RU Ok Day traditionally focuses on reaching out to those around you, encouraging conversations about wellbeing and mental health, providing skills in responding to distress and how to link people with support. The day, and its teachings are a useful reminder for all of us to reach out to and check in – not only with others, but also with ourselves.
The last few years have been hard, particularly for health care professionals. The COVID pandemic, healthcare pressures, recent world events and increasing costs of day-to-day living are just some of the factors behind increasing levels of psychological distress and suicide amongst members of the caring professions. We have all been touched in some way. Many of us are fatigued or burnt out, many of us need a break. Many of us are struggling.
Dr Ebonney van der Meer, Rural Generalist Training Advisor based on Yunbenun, Wulgurukaba Country (Magnetic Island), encourages you to remember to check in with yourself first this RU Ok Day.
Take a pause, reflect, and ask yourself:
- How am I feeling today?
Take a breath and genuinely consider your response. Do you notice feelings of stress, anxiety, worry, sadness, or other challenging emotions? Notice how you are feeling physically also and consider if these might be related to your emotions.
- What has been worrying me lately?
Is it work, family, friends, finances, or something else? Take time to identify and even track your stressors (e.g. in a journal) so you can explore how you might manage them. You can also enlist outside help if need be.
- Am I providing my body with its basic needs?
Sometimes we get so busy we forget the basics – food, exercise, rest, and sleep. If the balance is not quite right, it can have a big impact on our mental and physical health. You can use your reflections or this handy self-care inventory to create a recipe for change.
- What am I doing to bring myself joy?
If you can’t think of anything, brainstorm (with a little help) a few things you might be able to do and make it a priority to schedule them into your day.
- Who do I have in my corner?
Making time to connect with those closest to you is an essential part of maintaining wellbeing. Who are your true supports, and have you connected with them lately? If you haven’t, reaching out often pays dividends in relation to how you feel. Outside of family and friends, connecting with your professional peers via groups such as Hand-n-Hand might be just what you need.
The next step
Once you have tuned in, the next step is working on addressing the areas you have identified as a priority to you. Whether this is slight readjustments, major changes or reaching the realisation that you might need professional help; a great place to start is by having a conversation with your General Practitioner (every doctor should have one!). The Doctors Health Advisory Service, DRS4DRS, and Australasian Doctors’ Health Network offer health and wellbeing services specifically for doctors. Beyond Blue offers a 24-hour phone service and have a wealth of information (including self-test questionnaires) on their website and Queensland Health employees can access a variety of wellbeing initiatives and the Employee Assistance Service.
After a hard couple of years, we all deserve to take the time this RU Ok Day to check in with ourselves and to make our wellbeing a priority. Doctors are human too and we can’t continue to provide high quality care for patients and community without first having looked after ourselves.
Only by acknowledging our struggles, prioritising our own needs, and seeking out support or professional help, can we lead and role model the case for change in access and acceptability of mental health care for our patients, colleagues and communities.
Dr Ebonney van der Meer | Rural Generalist Training Advisor