Power of Connection

Humans have a fundamental need to interact with others, to be socially active and to feel connected. Widespread research that shows evidence of the value social connectedness has on mental health. Being connected to others can be a protective factor against anxiety and depression, and can increase your feelings of happiness and self-worth. Despite this, many in our population are experiencing a deficit of social connection. Social connection doesn’t mean physically being present, it’s someone’s subjective experience of feeling understood and connected to others. It includes a sense of belonging, feeling cared for, and gives purpose. It’s not about the number of friends you have, the number of groups you are a part of, or how much time you spend socialising. The benefits of social connection come from your internal and subjective sense of connection.

Benefits of Connection

Social connection improves your physical, mental and emotional health. Studies have shown proven links between strong social connectedness and a strengthened immune system and longer lifespan. Mental health benefits include lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, improved confidence and reduced levels of stress. Because of strong social connection, people experience greater empathy, and are more open to trusting and cooperating with others thereby strengthening relationships.
Feeling connected to others can have a significant positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing. However, the level of social connection we desire varies from one person to the next. For many of us, having a busy life can make spending time with people difficult. One way to strengthen your social connectedness is to reach out to the people you already know, who are already a part of your communities. Strong social connections with family and friends provide opportunities for us to share positive experiences, receive emotional support and support others.

How to increase your social connections?

There are many ways an internal sense of connection can be built, strengthened and nurtured. Below are some strategies to enhance your social connectedness: Call instead of texting: phone calls create stronger bonds than text-based communication. Research has shown that people feel significantly more connected when they communicated by talking rather than typing. Schedule regular video chat calls with friends and family: maintaining regular contact with friends or family is imperative for reducing feelings of social isolation and improving connection. Schedule a regular call at a particular time or day. Use video calling platforms to improve your interaction with face-to-face communication.

Minimise internal disruptions ​

Internal disruptions that create poor sleep are caused by your mind (mental) or your body (physical). Mental disruptions can be due to your mind being too active to fall asleep. Avoiding taking your worries to bed can be achieved through practicing good strategies such as jotting down your worries and options for managing these; mindfulness strategies; journaling or other emotional regulation techniques before bedtime. Physical disruptions can include breathing problems (such as snoring or sleep apnoea), physical problems interfering with sleep (pain, restless legs) or stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. If you think you have some breathing or physical problems speak to your GP about a referral to a sleep specialist. Further information on the impact of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol on sleep can be found on the Sleep Health Foundation Website.

Make time to spend with family (or close friends you call family): being physically present with loved ones creates a strong bond, with these close loved ones bringing the strongest benefits of connection. Gather to create fun and meaningful memories through connection. Play a board game, enjoy a meal together, share stories and create positive experiences. Reach out to a neighbour: creating positive and meaningful social connections with people outside of your normal groups or relationships can increase your sense of belonging, bring happiness and a sense of purpose. This connection can be achieved through a smile, a short chat, kind gestures (such as bringing their bin in) or hosting a neighbourhood event. Catch up with old friends: in the age of social media, it’s easy to feel like we are connected despite it being months or potentially years since you have communicated with friends. Reconnecting with old friends after you’ve lost touch can be tricky but an incredibly rewarding social connection. When reconnecting with old friends start simple such as a phone call, a coffee catchup, or a meeting with more than one. Put your phone away: to enhance the power of connection, put your phone away when engaging in social interactions with those in your community. Social connection is a sense of belonging and feeling cared for. Being distracted by your phone can lead to you missing out on the chances to boost your sense of social connectedness. Volunteer at a local community group: not everyone is as connected as they would like to be with friends or family. Connecting with our community through volunteering your time and effort can bring more purpose in life and improve physical and psychological health. Connect with your colleagues: work is a community we are a part of that gives us a sense of connectedness. For many, we spend more waking hours at work, than with any other significant relationship. Enhancing your social connection with colleagues could include keeping up with their interests, showing value in them as a person, offering your full attention, create a social spot (such as a break room or a nearby park) or sharing a meal.

Final Words

In a climate where social distancing is enforced, remote working is increasing and lockdowns continue, human connection is more important than ever. The benefits of social connectedness shouldn’t be overlooked when improving our mental health and wellbeing.

If you or someone close to you needs support, contact Acacia EAP for an appointment.

P: 1300 364 273 (24/7) | SMS or Live Chat: 0401 337 711 | W:

March Tip Sheet: Sleep Health


Getting a good-quality and quantity of sleep is vital to achieving and maintaining optimal mental and physical health. Despite this, as many as 40% of Australian adults experience sleep problems at any one time ( Not getting enough sleep can impact many aspects of our life, in particular productivity and safety in the workplace.

It is well known that sleep is strongly impacted by stress and can lead to the common sleep disorder, insomnia. Insomnia is the persistent difficulty with falling asleep and staying asleep, with 1 in 3 people experiencing mild insomnia at some time (Sleep Health Foundation). Stress, worry or irritability experienced at work can lead to sleep disturbance. Over time, persistent sleep disturbance can make concentration and productivity at work even more difficult, leading to further stress.

Health Professionals around the world regularly share sleep hygiene strategies. These include habits and practices that are conductive to sleeping well on a regular basis such as monitoring caffeine intake, good temperature control, avoiding alcohol intake, improved level of darkness in the bedroom and other great tips to achieve a good night’s sleep. These strategies are good to know, however they often don’t always address the problem experienced by many. Trying to implement all of these ‘do this’ and ‘don’t do this’ strategies can also incidentally ramp up your hyperarousal at bedtime.

Good sleep health can be achieved through understanding the many things that can affect the quality of sleep and taking a problem-solving approach to changes you implement. The five key factors or principles to improve sleep considered by the Sleep Health Foundation are:

Look after you body rhythm and natural body clock

Good sleep is more likely when your body rhythm is consistent. Melatonin is a hormone your body produces naturally and is often called the “sleep hormone”. Melatonin needs darkness to be secreted, with levels starting to rise during the early evening. Ensuring you have a one-hour buffer from exposure to bright light at least one hour before bed can assist your body’s production of melatonin, preparing your body for sleep. Good sleep is also more likely when your internal body clock or rhythm is in line with daytime hours for your wake cycle. Exposure to good outdoor light, especially morning light to suppress the melatonin production on waking, as well as increased activity and exercise during the day can help you to look after your body rhythm.

Minimise internal disruptions

Internal disruptions that create poor sleep are caused by your mind (mental) or your body (physical). Mental disruptions can be due to your mind being too active to fall asleep. Avoiding taking your worries to bed can be achieved through practicing good strategies such as jotting down your worries and options for managing these; mindfulness strategies; journaling or other emotional regulation techniques before bedtime. Physical disruptions can include breathing problems (such as snoring or sleep apnoea), physical problems interfering with sleep (pain, restless legs) or stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. If you think you have some breathing or physical problems speak to your GP about a referral to a sleep specialist. Further information on the impact of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol on sleep can be found on the Sleep Health Foundation Website.

Minimising external disruptions

Removing external disruptions can be especially helpful if you are a light sleeper or have trouble returning to sleep after being awoken. External disturbances can be caused by pets in the bedroom, morning light too early, poor temperature control (too hot/cold) or partner noises such as snoring. Simple strategies such as ear plugs or eye covers, as well as changes to your bedroom space could be considered to minimise external disruptions.

A positive and respectful attitude towards sleep

This principle is not just for those who tend to stay up late, spend too much time watching Netflix or have poor sleep habits, but those who have already labeled themselves as poor sleepers. Having good knowledge and understanding of a normal sleep cycle, which includes periods of lighter and deeper sleep throughout the night with brief awakenings, can ensure people have a positive relationship with sleep. Accepting that for some people it may take many months of implementing positive changes to their sleep habits before consistent good quality sleep is achieved can avoid you failing into the trap of labelling yourself a poor sleeper and giving in.

Final Words

Research shows that most adults need about 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep helps promote attention, memory and learning which improves our alertness, mental functioning and productivity both in the workplace and at home. Understanding the key aspects and principles of sleep, as well as maintaining good sleep hygiene is key to achieve good-quality restorative sleep.

February Tip Sheet: Mind and Money


Mental health and financial health are closely linked. Being in a difficult financial position can have a negative impact on your mental health, and mental health concerns can be exacerbated by poor financial wellbeing.

The UK’s Money and Mental Health Policy institute are leading the way in research into the link between money and mental health, finding that nearly half (46%) of those people in financial debt also have a mental health problem and 86% of those experiencing mental health problems reported their financial situation contributed negatively to their mental health.

Financial stress is not just the inability to meet financial commitments, overwhelming debt or a lack of money. For some financial stress can result
from a lack of confidence when managing money, one overdue bill or anxiety around future financial safety.

The Financial Health Institute defines Financial stress as “a condition that is the result of financial and/or economic events that creates anxiety,
worry, or a sense of scarcity, and is accompanied by a physiological stress response”. Whether you are worried about your retirement, debts, or your children’s future, financial stress is a particularly complex and destructive form of stress that can significantly reduce levels of mental health and wellbeing.

Key indicators of financial stress

Financial stress can have a significant and adverse effect on a person’s mental health and wellbeing, such as:

Strategies to improve your financial wellbeing and mental health

Once you notice your stress responses linked to your financial wellbeing, it is important to find effective ways to manage your financial stress

Reaching out to a friend

For some talking about mental health with loved ones can be a challenging and confronting conversation. The same applies when talking about financial wellbeing, particularly when you are struggling. However, speaking in an open manner to a safe and trusted friend can serve to start the process and acknowledge the link between mind and money. As a natural consequence, things may start to seem less intimidating than they did before.

Seeking professional counselling support

Financial stress and Mental Health concerns have a cause and effect relationship. Speaking with a professional may assist in further developing your tool kit to cope with financial distress such as developing ways to challenge unhelpful thinking patterns, overcome avoidant behaviour and improve emotion regulation when addressing your financial matters.

Seek professional financial support

Getting practical advice from an expert is always a good idea. Whatever your circumstances gaining helpful information, strategies and advice to better improve your financial wellbeing can assist in reducing your financial stress and ensure you are tracking forward with your financial concerns

Manage your overall stress

Make time for yourself each day, step away from the constant worry by engaging in activities that bring you pleasure and increase your relaxation, such as exercising, going for a walk, journaling, meditating, practicing mindfulness and deep breathing. Ensure you practice good sleep health to provide your mind the best opportunity to reset during your sleep hours and improve concentration, focus and resilience for the following day.

Final Words

Understanding the link between mind and money, and actively seeking help early with financial difficulties can help alleviate further distress for those who are already vulnerable or struggling with mental health concerns.

Strategies to Manage the Impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Your Employees


The current outbreak of the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus was first reported from Wuhan, China on 31st December 2019, and the world has been watching closely ever since.

On the 11th March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified COVID-19 as a pandemic.

The WHO and the Australian Government, Department of Health are continuing to expand their knowledge and advise on this new virus (officially called Covid-19) to provide individual’s worldwide with advice on measures to protect their health and reduce the spread of this outbreak.

Businesses are required to identify hazards, and their associated risks, in the workplace and take reasonable action to eliminate or minimise the risk when elimination is not possible. This includes preventing exposure to widespread acute respiratory illnesses, including the coronavirus.

This tip sheet provides some up-to-date information on what the coronavirus is, how individuals can protect themselves and some recommended strategies for employers to use.

What is Coronavirus?

The word coronavirus refers to a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. In December 2019 a new strain not previously identified in humans was first reported in Wuhan, China. This novel coronavirus disease has now officially been called Covid-19 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Symptoms of this virus range from a mild cough to pneumonia, with the virus being spread from person to person. It takes between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever and show symptoms of the virus.

As of the 15th March, there were 249 cases of Covid-19 confirmed in Australia, including 3 deaths. Across the world, there have been more than 154,480 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) and more than 5,700 reported deaths.

For current and up-to-date information on the latest medical advice and official reports, please visit the Australian Government Coronavirus COVID-19 Health Alert website.

How to Protect Yourself?

On 27 February 2020, the Prime Minister announced the activation of the ‘Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)’. As with all viruses, the Department of Health recommend practicing good hand and respiratory hygiene to reduce the risk of spreading.

Good hand hygiene – Wash your hands frequently using soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub to eliminate the virus on your hands.

Good respiratory hygiene – Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, discard tissues immediately and clean your hands.
To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the Australian Government has advised, effective from Monday 16 March 2020, organised, non-essential gatherings should be limited to 500 people. Non-essential meetings or conferences of critical workforces, such as health care professionals and emergency services, should also be limited.


Can people receiving packages from China contract coronavirus?
No, you are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. The WHO reports that the coronaviruses do not survive long on objects such as packages.

Are older or younger people more susceptible to the new coronavirus?
WHO confirms that people of all ages can be infected, however people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear more vulnerable. Despite this, people of all ages should take steps to protect themselves.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new virus?
No. The new coronavirus is a virus so antibiotics are not used in prevention or treatment.

Recommended Strategies for Employers

Support is Available

The World Health Organization continues to release up-to-date information on the Novel Coronavirus 2019 (Covid-19).

The Australian Government, Department of Health continues to monitor the outbreak in Australia with the latest medical advice and official reports.

If you have teams or individuals in your workplace who are impacted directly by the coronavirus or presenting with heightened anxiety, worry or fear of contracting the virus, reach out so we can provide guidance and support.

Acacia EAP offers support 24/7/365 1300 364 273

Conversations with Children and Young People about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak


News of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is everywhere, including in our schools and playgrounds. Our children and young people may worry more when kept in the dark or rely on sources of information from their peers and social media which may not be accurate.

It is important to support our children and young people during this time, including reassuring them with open and honest communication appropriate to their age and temperament.

How they may respond

Not all children and young people response to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch out for include:

How to support a child

Parents and caregivers should discuss the news in an open and honest way. Take the time to speak with your children. Listen to any questions they may have and respond to these with accurate information appropriate to their age and temperament.

Some children may express fear or worry about contracting the virus, or fear of their loved ones becoming unwell. Let them know they are safe and it’s normal to feel concerned.

Limit exposure to the news, including via social media. Continue to check in on your children to assess their access to new information and correct this if required.

Support the child or young person to find a positive way to express their emotions, using art, music or activities. Children can feel relieved in they can express distressing or challenging feelings in a safe environment.

Children and young people may react in a similar way to those around them, including copying the responses of their parents. Remaining calm and confident can assist to role model responses to them.

Teach your child or young person hand and respiratory hygiene and foster this behaviour in the home environment.

Where possible maintain family routines and structure including activities the child or young person enjoys.

Support is Available

Common reactions to distress in children will fade without the need for professional support. However, if your child is prone to excessive worry or anxiety, Acacia EAP can assist. Reach out so we can link you in with a clinician experienced in supporting children or young people.

Acacia EAP offers support 24/7/365 1300 364 273

Mental Health and Working-from-home


Spending an increased amount at home with limited social contact can take a toll on our mental health. Working from home also takes away routine and structure that might be present in the workplace, such as a walk outside during lunch breaks. Extended periods at home can cause feelings of boredom and loneliness.

Some staff may be familiar with working from home, or potentially already have a work from home arrangement in place. For those working from home for the first time, they may find the isolation and change in office environment difficult to handle.

Plan ahead

We recommend workplaces put in place a plan with their staff prior to entering a potential lengthy period of a work from home arrangement. This could include:

Designate a work from home area

You might not have the luxury of a study area so may use the dining table or common living areas. Set it up so it works for you. At the end of the day, pack away your workspace. This is a process which will assist you to shut off and wind down, as well as reduce any temptations to work at times outside of your scheduled work hours.

Prepare for work

Dress in office appropriate attire. Avoiding working from home in your pajamas or tracksuit may impact on your focus, energy and mental preparation for a day of work. Consider wearing your “casual Friday” attire.

Take frequent breaks

Go outside, walk around, stretch. Without the incidental breaks or walking around in the office (such as going to speak with a colleague, collecting printing etc) working from home has the potential to see us sitting at our computers for longer periods of time.

Stay connected with your manager and team

Let your manager and team know when you are taking a quick break or stepping away from your computer. Keep connected as a team to allocate tasks and have a shared understanding of what everyone is working on. Being outside of the structure of a natural office rhythms can lead to people jumping around from one task to another.

Make yourself accountable to avoid distraction

It’s often easy to find things to do at home, such as putting on a load of washing or preparing dinner. A little distraction can cause disruption to your day. Ensure you prepare your day in the same way you would when attending work at the office. Use coffee breaks or lunch breaks to do any non-work-related activities.

Support is Available

If you have teams or individuals who are struggling with heightened anxiety, loneliness or other mental health concerns whilst working from home, reach out so we can provide guidance and support

Acacia EAP offers support 24/7/365 1300 364 273