20 August 2021

Canberrans among the kindest people in Australia, but we're urged to look after ourselves, too

| Lottie Twyford
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Bunnings sausage sizzle at Woden Youth Centre

Pre-lockdown, many Canberrans volunteered their time. Now it’s important they look after themselves, too. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

If you’re in need of a bit of a pick-me-up during COVID-19 lockdown, you might be interested to know that a recent study has found Canberrans to be among the kindest in Australia.

The Kindness Index Report – developed by market research company McCrindle and run by Helga’s bread – found that, on average, individuals in the ACT and Northern Territory are performing more acts of kindness per week than people in other states.

A quick scan of local Facebook groups during the past few days shows these acts of kindness and generosity are ongoing, even when people are required to stay at home and away from one another.

There’s the Malhotra family which is delivering more than 2000 free meals a day to those in need; strangers and neighbours offering to drop groceries to people who are in quarantine and can’t get food delivered; teachers offering free tutoring services to students stuck at home; and the unexpected lockdown 2.0 hero we didn’t know we needed, Ken Behrens.

Clinical psychologist and director of PsychSessions, Dr John Brown, says that while it is great to see the best in the community being brought out during times of adversity, he wants people to remember to look after themselves, too.

“The first rule about looking after others is looking after yourself first,” he says, before adding that it applies to looking after children, elderly people and volunteering your time to help neighbours and strangers.

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According to Dr Brown, before helping others, you need to ensure your own shop is in order, and “you need to make sure you’re helping other people for the right reasons – not to hide from your own needs that you might not be meeting”.

He suggests applying the same kind of logic from work-life balance to the balance between caring for others and caring for yourself during lockdown.

“The golden rule is to focus on the things you can do, rather than focusing on the things you can’t do,” explains Dr Brown.

He suggests focusing on the positives that can come from taking time to learn relaxation or meditation practices, and viewing lockdown as a bit of a respite from our ultra busy, ultra stressed world.

“Invent, play, create, learn, perfect a skill, bake, read – use lockdown as a time to do the things you normally can’t do.”

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Dr Brown is also reminding people there’s more than one way to provide help. For example, it doesn’t have to be financial or an act of service. Instead it can be about taking time to talk, listen and offer advice.

“When you’re better adjusted to lockdown, you’re better able to help people apply the same learnings to their situation and help them focus on what they can do,” he says.

Dr Brown adds there can be a dual focus because helping other people to focus on what they can do then translates to helping oneself reflect on their situation.

For people who say they’re too busy, or have trouble relaxing, his response is that it’s important to learn to do so.

“If you can’t do it, learn relaxation skills, learn mindfulness skills, and whatever you learn. practice it daily until you perfect those skills and can actually apply them,” he says.

“If you want to help others, you need to be learning and practising these skills yourself.”

Dr Brown says the same principles apply in the microcosm of the household, where it’s important everyone is well adjusted because people’s mental states are very much dependent on those of the group they are with.

“We can all get away with bad habits for a week, but that is going to get compounded as one week turns into three weeks,” he says. “The longer lockdown goes on, the more important it is that everyone is well adjusted.”

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Ken Behrens – most of us at least, well done!!!!

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