“This job has taught me that human beings are extremely resilient. Deep down, people have incredible skills to cope.”—Elle Thorne, Senior Mental Health Coach at Remedy Healthcare.
- Achieving balance in your life provides you with a foundation to deal with life’s curve balls.
- Low-intensity cognitive behaviour treatment (CBT) is used by Remedy Healthcare’s mental health coaches to change unhelpful behaviours or ways of thinking.
- Goal-setting is an important element of wellbeing, as it keeps you accountable and motivated.
As Senior Mental Health Coach at Remedy Healthcare (Australian Unity’s health partner), Elle Thorne is an expert in managing mental health—but she’s the first to recognise that it’s a very personal journey. Here she explains what real wellbeing means to her, and some of the misconceptions around mental health and wellbeing.
When I think of wellbeing, I think of feeling enriched. That means understanding what's in line with my values and doing the things that really matter to me.
But it also involves trying to maintain some balance, so that when something does go wrong, your whole world doesn’t come tumbling down. You can’t stick all your eggs in one basket—life has so many different dimensions.
Just because I’m a mental health coach doesn't mean I necessarily know all the answers when it comes to my own life. I’m still allowed to feel anxious or low. I’m still allowed to have a wobbly day. When that happens, I’ve learned not to beat myself up.
The importance of balance
My approach to balance relates to what that American psychologist Dr John Arden said about the importance of “planting SEEDS” – which is an acronym for social connection, exercise, education, diet and sleep. Those are the five wellbeing building blocks in my own personal life.
If I'm achieving balance in those areas, it gives me a strong foundation and builds my resilience to deal with challenges.
Exercise is particularly important for me, not just for my physical health but my mental wellbeing too. Lockdown really showed me the value of that last year, and I loved it when my gym opened again. Getting out of the house, to enter a new space and go to the gym, was really key for me.
Social connectivity is another big one. At weekends, I make sure that I’m spending time with friends and talking to my family back home in the UK.
But, with experience, I’ve also learned that it’s OK to say “no” to social obligations. If I don't want to go to a party that's alright—you need to learn to listen to what you need at the time, because it’s so easy to get caught in the comparison trap.
You might look at how outgoing or cool someone is and feel like you need to be following their lead. But you've just got to find what works for you and that will look different for everyone.
Challenging misconceptions about wellbeing
I think the biggest misconception about wellbeing is that people can see it as being quite whimsical and fluffy, whereas my role as a mental health coach for Remedy’s MindStep program is all about delivering practical evidence-based tools and techniques.
We do this in the form of low-intensity cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is basically about helping people to change unhelpful behaviours or ways of thinking.
Our program involves an initial appointment and then, if you’re suitable for treatment, up to six weekly, half-hour sessions over the phone. I'll speak to people with common mental health problems like anxiety and depression, giving them the tools to learn to help themselves and better manage how they're feeling. What we offer is essentially guided self-help.
The importance of setting goals
Setting goals is really important to the process. Once we’ve identified some goals, we’ll break them down into those that are the most manageable, because getting some wins on the board early will always make you feel a little bit better.
After establishing goals, I review the person’s progress each week. One of the reasons why people really get a lot out of the program is because they feel like they're held accountable. They know that I’m going to ask them what they’re been doing to help themselves that week. It gives them an extra bit of motivation.
Let's say, for example, I was dealing with someone who was anxious about doing a work presentation because they are worried they will make a fool of themselves.
First, we’d try to identify any unhelpful thoughts and behaviours around that issue and try to change them. I’d ask the person what evidence they had for those beliefs.
We’d explore what the worst-case scenario would be in this presentation scenario and question whether it would really be so bad. CBT is really about trying to change the mechanism that's reinforcing that anxiety or depression.
Learning to help yourself
On a personal level, CBT has helped me massively. We do a module on “worry management” and that has been awesome for me.
I genuinely use those tools myself in terms of asking myself “What's in my control and what's not?” “Is this a problem I can solve or something I've just got to let go of?” That has been huge for me, and I think everyone in life could really benefit from a course on CBT.
Seeing what some people go through, sometimes I just think “wow”. I’ve spoken to people who have gone through bushfires, who’ve lost their business because of COVID-19, or their partners have died. They might be in a bad spot when they come to us, yet somehow they’re still functioning.
Through just six sessions I’ve seen how, given the right tools and support, people somehow find the strength to adapt and learn to help themselves. This job has taught me that human beings are extremely resilient. Deep down, people have incredible skills to cope.
Disclaimer: Information provided in this article is of a general nature. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.
Remedy Healthcare Group Pty Limited and Australian Unity Health Limited are wholly owned subsidiaries of Australian Unity Limited.
An Australian Unity health partner, Remedy Healthcare provides targeted, solution-oriented healthcare that is based on clinically proven techniques. For more than 10 years, Remedy Healthcare has worked with more than 100,000 Australians – helping them to manage their health through caring, coaching, empowerment and support.