromised
  • Are pregnant or are a parent with a new baby
  • If your health practitioner is in self-isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19, you may also be able to receive Medicare rebates for telehealth sessions with them.

 

If you require urgent mental health help please contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14

How Do I Know If I Need to See a Psychologist?

How Do I Know If I Need to See a Psychologist?


Deciding to see a psychologist or psychiatrist is a pivotal point in many people’s lives. Often, however, it is difficult to know whether you’re just having a low spell or there is something more going on.

Many things can affect mood and mental well-being. Hormones, illness or physical ailments, work stresses, financial problems, family or relationship issues, a lack of direction in life, chemical imbalances, and of course a pandemic like Coronavirus – all of this contributes to your state of mind. The difference, perhaps, between a low spell and a persistent problem that needs attention, is time. If the feelings persist longer than a few weeks to a month, this may be an indication that there is more at play. Many people wait it out for too long, but professionals recommend that you come in sooner rather than later, so that the problem does not have time to develop even further.

Dr Katherine Stewart, clinical psychologist at Uplift Psychological Services in Redfern, Sydney, says it’s quite simple when you break it down.
“The reason people come to counselling is that they want to be happy in their lives. If your unhappiness is greater than your happiness or capacity for happiness, then it’s time to see someone.”
If you are still unsure, there are signs you can look out for in yourself:

1. Your relationships are taking strain

When we are unhappy or struggling internally, the first casualties are usually those closest to us. Our friends, families and partners often take the brunt of it as they know us the best and notice the changes in us the fastest. Sometimes we lash out at them in the struggle to admit that there is something awry, or simply pull away from them. If you have noticed that one or more of your relationships are suffering and you are at odds with loved ones more than usual, this could be a sign that you are needing to work through some things with a professional.

2. You don’t enjoy doing things that used to bring you joy

The capacity to feel happiness is essential to our lives. If things that previously brought you joy or relaxation no longer have that effect on you and rather leave you feeling like you’re going through the motions, counselling could help you determine what is sucking your enjoyment out of life.

3. You start to pull away from people and would rather be alone

Sometimes we turn to our loved ones in times of need and other times we prefer to work through things alone. When we start to pull away entirely, however, and prefer to isolate ourselves for an extended period of time, there is cause for concern. This means our internal world is consuming us and there is no space to deal with anything else. A psychologist can help to harness those thoughts and feelings and redirect them in a positive way so that social interaction becomes a source of joy and not something overwhelming and exhausting.

4. You’ve suffered a trauma and can’t stop replaying it in your head

Trauma has a very complicated effect on our psychology. Some people are able to deal with it on their own and work through it eventually, but for many of us, it is too much to unpack by ourselves. Maybe you have lost a loved one or gone through a bad breakup or had a harrowing experience. Whatever it is, it is likely to have a lasting effect on you. Learning to deal with trauma in a healthy way can help you to move forward in life and stop the repeat reel.

5. Your diet or sleep has changed or your physical health has taken a knock

If you have noticed that your immune system is run down, you are experiencing headaches or stomach-aches, or that your eating habits or sleeping patterns have changed, this is a potential sign that your mental health is suffering. Our minds and bodies are connected and can have a large impact on each other. Think of the butterflies you get before delivering a speech or the warm feeling in your stomach when you are happy and content. Your body sometimes tells you what your mind is not ready to admit.

6. You’re using a substance or sex to cope

If your intake of alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or your use of sex or other escapes has increased recently, this may be an indication that it is becoming harder to cope with daily life. This is dangerous for obvious reasons and a psychologist can help you to learn healthier coping mechanisms to use when you are feeling down.

7. Your friends have told you they’re concerned

Finally, if your loved ones have gotten to a point where they are so concerned they say something, it might be time to listen. It is not easy to tell someone you love that you think there might be a problem. You don’t want to hurt their feelings or upset them or turn them against you and sour the relationship. People who really care about you, however, will put your well-being first as they want you to be happy and see you thrive. This might feel like judgement, but it’s actually love, albeit tough love.

Many people avoid counselling because they think that their problems aren’t big enough, or they don’t want to be stigmatised as being mentally ill. This stigmatism is slowly dissipating as the decades roll on, but it still exists and prevents people from seeking the help they need. Just as your body needs maintenance – you need to check your blood pressure, go to the dentist, attend physiotherapy if you develop movement problems – so too does your mind need maintenance.

Life is not always a walk in the park. Things happen and situations get thrown at us that we are not always equipped to deal with. There is no shame in seeking help for this. In fact, you should feel the opposite. You can be proud that you were brave enough to admit you need help and go out and actively seek it out. There are plenty of online mental health professionals who can help you right now.

 

16 Activities for People Self-Quarantining

16 Activities for People Self-Quarantining


With the majority of businesses requesting employers to work from home, restaurants and cafés only open for takeaway, most entertainment spaces shut down, and the government encouraging social distancing – we’re left to fend for ourselves in the safest place: at home.

For many of us, it’s quite a shock to suddenly be at home all the time. To have no breaks from family, partners or flatmates, no more commuting to work or school, replacing hanging out with friends in real life with a Skype date. The term ‘self-quarantine’ can even feel more like a form solitary confinement.

The good news is, the less time you spend in public space the less likely you are to spread any type of infections. You can be proud of yourself for playing your part in #FlatteningTheCurve and essentially saving lives. It’s important for all of us to limit social contact because too many people getting sick at the same time can overwhelm hospitals and healthcare facilities. Even if you are young and believe you can handle the Coronavirus with little to no complications, others in your community might not be able to. High-risk people (elderly, those with compromised immune systems or any other underlying health problems) should keep away from the public as much as possible to protect themselves from being exposed to the virus as it can be deadly for them.

If you’re experiencing severe symptoms of coronavirus, including a high fever, cough or trouble breathing, please call the Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080.

Here are some ways to make your time at home more enjoyable, productive, relaxing and even educational:

  1. Read.

    Read those books that you’ve been dying to read but never had the time. Now is the time!

  2. Learn a new language.

    Always wanted to speak a different language? What better time to become bilingual than learning with online resources like Duolingo, Open Culture, Livemocha, Babbel, and so many more. Also, with so many people stuck at home, there are plenty of deals out there.

  3. Meditate.

    This is a great time to learn how to quiet and calm your mind. If your thoughts are whirling around a million miles an hour then it’s time to get quiet. A helpful tip to remember is that you are not your thoughts. You also cannot be bad at meditation. If you have never tried it before, go for a short guided meditation. There are plenty of apps out there to start out with.

  4. Get out the board games.

    This is great non tech way of bringing the family or flatmates together and pass the time.

  5. Write a story

    Have you ever wanted to be a writer? Or a poet? Now is a great opportunity to allow your mind to wander and tell a tale…

  6. Watch movies.

    Probably the most popular choice: Netflix and chill. Watch movies, get hooked on a TV show. Is this a dream or what? To make it more social, you can also have a Netflix viewing party with your friends by using Facetime/Skype/Zoom or whatever allows you to all (virtually) be together.

  7. Learn something new online.

    After you’ve watched every movie and TV show on Netflix, now is the time to learn a new skill. With the world at our fingertips, you can literally learn about anything. Try Udemy, The Great Courses, Coursera, Open Yale Courses, edX, Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, Udacity – there is so much out there.

  8. Clean your house.

    Blast some uplifting music and start scrubbing the floors, walls and windows. By the time this is over you will be living in a brand new, shiny apartment/house.

  9. Do at home workouts.

    Gyms may have closed, but your work-out routine should not be. It can become depressing to sit at home doing nothing, exercise is a great way to boost your mood. You don’t need to do much either, just a few yoga or Pilates videos online and you’re good to go.

  10. Virtually hangout with your friends.

    Social distancing might be the new thing, but so is socialising online!

  11. Cook a delicious and healthy meal.

    Become a 5 star chef and make a complex and delicious meal. Light some candles and pretend you are eating at a high quality restaurant!

  12. Listen to music.

    Create a playlist that helps you feel better if you’re feeling low. Have a dance party in your living room!

  13. Go for a walk.

    Unless you are actually sick, then you should stay at home. Otherwise, if you are just staying at home with no symptoms then get for a stroll, still keeping your distance from others. Sometimes the virus does not show any symptoms so just to be safe, keep a bit of a distance between you and others. Make sure to smile at the people you pass, it’s a difficult time and a smile never hurt anyone.

  14. Plant something.

    All your leftover veggies can be planted into fresh soil. The waiting period to watch them sprout with help you practice patience.

  15. Get creative

    Why not try some art? You can draw pictures, create something with watercolour or acrylic. The craft ideas are endless, check out Pinterest for ideas.

  16. Rest

    It can be a stressful time for many of us, so if you are overwhelmed and exhausted by everything, then take a break. Have a nap and allow your body to relax.

 

Whatever you do during this time, try to remain focused on the positive things in your life. Take advantage of this time spent with family, and also for yourself. Focus on all of the things you’ve been putting off from the distractions and stress of daily life.

Last but not least, make sure to wash your hands. That is the best way to avoid spreading anything, even a cold.

We wish you all the best from the team at Radiant.

How to Preserve your Physical & Mental Health During Coronavirus Outbreak

How to Preserve your Physical & Mental Health During Coronavirus Outbreak

The following article is written by Ana Kardum. She is a counsellor based in the Northern Beaches.

A strong body of research links stressful environmental events with the likelihood of later non-specific changes in health, even if the original change  presents as asymptomatic. If the stress response is intense or sustained, it can increase our susceptibility to physical and mental illness.

Under current circumstances, this means that lowering stress levels is central to preserving our future physical and mental health. But how are we to do that when others are in a state of panic?

Below are the tips for managing your family’s physical, mental and social equilibrium during the challenging times:

  1. Eat a balanced diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts, and stay hydrated.
  2. Exercise 4-5 times per week using cardio, weight bearing, aerobics; modify and modulate according to your physical fitness.
  3. If you’re feeling anxious take a deep breath through your nose, hold for a few seconds and exhale through your mouth. Repeat.
  4. Invest in sleep hygiene (limit late meals, enjoy relaxing music, keep a regular bedtime, practice positive reflection/gratitude).
  5. Be kind to yourself and others; be a role model to your children.
  6. Follow government instructions for self-protection (hygiene, social distancing).
  7. Check government announcements to stay informed.
  8. DON’T watch news obsessively; in some cases it may be appropriate not to tune in at all, given that media sensationalises issues in order to attract its audience.
  9.  Stay connected to people who are positive either by phone or in person.
  10. Engage in activities that elevate your mood, be it listening to music, going for a walk or enjoying time in the sun.
  11.  If negative thoughts persist, talk to your doctor, call a counsellor or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.
  12. If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 call the Coronavirus Health Information Line 1800 020 080.

Try to remember that this will be over in the near future and that we should not allow this episode to negatively effect out future mental and physical health.

Tips for Managing Anxiety Over The Coronavirus

Tips for Managing Anxiety Over The Coronavirus


The incessant updates of Coronavirus (COVID-19) have caused nation-wide panic buying of essential items and drastic measures to keep safe.

Countries are implementing extreme quarantine measures, shutting down borders, schools, and stopping unnecessary travel. While following the advice from CDC and maintaining good health is important, so is taking care of our mental well-being.

“We’ve got national anxiety at the moment, a kind of shared stress, and we are all in a state of extreme uncertainty,” explains Catherine Belling, associate professor at Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine.

When we are on high alert all the time, it can wear you down emotionally and physically which in turn affects your immune system. Here are some ways you can take care of your mental well-being during the chaos around us all:

1. Be in the moment

During this time, it might feel that so much is out of our control, which only worsens anxiety. It’s important to calm your racing mind and anchor to the present moment.

As you sit read this, take a deep breath through your nose, hold for a few seconds. Exhale through your mouth. Try that three more times. Next, try tensing your shoulders for a few seconds, hold. Then release.

2. Exercise and eat healthy

Daily exercise is not only great for increasing feelings of well-being, but it also boosts your immunity. As does eating a healthy nutrient-rich diet.

When we get stressed, it becomes easier to reach for sugary foods. Use this time as an opportunity to change your diet to one filled with vegetables and whole-grains, less refined and high sugar content foods. Also, try to avoid smoking, alcohol or other drugs to deal with your emotions.

3. Get a good night’s sleep

Along with exercise and a healthy diet, a good night’s sleep is the best thing you can do for your body. It boosts your immune system and helps to combat illness. If sleep is an issue for you, there are tons of apps to listen to before bed like Headspace, Noisli, Insight Timer, and Pzizz.

4. Focus on what you can control

While there’s nothing you can do to 100% guarantee you won’t become sick, you can focus on what is within your control. Here are some other practical steps you can take to lessen risk of catching the new coronavirus:

  • Avoid unnecessary travel and crowds.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 30 seconds (or if that’s not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer).
  • Keep your hands away from your face, especially your eyes, mouth, and nose.

5. Unplug from the media

The news and social media can be filled anxiety provoking headlines. When you are constantly watching something that emphasises the rapid spread of the virus or the lack of effective treatment – then it’s simply becomes fuel for an anxiety fire.

While it’s important to stay up to date, it’s good to limit your exposure. Instead read a book, watch a show, cook a healthy meal, or do some at home yoga. Simply take a break from the chaos for a while.

6. Get your facts straight

To put this into perspective, you have a much greater chance of catching the flu or being injured in a car accident than you do of contracting the Coronavirus. Familiarising yourself with facts and statistics can help you better understand your risks and the bigger picture.

For reliable advice, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO).

7. Get professional help if you need it.

If you can’t stop thinking about the Coronavirus and are having a difficult time with everyday tasks like eating, sleeping and working; or if you are withdrawing from situations and isolating yourself, please get professional help.

A mental health professional can help you take control of your anxiety and there is nothing to be embarrassed about. We offer many online counsellors to help you find the skills to cope during this difficult time.

What Can I Expect From my First Psychologist Appointment

What Can I Expect From my First Psychologist Appointment


Are you going to see a psychologist for the first time? Good for you for making your mental health a priority! Here are some tips to make sure your first appointment runs smoothly.

The first session

The first session with a psychologist can be daunting, and understandably so. The fear of the unexpected, of being judged, of not connecting – you are not alone in feeling trepidation about telling your life’s secrets to a complete stranger. The important thing to remember is that you’ve taken the hardest step already, and that is reaching out for help in the first place. Just acknowledging your own need for outside assistance is a massive achievement.

Let’s break down this ‘dreaded’ first appointment into less ominous parts:

Preparing for the conversation

You may think of many things you’d like to say or discuss with your psychologist prior to the session, only to forget them in the moment of the appointment. It is a good idea to make a list to take in with you. List things like:

  • What you hope to get out of your sessions
  • What you think your main struggles are
  • Any questions you would like to ask the therapist
  • What your ultimate goal is

Arrive early

If you have never been to the psychologist’s office before, plan to arrive early. There is nothing worse than adding the stress of being late to an already potentially stressful experience. You may also need to fill in some paperwork on arrival and you don’t want to be wasting your session time on paperwork.

Meeting your Psychologist

Your psychologist will usually come out and greet you, maybe shake hands and lead you to their office. The office will likely look like a doctor’s office, but with two couches facing each other. Outside of Hollywood, it is unlikely that you will be made to drape yourself on a chaise lounge. More typically, you will sit on one couch and the therapist on the other and you’ll engage in a conversation.

The conversation

The psychologist will commonly ask you why you have come to see them. In this appointment, they are establishing what your motivations are, a bit of your history, your family’s mental health history, how you see yourself, the problems you are dealing with, and they are starting to formulate a treatment plan. It is important to be completely honest with them. Don’t worry about saying too much or too little. The psychologist will prompt and guide you as needed. Remember they are professionals who are trained to listen and analyse in order to help. Also remember nothing shocks them. You have come this far so you might as well be completely upfront because you really have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

my First Appointment with a psychologist | Radiant Mental Health

Wrap up

After your allotted 50 minutes or so, you should have a good feel of the dynamic between yourself and your psychologist. Towards the end of your session, your psychologist may like to summarise what you have discussed and ask you what you will take away from this session. They will watch the time so you don’t have to and they will let you know when it’s time to end the session.

After your appointment

You might like take notes during your session of any key things that stand out for you. Often during the conversation there will be moments of realisation and understanding that are difficult to recall afterwards. If you don’t want to take notes in the session, maybe write down or keep a notes tab in your phone after the session so you can refer back to them later in the week.

Allow yourself some downtime after the session to decompress and process. Everyone feels differently when coming out of a session. You may feel elated or exhausted or relieved. However you feel, be sure to take stock of these feelings and give yourself some introspection time before rushing back out into life.

Was the Psychologist right for you?

At Radiant, we strongly believe in find the ‘right fit’. For any real life change to be effective, you need build trust and develop a strong connection with your psychologist. Relationships vary depending on the person, so don’t feel bad if you didn’t click with your psychologist. There are many more people out there and we can help you find the right one for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if the psychologist is right for you:
  • Did they show acceptance and compassion?
  • Did they develop at plan to guide you to your goals?
  • Did they make you feel heard and validated?
  • Were they trustworthy and did you feel comfortable with them?
  • Do they have expertise working with issues like yours?

If your answered ‘no’ to any of these questions then you might be better off switch psychologists. At the end of your session, all you have to do is tell your therapist that you will not be returning. You don’t disclose the reason or tell them you’d prefer to not say. Your psychologist will not be offended.

In summary

The idea of the initial session is understandably a bit scary, but in reality, it can be the start of a life-changing process. If, after a few sessions, you don’t feel a connection with your therapist, it is okay to change to a different one. People are different and not every lid fits every pot. Once you find a therapist you connect with, you can start the real work of developing a better mind-space for yourself to live in.

How Do I Get a Mental Health Care Plan?

How Do I Get a Mental Health Care Plan?


The decision to go on a mental health care plan is not always an easy one.

Many of us avoid it because it would mean admitting something is wrong that we cannot fix ourselves. Perhaps finances are also a problem and the high cost of therapy sessions makes you soldier on and try to just ‘deal with it’.

The good news? Anyone with a Medicare card is eligible for a mental health care plan.

This is a plan made between you and your doctor to address your mental health issues, and Medicare subsidises up to 10 sessions a year with a psychologist, social worker or occupational therapist.

Who needs a mental health care plan?

Anyone who is suffering with mental illness can ask their doctor for a plan. This could be anything from mild anxiety to severe depression and debilitating mental states.

If you feel like you are struggling with daily life and you have felt that way for two weeks or more, then you could benefit from a mental health care plan. Remember that you are not alone in this. In fact, according to Beyond Blue, ‘One in six Australians is currently experiencing depression or anxiety or both. This is equivalent to 3.2 million people today’.

Here’s how you can get on a mental health care plan:


Book an appointment with your GP

Your first port of call is your GP. Be sure to mention that you would like an appointment to discuss a mental health care plan, as sometimes clinics will book you for a slightly longer session.

Keep in mind that during COVID-19, you can make an appointment with your GP via telehealth. Contact your local doctor’s office and ask more.

Your GP will then ask you your reasons for wanting a plan and how you are currently feeling. They might ask you to fill in a questionnaire which gives them a sense of your state of mind. It can be daunting to open up to a stranger or near-stranger, but it is important that you are honest with your doctor so they can help you in the best way possible. If they agree that you should go on a mental health care plan, the session will usually end with them writing you a referral to the appropriate Allied Health Professional.

Choose the right mental health professional for you

You can request a certain mental health professional or go on your GP’s advice. It is important to find someone that you can click with and that suits your needs. Do your research because if you decide to change after a couple of sessions, you don’t restart your ten sessions with the new mental health professional. You can have a look now at different mental health professionals who have expertise in many different fields here.

It is possible, depending on where you live, that your chosen professional has a waiting list. You will need to call as soon as possible to make your appointment and when you do, they will ask if you have a mental health plan and referral. Bring this referral to your first appointment.

How much does Medicare subsidise?

For a 50-minute session, Medicare will cover $124.50, or $84.80 for 30-50 minutes. All up, you can get 10 sessions on Medicare rebates per year, but you can’t get all 10 sessions in one go. After the first 6 appointments, you need to see your doctor again to review your mental health plan and get another referral. If your sessions costs more than the rebate amount, you will need to pay the ‘gap’, which is the difference between the two.

Now you are ready to start your journey towards better mental health. Inevitably, difficulties on the outside are easier to deal with if you have peace and stability on the inside. It’s an easy process to get help, but it just takes the courage to take the first step.