Esha Oberoi, Author at Afea

Esha’s Self-Care Strategies

By Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of Afea Care Services

Founder & CEO
Esha Oberoi

We are living in an incredibly overwhelming world at the moment with a global pandemic that is sweeping over our lives.

It was only 6-8 weeks ago that we had major uncertainties whether it was around will there will be enough canned food and toilet paper in the grocery stores or will I be home schooling my kids whilst managing work projects?

Naturally with the number of professional and personal commitments we all hold, these uncertainties are not just overwhelming but also stressful in our lives.

Before I started Afea Care Services, I was working as a Carer and over time I have developed a number self-care routines that I regularly turn to so I can avoid burnout. They have been invaluable for me in my journey.

As long as we live in this physical body in this human state, we are not immune to stress. Stress surrounds us in our everyday lives and in this sometimes over-stimulated world.

We are always switched on and we are not resting enough.

We are in a state of information overload, so we are constantly reacting, rather than living joyfully in the moment. We simply don’t have time to do so.

We have so many thoughts buzzing through our heads that it is hard to distinguish the meaningful, helpful thoughts.

I believe that positive stress comes from having a defined purpose, feeling empowered and living completely in the moment, with a balance of self-care and care for others. This type of stress is important, it comes from a healthy ego and it motivates us to look after ourselves and our society. It gives us enough pressure to want to expand out of our comfort zones and not so much that we break down.

Negative stress on the other hand is lethal.

Stress where you start to feel intense negative emotions is not healthy. Continued stress can have major impacts on all aspects of our beings. Understanding stress and where it comes from will help us keep the balance tipped towards positive stress rather than negative. Negative stress is when our thoughts and emotions become harmful and get in the way of our growth.

You are no longer making considered choices. We can even start to experience our body’s natural fight or flight response to fear and insecurity.

If you recognise you’re feeling this way give yourself some self-care and take time off.

The first step is recognition. If we let negative stress take over, it becomes a part of us and we may forget what it’s like to live without the mental fog forgetting how good it feels when we are functioning in a healthy way.

Admit that self-care isn’t selfish, it’s essential. Accepting this can be a challenge for a lot of people. My philosophy has always been that I have to care for myself. If I don’t, I am not useful to anyone, I cannot care for anyone. Once you come to terms with this, you can start to practice self-care and self-love which in turn, will open your heart more to those around you.

I look after the different aspects of myself equally: mind, heart, soul/spirit and my physical body. These are my top outlets for reducing burnout, healing and cleansing:

Journaling

I do a lot of journaling. Putting pen to paper helps clearly map out your thoughts and emotions and provides clarity in your situation. Taking this time to sit seriously with your thoughts can have a huge positive impact on your mental health.

Start to dissect the stress you’re feeling. Where is it coming from? Is it my own stress? Am taking on someone else’s stress? I find many times when I am speaking to my friends that they will share some aspects of their life that is really stressing them out and when we start to dig deeper, we realise that it isn’t even their stress! It is the stress they are carrying for something their parents, their partner or their child is going through. They feel obliged to accept it as their own stress. This is something I used to do for a long time, because it is how we are programmed.

If we look at this rationally, it doesn’t make any sense. I know it’s really hard to practise this without feeling like you don’t care or aren’t being compassionate. This simply is not true. I have found myself more empathetic, caring and compassionate without the energy of the drain by accepting another’s person’s stress as my own.

Mindfulness

I have been meditating now for 5 years and my daily meditations are an hour long, without compromise. If I’m really pressed for time, I will divide it into 2 sessions of 30 minutes each.

Out of all of the self-care routines, dieting, boot camp, trips to the salon, it is by far the cheapest (it’s free) method self-care that we know of, it’s pure bliss.

One hour might seem daunting to sit alone if you have never tried mindfulness. I started with 3 minutes a day, then 5 minutes a day. Over the months I found the time increased naturally because I loved it so much. I experienced peace. Not borrowed or taken from anyone. It is in us. In our hearts and in our connection with ourselves, our deeper selves.

Not only does mindfulness connect us with our minds, but in the silence, I have been able to also become closer to my hearts desires. In the stillness I get a lot of clarity in my thinking and decision making. It also allows us to connect our hearts and minds and truly feel into what is bringing us peace or hurt.

I think of mindfulness as being like the ocean, when near the shores the water is rough and mixed with sand so it becomes murky. As you go in deeper, the water is still and clearer. When go deeper into ourselves we can access the same clarity and free ourselves from the murkiness left behind. This is from the philosophy and teachings of Buddhism.

Finally, enjoy the little things

During this tragic pandemic we are experiencing, I’ve also found time to be grateful. I’m learning from COVID-19 that is that simplicity is key. We overcomplicate our lives with so many things. Whilst living in lockdown I realise that we can live quite simply without the need for such extravagance. For example, I have replaced going to the gym and yoga studios with discovering the neighbourhood with my family on walks.

We don’t need to travel for hours or push ourselves to make appointments and social gatherings to be fulfilled. I’ve rediscovered living simply and how much peace comes from the release of expectations we place on ourselves. 

Stay safe and take this time to truly get to know yourself and adopt some quick self-care techniques!

Check out our blog Mindfulness 101 for tips on how to start meditating.

4 ways to support the elderly during Covid-19

By Esha Oberoi, founder and CEO of Afea Care Services

Founder & CEO
Esha Oberoi

There are now 17 nursing homes across Australia that have had nurses or residents diagnosed with COVID-19.

We know that people over the age of 80 years and those with chronic diseases are the most vulnerable. For over 80’s, approximately 15% of those infected have died. That’s 3 in 20.

We need to be doing absolutely everything we can to protect our most vulnerable at this time.

For elderly persons considering the transition into an aged care home at this time, I would strongly recommend looking at in-home care options until the pandemic passes. Once an illness is caught by one patient within in a residence, the chances of others being infected is very high, as we’ve tragically seen with this virus.

Not everyone in an aged care home needs to be there. Some can manage with daily visits from a carer (support worker). A single carer is undoubtedly safer than a facility full of nurses, allied health professionals and visitors.

Businesses like supermarkets have fortunately been working to protect our most vulnerable through initiatives like a special shopping hour and online deliveries. Neighbours have been coming together to look out for each other and help with essential tasks that may require leaving the house. But everyone needs to do their part to protect those in need.

When people refuse to take this seriously and continue socialising in groups against the advice of the government, they are thinking of themselves only and the disruptions to their own life – not the very real threat their actions pose to those most at risk.

One of the biggest challenges for the aged care sector now will also be managing loneliness in the months ahead, which is already a major issue. Day trips for routine socialisation in groups have been cancelled, so we need to look to technology and one-on-one carers to provide emotional support and socialisation during this time. 

Like every healthcare business, this is a challenging period for us, but we are looking at ways we can help our clients and carers stay connected in the comfort and safety of their homes. Our employees are our family and we are doing everything in our power to maintain the jobs of our 500+ staff, while keeping them connected with the aged and disability care clients they have been carefully matched with based on factors like languages spoken, personal interests and so on.

We’ve introduced a number of new health and safety measures, as well as offering support from afar in the form of video-enabled connection with our care clients.

Here are 4 ways we can all support the elderly through this pandemic:

1. Stay home

The more of us that remain in our homes instead of out unnecessarily, the faster we can contain this virus and return to normality.

2. Offer your neighbours help – from a distance

Many aged and disability care clients need help to do grocery shopping and other tasks. Reach out to your neighbours and see if anyone needs help.

3. Have an emergency plan in place for if main support person falls ill

This should detail medications, tasks requiring support, emergency contact numbers and so on. If the client is with Afea we will have this detailed in our notes for a handover.

4. Ensure any support people are taking additional safety measures

Our carers will all receive an influenza vaccine, complete an online learning module on safe hygiene specific to coronavirus, wear additional personal protective equipment and will not be permitted to work if they exhibit any cold or flu like symptoms or have come into contact with anyone returning from overseas. Check that your carers are doing the same.

How we came to be a work family, not a work place

I started my business when I was 24 and overnight I fell into a leadership role with no real management experience. With no mentors by my side and no guidance on how it be a great coach, I learnt the hard way, making many mistakes along the way. What I was doing was following the textbooks to develop my teams, but I had freedom from reporting my performance to anyone else. 

I came into work with a really standard mindset and approach which is the textbook stuff. Staff perform – fantastic, retain them. When staff don’t perform, put them into a performance management plan. Whether it was our employment lawyers or the business textbooks, the advice did not take into consideration that we are interacting and engaging on a human level. We are so much more complex, and the black and white suggestions for driving performance are just that, too black and white with no shades. One of my realisations as the business grew and we continued to have a diverse workforce is that every person has this ‘work mask’. That mask can sometimes be thicker depending on the environment. I continued to wonder, how do I get people to relax and as much as possible and come to work in their most authentic self?

I knew that we all have the potential to be really creative and give our best only when we don’t hold layers of limitations on ourselves. I also understood that these limitations are only imposed when we feel judged.

I knew this because I have experienced having those times where I felt so judged I felt my mask becoming thicker. In those very times I felt it to be most challenging to be creative and add any value. 

What has helped me realise my potential as a leader is that I never worked long enough in any other business to know that there are subtle ‘workplace behaviours’ that everyone mutually agrees to and conforms to in the workplace. I never learnt how to differentiate between my work and personal life. There isn’t a line that I can draw between these aspects of me and overtime I have become incredibly comfortable with that.

As my comfort levels grew and I loved being myself at work so much, I loved that I would be bringing all aspects of me into the workplace. I have no baggage and constraints on how much I choose to give of myself. I wanted everyone to experience this and feel the joy that comes when we can truly be ourselves, our whole selves. All those aspects, that are playful, spontaneous, passionate and purposeful. I also came to experience that the more playful I allowed myself to be at work, the easier it was for me to retain focus when I needed it. If we give ourselves permission to allow the variety of expressions it will come through in our work, which is exactly the quality of work we need. Our work outputs also benefit from shades.

People that work in our business soon come to realise that they can be whoever they are at home, here. They can have days when they are feeling off and not be penalised. They can have times of the year when performance deflates, and they won’t be punished or performance managed. They are supported instead.

I think having the carrot and stick approach only creates fear. Fear is a great motivator in the short term. However, this is non-lasting and not sustainable. Acceptance, tolerance, compassion… all of these virtues in leadership are much more lasting ways to support our thriving workplaces and gives permission for people to bring more of themselves into work.

What Does a Successful 2020 Look Like?

Another silly season has wrapped up and society is starting to get back into their normal routine. As always, there is a lot of talk around new year, new me, but what does the new year mean to you? What did 2019 mean for you? We thought we would share this reflection and goal setting exercise with you to encourage you to make the most out of 2020. No new you needed!

Instead of getting to December 2020 and asking “where did the year go?”, we want you to proclaim “what a year of accomplishment!”. Ask yourself the following questions and see check in from time-to-time to see how you are progressing.

What made 2019 unforgettable?

This can be anything, whether it be positive, negative, or simply something that impacted you. This will help you think about what you value most and therefore what to prioritise this year.

What was my biggest win in 2019?

What are you most proud of? Think not just about the best outcomes you achieved, but also when you felt you worked particularly hard for something.

How did I grow / what did I learn?

Think about areas in which you may have matured, lessons learned, or areas in your life that evolved because of the actions you took.  

How will I use my talents in 2020?

Think about how to put your skills to use. This may be to help yourself, others or to progress in your professional life. Thinking about this will help you frame your next answer.

How do I want to grow / what do I want to learn in 2020?

Are there any skills that would benefit your day-to-day life? Is there any natural talent you would like to refine? This might be learning a new language, taking up art / dance classes or learning skills that may help you enhance your career.

What does a successful 2020 look like?

This may take a little more time than the others. Really think about it, and don’t hold back. When setting goals, it is best to be realistic yes, but throw something in there that may seem a little idealistic now, that may push you to actually achieve it. An example might be saving up for a big holiday, being promoted or reading 40 books in the year.

You don’t need to change yourself to be better, and you don’t need to stress about what you should and shouldn’t be doing. You only need to know what you want, and little planning goes a long way.

A Year in Reflection

2019 marks 11 years since the inception of Afea Care Services, when our CEO, Esha Oberoi overcame her own lived experiences of depression through helping others. We celebrated by getting together and enjoying some beautiful food, Bollywood dancing and recognition of star achievers. This year was one of our biggest yet in terms of growth, so before we bid farewell to 2019, we want to reflect on the last 12 months and how far we’ve come since the beginning. 

When Esha was 24, she had experienced a number of destabilising events which left her with a sense of hopelessness and low self-worth. It was at this time that she got a job in a nursing home and realised that helping others was also helping her own mental health. She related to some of the residents who were feeling a sense of isolation and realised that many of these people did not in fact need to be in a facility at all. That’s when she found purpose in life. She wanted to ensure that no one would feel lonely or forgotten, and that’s how Afea was born.

As a sole trader, she would be running the business and at the same time having to complete services as the demand for her care quickly grew, and nearly outgrew her resources. In 11 years Afea has grown from a sole trader to an employer of over 500 of the most passionate people in Sydney. 50 dedicated office staff and 450 of the best Carers in the industry.

It wasn’t easy though. The 2016 industry reforms meant that the business had to be completely cannibalised and a new model of direct care was introduced. Thanks to our good reputation and newly built, stronger systems and processes, we survived when many providers didn’t.

2019 has been a huge year of growth for us, we assisted more than 300 new families  which means we now assist over 750 families weekly in the community through both NDIS and Home Care Package services. Our Vision is to be the Most Trusted Care Provider, and we are honoured to see more people entrust us with looking after their loved ones than ever.

As we welcome more clients to the Afea family, we must of course grow our workforce to meet needs. This year we are proud to have hired nearly 300 more qualified Carers and welcomed them to the Afea tribe. They have already made some wonderful connections with the clients they are helping with day-to-day activities. It is not always an easy thing to invite a stranger into the home, but our clients have welcomed our Carers with open arms and, in many cases, have incorporated them into the family.

Our team in the office hit a milestone when we recently hired our 50th tribesperson! We know with sensitive living situations, people want personalised service, and not to have to explain their situation every time they call. Because of this we offer a dedicated Care Coordinator to each client. As a result, we have added to every team and promoted a number of team leaders to take on the responsibility of looking after their function to ensure we continue to offer the best service.

Congratulations to Aanchal our People and Culture Team Leader, Tanvi our Care Manager Team Leader, Maria our Alliances and Partnerships and Intake Team Leader, and Glayjo our second Care Coordination Team Leader! It has been a heart-warming experience to watch these passion-driven employees be rewarded for their hard work and go on to successfully add value and meaning to their teams and Afea as a whole.

Our biggest achievement this year is the approval of a number of new services. We are so excited to able to help more people in the community in different ways. After 11 years of providing trusted, loving Home and Community Care, we now also offer Support Coordination, Plan Management and Supported Independent Living. With a team of Afeans looking after each to ensure we maintain the high level of service that we are known for across all supports.

We’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our Carers, Clients, Partners and Office Staff for allowing us to promote positive health and meaningful connections within the community.

The team at Afea would like to wish you and your family a love filled holiday and a happy new year!