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Making Changes in Your Relationship with Alcohol

Have you noticed how much alcohol is on television? Not just the ads but in the actual shows. From the alcohol fuels brawls of dating and cooking shows to the perfectly placed beers on the sports-related shows and don't get me started on the shows of watching people watch other shows. And that's just in the safety of your own home. Step out of your home and there are bottles shops at most hotels and shopping centres and that nice little discount coupon you get at the bottom of some of your shopping dockets. For someone who is considering changing their relationship toward alcohol, these can be very triggering experiences. And in the current climate, a lot of people are experiencing iso-drinking which is consuming more alcohol than they would normally due to the effects of isolation.

Let's talk facts now. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) say that 'an Australian standard drink contains 10g of alcohol (12.5ml of pure alcohol). You can count the number of standard drinks you are consuming to keep track of how much you are drinking'. Different sources also advise limits like 1-2 standard drinks per day with no more than 4 per day and no more than 10 per week with 1-2 alcohol-free days in the mix. However to count these standard drinks you need to know the percentage of alcohol overall in the liquid you are consuming and the millilitres that have been poured into the glass. This can be hard even if you are just having a drink at home. This is where speaking to someone who can help you identify the variables to understand a standard drink can be useful. I'd also like to point out here that if a person is alcohol dependent or has been drinking large quantities of alcohol for an extended period, it is important to seek medical advice before making any changes, as sudden cessation of alcohol can lead to serious health conditions or death.

Stages of change - Before setting any goals for change or signing up for a dry week to month it can be useful to assess where you are in your change journey first. As an alcohol and drug counsellor, I have used the stages of change model to help people really work out their level of understanding regarding where they are at and to also help them get back on the horse when they fall off which, surprise, can happen so it is important to be ready for it. So let's have a look at these stages

Pre-contemplation is where the problem behaviour is not seen as a problem. This may be because the person is in denial, they don't see the costs outweighing the benefits, they just feel like they are being nagged or they have made a previous unsuccessful attempt and have decided to give up on the change. This is still a workable space and sometimes requires some extra information, education, costs versus benefits analysis and most importantly awareness of the issue. It's also important to remember that it doesn't have to always be all or nothing and like any relationship, negotiations can be made.

Contemplation - "I could make the change and if I did it could look like this….but I'm still hesitant to make it because of….". How often do we say this to ourselves? Sometimes we don't even know the reasons why but they are often based around fear, ambivalence, or just put it in the too-hard basket. This is where speaking with someone can help to nut out what it is that's stopping you and what resources and knowledge you need to make the change. Also identifying the barriers to change so you can name what is preventing you from taking the next step. And finally, the likelihood of relapse because, as mentioned above, triggers are all around us so it's important to make some plans to prevent and/or manage lapses and relapses.

Preparation - You did it, you decided to make the change…..now what? This is where goal setting, refusal techniques and coping strategies can be explored. Remember, you can't build a house without a strong foundation (and non-flammable cladding). Sometimes planning can include minor adjustments to your current behaviour and sometimes it can mean a lifestyle change but no matter how big or small the change, you need a strong and clear change plan. Don't only think about the change you want to make but also the reason you want to make it as the reason can be that tipping factor as to whether change happens or not. Also, plan out the steps to making this change and make them SMART; meaning specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Remember you can't become a marathon runner overnight. You don't have to do this alone either so include people and resources such as support groups, counsellors or family and friends in your plan that you can call upon to help you achieve your goal. Once you have set your goals and made them strong it's also important to think about when things go wrong and how you will manage those times. The more tools you have in your tool belt, the better equipped you will be to manage the change and all the obstacles you will encounter.

Action- Lights, camera, action, this is where the magic happens in the movies but it's not always magical in real life. It's important to remember your goals, your steps, your support network and all the other measure you put in place in this stage. You may find yourself avoiding triggers, reaching out for help, taking steps to avoid temptation and working through cravings. Yes, cravings. This is where the 4 Ds can help with managing cravings. The 4 Ds are delay, distract, de-stress and de-catastrophize. Cravings will come in a wave so often by delaying for around 20 minutes, the craving will subside on its own. And don't forget to also drink water and keep up your fluids as this will help you feel full and your body will be more comfortable. Herbal tea can also be good but just be mindful of soft drinks and caffeine as they may be a trigger.

Maintenance- While cars need regular services, your change plan may also need some tune-ups as you continue to face challenges. Even people in a maintenance stage of change may need to seek support to help fine-tune their plan to continue success. It's also important to keep plans in the back of your mind to manage lapse and relapse as these can still happen. While you know you can make the change you don't want to end up starting again from page one or giving up entirely. You got this!

Lapse and relapse - I like to use both words lapse and relapse as there is a difference between the two. A lapse is more of that 'whoops' moment where you have a slip-up but you return to your changed behaviour and make some adjustments to your plan to prevent a recurrence. A relapse is returning to step one, whatever that was for you, and having to start again rather than pick up where you left off. Both of them are spaces for learning and growth. Just like a child that gets its finger caught in a kitchen draw, while it may do it once and learn from that experience and never do it again, it may also do it several times not understanding why it keeps happening, until the lightbulb moment where it learns how to hold the handle so its fingers don't get in the way. We need to remember we are humans and we learn from experience. Just remember to be kind and honest with yourself and the people supporting you.

Don't forget to ask for help if and when you need it. Skylight can offer counselling services to those who are wanting to make changes in their life who can be at any stage of change. It doesn't have to be related to alcohol either so if you need someone to walk alongside you for a part of your journey, contact Skylight and see how we can help.

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Trauma-Sensitive Yoga: Healing trauma through embodiment

As a counsellor, it is no surprise that I love words and stories. Being able to express how we feel through words can be an empowering and freeing experience. It can help us understand ourselves better, and can provide a sense of ownership over our thoughts and feelings.

However, sometimes, words are not enough.

In a threatening event, our bodies manage as best they can by activating the "survival mode". The most well-known survival modes are fight, flight, and freeze – intending to get us out of a life-threatening situation by taking down the attacker, by running away, or by being completely still.
Some traumatic experiences are "one-offs", while other trauma takes place over a longer period of time, for example in cases of childhood abuse. This is called "complex trauma". Sometimes, the nervous system of the survivor doesn't quite get the chance to recover, and the body can find itself stuck in a survival state, even when the threat is no longer present. As a result, people might experience a whole range of symptoms. They might feel their emotions like a "rollercoaster", have a dissociative sense of "not being here", or live with unexplained pain.

In addition to this, traumatic memories are often stored as sensory memories. We remember smells or colours, but might not have the ability to recall the full story.

So, what can we do when talk-therapy just doesn't cut it?

Somatic therapies aim to address the trauma that is stored in the body. In this article, I will expand on one somatic approach to trauma healing that we provide at Skylight: Trauma-Sensitive Yoga.
First things first: you do not need to be flexible. You do not need previous yoga experience. Trauma-Sensitive Yoga is available for you regardless of age, body type, physical ability, ethnicity, gender, or race.

This treatment program was developed at the Trauma Center in Massachusetts. Trauma Center Trauma-Sensitive Yoga (TCTSY for short) is an evidence-based approach, with foundations in Trauma Theory, Attachment Theory, Neuroscience, and Hatha Yoga. It is a program specifically designed to support people living with complex trauma. Trauma-Sensitive Yoga provides an opportunity to reconnect with your body, on your own terms. The practice revolves around choice-making and noticing sensations in your body. 

For example: you can decide if you would like to lift your arms in a certain yoga form, and if so, to what extent you would like to lift them. You might bring your attention to your shoulders and notice what it feels like to lift your arms. Based on what you're noticing, you might decide to adjust the way you are lifting your arms. The TCTSY facilitator verbally guides you through different yoga forms during the session and practices the forms with you. The emphasis is not on "doing it right", so the facilitator does not give you verbal or physical adjustments. This allows you to focus on how you would like to inhabit each yoga shape. 

The next 6-week Trauma-Sensitive Yoga program at Skylight starts on Monday 31st August. 

If you think you'd like to give it a try, feel free to get in touch with our customer relations team to sign up. The facilitator (me) will give you a call to have a brief chat first, which will also provide you with a chance to ask any questions you might have.

Looking forward to connecting with you – with and without words

Merel
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Pukatja Life

Community living is simple. I found my time in The Lands to be the most grounding time of my life; landscape absorbs worry, silence deafens the voice in your head and the sense of community is strong - you're never alone! Walking around Pukatja, people give you a friendly nod or a cheerful "Palya", and there are lots of dogs - which is awesome because who doesn't love the constant presence of papas (dogs)? Wild horses make an appearance on North side, sometimes walking down the road in search for water and food scraps, donkeys will let themselves in and wait in the kitchen for food, and cows will stand in the middle of the road staring you down- beeping doesn't scare them all!

Pitjantjatjara is one of the most beautiful languages I've heard and learning how to speak it has helped form an appreciation for grammatical, pronunciation and word definition differences. There are words for sounds, such as the sound of wind in the leaves - walpa. I have been so lucky to go on bush trips, to be shown Country and Dreaming sites, and to have watched sunsets that throw intense red, pink and purple into the sky. Watching the mountains change colour as the sun makes its journey from one mountain to the other, misty hazes after sun-down bring on an atmosphere which can only be experienced.

One of my favourite things has been making friends with Anangu, along with the strong sense of connectivity which comes from this - children waving frantically from cars or little ones running across the shop to give you a hug. These experiences fill your happy cup! After school, children migrate to the shop, stopping in at the Road House before coming into the Skylight for activities. We paint, make masks, have dance-offs, make fruit salad, play softball and create our own body products! A lot happens in the office since families come in with their tjitji (children) and iti (babies), from water play, playing bongo drums to facilitating nap time- Skylight is a well-loved part of the community.

School holiday programs run for children to come and hang out at the office- the boys enjoy break dancing and making masks before a cruise to the shop to get the ingredients for fruit salad and sandwiches. It was awesome to see all the boys wanting to be involved in cooking. Everyone had something to cut up and others enjoyed being in charge of melting the cheese on the ham sandwiches. The girls loved making pizzas and creating Christmas cards for their families, together, the children made their own gingerbread men and worked as a team to decorate their baking.

Being welcomed into community and experiencing life on The Lands has truly been a giant learning opportunity, one I am grateful for and will always carry with me. Working within a team of vibrant people I have grown professionally, found new interests and been able to explore and live with one of the oldest surviving cultures. If you get the opportunity to live within a community- DO IT!

- Lauren



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A Note From Skylight CEO - Paul Creedon

Earlier today I received a call from Mrs Lan Le, the wife of SA's Governor Hieu Van Le, who phoned to express her thanks to Skylight Mental Health for its ongoing work to support people living with a mental illness, particularly during the current COVID19 pandemic.


Mrs Le, before her retirement, was a social worker in mental health and she recounted to me several referrals she had made to Skylight and the great outcomes for those people which had always given her a positive view of Skylight and its services.

She congratulated us on our ability to continue providing services and also for creating and building new services and opportunities. She specifically highlighted the Skylight videos that had been created and posted online as evidence of our value and resilience in this difficult time.

We spoke at some length acknowledging that the quality of an organisation like Skylight is demonstrated daily by the actions of its staff and their interactions with participants, and she asked me to pass on her thanks to all of the staff at Skylight for our ongoing work and commitment to people with a mental illness.


I, and the Board, have no difficulty in seconding this and also thanking all of the staff for their commitment, flexibility and creativity.


Paul Creedon
CEO


Click here to view a message from His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia: 
COVID-19: A MESSAGE FROM THE GOVERNOR TO THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA

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7 tips for when you're feeling overwhelmed by the NDIS process

 Overwhelmed by the NDIS process? Here are some tips to help get you through the application and planning phases.

Going through the application and planning processes for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) can be daunting, but there are ways to make the process less stressful. Here's what we came up with.


Write it down

There are dozens of potential questions you might have surrounding the NDIS application and planning processes. Instead of them swimming around in your head, get them down onto paper. Perhaps even sort them out into a priority of most urgent to least urgent. Start having a go at them yourself – what do you think? What do you already know about the topic? Getting your thoughts onto paper can help to clarify what information you are going to need.


Talk to someone

Now that you have written down your questions and thoughts, it's time to talk to someone. Maybe you have a support worker who is working on your application with you. Bring your thoughts and questions to your next session and they can support you to find the answers. If you don't have a support worker, you may have a carer or someone you know who can act as 'support buddy' with you to help you understand the processes. Skylight has a Customer Relations Team that can be accessed over the phone or in-person and they can talk to you about all things NDIS. Alternatively, you might call the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) for some answers. Waiting on the phone line is not everyone's favourite thing, but put your phone onto loud-speaker, make a cup of tea or do the dishes while you wait and someone will be there to take your call. Make sure you note down the answers to your questions so that you can refer back to them in in the future.


One step at a time

When thinking about the NDIS application processes as a whole, it can certainly seem overwhelming. However, remember that you need only to focus on the next thing. With your support worker, carer or support buddy, divide up the tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, make an application process action plan and even put tasks in a diary or calendar so that you know exactly when you are going to address each one.


Come to an NDIS café/workshop/talk

Feeling stuck? You're not the only one. Seek out NDIS information sessions in your area so that you can be part of the information sharing that is happening in your community. Skylight runs information sessions as well as an NDIS café in various locations – visit our website for more details or give us a call!


Research, research, research

The NDIA's website can seem like a lot to take in, however, a little bit of searching might just lead to some fact sheets and FAQs that are relevant to you. You might want to go through them with your support worker, carer or support buddy – to get it straight in your mind. It's also important to get to know the language used by the NDIA to improve your chances of gaining access to the scheme. Phrases such as "psychosocial disability" "permanent and lifelong", "significant functional limitations" and "cannot do" are all phrases that will make sense to the NDIA when processing your application.


Organise your paperwork

As with most administrative tasks, staying organised helps. You might find it useful to keep papers in labelled folders, stick post-it notes as reminders and make copies or scans of important documents. Whichever way you know how, keeping organised is a good way to alleviate anxiety and help you to feel less overwhelmed.


Stay focused on your goals

Ultimately, the NDIS process is about identifying what is important to you to get the support that you need. Keep focusing on what it is you want out of the NDIS and keep talking about these goals with anyone helping you to apply for the NDIS. Having a clear idea about what kind of services you need will hopefully help you to stay on track.


Photo by Kelli McClintock

Unsplash - @kelli_mcclintock

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Together - National Reconciliation Week

The title of my piece is 'Together', this means walking, talking and doing together for a bright hopeful future. Since childhood I have heard of stories from the indigenous communities' and they say that the earth is their mother and they are the custodians of her. 

I wanted to show that I feel the same way.

Together we can walk the path of colours in our beautiful land, from the amazing colours in the sky, flora, land and the beautiful turquoise colour of our seas and ocean. Cherishing the native species of plant life that is left as 90% of the Noarlunga area has been wiped out. The diversity of our country from the scrublands and forests to our magnificent red river gums not to mention our incredible wildlife that is so unique.

There is nowhere in the world like this land.

The two hands coming together are indigenous and non-indigenous peoples both with knowledge and a readiness to work together in projects and group discussions to care for and protect everyone and everything that is this land. Under the night sky, the southern cross is of great significance, when it is low in the sky it indicates that the emu is sitting on his eggs, eggs are is a symbol of new life, fertility and hope it is also a time for foraging. The emu and kangaroo are on the coat of arms and can only move in a forward direction, my hope and dreams are for all of us to move forward together.

Artwork and words by Toni Dallow, 2020
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Strategies for Maintaining Mental Health During Isolation

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It is well known that boredom can contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety and loneliness. Our COVID-19 Peer Support Line staff have come up with 5 strategies that may help you to cope should you need to isolate. 

Maintain a Routine
As much as possible, maintain a routine each day. Shower when you usually would, and eat when you usually would. Most importantly, get dressed out of your pyjamas every day! If you get into proper clothes, you feel like you're day has started and that you have important things to do, and you do have important things to do.

Achieve Something Everyday
No matter what the task, set yourself something to achieve every day. It might be doing the dishes, cleaning out a cupboard, or calling a friend. A sense of achievement helps us to feel like we are doing something meaningful. Keep doing meaningful activities every day and it won't feel like a waste of time!

Write About Your Experience
Writing about what has been going on, can help us to feel like we are talking to someone and sharing our experiences with someone. You might write a daily journal of how you're feeling or what tasks you did, or you might even post an online blog telling the world about how you're going! You might even find other journals or blogs to read of people going through the same thing. When we find others having a similar experience, it helps us feel less alone.

Keep Connected Socially
This one is especially important if you are at home on your own. Organise Skype calls with friends and family, find a Facebook group to follow that lifts your spirits, create a Whatsapp or messenger group to check on each other or participate in an online forum or discussion board. The more ways that you can communicate the better! Play knocking games on the wall with your neighbours! Get creative.

Reach Out For Support
Ultimately, it's going to be a difficult time for anyone and it's important to reach out for support if you need it. If you're feeling suicidal and really not coping, call Mental Health Triage or Emergency. If you're feeling safe but you are in distress and need to talk things through, call LETSS and chat with our peer workers. Let's all band together and get through this!!!

Photo by Bohdan Maylove on Unsplash

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