Simone Kealy, Author at Afea

6 Mindfulness Myths

The practise of mindfulness and meditation are getting more and more accepted in everyday life. Large corporations such as Google encourage their staff to practise mindfulness to increase wellbeing and focus. Schools often use it to settle children after breaks, and many medical practitioners recommend its use to treat different conditions. But even so, there are a lot of persistent misconceptions about mindfulness and what it actually is. So here’s 6 myths about mindfulness for you to meditate on.

1. Mindfulness is emptying your mind

Probably the most common misconception about mindfulness, when the in fact, the opposite is true. It is about focusing all of your attention in a purposeful way. Thoughts will pop up, and the aim is to notice them come and go, without attaching any positive or negative feelings to them.

2. Mindfulness is meditation

Although they overlap, they are not the same. Meditation is taking time to focus your awareness, whereas mindfulness is a more broad term, referring to being aware of and focused on anything you’re doing at a particular time.

3. Meditation and mindfulness are spiritual

Although they are both big parts of certain spiritualities and beliefs, they are not inherently spiritual at all. The main ideology that focusing your attention on everything you do, and being present in every moment is about the self and is universal.

4. I have to sit awkwardly

Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, mindfulness and meditation actually works best if you’re comfortable. The more comfortable you are, the better you can start focusing your attention elsewhere. It is best practised in a sitting position or lying down.

5. It’s just taking time to rest and relax

Although the effects of meditation can be very calming, the practice itself it actually quite challenging. But don’t worry, it gets easier with time. It is recommended that beginners start with 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Experienced people can remain in focus for hours!

6. I don’t have time to practise mindfulness

Mindfulness is a way of being, it can be practised anywhere, anytime. The idea behind it is to focus on what you’re doing, in the moment you’re doing it, whole-heartedly.

Next time you brush your teeth, drive a car or eat a meal, try focusing on every movement you make. When other thoughts pop up, tease your mind back to the task at hand attaching positive or negative feelings to them. The better you get at this, the more you’ll be able to live and enjoy the moment, and be able to handle stressful situations level-headedly.

To give it a go, check out our blog explaining mindfulness, it’s benefits, and a little practice you can do anywhere, anytime.

Mindfulness 101

This month for Mindful in May, we’re sharing our advice for being more mindful in everyday life. Although ‘mindfulness’ is a bit of a buzzword at moment, it’s not a new phenomenon. The practice itself dates back centuries and is seen in many different cultures. The benefits have been backed up by plenty of modern scientists and medical practitioners too, but if you still need convincing, we’ve broken it all down in this blog.

What is mindfulness?

In a nutshell, mindfulness is paying attention. It’s a widespread misconception of mindfulness or meditation, that they’re about emptying your mind. When in fact, they’re the opposite.

The aim is to use all of your attention and focus purposefully. You may concentrate on a sound, a colour, a place in your mind, or even your own breath.

With our busy minds, it’s inevitable that we lose focus, other thoughts and feelings will pop up. That’s ok, mindfulness teaches our brain to be more aware of its thoughts, rather than not having them at all.

You want to notice these distractions ‘without judgement’. In other words, acknowledge the thoughts, but try to not let them take over, or label them as inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It often helps to think of them as leaves in a stream or clouds in the sky that you’re watching float by.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Many studies have shown that mindfulness increases the speed of success in treating some mental health and even heart-related conditions, including high blood pressure.

A study by Dr. Sara Lazar from Harvard University shows a correlation between regular mindfulness and growth of the pre-frontal cortex, a part of the brain that regulates emotion and focuses attention. There are even some studies that suggest mindfulness helps build immune systems and fights age-related decline in the brain!

Practitioners promote mindfulness as a way of getting in touch with yourself. Recognising when thoughts are arising and controlling your reactions to them. Longer-term effects of regular practise can result in more focus, more patience, better decision-making abilities (the ability to use logic, over preconceived judgments) and even better memory.

So how do I do it?

Firstly, there is no one way of practicing mindfulness. There are different approaches depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Sometimes you might want to practise mindfulness to lower your heart rate when feeling nervous, other times it might be to sort through all of the thoughts in your mind to find a clear way forward.

A great way to start is by looking online. There are a free online guided meditations for specific purposes. Different approaches work for different people, try a few different resources, and see what works best for you. It’s like anything else we do, the more you practise it, the better you’ll be.

A super quick meditation for anytime, anywhere

This really simple method of mindfulness helps to calm yourself and reset a busy brain. It can be done with your eyes open anywhere.

Firstly take three deep, purposeful breaths, then silently think of three things you can see. With another three breaths, silently say to yourself with each “I can see thing 1”, “I can see thing 2”, and “I can see thing 3”. With another three breaths, silently name three things you can hear. Finally, name three things you feel. These can be physical, i.e. “I feel the chair against my back”, or they can be emotional “I can feel some butterflies in my stomach”. Take a further three breaths and you should feel calmer. This can be repeated for deeper effects.

This meditation acts as a ‘reset’ button for your brain. It allows you to pause all of the thoughts that are buzzing around your head, and focus on one thing at a time. The slow, purposeful breathing, will lower your heart rate, giving you a sense of calm.

In our next blog, we talk to our CEO Esha Oberoi about how she uses mindfulness to run a business, parent two young children and find time for everything else.

What’s it like to work from home and home school?

Meet Ammee who is juggling both

There has been a lot of news coverage of the situation many concerned parents find themselves in, or about to be in. However, juggling full-time work and home schooling  children isn’t all bad says Afea Care Coordinator Ammee, who is enjoying the extra time with her family.

“I’ve been working from home for nearly a month, and we work on a roster of one week in the office, one week at home. I feel I am more productive when I work from home, I am more relaxed because I have stopped chanting my daily mantra “Hurry up! Get moving! I need to catch the metro in time!”

I can move freely in the apartment and choose to either work from the dining table, kitchen benchtop or my daughter’s favourite study table. I also get a shoulder massage, which is very rewarding. The best thing about working from home is that I am physically and mentally present for my children during a time when they need to feel a sense of security.

There are some challenges of working from home though, I miss my work family, the laughter and the chit chats! Having to juggle work and being part of the home-schooling journey with my kids is also a challenge. I was never an ‘A’ student during my school days so having to teach my two children at home has been difficult.

I am lucky my children are 10 and 14 so are at an age where they understand the restrictions and are compliant with it. The present situation makes them nervous as well, so they are happy to follow the rules.

Although they are happy to be at home most of the time, they do miss their friends and being outdoors. The only reason they miss school itself is because there is less class work compared to home schooling, and of course, they don’t get allocated chores by me when they’re at school.

The first week very tricky as we were all getting used to the concept. However, my children connect with their friends and keep in contact with their teachers via email to stay on track, this helps me focus on my work.

We now have a routine that we’re starting to settle into, I am up before the kids and I use this peaceful time to meditate. Once the children get up and we all prepare and have breakfast.  After we are ready, I log into my work and the children get on with their online schooling. We break for lunch and enjoy a meal together and catch up on school chats and facetime with my sister (who was in isolation for 14 days). Back to work again till 5pm.

After work, I facetime with my sister in the evening. Some days, the children and I will play basketball on the mini hoop that we have in the apartment or play board games, some evenings we go for a walk, ride a bike/scooter/skateboard, other evenings we exercise our facial muscles by arguing with each other! After dinner is cooked, we eat our meal together, relax in front of the TV and practice the last pose of yoga, Savasana (lying down) for a fair few hours.

Looking after myself is important for my whole family, so I have a few strategies. First and foremost, I stay away from people. I catch up on sleep and allow myself to slow down, which has been a big reward. I have started practicing yoga after a very long time which I am thoroughly loving!

My tips to other parents in my position: embrace each day as it comes, keep affirming, I CAN DO IT and ALL IS WELL! Don’t overly concern yourself with what is going on in the news and the rest of the world, try to focus on your present situation to maintain your sanity!”

We’re all affected in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without forgetting the tragic loss of life that has resulted, it is a good opportunity for us all to find comfort in the things closest to us. Our families, our friends, the roof over our heads; the time we now have to think about what is truly important in life, and how we can change our world for the better, from the inside out.

How can NDIS and HCP funding help people during COVID-19 lockdown?

The core purpose of both the NDIS and Home Care Packages is to help people achieve their goals and live independently. During a pandemic such as we are experiencing now with COVID-19, where people are restricted to their homes and have limited to no interactions with others, it can be difficult for people to maintain health and quality of life.

The wellbeing of our clientele is just as important as their physical health. That is why we are continuing all current in-home services, as well as revolutionising the way we provide basic supports to our clients. 

We’ve put together some ways of putting funding from NDIS and Home Care Package to use to maintain positive mental and physical health during this time.

Shopping

Buying groceries has been a challenge for everyone during this time due to panic buying. The crowds that have been observed in grocery stores pose a risk to everyone, but especially those in the community who are already vulnerable. Luckily, there are a number of options available to the elderly and people with a disability to get groceries.

Shopping by List

An Afea Carer can take a shopping list created by the client or their family, shop for them, bring the goods back and pack them away. Meal preparation can be added to this service so clients need not worry about making meals themselves. 

Shopping Assistance

Shopping Assistance

This has always been a common service for us, and that hasn’t changed. However, what has is that large supermarkets have dedicated hours for vulnerable people, and we can help clients get there during those times to avoid crowds and have first pick of stock.

Online Shopping Assistance

Our Afea Carers can assist clients to create a log in and order goods online. At this time, Coles and Woolworths have suspended online shopping, but have promised to roll out priority service for the elderly, people with a disability and people in quarantine soon.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

Afea Carers can provide disinfecting services if clients are worried about the virus being brought into their home by visitors. This can be organised as a daily, weekly, fortnightly, or once off service depending on clients’ circumstances. So clients can continue to receive needed services, we can add personal domestic assistance before and after each regular service to take special precautions.

Remote Services

Loneliness will be one of the biggest challenges we will need to overcome as a society in a world where we cannot see others or interact with the community. Afea is about to roll out remote services so clients can remain social, without any risk of infection. Clients and Carers can talk, watch movies or even play games together without being in the same place.

Connection to Support Networks

As a part of a face-to-face service, Afea Carers can help clients learn to use technologies that will allow them to connect with their support networks. This could be family, friends, counsellors or any other allied health professionals.

Exercise

Although there are restrictions on the amount we’re allowed to go out, and the reasons for it, we are still able to leave the house for exercise in groups of two or less. If a client wishes to get some fresh air and stretch their legs, Carers can accompany them for a walk around the neighbourhood, whilst practicing social distancing.

Regular Services

The supports provided by our Carers are vital to the lives of many, therefore we are not stopping any essential services. In particular, supports such as domestic assistance (cleaning), medication assistance, exercise and personal care are vital to the health of many of our clients and will continue.

We have rolled out COVID-19 training, provided extra Personal Protective Equipment, ordered 5,000 more masks, and are asking Carers and clients to communicate if they are unwell before any service.

Please get in touch if you would like to know more about any of the above on 1300 65 11 33 (option 2) or hello@afea.com.au.

Disability Accommodation Vacancies!

We are looking for housemates for this recently refurbished home, perfect for NDIS participants who have low to standard needs with a diagnosed mental health disorder or intellectual disability.

Supported Independent Living, Short Term Accommodation and Medium Term Accommodation are all available in this beautiful home.

About the home

  • Secure garden
  • New fridge and TV
  • Furnished shared living spaces
  • Central location in Western Sydney
  • Garage with internal access to house
  • Accessible by bus and close to train stations
  • Active daily assistance and overnight assistance
  • Assistance from property manager 5 days a week

We will offer 24/7 support from our qualified and experienced Afea Carers to help residents maintain independence

Contact us today for more information 1300 65 11 33

Updates to transport funding in the NDIS Price Guide

As you’ve probably heard, the guidelines around transport in NDIS plans have once again been updated. Participants now have the ability to use core support funding to cover additional non-labour costs associated with transporting them to and from NDIS funded community-based activities. There is also more flexibility in accessing transport funding in within plans. The changes were brought about in response to feedback from clients and providers asking for a fair and consistent solution to claiming non-labour transport costs to ensure participants can continue to access supports in their community – worry free. In this update, we provide you with an explanation of what has changed and what that means for Afea’s NDIS Clients.

The changes explained

In a nutshell, the NDIA now allows participants to claim the non-labour costs associated with transport from their core support funding. These costs, on top of the Carer’s time, are at a per kilometre rate, and are charged separately to the service they are receiving. Prior to this, the participant was required to claim funds from their transport funding and/or contribute out of their own pocket. This offered little flexibility to participants as the transport budget is determined at the beginning of a plan and is often a limited amount.

The other significant change is that participants need not contribute themselves for other costs relating to transportation, such as road tolls, parking and transport fares.

The NDIA has laid out a guide for what providers can charge their participants for costs associated with travel. Now, providers can claim:

  • A mileage cost per kilometre that is agreed upon by the provider and participant
  • Up to the full amount for other costs (including road tolls, parking and public transport fares)

What it means for participants

NDIS participants and their providers must agree on the amount that is to be charged. This is in the form of the service agreement which participants would have signed at the beginning of their plan (or review). In other words, the participant and provider must agree to have the amount deducted from core supports using the correct support item.

Participants and their providers will need to consider the costs of transportation when creating a budget and schedule so as not to run out of funds too early.

And for Afea’s NDIS Clients?

Afea Clients will be charged at $1.10 per kilometre (GST exempt) for transport in their scheduled services. Our transportation is often as a part of another service by a Carer. In which case, the travel costs will be charged from core supports under the correct line item as part of the supports to help the client participate more in the community.

If you have any transport or other NDIS-related questions, reach out to our experts now! 1300 65 11 33

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Give Presence, not Presents

We all have things. Most of us have a lot of things, way more than we need. Do we really need more? Coming into the festive season, we encourage you to reconsider what giving means. Presents have a price tag, but your time and attention are priceless. Instead of giving presents, we recommend being generous with your presence these holidays.

For some, the holiday period is a time of loneliness and isolation, sometimes even a reminder of lost loved ones. Human connection is for most an invaluable source of belonging, comfort and meaning. Knowing someone cared enough to drop in, pick up the phone or even send a heart-felt card can have a significant impact.

We are all guilty of taking things for granted. The word need in our culture is used excessively, and rarely genuinely; “I need a new outfit”, “I need that coffee table”, “I need a drink”. If we stopped and thought for a moment about all of the people in the world who have less than us, some next to nothing, would we still think we need these things? Does it add value to your life? What are our true needs? Other than shelter and sustenance what we need is company. Connections. Love.

How often do children open a present and immediately put it aside to open the next, or have already lost toy parts by dinnertime on Boxing Day. Don’t even get us started on the landfill we could prevent as a society if we all offered presence not presents!

We’re not suggesting you don’t enjoy yourself and spoil your loved ones with gifts if that’s what you want to do. Just that sparing a little time for someone who could use it would make you both feel good. As they say, time is precious.

If you have loved ones in another part of the world, give them or call, or if you feel a bit lonely yourself, how about volunteering to make friends and give something back? If you know someone else whose family is overseas, you could celebrate together. This is a great way to get to know people beyond the surface level that we often struggle to get passed.

Although the holidays are about giving, there’s room for some taking too. Take some time for yourself and be present in the moment. Treat each like it’s precious. Do something for yourself, reach out to an old friend, tick that persistent item off your to-do list. Appreciate what you have, and make it known that you are grateful for those who positively impact your life.

These holidays give the most precious gift of all, your time and company, (although, maybe a box of chocolates to share isn’t a bad idea).

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty, you can call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14.

Tips for Independent Living

Moving into a new home is a huge step towards gaining independence. Having a safe and stable home provides a solid foundation for other aspects of life. But living independently can be a little daunting at times, so it helps to have a few routines and strategies in place to stay on top of everything. In honour of our newly refurbished Supported Independent Living Home in Oxley Park, we put together these handy tips for living independently

  1. Build a support network

It is important to have a steady support network before you move out. This might include professional help such as Support Coordinators, Counsellors, Social Workers and Carers, as well as informal support such as friends, family and community groups. Be honest and open with them about what your goals are and how you will go about achieving them. It is ok to lean on this network if you feel you could use some extra help or some advice.

  • Have a mental health plan

Mental health is a buzz term that is thrown around a lot these days. Nevertheless, it is worth having some maintenance strategies to encourage mental and emotional stability. Knowing your triggers and who you can turn to in times of crisis are small steps to take to give yourself the best chance in life. Undertaking small activities that keep you organised and make you happy go a long way in overall mental health whilst. Of course, these strategies will need to go hand in hand with any professional help you are receiving. Keeping a list of contacts and emergency numbers you can call by the phone is a good idea in case you find yourself in need of immediate help.

  • Set achievable goals and check in on them

Before you access Supported Independent Living funding you will need to have a think about what goals you wish to achieve. This, along with your needs will determine the budget for your care plan. Make it work for you by really thinking about what you can achieve and let your Carers and other professionals help you reach these goals.

  • Involve yourself in social or fun activities

Getting involved in local community groups can help keep you active, social and happy. Think about some activities you might be interested and see if there are any groups you can be a part of, such as walking groups, sports teams or even classes. Councils are often a good place to look, and your Support Coordinator or someone in your network may be able to help you access them.

  • Rome wasn’t built in a day

Perhaps most importantly – try not to sweat the small stuff! Focusing your energy on making small improvements can often make more of a difference than trying to first tackle the big things, which have a higher risk of delay or failure. A good place to start is to try to make positive behaviours habits, like learning to prepare simple meals, brushing your teeth twice a day or going for a walk every Saturday morning.

If you want to hear more advice about Supported Independent Living or would like to enquire about our recently refurbished Home in Oxley Park, call us today on 1300 65 11 33.