I need help

Employees and volunteers of Ambulance Victoria rely on the support of their partners, children and other family members. We understand that the stresses they bring home can impact you too.

We want to make sure that you feel supported, and are able to access the appropriate services if and when they are needed.

Taking care of yourself

Caring for a loved one who is struggling can have a big impact on your own mental health. Looking after yourself is important for your health and wellbeing, as well as theirs. Try not to feel guilty for taking time for yourself – remember that doing so enables you to have the energy and strength needed to support the ones you love. 

It can be difficult to know where to start, especially when it feels like you have no time left in the day. Here are some suggestions about putting self-care into practice:

Looking after your physical health

Being physically well acts as a buffer against stress, and makes it easier for us to manage our emotions. Here are some tips: 

Regular physical activity maintains energy and improves mood. Try to fit in around 20 minutes of daily exercise – anything you like. If that sounds too difficult, begin by parking the car a little further away from your destination, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or doing some light stretching before bed.

More and more research studies suggest that a lack of sleep is related to a range of emotional difficulties. Try to get around eight hours sleep a night. The key is to keep a consistent sleep schedule, even when you are having difficulty sleeping. Try to wind down with three relaxing activities before bed (e.g. have a shower, drink herbal tea, read a book). If you are lying awake for longer than 20 minutes, get up and do something (that is not too stimulating) before trying again.

Eating regularly is important for maintaining steady blood sugar levels and giving us energy. There is a strong link between food and mood, so try to eat the amounts and kinds of foods that help you feel good in the long term. For a better understanding of what a balanced diet looks like, visit the Eat for Health website

You may be used to scheduling or attending appointments for your loved one, but it is important that you also get regular check-ups with your GP and take your medication as prescribed.

Alcohol and drugs may seem to have a ‘numbing’ effect, but they can actually increase our vulnerability to negative emotions. Try to use other strategies to cope with difficult experiences or emotions, such as exercise, relaxation, spending time with family or friends, or other pleasant activities you enjoy. 

Looking after your emotional health

Looking after our emotional health is just as important as our physical health. Here are some tips: 

While the support of friends and family is certainly beneficial, sometimes it can be useful to talk to someone outside of your network to help get a different perspective. Mental health professionals are often highly trained, and can help by:

  • Giving you space to open up and voice your feelings without fear of judgement
  • Suggesting strategies for improving communication and managing relationships
  • Empowering you to better balance your loved ones’ needs with your own
  • Providing evidence-based treatment for mental health issues (e.g. depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bi-polar disorder etc.)

Speak to a professional counsellor through the Victorian Ambulance Counselling Unit (VACU). Call 1800 MANERS (1800 626 377).

Remember that you play a vital role in ensuring Ambulance Victoria employees can do their work, and our support services are here for you too. Please don’t let thoughts like ‘they are too busy’ or ‘my issues are not important enough’ stop you from seeking help. It’s really important to us that we are looking after our staff and their family members.

Looking after a loved one who is struggling can be isolating. Social connection helps give us a sense of community and belonging. Try to maintain contact with friends and keep regular social outings as part of your routine if you can. Joining a group or a club based on your interests can be very helpful. Even just texting or calling friends if you feel that you are too busy to get out is a good place to start.

When we are caring for someone, it can feel like we are always just trying to get through the difficult times. But it can also be about genuinely enjoying ourselves, creating happy memories and having positive experiences. 

You might not always be able to take a break when it’s needed, but try to schedule them into your routine regularly.  This might require negotiation, or asking others for help, but it is possible. Write down a list of things that you enjoy doing, and try to do one in each of your scheduled breaks, even if that thing is doing nothing at all! Other examples include going for a walk, taking a bath, writing in a journal, talking to a friend.

Keep a daily or weekly schedule to help you keep track of things and establish a sense of routine (don’t forget to include your break time). Order your tasks in priority order and identify what you can do yourself, and where you need help. Try not to be hard on yourself if you forget something or get a bit mixed up – remember you are doing the best you can. 

Common concerns

Supporting a loved one who is struggling can be difficult. While you may feel alone, please know it is common to experience some of the following emotional reactions:

  • Anger or frustration that your loved one doesn’t seem to be recovering
  • A sense of helplessness for not knowing how to best support your loved one 
  • Worrying about saying or doing the wrong thing, and feeling like you have to ‘walk on eggshells’
  • Loss and grief for the relationship you used to have with your loved one
  • Feeling overwhelmed and scared about the future 
  • Loneliness and isolation 
  • Guilt and blame, for not doing a good job, or believing their difficulties are your fault 
  • Stress from the emotional and physical demands of caring.  

Although these can be common concerns among our families, that doesn’t mean we have to accept them as part of the job. Persistent negative feelings may indicate that you require help. Remember that your mental health is just as important.

Next up

Coping strategies

Relaxation can be one way to take care of yourself when you are feeling stressed. There’s no one right way to relax and many of these can be done with your partner or as a family together.

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