Wednesday, 07 August 2019 22:50

The importance of WELLBEING - Breathe & Talk

Every day throws up new challenges and celebrations, sometimes there is balance and other days the balance is harder to achieve. Some people can navigate through the tough times but for some it can have a compounding effect day after day. An individual’s level of wellbeing is deeply personal and at times hard to talk about. One thing we do know is that you need to focus on yourself first before you can support others.

For years at Margaret Ives we have been associated with the Kidsmatter framework which has recently merged with Beyond Blue to create the Be You framework. We have a huge focus on wellbeing at MICCC with everyone in our Wellbeing PLC (professional learning community) trained in Be You and feeding back to our teams during reflective dialogue sessions, facilitating conversations. As part of our room reflections we have a Be You section on our agenda for identifying children, educators, families or anyone in our community that we may need to check-in on or support. Support strategies may include simply listening and giving them time to share, asking how they are each day, providing take home meals, adjusting payment plans or contact numbers for support services. We provide a safe and secure base for people to return to, letting them know that we care and are there to help them if they need support. By having these discussions as a team we are all on the same page, a unified front of support.

Our wellbeing PLC is always organising events for our staff team to help support the work life balance. Movie nights, wellbeing walks, meals out together, experiences that relate to helping others in need through charities like Backpacks for SA kids, Ronald McDonald House and the Hutt Street Centre. The MICCC Wellbeing PLC is comprised of an educator from each room, parent representatives and a leadership representative. They reflect and research together to develop strategies and set targets for overall centre wellness (See the WELLBEING PLC graphic). Our staff are very well looked after with money set aside to give staff wellbeing perks like cash for wellbeing related purchases and extra leave. It is of vital importance to look after the people around you because if one person is suffering it can impact the whole herd. 

Every day our MICCC children are learning about their own emotions, triggers and self regulation as they develop strategies for life. Educators role model and create routines and moments of awareness relating to calming strategies, breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, rest, and the importance of physical exercise and strength in both the body and mind. The aim in our centre is to arm our children with a knowledge of self and the skills to maintain their own wellbeing and support the wellbeing of others at home or when they move on to school. 

As someone who has experienced their fair share of anxiety, I only wish I had been armed with these tools as a young child. To be able to  just stop and breathe before thinking/reacting/responding/freezing.

While on a wellness weekend in QLD last month (something I put my ‘wellbeing money’ towards) I discovered new ways to look after myself. I also decided to take a gamble and face my fear of horses with an equine therapy session. I wasn’t sure what would be involved and my anxiety was peaking. When I first arrived the horses had sensed me coming and disappeared into the paddock, apparently something they do when they feel unsafe. 

As I began to unpack my feelings of fear and anxiety I inevitably told the story of myself being a young child on a family holiday. The whole family was going horse riding on the beach but a horse reacted and I became fearful and stayed in the shed while everyone went and had a good time. In that moment I began to wonder how I was going to survive on my own, what if something happens? What if they never come back? Where am I? Who can help me? Why did they go? Am I loved? Will I be ok?

To this day I don’t know how long my family was gone but it felt like forever and I felt very alone. I had no idea that it wasn’t just a fear of horses developing but that this exact moment in time was also the catalyst for developing instinctive reactions. As I shared about this experience, one of the horses ‘Jack’ came closer and closer to the fence. I could see that he was watching me and one of his ears directed towards me listening to me, he showed me how to breathe (in a horsey kind of way).

Without sharing too much of my personal journey I discovered how to reframe situations, to see things from the perspectives of others, and ways to unpack trauma and relationships. To feel what others felt in that moment, to imagine what they might have said and breakdown what their thought process could have been. If they had known what this fearful young child was truly thinking and feeling how would it have changed their response?.... What did I need in that moment? How did I feel? I didn’t want my own fears and behaviours to manifest in my young child so being able to let all that go was both overwhelming and amazing.

After releasing everything I was finally feeling confident to go in the paddock and Jack the horse was right there with me, celebrating the process I just went through and as he ran off all of the other horses came into site as clear as day no longer sensing me as a threat.

What I took out of this the most and it is something for all parents to think about. Young children aren’t always forthcoming with their feelings and emotions, they are still learning about what is happening in their bodies, what feelings look like and feel like. They can’t always articulate what they are thinking but they need to know that their voice matters and they need to know that they are loved to feel safe. Every family shows their love differently but make sure you attach words to actions, if your hug means love then say “I love you” as you hug, likewise if it means sorry or I’m scared then say those words. Never underestimate the ‘small’ moments, they can last a lifetime, even if it was only a few seconds their brain is processing and responding. Always ask children about how they are feeling and explain your own feelings and responses. What is your body doing to tell you that you feel that way? Is your heart racing? Do you feel butterflies in your tummy? Help them learn to understand and regulate their emotions in positive ways, help them see your perspective and the perspective of others and always remember to breathe first. 

Wellness starts and ends with self. We all have different views and versions of events and ourselves, it is so important to see things from the perspective of others. Especially if you are in a negative mindset, see the good that other people see in you. Don’t ever think that your version is all that exists. If I held up a mug one person may see a handle and think it’s a mug, one may only see the other side and think it’s a cup, someone may see it as full and someone empty. Learn to let go, to forgive, to talk to someone and trust that people care but most importantly learn to breathe and fill yourself with love... role model that to your children.

OLLIE LAUDER  MICCC EDUCATIONAL LEADER

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