We live in a world where there seems to be an increasing need to be busy and connected all the time. We are trying to pack more and more into our lives and it is no wonder many of us often find ourselves feeling over-extended with our work and personal commitments. In a rapidly changing society are we forgetting the benefits a bit of solitude can bring to our lives?

For many people, having quiet alone time is often not on the radar. In fact, these days it is almost developing a bad reputation as time that is in effect, wasted! It’s realistic to imagine that a lot of people would find it difficult being alone with their thoughts for too long. The struggle not to think about deadlines and commitments or reaching for our mobile phone to get the latest news feed, email or Facebook update is persistent. Our constant focus on the need to stay connected to the outside world could be leading us to a disconnection with our true inner self and a sense of peace.

We often talk about the importance of looking out for our mates but first and foremost we acknowledge the need to start with ourselves. Taking quiet reflective time out ‘even to do nothing’ can be good for our wellbeing. It gives us the chance to reconnect with our inner most thoughts and enhance our self-awareness. This is by no means a new philosophy, many religions such as Buddhism have long practiced exercises like meditation and mindfulness to promote the virtues of being alone and still in the moment. As human beings, we are simply not designed to be going full tilt all the time, we need regular down time to help restore energy and give us the space to adjust to life’s situations and demands. In his book The Call of Solitude: Alone time In a World of Attachment, Ester Schaler Buchholz sums this up beautifully with the simple statement ‘alone time is fuel for life'.

The social and spiritual aspect of our health is fundamental to our general wellbeing. The experience of solitude can allow us to really delve into our sense of self and purpose, enabling a broader understanding of our identity. It unlocks our curiosity about the world around us giving us space to explore our individual hopes and dreams. Importantly, it can also foster the development of a good relationship with our self which in turn helps us to connect with others in healthy and meaningful ways.
 
Building some alone time into our lives can be a challenge. How often do we hear the saying there is never enough hours in a day! There are also those periods of time when it’s head down bum up as any farmer or small business operator will tell you. Nonetheless if we are to achieve a healthy balance in our lives and given the way everything seems to be speeding up, then now more than ever we need moments of solitude…

Brenden and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

This year the team at Regional Men’s Health is focusing on Cardiovascular Awareness and encouraging blokes in Regional WA to have a think about their “Pump & Pipes”.

It’s no surprise that when we combine disease associated with the heart (pump) and blood vessels (pipes) it’s our biggest killer, largest health problem, and places a great burden on our economy and health system. This of course is without even considering the issues around grief, loss of function and care requirements that can also impact individuals and families.

SOME STATISTICS:
Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the major cause of death in our country. It kills one Aussie every 12 minutes, which equates to just over 45,000 deaths (2015). It affects one in six of us (4.2 million) and was the main cause for 480,548 hospitalisations and a contributing factor in a further 680,000 in a single year (Heart Foundation Aust).

WHY PUMP & PIPES?
If you think about a pump moving water through a series of pipes, over time sediment can slowly build up and slow the flow of water or even cause a blockage. Most blokes would understand this would result in the pump having to work harder which can cause it to eventually fail or blow a hose.
This is no different to (coronary heart disease) which occurs through the build-up of fatty deposits (plaque) in the arteries that feed the heart. Narrowing reduces the supply of blood and oxygen to your heart and if this becomes too narrow it can cause angina (pain/discomfort in chest) or if a blood clot causes a complete block then this can cause a Heart Attack. This is similar to when a clot occurs in blood vessels to the brain causing a Stroke.

Factors that contribute to CVD include family history (which we can’t change) but some of the other risks we can manage by making healthy lifestyle choices:

  • maintain a healthy diet;
  • do regular exercise;
  • reduce our alcohol intake (take a couple of days off a week);
  • monitor our body weight;
  • don’t smoke;
  • reduce our salt intake; and
  • look after our mental health & wellbeing.

It’s important we acknowledge that a lot of CVD is preventable but it’s essential that we understand our individual risk factors that may impact on us developing diseases associated with our heart and blood vessels. The onset of other health issues such as diabetes, obesity, poor health, even erectile dysfunction can be an indicator that our pump and pipes could be under pressure.
So just remember like any good piece of machinery, there are some basic Operating Tips to keep things running at optimal performance!

Gauge your guts
Move more
Regulate your risks
Make a service visit…talk with your GP

Terry and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

Things that we cannot control are our biggest distressors, in agriculture it is mostly weather issues followed by a multitude of other factors such as commodity prices, machinery breakdowns (how long is a bit of string!)  

This year every area of the Wheatbelt (from Northampton to Southern Cross to Esperance and in between) has had different rain events and the crops and pastures are at different stages of germination and growth. We must remind ourselves that it is winter and we are in July. These challenging starts to the season affect the whole community (farmers, people involved in agribusiness and those in the agri-link industries like the mechanics, the mitre 10 store).  Everybody feels the pain.

No one can change what happens with the weather, all we can do is manage our programs and control our business as best we can which importantly includes looking after ourselves and each other (our mates and neighbours).

Remaining connected is one way of doing this.  So, what does this mean?  Rural communities have an innate capacity to reach out and organize and participate in many bottoms up activities.  RMHI has been attending a lot of these events including, breakfasts, sundowners and many other gatherings which allow the communities to have a conversation about where they are at individually and as a collective.  There is less and less of us living in regional areas, add this to the nature of modern farming as well as a challenging season and isolation becomes more prevalent. Staying connected is important and something we must actively work on.

As blokes, we have a propensity to self-medicate.  A lot of people think that is done by sex, drugs and rock & roll however in the work we do its mostly blokes spending more time in their cave, working harder, longer, and talking less (some ladies might find that hard to believe).  It is important that we start to talk about some of the pain and distress that as blokes we tend to suffer alone.

We describe “primary care” as what can we do to look after ourselves and others, invariably it is about connection. Some simple things we can do:

  • Talk to a Mate – realize that we are not alone.
  • Talk to whoever needs to be informed about our situation (family, financiers, advisors).
  • Keep an eye on others – drop into a neighbour and have a chat and a coffee. Take the time to ask someone “are you okay?”
  • Slow the pace of our life a little, join a group that fits in with our passions and interests. It will make a difference.
  • Maintain our sense of humour, laugh at ourselves and with others.

Australians are well known for their larrikinism and humour, Edward DE Bono one of the world’s foremost thinkers called humour “a key lubricant for life” and oftened referred to humour as “social glue and the best anti despair device we have”. I think he is right on the money, when we lose our sense of humour we are buggered.

Owen and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

The time has come to re-evaluate the way we approach suicide awareness and prevention! This is the challenge issued in a recent paper delivered by the Australian Institute of Male Health Studies and Western Sydney University. Renowned advocates for Men’s Health Dr John Ashfield, Professor John Macdonald and Anthony Smith propose that a significant paradigm shift is needed in order to realise a more effective national suicide prevention strategy. They argue that a ‘situational approach’ is required, one that acknowledges the more predominant association of situational distress with suicide, as opposed to the current focus on mental illness. This is precisely what we advocate at RMHI.

None of us are immune to the feelings associated with being overwhelmed and challenged by specific events in our lives. These normal life ‘situations’ such as bereavement or relationship breakdown can impact greatly on our mental and emotional wellbeing. It is at these times, when we are able to draw on our innate resilience as human beings, and to see the best in others when we connect with them for support. The concern is that too often the distress we feel in certain situations aligns with symptoms that are often used to identify a mental illness such as depression. There is no doubt that depression can be a debilitating illness with associations for increased risk of suicide but it has gone from being a condition of relative obscurity to an apparent major social dilemma. The authors take this a step further and argue that ‘the current mental health narrative has been allowed to encircle, medicalise and redefine as pathological many of our common human experiences’ (Ashfield, Macdonald and Smith).

The paper’s central argument is that when it comes to suicide prevention most initiatives are preoccupied with the identification of mental illness. Instead, we need to be considering all forms of life stressors and the associated experience of distress which doesn’t necessarily embody a diagnosable mental illness but can result in suicidal behaviour. They argue that many suicides are connected to situational distress often involving issues such as unemployment, financial problems and conflict, the signs of which may be missed if we adhere to a purely mental illness agenda. We need to be looking at situational distress and how it influences the individual’s perspective.

As long as the suicide focus remains mostly on mental illness people will continue to view this problem as that of a professional’s domain. Whilst tertiary services are very important their focus is on people with high intensity mental health difficulties and the associated risk issues. At RMHI we strongly support the shift to a more situational approach to suicide awareness because it promotes development of initiatives that advocate capacity building in individuals and their communities, early intervention and a primary care focus, that is ordinary people looking out for each other.

Brenden and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au


   

Listening is a vital part of communication and often we may be accused of not listening. While hearing is an involuntary, physical act, listening requires much more. Basically it is hearing and combining psychological involvement with the person who is talking. True listening requires concentration and energy, setting aside our own thoughts and agendas and also not making judgements or evaluations.

Effective listening involves the following:-

  1. VERBAL MESSAGERS – attention to the words used
  2. PARAVERBAL MESSAGERS- attention to how they are said
  3. NONVERBAL MESSAGES-the body language of the speaker.

Some basic principles for effective listening that will help the speaker feel listened to:

  • Stop talking - don’t talk, listen to what they are saying, do not interrupt, talk over them or finish their sentences for them. Men in particular are fixers, we want to jump in with our best solutions when all that is wanted is for us to just listen.
  • Prepare to listen - clearing your mind of all the other thoughts that can easily distract you helps to concentrate on the speaker.
  • Encourage the speaker - nodding, maintaining eye contact (without staring) or words helps the speaker to feel at ease and encourages them to continue and shows you are interested.
  • Focus - remove distractions like TV or other noises. A relaxed environment will help.
  • Empathise - be open minded. Let go of preconceived ideas which helps to empathise with the speaker. Acknowledge a different point of view using statements like “I can understand how you may feel that way but this is how I feel about ……”
  • Patience - allow the speaker to formulate what it is they want to say. A pause of any length doesn’t mean the speaker has finished. Sometimes they may be having difficulty expressing their thoughts. Let them continue in their own time without interrupting.
  • Avoid prejudice - it can be easy to become irritated by the persons mannerisms like stuttering, accent, constant fidgeting or pacing while talking. Everyone has a different way of speaking. Concentrate on what is being said and try to ignore the style of delivery.
  • Be reflective – re-stating the speaker’s words into your own words seeks to clarify what was said and also shows you are listening and are interested. Reflecting how they may be feeling also does the same ie. “I can see you are frustrated about………” Summarizing the conversation in your own words.
  • Watch for the non-verbals - noticing inconsistencies between the verbal and non-verbal messages. Body language can reveal more than words, you may be listening to someone articulating that all is well but his body language of gritted teeth or tears welling in his eyes tells a different story.

When people talk, listen completely. Sometimes just listening effectively is what is required without jumping in to solve a problem.

Tim and the Team

The Regional Men’s Health Initiative
delivered by Wheatbelt Men’s Health (Inc.)        
PO Box 768, Northam WA 6401            
Phone: 08 9690 2277                
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.regionalmenshealth.com.au