Supporting others who are looking for help and live with incredible challenges can be challenging itself. We look at some of the ways to strengthen positive wellbeing during stressful and emotionally difficult times.
There’s no doubt that being a support coordinator for people on the NDIS can be an incredibly rewarding career. You play such an important role in people’s lives. Managing their support services and helping them get the most out of their plans allows them to be healthier and more independent.
But, as you probably know, it isn’t always easy. The NDIS is complicated and can be challenging to navigate for both clients and you. Supporting clients can be stressful, physically and emotionally draining, and can take more time out of your week than it should.
What are the main challenges?
There’s simply not enough time. As a support coordinator, you have a lot of different responsibilities. To do what’s needed for your clients, it’s not uncommon for support coordinators to have to put in more time than is funded to do what’s required for people.
There’s constant crisis management. A plan rarely goes to plan. Not only does this take extra time above and beyond the typical day-to-day, but it sometimes means having to have difficult conversations with participants or providers.
This can be stressful for you and mean extra time for you to find alternative solutions. Plus, you are dealing with people who can have significant health issues, which means there could be a sudden deterioration.
And then there are the inherent complexities of working in the NDIS. It’s not easy. The reality is that the rules often change. And it can sometimes be difficult to get the level of funding your client needs.
It’s no surprise that dealing with all these challenges and more on a day-to-day basis as a support coordinator can take its toll on your general health and wellbeing.
What can you do to manage your own wellbeing?
Here are a few things you can do to take care of yourself and work more effectively.
Manage your caseload and plan well. If not having enough time to do your job properly is causing stress, you’ll need to think about taking on less or taking steps to make yourself more efficient in managing your clients. These can be simple things like making a to-do list and prioritising more important or time-pressured tasks. Don’t fill your schedule with too many meetings – keep time for emails, referrals, follow-up, and paperwork, as these can chew up time after hours. And importantly, schedule some time for breaks and holidays for yourself to decrease your chances of stress and burnout.
Learn how to say ‘No’. If time management and overextending yourself are key causes of stress, then you might need to start saying no in some situations. If you take on too much, you won’t be in a good position yourself to provide the best support you can to your existing clients.
Have a support network in place. Having co-workers around you is a good way to chat through issues you are facing and get advice and learn from others to help you work through your caseload. No-one understands what you’re going through better than other support coordinators. So who better to get your own support from? Of course, it’s not as easy when you’re working from home and by yourself. You need to make a more conscious effort to put these connections in place and make sure you call them if you’re finding things difficult.
Get professional help. We all need support. If your workplace has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to use, you should. They are there to look after your emotional, mental and general wellbeing, whether work-related or not, and to help you work more effectively. It’s good to check in regularly rather than wait for a crisis until reaching out. If you don’t have access to an EAP, you should think about seeking out your own counsellor for some regular visits. Professionals’ and peers’ support is essential to taking care of your mental health. There are also some excellent private Facebook groups you can join. Start by searching NDIS Support Coordination and take it from there.
Know your NDIS. The NDIS is constantly changing. Make sure you put aside time to stay up-to-date on changes to the price guide. Familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation, and make sure you’re aware of non-NDIS rules that may apply. Build and maintain your knowledge of the disability and community supports in your local area. All these will make it easier for you to navigate and hopefully reduce some stress.
Learn to have difficult conversations. While you’re here to coordinate a participant’s support, they might not always feel they are getting the supports they want from their NDIS Plan. It’s important to be honest but also understanding and supportive of the person you’re speaking to. Try and find alternative solutions or supports that are available.
It’s all about taking care of yourself.
When it comes down to it, you won’t be able to maintain good mental wellbeing and work well if you don’t take care of yourself. Remember to eat well, get some exercise, don’t miss out on sleep, stay social and make time for some downtime. This will put you in a much better position to provide the support your clients need and get a good work-life balance.