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Councillor health and wellbeing

As a councillor you have a unique and privileged position, and the potential to make a real difference for your local community.

But being a councillor can be challenging work. It requires an interest in people, a willingness to learn and a significant investment of your time to serve the needs and interests of the local community.

At times, it may also require personal leadership and resilience to overcome challenging relationships or carry out complex responsibilities. Your role will make legitimate demands on your time on top of your personal commitments to family, friends and social life.

Surprisingly, sometimes you need to slow down to speed up.

Key resource

Download the health and wellbeing self-check (PDF, 85KB)

On this page

Why your wellbeing is important

Your wellbeing is the unique way that you handle your emotions, respond to stresses and is something that greatly affects your outlook on life. It affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves and interacts with other people.

We all face increased workloads and external factors like bushfires, cyclones and our ongoing drought crisis. This means growing pressure on councillors to respond to the needs of their communities.

To cope with stresses and overcome life’s daily challenges in your personal and professional life, it is important that we stay as healthy as possible.

Staying healthy will help you to better overcome challenges, build healthy relationships and work more productively in your role as a council representative and active leader for your community.

Work-life balance

Establishing a good work-life balance means that you have harmony between different aspects of your life. Benefits gained from each area of your life support and strengthen the others.

Juggling a councillor’s many responsibilities and filling a desire to have non-work interests, activities and commitments is a challenging one.

The best strategy is to have a clear separation between work and home life, as it will reduce the stress of one area impacting the other. How will you make sure you separate your work and home life while you’re a councillor?

Tips to help maintain a good work-life balance

  • exercise regularly or create a routine
  • don’t be scared to take some personal time off
  • always take your breaks
  • take leave when you need it
  • spend time with friends and family
  • limit your work calls and use of work emails from home
  • maintain a healthy diet
  • get a good night’s sleep every night
  • continue to follow your own passions.

How much time do you need?

To find the right balance between your professional and personal life can be tricky. Keep in mind how much time and energy you put into work.

Remember to take care of yourself and consider the benefits of some of that effort being spread elsewhere.

Stress management

Stress is the body's way of responding to demand or pressures.

A small amount of stress from time to time, such as working to a deadline, isn’t a bad thing.

Depending on your work style, you may sometimes even enjoy stress, along with the increased alertness, energy and productivity that comes with it.

However, if the pressure keeps up for long periods, without any breaks, or if it becomes greater than our ability to cope with the stress, it can drain you physically and mentally.  It can have a serious, negative effect on physical and mental health, relationships, work and wellbeing.

How we respond to stress

Everyone responds differently to stress. It can be impacted upon by your personality, cultural background, social and work circumstances, past experiences, stage of life, support networks, and the specific situations we find ourselves in each day.

As a councillor for your community, you will experience all kinds of pressures and stresses when undertaking the role.

As a councillor in the future you will have to make high-level and often difficult decisions for the community, against an ever-changing background of priorities.

Councillor leadership

Councillors must strive to search for innovative, new and collaborative ways of doing things. As someone elected to serve your local community, these decisions may sometimes involve choosing some priorities over others or be stressful. Explaining these decisions and the impacts to the community and bringing the community along with you as council makes these decisions, can itself be a bigger and more difficult or time-consuming task than you might expect.

Therefore, learning how to effectively manage stress in these environments can help you in your role dramatically.

Round-the-clock work myth

A common misconception of undertaking the role of a councillor is that you are required to be ‘on the job’ 24 hours of the day. This is not the case though it can be challenging to manage other people’s expectations in this regard.

Everyone is entitled to downtime to recoup from their work life. Remember to take some time for yourself and really focus on your needs. This can help reduce feelings of stress which will ultimately protect your health and wellbeing.

When you're caring for all aspects of yourself, you'll find that you are able to operate more effectively and efficiently while enjoying life and fulfilling your potential.

Remember this important saying:

Sometimes, you need to slow down to speed up.

Recognising the signs

By being aware of your own body, thoughts and mood you can practice identifying the signs of stress. This is a useful first step to managing stress effectively.

You can see some signs of stress in your body, like having trouble sleeping. Others you can notice in your thoughts, such as difficulty concentrating. Or it could be in your behaviour, like regularly eating too much.

When you have been stressed in the past, which signs of stress do you often feel? Think of someone close to you. Are there common ways that they show you they are feeling stressed?

Body

Mind

Behaviour

  • headaches
  • other aches and
    pains
  • trouble sleeping
  • tiredness
  • upset stomach
  • high blood pressure
  • getting sick
  • sore muscles, sore back or neck.
  • anxiety, worry
  • anger, grumpiness
  • feeling sad or depressed
  • feeling overwhelmed and out of control
  • feeling restless
  • feeling moody, tearful
  • difficulty concentrating
  • low self-esteem, lack
    of confidence.
  • over-eating or
    under-eating
  • outbursts of anger
  • relationship
    problems
  • drinking or smoking
    a lot

What you can do about stress

Techniques to manage stress include the following:

  • monitoring and challenging the way you think about events
  • slow breathing
  • working to solve your problems in a structured manner
  • exercising
  • cutting down on drug and alcohol use, or unhealthy eating
  • doing things you enjoy
  • undertake mindful meditation.

Think of a time in your life when you were stressed because you had a high workload. How did you manage your stress?

Actively protect yourself from stress

Finding a healthy balance between work and personal life can be hard. It’s easier if you seek help.

Talk to your council’s employee assistance program, your doctor next time you see them, or search out online programs and tools that can help, such as the tools below:

Self-care

Self-care is different for everyone – and it isn’t just about helping you cope with stress after it is already happening. When you have been stressed in the past, which signs of stress do you often feel? Think of someone close to you. Are there common ways that they show you they are feeling stressed?

It is about building resilience toward stressors in life that you can’t eliminate.

Good self-care involves participating in activities that help improve your physical, mental and emotional health, so that you can meet your personal and professional commitments every day.

You can identify when something doesn’t feel right or when something may be affecting you in a negative way by recognising the signs and paying attention to what is happening to your body, both physically and emotionally.

When you notice something different, take appropriate steps to care for your mind and body. This will better equip you to be successful in the long run.

Recognise when your personal resources are running low and replenish yourself. Don’t let your life energy reserves run down. Don’t let yourself get to a point where you face illness or burnout.

To avoid this, you could try a few self-care ideas that you may find useful for common situations. Which ideas in each category below work best for you?

Workplace or professional self-care

  • try regular supervision or consulting with a more experienced colleague
  • set up an informal peer-support group, or plan regular catch ups
  • attend professional development programs.

Physical self-care

  • go for a walk at lunch time, or any time when you have a problem in your head to think through
  • aim for a healthy diet
  • limit your alcohol intake and other unhealthy habits
  • turn off your work brain a few hours before bed and get a good night’s sleep.

Psychological self-care

  • take up a non-work hobby or schedule time for your existing hobbies
  • make time to engage with positive friends and family
  • keep a reflective journal.

Emotional self-care

  • reflect each day – for example, write three good things that you did each day
  • get involved and join a group with common interests
  • talk to a friend about how you are coping with work and life demands.

Spiritual self-care

  • try reflective practices like meditation
  • if you have spiritual beliefs, make time for regular spiritual practice
  • connect with others who share your philosophy.

Relationships self-care

  • prioritise close relationships in your life, such as partners, family and children
  • connect with people and attend special events or visit your extended family and friends
  • arrive to work at a regular time and leave on time whenever possible.

Support after a disaster

Every year, Queensland communities and individuals face the devastating effects of disasters such as bushfires, floods, storms, drought, extreme weather events, community violence and other major incidents.

When you’ve been through a disaster, your wellbeing can be impacted and you can experience a range of different thoughts, feelings and behaviours that can be intense, confusing and frightening. These are common reactions to an extraordinary situation.

You might be surprised to find how resilient people in your community can be. People often recover by drawing on their strengths. With the right support behind them, most people will gradually rebuild their lives and achieve a sense of wellbeing again. However, some people need a little extra support to help get their life back on track.

As you and your community start to recover and rebuild over days, weeks and months, it is important to look after your mind and stay well.

Below are some steps to help you or others when dealing with the emotional impact of a disaster:

  • spend time with people who care about you
  • give yourself time and be patient
  • try to keep a routine going, e.g. eating, sleeping, work and study routines
  • access your council’s employee assistance program
  • as soon as possible, return to normal activities
  • talk about how you feel and about what happened (when you are ready)
  • do things that help you relax
  • set realistic goals that keep you motivated, but don't take on too much
  • review and reward progress – notice even the small steps
  • make a simple plan for how you will maintain positive changes and deal with times of stress or reminders of the trauma.

Remember, recovery is a long journey, not a sprint.

Resources

The below websites and resources can assist with you and others in your community at risk of, or affected by disasters:

Video – dealing with challenges

Many communities in the Sunrise Regional Council area were hit hard by the massive disruption of a viral pandemic.

Many people lost their jobs, while others struggled with the social isolation and some lost deeply loved family members.

Mayor Shaw worked around the clock to ensure everyone in her council area had accurate information surrounding the pandemic. She found it difficult to cope with the fact that her close-knit community suffered so badly.

At a council meeting, Mayor Shaw is struggling to stay focused on a proposed financial hardship policy. Other councillors notice this and become worried about Mayor Shaw’s mental health.

At the end of the meeting, the CEO pulls Mayor Shaw aside to ask her how she is feeling. She admits that the long hours and emotional exhaustion of the pandemic has started to take its toll, and that she is having trouble juggling her role as mayor and finding time for her own family.

The CEO gives provides Mayor Shaw with some contact details for the council’s employee assistance program and some local mental health services and suggests that Mayor Shaw consider taking a leave of absence for a week to reconnect with her family.

Get support when you need it

Queensland is a big state. If you need to be away from home for extended periods, or live in rural and remote areas, this by itself can bring its own challenges.

If you or someone you know are struggling, it is crucial to reach out to someone who can help.

Where to go for help:

  • your council’s employee assistance program
  • your doctor (GP)
  • call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or use their online crisis support chat service at lifeline.org.au
  • call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or visit beyondblue.org.au
  • contact your local Rotary or Lions Club
  • check online for additional resources and information
  • visit your local community centre for referrals to services.

There are several community organisations that provide targeted services for specific groups such as farmers, veterans, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Rural and remote areas

Living in rural and remote communities can bring challenges, such as accessing health care and support services.

Often people who live in these communities can experience additional pressures such as social isolation, financial hardship, fewer job and educational opportunities, and natural disasters such as fire, flood or drought. All these factors combined can affect your health and wellbeing. Learning the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions can help you notice them early and take the necessary action.

You can also view and download a printable copy of the National Rural Health Alliance’s list of contacts for rural and remote services.

Everyone needs help from time to time. Reach out for support when you need it.

Other help and counselling support

If you’re feeling down, sad, stressed or finding it hard to cope, you can find someone to help. The below services provide confidential, non-judgmental support that can help at any time, day or night.

  • Your council may have an Employee Assistance Program. These programs are strictly confidential, and councillors may also be able to access them. These include free professional counselling face-to-face, by telephone or online. Check your council’s intranet or talk to your human resources team to find out more.
  • Talk to your doctor about your concerns. Some general practitioners have additional training and expertise in mental health that can help. If needed you can ask your doctor to develop a mental health plan to help by providing Medicare rebates for a psychologist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist or social worker.
  • Phone the Queensland Government’s mental health access line on 1300 MH CALL (1300 642 255). This is a confidential mental health telephone triage service for all Queenslanders that provides the first point of contact to public mental health services.

Further services

Peer support groups

A peer support group can help you connect with people who share your experiences or interest in an issue or condition. These groups support their members through their experiences of mental health and wellness, chronic illness, disability, grief and loss, parenting, sexual health, addiction, trauma, rare diseases or refugee matters.

You can find support groups near you.

e-mental health programs

Sometimes some of us prefer to look for help online instead of in person or on the phone. Take a look at the online e-mental health programs below.

  • myCompass – Interactive self-help service that aims to promote resilience and wellbeing.
  • MoodGYM – Free self-help program to teach cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques if you have depression or anxiety.
  • THIS WAY UP – Using CBT techniques, THIS WAY UP clinic offers proven online courses for depression, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and other forms of anxiety.
  • OnTrack– Free access to online programs, information, quizzes and advice to help you achieve mental and physical health and wellbeing.
  • e-couch – A CBT and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) based self-help interactive program with modules for depression, GAD and worry, social anxiety, relationship breakdown, and loss and grief.
  • MindSpot – Educational and practical exercises with regular contact with a MindSpot therapist, allowing help to be obtained in a discreet, effective way
  • Mental Health Online – Self-guided or therapist assistant programs for panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, GAD, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and insomnia.
  • Snapshot – Black Dog Institute tool for adults to measure and monitor mental health and lifestyle factors that influence wellbeing
  • ToolBox–Tools to allow young people to work out health and wellbeing goals, then download recommended apps for each goal.
  • Beacon – Free online mental and physical health information portal.
  • Beyond Blue –Free online mental health information portal with links to various other support agencies.
  • BluePages – Information and resources about depression and its treatment for young people.
  • Mental Health Association of Queensland – Free online support services with a registered psychologist or social worker, accessed via online video chat.
  • Queensland Health– Mental health information and resources.
  • Australian Counselling Association – Contact online or on 1300 784 333 to find a counsellor.
  • Australian Psychological Society – Contact online or on 1800 333 497 to find a psychologist.
  • Lifeline service finder – A service finder to find other free or low-cost health and community services in your area.
  • Mental Health First Aid – A mental health first aid course so you can help someone developing a mental health problem or in a mental health crisis.
  • Head to Health – Gateway to finding phone-based and online information, resources and services to improve mental health and wellbeing.

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More information

For more information, contact your nearest regional office within the department.

Last updated: Friday, Apr 9, 2021