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Help as Helper

Help as a helper.

By Roger Hitchcock
Counsellor & Community Representative West Australia

The body and mind’s ability to feel in unison results in an ability to feel great and an ability to feel not so great. Most of us know the feeling of being sick with the flu and how that effects our ability to function. Similarly, we also know when we aren’t feeling ourselves mentally and how this to affects our ability to function. Just as importantly family and friends who know us well can feel and see that we are not well. Usually, close friends and family are the first to offer or be asked to help.

Seeking help when you are not feeling yourself is a Strength. It takes a very strong person to approach someone and ask for help because they don’t feel quite right. More strength than keeping these feelings to yourself. It also takes a very strong person to help a person who says I’m not feeling myself. Giving help to someone not feeling themselves can be confronting and leave you feeling vulnerable. But many are that strong person who stops, listens, and helps.

When someone picks up the phone and rings me to say I think I need some help I immediately know I have a person who although feeling vulnerable is strong. This strength to seek help is an asset which can be utilised to help that person get back on track.

As a counsellor I’m required to meet with a supervisor once a month to discuss how I’m going myself. How am I coping being a helper helping others?

In my travels I meet people who help and care for others. There have been times when I’ve been the counsellor for a person who is helping another. This is very effective as a helper can sometimes doubt if they are doing enough. It is extremely rare that I need to give advice that something the helper is doing could be done differently. Most people who have stepped up to help their friends or family member do a great job. So much so, I wonder if they have also been trained themselves. They may just want reinforcement that they are doing the right thing.

I can’t emphasise enough the power of stepping up when your friend needs help. Mates and families know each other better than a stranger. Sometimes talking to a neutral person such as a counsellor is better because there will be no judgement or criticism. But where someone approaches a mate or family member for help then usually the subject is something you also need to keep private. This is unless that person intends to harm themselves or others, then I advise you tell someone.

But helpers also need to release their stress or frustration that helping another can cause.

As a helper you may be feeling that you need to discuss what is happening to keep yourself on track. Maybe you need to just check that what you are doing is Ok because of a bit of self-doubt. Then a counsellor who you enter a confidentiality agreement with can be a huge support. Even if this is just to release some tension so you can better cope. This is also why counsellors have to have supervision with another counsellor.

If as a helper you yourself become ill or you begin to become anxious, stressed or very tired it is so important that you look after yourself first. By keeping yourself well you can better care or help others. Otherwise, one becomes two people who need help. As a helper look after yourself, have some time to yourself, remember that there is help for you as well.

A lot of people close to us really care about us and each other. Be strong ask for help, be strong and offer that help. Call me as a qualified counsellor and I will help. Together we will achieve more than trying to muddle through on our own. Why? Because you matter that’s why. You are important to a lot of people.

The right tool for the right job

The right tool for the right job.

by Darren Devlin
Rural Aid Counsellor and Community Representative, BA (Psych) MSW(Q)

In my previous article I wrote about mental health not being a dirty word and demonstrated how our mental health, like our physical health, exists along a continuum from normal healthy functioning to injured and even ill health requiring professional intervention. I noted in the previous article that leaving our mental health unchecked as it slips along the continuum can result in an increased decline. Basically, meaning that if we stay in an anxious, stressed or heightened emotional state for a long period of time, our mental health can deteriorate.

In this article I am going to discuss the tools we use in life to do what we need to do to get the job done and provide an example of how investing in the maintenance of our tools we can help reduce the likelihood and, in some cases, even prevent ending up down the injured and ill end of the spectrum.

Over the course of my personal and professional life I have developed a belief.

Everyone is trying to live their best life with the tools they have, unfortunately many of us have either been given the wrong tools or those that we have are damaged or become dull.

So, what do I mean by tools?

In its most general sense of the word a tool is something that we use to get a job done or achieve a desired outcome. We all have a various set of tools in our tool belt or box. We have the physical tools that we utilise. For me in my profession, my tools are my mobile phone, my laptop computer, my car so I can visit all the wonderful farmers in my community and of course myself, my physical presence. To ensure that these tools are the right tool and are readily available and working for me to use them I must take care of them. Which could include charging the laptop and phone (a flat phone or laptop aren’t much good when I need to reach out and connect). I need to make sure my car is driveable, has adequate petrol and is regularly serviced to keep in optimum and safe running condition. I need to look after myself to ensure that when I am connecting with farmers and their communities, that I am healthy, and I can focus my attention and give my time to ensure that my connection is meaningful and valuable to those I connect with. For a farmer these physical tools might be a tractor, a quad bike, all the way down to a hammer and screwdriver.

Imagine if any of those tools you use weren’t job ready, were dull or broken down.

How would you get the job done?

That is why we take care of our tools and do the regular maintenance to ensure that they are working properly and are job ready.
Could you also imagine trying to plough your field with a screwdriver?

Yeah, sure you could probably do it, but could you imagine the amount of time it would take and how much energy you would have to expend to get it done.

I believe in the right tool for the right job at the right time.

However, in this article I am not referring to our physical tools, in this article I am referring to our psychological tools.

What are our psychological tools?

Psychological tools are the internal thoughts and strategies that we utilise to perform tasks, keep ourselves safe, look after our well-being and generally get the job done. These could range from our morning habits to ensure that we start the day right all the way through to our sleep habits. Habits are a good example of a psychological tool. Habits are routine activities that are developed through the repeated activities we utilise to meet our needs. We generally develop habits as a means of saving time and thought when trying to get something done. For example, we may develop the habit of always restringing a fence a certain way along a certain line. By doing the same way by habit, we know we can get the job done. While this can make the task quicker, it may mean that we overlook a new direction or line the fence may go in, or a new way of stringing the fence that in the long run could save you time and money while opening access to a new piece of land.

Let’s look at this example through the lens of trying to do your best with the wrong or damaged tool.

The habit of how you string the fence is the right tool, it gets the job done easier and quicker.

However, the fact that it may overlook a better way of stringing the fence or opening new land access is a good demonstration that this tool may be damaged or faulty.

It’s not the wrong tool for the job because you may be able to use the same principles of the habit but in a new or refined way. You are repairing or sharpening the tool.

Another example of a psychological tool could be an avoidance strategy that you may have developed for helping to keep you safe. Growing up you may have learnt to not enter the bull’s yard because he might get angry and charge you. While avoidance is a good tool to keep you safe, it can leak into other areas of your life where it is not so good, can hold you back and can in fact cause harm.

Avoiding a dangerous situation is a great survival tool, it can keep you away from real danger. But what if the danger wasn’t real, it was only perceived as dangerous in your mind. Like having to see you bank manager about a loan repayment. You may avoid talking to the bank manager, he then makes an application to reposes your assets. Not such a helpful tool anymore. This is an example of the wrong tool for the job.

Another example of avoidance – things have been tough on the farm, you’ve been struggling along trying to keep going. Because you are struggling, you might think that others might judge you for it, you may think that they think that you can’t cut it. To avoid these feelings and to avoid the possibility of judgement, you don’t ask for help and you don’t talk about your struggles. This leads to some growing anxiety and stress. This then becomes a cycle whereby the more anxious and stressed you get the more you fear being judged and the less likely you may be for turning to others for help. The longer the cycle continues the worse your mental health deteriorates until you end up down the unwell and ill end of the spectrum. Again, avoidance has turned out to be the wrong tool for the job.

Sounds dark and gloomy doesn’t it. Well, it doesn’t need to be.

Just as you picked up the other tools you can always pick up new ones.

Or if your current tools are damaged or in need of a service, there is always something that you can do.

The first step is always identifying that the tool isn’t getting the job done. This may be as obvious as what you are trying to achieve is not working. If you were trying to plough your field with a screwdriver and you’ve been at it all day but when you look back you have only moved a couple of feet, I think most people would agree, the screwdriver is not the right tool for that job. You then have a choice, you can either keep going for the next month with your screwdriver, or you could go get the tractor and plough.

In the case of avoiding your bank manager, you could continue to avoid him until he turns up with a repossession order, or you could go see him and try to sort it out. I know that even this might not work, so then you try another tool, you go speak to a friend or neighbour. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot they can do, but they do give you some advice (another tool), they suggest you speak to a financial counsellor. You pick up the new tool (the financial counsellor) who then sits down with you and between the two of you, you work out a payment plan (another tool) that is agreeable with the bank manager and your property is saved from repossession.

Identifying that the current tool isn’t working.

Some of the signs that you may be using the wrong tool could be, you are feeling more anxious, scared, stressed, or worried about things. You may find yourself getting more frustrated or angry than usual. You may find that you can’t sleep at night or that you are sleeping during the day when you never used to. You might be drinking more alcohol or taking drugs to help you cope (it’s a widely accepted fact that alcohol and drug misuse is a well-known avoidance tool that can help you to avoid remembering or thinking about a traumatic experience).

You may not notice these changes yourself, it may be your partner, your kids or someone else that notices. That’s ok, when things are not going so well and we become stressed or anxious, it’s easy for us to not see the forest through the trees.

Remember, identifying the problem is always the first step to fixing the problem and you don’t have to do it alone. If someone identifies an issue, they probably aren’t judging you. It’s more likely that they are worried about you and can see that you need some help.

Start looking for new tools or repairing your existing ones.

Once you have identified the problem, you can start looking for solutions, you can find new tools. This may be as simple as trying different strategies yourself or talking to friends. However sometimes that tractor needs to go to the mechanic and get a service or inspection. In the case of your psychological tools the equivalent of the mechanic is a trained and qualified counsellor, social worker, or psychologist. They can sit down with you and help you unpack your situation and help you explore other tools and repair existing tools. There are a lot of tools out there to explore, sometimes we need a specialist to help us find the right tool to get the job done.

You don’t have to do it alone, thinking that you do may be an old tool that needs some repair.

Some useful psychological tools that you can use at home.

When you notice that you are feeling stressed or anxious you can try some of these tools to help you settle. They don’t take long and can be done pretty much anywhere.

  • Mindful Breathing
  • Stop what you are doing.
  • Focus on your breath.
  • Breathe in for a count of 4.
  • Hold for a count of 4.
  • Then slowly release your breath for a count of 5.
  • Repeat for a minute or two or until you feel more settled.
  • Mindful Awareness
  • Stop what you are doing.
  • Notice something in your immediate area (may be the sky, the trees, your livestock).
  • Start to focus in on what you are noticing.
  • Take note of it the colours, shapes, sizes, it’s movement.
  • Maintain your focus for a minute or two.
  • Step Away
  • It’s ok to take a break.
  • Sometimes the more fixated on a problem you are the less likely you are to resolve it.
  • If there is someone there with you, stop and have a chat.
  • If there isn’t someone there, try reaching out on your mobile.
  • Sometimes talking through a problem is all the help you need.

When all else fails, reach out. Rural Aid Counsellors are here to help 😊

Rural Aid Counselling Intake: 1300 17 55 94

Utilising counselling is a strength, and it doesn’t mean you have failed, Counselling is just another tool to help you get the job done!

Together we can keep the tractor going.

Mental Health is not a dirty word

Mental Health is not a dirty word.

by Darren Devlin
Rural Aid Counsellor and Community Representative, BA (Psych)

It is widely accepted that mental health carries with it some significant stigma. A lot of this can be accredited to the negative connotations associated to mental illness portrayed in the media, including movies, news, and social media. However, it is also becoming more common that people in the media spotlight are speaking out, such as Jim Carrey, an extremely successful, positive influence on society, at the top of his game, openly expressing his own mental health issues.

The truth of the matter is mental health is no different from physical health, and in fact both interact with each other and can influence where a person may sit with their health.

Physical health runs on a continuum from good health to poor health and chronic illness. Mental health also runs along the continuum from stable mental health through to poor mental health and chronic mental illness.

So what does this look like?

The physical health continuum

As you can see above, everyone sits somewhere along the physical health continuum, and can slide along the continuum at various times throughout their lifespan.

Your place on the physical health continuum can be affected by internal factors such as disease and illness, age, nutrition, and level of physical activity (which will be different for everyone).

It is also affected by external factors such as environmental factors (access to nutritious foods, clean drinking water, physical safety, biological and medical hazards).

The mental health continuum

As with physical health we all sit somewhere along the continuum, which can change depending on our individual circumstances. These circumstances can be internal such as how we are feeling physically (physical health) and our emotional state. As well as external factors (stressors) such as our environment, if we feel safe or under threat, if we have access to our immediate needs, if we experience grief and loss (we don’t only grieve the loss of a loved one, we can also grieve the loss of something special or our way of life, any significant change will come with some level of grief), or if we have social connection or feels isolated.

As you can see there is significant similarities and crossover between physical and mental health, and for the most part is a temporary status that can change due to various factors.

When our stressors go unmanaged our mental health can deteriorate down the continuum through reaction whereby, we are responding to our mental health deterioration and can and usually do bounce back. To an injured state whereby, our mental state can deteriorate and require intervention. Then down to ill which is when a diagnosable mental illness has developed.

An example may be:

We are working and maintaining our well-being both mental and physical, we are enjoying some down time and hanging out with friends and family. We have access to most of our immediate needs and there is no significant threat to our lives or livelihood. We are in the Healthy range.

However, one day we wake up and one area in our life has taken a hit, we have some bad weather and our feed crop for our livestock is destroyed. We become anxious about how we are going to feed our livestock through winter without the feed crop. Fortunately, we have a good relationship with our family, and they have some extra bales of silage that they can provide, we have also got some extra money from a good season the year before, allowing us to buy in some extra fodder. We get stressed but have avenues to address our area of stress, and therefore we bounce back from the stress and anxiety quickly. We are in the reacting range.

Same scenario as above, only we have no extra bales of silage and we just come through a drought, meaning there is no back up of money and our usual supports are also struggling. Our period of stress and anxiety is extended, impacting our mental state and physical health. We start to lose interest in our normal routine and motivation starts to take a dive. We rely on unhealthy external coping strategies (excessive drinking, bad habits, poor self-care, avoiding our usual support networks). Due to the loss of interest and poor motivation we find it difficult to get ourselves out of our current state. We can’t do it on our own and need the support of others. We are in the injured range.

We remain in the injured range for an extended period, such as through a major disaster or multiple disaster event. We feel stuck and can’t think or see a way out of our situation. We may not realise it at this stage, but we are in the ill range.

While in the healthy and reaction ranges, we have the capacity to cope and mange our situation, we address the areas of need and move on while maintaining our normal daily functioning and habits.

When we move into the injured range, things become more difficult and our ability to cope and manage our situation becomes more difficult. Our focus will usually become fixated on our issues and problems, we may become negative (there’s no hope, there’s no way out, I can’t manage this). It is at this point that we would benefit from support from others. We may tell ourselves that we don’t need the help, or that there is something wrong with us because we can’t manage this situation ourselves. However, when we are in the injured stage our brain isn’t functioning the same as it would in the healthy range. Our brain becomes flooded with stress hormones and our thinking becomes fixated, meaning that we usually can’t see the forest through the trees. Sometimes it takes someone not connected to the issue to help us see the way forward, and if we enlist the help of an external person, we can usually find a way out. This is where a counsellor may help, a counsellor is not an expert in your life or your situation, they may have some knowledge and experience and may offer options, however, often the counsellor is a sounding board and someone that we can download or debrief with and provide strategies to improve our mental and emotional states. As with our physical health, when we are injured, we seek out the right professional with the right qualification to help improve our health status.

If we don’t address the stressors in our life and stay fixated as in the injured range, this can lead to a further deterioration of our mental health leading us into mental illness and like a physical illness we will require treatment to amend our health status or in the case of a chronic condition like cardiovascular disease, cancer, schizophrenia, clinical depression, respiratory disease, bipolar disorder, we need the right medical and professional treatment to manage our lives to enable us to live as fulfilled a life as we can with the chronic illness.

As demonstrated above, mental health and physical health are the same, we don’t stigmatise someone with cancer so why should having depression be any different. In both cases with the right intervention at the right time, with the right support, we can still live a quality of life.

There are many people in our society that currently live with some form of mental illness or mental health concern, that are still raising a family and fulfilling a role in society, and at any time anyone of us may slide down the mental health continuum, but with the right support we can manage our situation often with only minor interruptions to the way we normally live.

Mental health is not a dirty word and seeking support to maintain your mental health is no more or less a reflection on you as a person as seeking help and support for a physical health issue.

If you or anyone you know is worried about their mental health, please reach out, the support is there.

Recognising survival mode

Recognising survival mode

by Lauren Stracey
Rural Aid Mental Health and Wellbeing Team Leader

For good biological reasons, flood affected farmers across Australia have had their bodies kicked into survival mode. Farmers are reporting getting stuck in panic spirals about how to tackle immediate needs like clean up, fencing and looking after their stock, but also projecting into the future about what will happen if the rain continues and the impact that will have on the next season.

Being in the middle of a disaster can kick us into ‘survival’ mode. And while this can get us to react quickly, being reactive is not always helpful.. Decision making when panicked can lead us into greater danger. It’s like flooring it without knowing where you’re going.
When we panic, our body’s accelerator (known as our sympathetic nervous system), is in control. It is sending oxygen to our arms and legs so we can get ready to fight or flee. This means there is less oxygen being sent to our thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex, making it very difficult to think clearly, make plans or take on new information. It’s that fuzzy headed feeling you get when stressed, and the simplest decision or question feels overwhelming.

Research into this response has shown there are some really simple techniques that will help to take the foot off the panic accelerator. Taking a few slow breaths can help redirect the oxygen back to our thinking brain and kick start our brakes known as the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps free us up from the flight or fight symptoms and means you have more mental energy to plan and problem solve.

  • Try this-breath in for a count of 1, 2, 3, 4 and pause. Now as you breath out, breath out slowly, like you are blowing up a balloon for a count of 1, 2, 3, 4. Pause and start again.
  • Ideally continue for 1 minute or longer

This will settle our nervous systems Next, set a mental mindset. This can be a statement that helps us feel more in control such as “I can get through this, one step at a time” or “I’ve got this”. Over time, this phrase will become a point of reset; stopping for one minute to breath and reset, before moving to the next task. This means tasks like calling insurance companies or choosing what to clean first are made a little less daunting.

Regular practice of slowing your breath (also known as grounding), can have long term health benefits such as improved sleep, reducing pain and stress, increasing the body’s ability to heal wounds and can help you pull away from flashbacks and challenging emotions.

Taking time to breath and reset can also help you better respond to the needs of loved ones, particularly kids. It helps us notice distress in others, meaning we are more likely to tend to the distress. For kids, this can be in the way we speak, giving cuddles and connection. Slowing down our own heart rate and breathing helps those around us also slow down. Research has shown us that when we are in panic, we are more likely to disregard our disaster plan and take action that is unplanned and dangerous. Slow breathing is a short-cut to connecting with the part of your brain that keeps you grounded and responsive. Practicing slow breathing through the day won’t make the disaster go away. But it will help you make better decisions, stay calmer and keep you and your loved ones safer.

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, what can you tell me?

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, what can you tell me?

From the desk of Rural Aid counsellor Jeffrey Grace-Jones

Photo Credit Simion Andreea-Martin

Grab a cuppa, sit down, and relax, and let me share some reflections.

I am writing about the obvious, and just like looking in the mirror you know who you are going to see.

A reminder at work is to look in the mirror and see the person who is most able to keep me safe. Yes, I am looking at me, the one who knows my every move and why I do what I do.

A school education is a good start in life. But there were no classes on working with thoughts and feelings. As a child I was told not to get angry, cry, sulk, or raise my voice. We have a full range of emotions that sometimes just come out. They help us to understand and connect with our world.

Over time I learned that if we do not express our emotions in a healthy manner they can leak out in other ways. Under enough stress they surface in ways that cause unwanted outcomes.

When caught out with major life events, it is time to seek out some helpful strategies. We may never have been taught effective strategies for the difficult times we encounter. However, there are benefits to accessing good resources. Good role-models and mentors are one such resource.

Each glance in the mirror reminds me that I am responsible and accountable for my life. I take leadership of my life, and I work with my thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Taking leadership is also knowing when to access supports and resources, especially for those tasks beyond my abilities and if I am already carrying too much.

We all make many choices every day. When to get out of bed, what to eat or drink, what to wear etc. Some of the day is planned and necessary where there is little or no choice. How we think, feel, and behave can all be worked on, here we have choices. We can be guided by informed choices that will bring about healthy outcomes.

We may not have the answers, but we will know the early warning signs: not sleeping well, not eating well, feeling stressed, behaving badly or out of character, overindulging etc., I could go on, but I expect you get the picture.

How best do I value and work with the one in the mirror? Imagine starting each day by looking into the mirror and acknowledging the one staring back from the glass is a very important person. You make choices each day that determine your future, and in some cases the future of those around you and close to you. Sometimes we don’t get the outcomes we want, but we do get to use this feedback to make other choices, to learn and to grow.

Photo Credit Tomas Sobek

Acknowledging we are important will change what we think about ourselves. It cannot take away the events or disasters around us, but it can equip us to work through our day a little more easily. It will impact how we stand, walk, and breathe throughout our day. Sometimes it is the little things we take for granted that can make such a big difference when we give them the attention they deserve. Food, water, and oxygen are the fuel that will equip us for the day ahead. Our attitude can determine our posture, and how we see the world around us. Helpful words at the right time can make a world of difference. You are welcome to reflect on these:

“Life is full of froth and bubble, two things stand like stone, kindness in another’s trouble, courage in one’s own.”

Cheers! You are of great value. Remember to take care of the one in the mirror.

Coping with Anniversary Reaction

Coping with “Anniversary Reaction”
From the desk of Kelly Hoad
Rural Aid Mental Health and Wellbeing Team Leader

The anniversary of any traumatic event can be a difficult time. With this year signaling 2 years since the Black Summer Bushfires, 11 years since the Queensland Floods and 13 years since Black Saturday, people may experience what is sometimes referred to as an ‘anniversary reaction’. An anniversary reaction can involve renewed feelings of grief or anxiety on or around the date of the traumatic event.

As with any response to trauma, each individual reacts in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to respond to an anniversary, just as there is no right or wrong way to respond to the disaster itself. In fact, sometimes our thoughts, feelings and even our body’s themselves will react without warning. As with any triggering event, being mindful that an anniversary may trigger a response to the trauma, even many years later, can help us to prepare for the responses we may experience.

Psychological reactions may include a renewed fear and anxiety about the future, nightmares or reoccurring thoughts about the event, irritability and anger or a sense of sadness and loss. Physical reactions could include changes in eating patterns, headaches or back and stomach pain, difficulty sleeping or an increased use of alcohol and drugs.

Below are some tips for coping if you find yourself experiencing any of the above symptoms:

  • Talk about it with others. Friends, family or other community members. You may be surprised that other people are feeling the same way that you are.
  • Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Limit exposure to images of the disaster. You may find there are more news articles on these events due to the anniversary.
  • Find time for activities you enjoy (even if only for a few moments a day). Listen to a podcast, read a chapter of your favourite book or watch an episode of your favorite TV show.
  • Avoid drugs and excessive drinking. Drugs and alcohol may temporarily seem to remove stress, but in the long run they generally create additional problems that can compound the stress you are already feeling.
  • Ask for help when you need it. There are many confidential professional services that can provide support through challenging times.

Services:

Rural Aid Mental Health and Wellbeing Team https://www.ruralaid.org.au/counsellors/support

Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Setting Realistic Goals

Setting Realistic Goals
By Roger Hitchcock

As a farmer your home and work are usually one and the same. You can’t just walk out the office door and leave it all behind. The lists are never ending and there’s always something to do, all year. Add in the times that you might be feeling stressed, anxious or just bone tired and not yourself. Then all those unfinished jobs can make you feel worse. But what can you do? You can remind yourself that you just can’t do everything right now and set yourself a more realistic achievable goal.

Photo Credit Sarah Cunningham.

A simple way to approach things is to write a list, or maybe use a white board in the shed, to arrange the tasks into from urgent, important, and back burner. Be honest and identify which jobs can wait until next week or next month. Look at the urgent jobs and make your plan to get these one or started by the end of the week this way you give yourself more time than just a day. Then when those unexpected things happen such as the trough water pipe bursting that has to be done immediately, then your weekly goal is still achievable.

At the end of the week or fortnight reward yourself for getting that task(s) done. If you get the task done and it is only halfway through the week then choose the next task and start that week from then. An example is harvesting time and the need to make sure that header, swather, truck and trailers, tractors, chaser bins are all serviced and ready to go. Instead of leaving this until when harvest starts have them on your list and look to service the machines a month or so earlier. Then as harvest approaches you have that important task done and can concentrate on another job.

Remember it’s Ok to say ‘NO not now’ if you already have enough on your plate.

With your busy day and weeks always have that time planned where you stop, be with your family, friends and spend some quality Me Time every day. Make this Me Time a part of your daily /weekly schedule and make your Me Time non-negotiable. This can be just an hour a day. The benefits of Me Time far out ways the negatives. You will be refreshed, more relaxed, feel better in yourself and this will equate to being more productive. You can’t do good work with blunt tools. You’re head and your body work the same way.

We all know what happens to a machine or a motor when you run it in the red all day every day, there is no difference with yourself. While having a whole day off is preferable so if you are able on this day go somewhere off property so you’re not at home looking out and seeing those tasks staring accusingly back at you.

The expert on how you feel and how you are going is yourself so listen to yourself, plan your weekly tasks so that these tasks are achievable and take that time out for yourself. Listen, to your body and obey what it says. If you are over tired or feeling a bit on edge because of how hard you have been pushing yourself take note of your body telling you to rest. You have your lists, have set your achievable goals and identified those jobs that can wait. Taking time for yourself is not selfish, you are a part of your family and family farm team. When you look after yourself you will be a more efficient and productive family/farm member. Also, you will be better able to keep yourself and your family relationships strong resulting in an ability to achieve more as a family farm team.

If things have started to become just too hard then reach out to those around, you or give us a call at Rural Aid. One of our wellness team is more than happy to have a confidential chat and assist you to reset yourself at a pace and place where you feel most comfortable.

Viewing life on the farm with hope and positivity.

Viewing life on the farm with hope and positivity.
By Liz Bellette-Stubbs

Toad and Amanda Heffernan view life positively on the farm. Toad, a 6th generation dairy farmer from the beautiful Bega Valley in south-eastern New South Wales, has experienced drought, fire and multiple floods, yet views life with hope. He showed this when he married the love of his life, Amanda, in 2019 with their twins, Lenny and Laila, present.


“The sun will always come up tomorrow mate,” he says with a smile.

“Farm life can be stressful when you have to work around the weather or disasters.” Toad says.

Photo Credit Trudi Brown

This attitude, of being able to “roll with the punches” and understand what you can and can’t control in life, is vital to looking after your mental health, particularly when it comes to farming. Sometimes this is easier than others and this is where connecting with one of the Rural Aid counsellors can help. If you notice yourself stuck, are finding it difficult to make decisions or feel like you keep getting knocked by things that would usually roll off your back, a chat with one of our team might be just what you need to clear your head and help you get back on track.

Farm life is special to Toad and Amanda because their children are experiencing a unique lifestyle. “It’s important to give them the experience of playing outside. My children are developing resilience by playing freely on the farm. I don’t worry about a bit of dirt on them,” says Amanda.

The couple know about the importance of being prepared for all eventualities. Toad, a member of his local RFS said, “We need to prepare for hard times. I have signed up with Rural Aid now, before I need them. ”

Amanda reflected on the importance of signing up with Rural Aid, “I knows where I can get support. Staying healthy in mind and body is important to our family.”

Rural Aid offers free counselling by phone, online and face to face on the farm.

Photo Credit Gabrielle Gardner

Toad says, “Don’t be scared to contact them, mate. It will make things easier for you.”

Photo Credit Ethan Ray

Music striking the right chord with stress management

Music striking the right chord with stress management.
By Heidi Gray

Stress, negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions show no mercy and can strike at any time, especially out here in rural communities.

A couple of weeks ago I was found myself in a situation that activated my fight or flight system. This situation itself was to present a talk at a luncheon the following day. While this was no natural disaster, my palms were sweating and my heart was racing. I was driving between Inverell and Glen Innes at the time and for those of you who don’t know that highway, there is very little phone signal. There was no chance to call a friend or colleague to talk about my nervousness regarding my first public speaking appearance since school. Instead, I turned up the radio and heard the unmistakable chorus of “This Kiss” by Faith Hill. for the next 90 seconds I safely did a shoulder dance and sang at the top of my lungs. Afterwards I felt calm, the tingling under my skin had disappeared and my palms had somewhat dried up.

The reason for this story is that we all have a friend living within us called the Vagus Nerve which regulates our parasympathetic nervous system. This will be my first and last scientifically worded sentence – the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for soothing the body and retaining basic function after a stressful, traumatic or emotional body response (fight or flight). The Vagus Nerve runs from the brain to the lower body organs, right past the ear so when we listen to music, the vibrations move down our Vagus Nerve and can provide either a relaxing or positively stimulating effect on the brain and body.

When we listen to a song there is a stimulation effect on our brain which can trigger a memory that we associate with that song. Mine is always “Run to Paradise” by Choirboys. As soon as I hear it I am right back in the arms of my friends singing at the top of our lungs. I literally have goosebumps as I write this just thinking about it. So thank you, Vagus Nerve, I am grateful for you and your ability to help me feel grounded through music and sound when things get overwhelming.

Take a moment to get to know your own Vagus Nerve by thinking about what it likes. What can you learn about yourself based on its reactions in the past?

  • Name : Las Vagus
  • Occupation : Manager of Parasympathetic Nervous System of Heidi
  • Age : 26 pushing 27
  • Hometown : Central Nervous System of Heidi
  • Likes : Aussie rock, folk music, country music, laughter, singing with friends
  • Dislikes : Hearing Heidi’s voice over the music, nails on chalkboards, balloons popping
  • Perfect Date : Rural Aid Banger’s Playlist by the water on a very sunny day, but not hot enough to get sunburnt and potentially moody and tired.

Download Rural Aid’s Bangers Play List

In September we asked for your go-to feel good tunes, and Rural Aid have now put together one almighty playlist that you can tune into on Spotify. Please note Spotify is a free service and you can listen to this playlist without the premium feature. Please keep the recommendations coming in you can email them to Heidi.gray@ruralaid.org.au

The Human Library – From the Wellbeing desk of Marg McKay

From the Wellbeing Desk of Marg Mackay – Rural Aid Counsellor

There are so many stories, untold or unheard, among our farming communities due to natural disasters along with the isolation of living on a farm. It is through the telling of our stories that we build connections and support. It was a reminder about special libraries in Denmark where you can borrow a person instead of a book. It is titled “The Human Library” and the idea is to listen to that person’s story for 30 minutes.

The idea is to enable people to fight against prejudices and to take the time to listen to each other. Each person has a title – “unemployed,” “refugee,” bipolar,” etc, but by listening to another person’s story, you realize how much you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. but instead take the time to walk in another person’s shoes. This project is happening in over 50 countries around the world.

It shows that when we listen to the stories of others, we can both benefit. This seems particularly relevant in our current Covid circumstances. People, including the young are yearning to be heard. “They have so much going on in their life and head, that everyone who is willing to just sit and listen to them is like their saviour” (Lidiya Kesarovska, from Let’s Reach Success).

Over the past two years disasters and Covid have led to the fracturing of these connections. At the same time, concern about mental health and wellbeing have skyrocketed, especially among rural communities. At Rural Aid our aim is to create connections with rural communities where people can have their stories told in a safe and confidential manner on the farm. This is so important during these difficult times of lock downs, home schooling and everyday struggles on the farm. Sharing stories with a rural aid counsellor helps to process and understand what you are experiencing in ways that you may not have thought of and build new supportive connections.

Like the saying by Catherine McAuley, “Never see a need without doing something about it”, Rural Aid has extended its free counselling service to cover all states in Australia due to the need. Please feel free to reach out to our highly trained counsellors to support you or a member of your family on their journey.

Marg McKay is a Rural Aid counsellor in the Wodonga area.