Have you put on your oxygen mask?
There is a saying ‘no man is an island’ from a poem by John Donne. That poem, and that line in particular, means many things to many people. I generally think of it as a way to explain that we don’t exist in isolation to everything that is happening around us. What is happening in one aspect of our life affects how we are reacting and responding in other areas of our lives. When things are stressful in our home and personal lives then we can find that our extended family relationships can be impacted, work life is affected and sometimes we could go as far as saying that our work life and work performance suffers.
When one area of our lives is out of kilter, often other areas can go off balance as well but it can be difficult to access support and help to make positive changes and bring those areas of our lives back into balance. Many employers in Australia offer an Employee Assistance Program or EAP for their staff but sadly many employees are unaware that the program is available, what it is or how to access it.
In a nutshell, Employee Assistance Program is a support service that many companies and employers offer their staff so that they can access support when areas of their life outside of work are impacting on their ability to function in their role.
The Employee Assistance Professional Association of Australia define EAP as
‘a work-based intervention program designed to enhance the emotional, mental and general psychological wellbeing of all employees…The aim is to provide preventive and proactive interventions for the early detection, identification and/or resolution of both work and personal problems that may adversely affect performance and wellbeing. These problems and issues may include, but are not limited to, relationships, health, trauma, substance abuse, gambling and other addictions, financial problems, depression, anxiety disorders, psychiatric disorders, communication problems, legal and coping with change.'
One of the questions that we hear often is ‘why would my work pay for me to go to counselling for something that has nothing to do with my work, surely if work is paying for it then it needs to be about an issue that I am having at work?’
Generally speaking, the main reason that work places offer EAP is because organisations recognise that a company is only as strong as it’s employees. If a company invests in their staff and makes sure that they are functioning at their highest capacity then when it comes down to it they are going to be the most productive. At WHWS we offer EAP to our staff (and ask them to use it every year proactively rather than reactively) because we recognise that we need to support our staff so that they can be fully present to support our clients. Other employers believe that by supporting the staff they are supporting the customers/clients/and, dare I say it, the profit margins. One general manager said to me recently ‘I would rather spend $1000 and have a staff member working to their best ability than save the $1000 and have the staff member going through the motions, and not achieving anything.’
At risk of making a sweeping generalisation (and going off on a major tangent), this is an area where women struggle. If we were to imagine a household as a business, the staff member who is employed in the role of wife and mother is struggling with her mental or emotional health and wellbeing. This strain on her emotional health and wellbeing is affecting her ability to be able to perform her role in that company (aka family) to the best of her ability. If this were a business that offered EAP then the woman in the role of wife/mother could access counselling or support and arm herself with tools to make positive changes. This would then enable her to function better, make smarter choices, make safer choices at times, and perform her role to the highest capacity.
In short everyone wins!
What often happens in a family though, is that the wife/mother puts herself way down at the bottom of the list. Her needs are below her partner, below her kids, often below the pets. Many women consider the thought of spending money and time on self-care as ‘wasting money’ or money is tight and so they just aren’t a priority right now and instead they just keep pushing though and pushing on. What happens is that she continues to use her limited resource of time and energy caring for others. The problem is that you can’t pour from an empty cup. What happens when there is nothing left of the wife/mother to give? Who looks after the family when the wife/mother can not any more because she didn’t look after herself?
The original purpose of this blog post had been to share with you that Women’s Health and Wellbeing Services offers EAP. We offer one on one sessions (or workshops can be delivered to employee groups) for issues including (but not limited to)
Child and family issues,
Grief and bereavement,
Support for Managers,
Workload and work pressure,
Individual Mental health,
Health and wellbeing,
If you are struggling in an area of your life then it may be worth discussing EAP with HR and looking at whether your employer offers EAP to staff and how you can access that.
Instead of focusing on what EAP is I have gone off on a tangent and ended up back on a soapbox again discussing the importance of self care for women.
If you are in paid employed and your employer offers EAP then it is definitely worth looking into EAP services that may be available to you. If your role is an unpaid wife and/or mother then perhaps it may be useful to look at your family as a business and make a decision around offering proactive EAP to the team members.
As well as individual counselling sessions we also have a range of groups and programs that can be a support to mental and emotional wellbeing. Why not have a look at our calendar of events and see if there is something there that can support your self care.
Remember, you can’t look after others if you don’t look after yourself, that is why on a plane they tell you to fit your own oxygen mask before helping others. Grab your oxygen mask, look after yourself so you can be the best, strongest, most capable version of yourself to support the ones you love to the best of your ability. Your family deserve the best version of you and if you aren’t looking after yourself then they aren’t getting it!