When politicians announce changes to the services we use it can often make us stressed, worried and anxious.
For some people, it can feel like those most affected by the change are excluded from the decision-making process. And this can add to the fear that one day we’ll discover the vital services we rely on may no longer be available.
But the reality is it can take years for policy ideas to become a reality.
For example, the rollout of the NDIS began in 2016, five years after the Productivity Commission released its initial report into the scheme’s feasibility. While delays like this can be frustrating, it also means there is time to prepare for changes.
So if you’re worried about the effects of the NDIS, the Fifth Mental Health Plan or the Federal Digital Gateway, we’ve put together some tips to help you overcome your anxiety.
Work out how much you can control
When something big happens, one way to feel empowered is to figure out if it's something you can control and how much control you have. Understanding your role, how you can influence the changes and how best to adapt may help put things in perspective.
Learn as much as you can about the changes
Stress is often borne out of fear of the unknown. These fears force us to resist what we believe will be a negative outcome. But if we inform ourselves about the proposed changes it can be easier to face and gives us power over our situation.
Some useful ways to learn about changes in mental health services include:
- Signing up for newsletters
- Reading newspapers and online news
- Checking out relevant websites such as Mental Health Australia (NDIS portal)
- Read the SANE blog Common questions about the NDIS
- Speaking with health professionals about how changes may affect you
- Downloading policy documents from government and ministerial websites
Participate in the advocacy process
Learning can also involve participating in the process. For many people this can provide a sense of competence, autonomy and connection to others.
Consider registering with a lobby group or organisation, like SANE, Mental Health Australia or your state’s Mental Health Commission. This way you can keep abreast of what’s happening in the sector and hear of opportunities to participate.
Opportunities may include attending public consultations, workshops or conferences, or writing a submission.
You can also write a letter to the editor or send your concerns and feedback to your local member of parliament. If you need help writing a concise and considered response, the SANE Guide to Stigma has tips for writing formal letters.
Look after yourself
Being healthy in mind and body may make it easier to cope with changes.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the news and information, consider disconnecting from social media and turning the media off for a while. Try distracting yourself with things you find enjoyable instead. Suggestions in the blog Coping with shocking news events may be useful.
Other suggestions include:
- Maintaining regular contact with health professionals, family and friends
- Exercising, even if it is for 10 minutes a day
- Eating healthy food, even if it’s one healthy meal a day
- Getting enough sleep – try for at least eight hours
- Trying complementary therapies to help calm your state of mind.
Manage your stress
Improving your ability to manage stress will help you deal with change.
Some ways to manage stress include using relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or meditation, writing a plan that outlines the research or action you’re going to undertake or starting a journal.
There are also plenty of online stress management tools and apps available.
Use coping skills that have worked in the past
Think back to a time when you had to make a change in your life, a time when you adjusted to a new environment or challenge, and try to recall how you were able to cope at that time. What skills did you use in order to make those adjustments? Try putting these skills to work again.
Celebrate the positives
It may be that the change brings some positive outcomes. Focusing on the positives may help you feel better about the overall change.
They may not be initially obvious – and don’t worry if they aren’t – but by staying informed and connecting with representative organisations you’ll be well positioned to act, if and when the opportunity arises.
More to read . . .
- Black Dog Institute’s Relaxation Techniques
- SANE Factsheet: Mindfulness
- What mindfulness app is right for you?
SANE Forums held an online discussion with Mental Health Australia CEO, Frank Quinlan, called 'What is mental health reform and why is it important for you'. This was one of the most popular events in the forums. This discussion is still available to read.