Tips for managing our wellbeing through ‘a year like none other’

On the Couch with Luke Broomhall and Dr John Brayley

Luke Broomhall (right) with Dr John Brayley (left), interviewed by Erma Ranieri, Commissioner for Public Sector Employment

Dr John Brayley, the Chief Psychiatrist with the Government of South Australia, and Luke Broomhall, Forensic Psychogist, were recently interviewed by Erma Ranieri, Commissioner for Public Sector Employment on the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and what people can do to manage their wellbeing through these challenging times.

Commenting on the year that has been, Dr Brayley said:

‘I think you’d have to say it’s been a year like none other in our experience.

A once in a hundred year pandemic that followed the bushfires; the concerns about climate change.

There are real reasons for us all to be looking at this year and the impact that it’s had on our collective mental health. And I think that affects the entire community.

For people who may have already had other traumas in their life and may have worked to deal with that … there’s a cumulative effect of trauma and stresses that we need to recognise.’

On the Couch with Luke Broomhall and Dr John Brayley

Dr John Brayley, Chief Psychiatrist, SA Health.

Commenting on the exhaustion many are feeling as the year comes to a close, Luke Broomhall spoke about the risk of burnout:

‘I think burnout’s a good term to use…

Burnout occurs when stressors, which are at a moderate to high level — and sometime higher — go on over a prolonged period of time without the ability for people to have a break, and be able to put those stressors down, or have relief from those stressors. The longer they go on over time, the more over-burdened people become in their coping — in their mental health and wellbeing — and the more likely it is that they might experience burnout.’

On the Couch with Luke Broomhall and Dr John Brayley

Luke Broomhall, Forensic Psychologist 

With the Christmas period approaching Luke said:

“One of the things I really recommend to people is top take a mental health and wellbeing pulse check.

So what that is, is 15 minutes a week where you can sit and plan how you’re travelling.

— How am I functioning at the moment? Am I under a lot of stress? Am I losing sleep? Am I being irritable?

— Am I coping ok? Are things actually going alright?

Then project ahead to the next week and say to yourself ‘What have I got coming up?’ and ‘What could I park?’, ‘What could I do?’, ‘What could I do to fit in aspects of my life that enhance my wellbeing?’.”

He flagged some useful strategies to help our wellbeing:

“So, we know exercise is a big help. Downtime. Hobbies and interests. Spending time with people. All those things that maintain our resilience and wellbeing. Are we planning for them?

So, taking that time at the end of each week, or at some stage during the week, to be able to say ‘Ok. How am I travelling at the moment? Have I been doing things that aren’t helping my wellbeing?'”.

And Luke also spoke about the need to be assertive and self-aware:

“Perhaps it’s even simpler things like not being assertive enough to be able to say ‘no’ to something.

When you look ahead at your next week and you know it’s absolutely packed and somebody comes to you and says ‘I need this by next week’. Do we have the ability to say, ‘Umm, I’d love to be able to do that, and I think I will be able to do that, but in the week afterwards, rather than in the next week.’?

We know if we have self-awareness, how we’re tracking. If we have that self-awareness we can start to plan around what’s appropriate for what’s coming. And I think people don’t really have that great self-awareness when they’re under pressure.

So taking that time to take stock becomes really important and sets strategies that are appropriate — not to how you normally function — but how you’re functioning right now.”

A link to a video of the full interview is available below which includes a question and answer session.

Coping during COVID-19
Tips and Advice