FIFO mental health

October 8, 2019 Susie Kindred

Susie Kindred, Registered Psychologist has some great self-care tips for maintaining FIFO Mental Health.

Susie writes….One in five people will experience symptoms of mental illness in any one year in Australia.

In 2015, an inquiry from the WA government estimated that the prevalence of mental health issues for FIFO workers was approximately 30%, significantly higher than the national average. However, clear data still needs to be gathered.

There are many unique psychosocial hazards in the mining sector that need to be addressed, and some of the biggest difficulties faced by workers are relational.

Separation from homes, family, and lack of social connectedness are significant stressors amongst FIFO workers. In addition, there are risk factors such as isolated work environments, boredom, irregular hours and easy access to alcohol and drugs. So what strategies can you use to improve self-care and strengthen your relationships while on tour?

Self Care for FIFO Mental Health

Self-care involves intentional activities to care for your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and often includes strategies to manage your thoughts, feelings, behaviours and relationships. Everyone has their own ways of managing the FIFO roster.

Has there been a time where you felt isolated on a trip before, but something helped – what might have made a difference? Are there times where the roster has felt more manageable – what are you thinking or doing at those times? Recognising what works for you is an important first step in making your time on tour more enjoyable.

We can too easily underestimate the impact of doing pleasant things! And these easily get missed over a FIFO rotation

  • Keep an eye on community events that you may be able to sign up for. It’s understandable that you may notice an urge to withdraw and say no to invitations, but this can develop a vicious cycle of remaining disconnected from others and from things that may improve your mood.
  • Take things with you that you may be able to do on remote camps. For example, packing a tennis or football, packs of cards, crosswords or sudoku, and a few books
  • Don’t expect yourself to be superhuman. The FIFO roster is not normal, and we do not respond very well to working 12 hours. It’s okay to be stressed and anxious at times. Do what you can to keep refreshed and stimulated.

Keep your body stimulated through regular exercise, good quality sleep, and maintaining a healthy body weight. Avoid mood-altering drugs and alcohol. If you notice needing drugs and alcohol to unwind or as a coping mechanism, consider if there are alternative small strategies you might use to engage in relaxation or connect with others.

Keep your mind stimulated

Mindfulness- practice to intentionally bring your attention to the present with openness and non-judgment. If you are not sure where to begin, try downloading an app. Many exercises begin by focusing on breathing as a practice to cultivate awareness, which you can try now for 2 minutes to follow your breathing in and out and try describing what you observe as though you were noticing breathing for the very first time. However, mindfulness is not necessarily the ‘relaxation’ or ‘total zen emptiness’ you may first think of, you can also be mindful while at work, while communicating with others or during an uncomfortable experience.

Chill out with relaxing beats – download some podcasts or playlists to your phone before your next rotation.

Watch the ways you are thinking. When we are stressed out, anxious or run down, our thinking can easily change. Situations play through our minds negatively, we assume the worst scenario may happen, we mind read that others are thinking negatively, or we beat ourselves up with our thinking. Consider finding alternative ways to think about situations, practice positive self-talk, and focus on the things that are within your control not out of it.

Self-care at home to maximise FIFO mental health

Self-care at home is important too, especially on arrival home and in the days leading up to departure. Maintain routine at home through engaging in pleasant events, looking after your physical health and your mental health.

Often, it’s overwhelming to walk in the door and try to update everyone and be updated. Perhaps you need a couple hours to yourself before settling in, or a couple hours doing a shared activity with your friend/partner/family before catching up on the things that need to be discussed or addressed.

Families and Relationships

It can be very easy to withdraw and procrastinate from contacting friends or family. However, this leads to increased isolation, less opportunity for others to know how you are going and can perpetuate difficulties with relationships. Withdrawing from others is common, and often a significant barrier to overcome to break the vicious cycle of isolation, low mood and anxiety. To help consider how you may practice connectedness, here are some ways you can strengthen your relationships while working FIFO.

It is important to work at mental health and connectedness. However, starting to make a change can be overwhelming. Set one small goal for one thing you could do. Perhaps making a change to self-medication patterns, waking up and having a glass of water to start the day, spending some time reading or doing meditation, perhaps schedule a regular 2 minute and 10-minute FaceTime?

Stigma remains a significant barrier to seeking help, and more needs to be done to normalise mental health discussions and improve awareness to support mental health. Hopefully, this is a start for you to consider your own mental health. T

ake some time to consider what areas discussed above may apply to you, and if there just one or two things that you can take away to focus on.

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