EAP Assist would like to remind our clients that we are here to provide immediate phone support to any employees or managers who have questions or need support. Below are a few things managers, employees & family can do to support those affected by the current bushfires:
- Normalise reactions
Accept that people will experience a range of emotions and that it is normal. Once the event is over it doesn’t mean people’s feelings go away. Acknowledge their feelings and reassure people that their intense feelings are normal given the disaster.
- Try to keep calm and lift spirits through community involvement
Provide reassurance that “we will get through this together” and focus on the things that were managed well, e.g. the brave responses of emergency services. People feel united in the shared experience and can support and comfort each other. This connection and sense of helping is critical to coping.
- Ask how you can help
Ask if there’s anything that you can do to assist employees or if there is anything they need? e.g. flexible hours, transport or belongings.
- Do not catastrophise
It is common to reflect on the “what ifs” or “what might have been”. Do not speculate on how much worse it could have been. Avoid comparison of stories as each person has a right to their feelings.
- Encourage people to talk about their experience
Keeping it inside isn’t helpful – avoid reassurances such as “it could have been worse”. It’s common for people to want to escape their reality, they may deny or withdraw. They may need to delay their emotional response while they focus on survival or practical things so check in regularly and gently.
- Avoid probing questions
Curiosity is part of human nature. Asking people for the details of a traumatic experience may bring it back or trigger other emotions, wait until they are ready to share their story.
- Encourage a familiar routine
Routine and normal day to day activities provide a sense of control and security, which is reassuring when a natural disaster has a significant effect on their lives.
- Returning to work
Having a sense of purpose and connection is essential to recovery and often work provides this. Facilitate this process by offering options such as flexible hours. The recovery process takes time, and there are often ups and downs so plan for people to have setbacks. Each individual will be different and recover at their own pace.
Self-help strategies for Employees
Traumatic events impact on people in different ways. You may experience sleeping difficulties, have difficulty concentrating or experience symptoms of anxiety. Be prepared for some disturbances. It may take a few days for the acute responses to pass. There are some simple things you can do:
- Prepare yourself to be anxious or scared when you think about what happened. Acknowledge your emotions and share them with people you trust.
- Keep in touch with your friends, family and colleagues.
- Be patient with yourself; reassure yourself you can get through this.
- Keep to your normal routines as much as possible.
- Physical exercise is helpful, in addition to eating regular, healthy meals.
- Use deep breathing and relaxation techniques if you feel tense and anxious or to assist with sleep disturbances.
- Allow yourself some personal space and acknowledge that you have been through a difficult time.
- Avoid things that don’t help like overuse of alcohol, coffee and other stimulants.
- Avoid working to excess or keeping yourself so busy you have no time to relax and do the things you enjoy.
- Avoid withdrawing and isolating yourself from others.
- Avoid keeping your thoughts and feelings bottled up, instead of talking about what you are experiencing.
- Avoid dwelling of negative thoughts.
- Avoid making important life decisions during recovery from a traumatic event.
Tips for Family and Friends
- Having your loved one or friend involved in a traumatic event can have an impact on you as well. It is often difficult to know how you can help. You can provide valuable support by just being there to listen with empathy and without judgment.
- Don’t take it personally if they don’t want to talk. Remind them you are there if they change their mind.
- Try to give them space and time to recover in their own way.
- Their reactions may be confusing to you, understand that it is a difficult time and acute reactions to a traumatic event may be powerful. It is unhelpful at these times to say things like; ‘It could have been worse.’ or “‘You are lucky”.
You may, at some point following the event, wish to speak confidentially with a counsellor who will understand your emotional response, who will listen without judgment, offer information, and assist you with strategies to minimise the negative impact of the event. For further support & advice contact EAP Assist.