College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

4 September 2020

Related Study Areas

Finding your balance

Most of us have been in a situation where we’ve helped a friend or family member through a tough time. As humans we are wired to want to help others, but in some cases that help comes at a personal cost. JCU’s Dr Jane Harte and Dr Anna Kokavec stress the importance of self-care.

With COVID-19 there's a lot of anxiety out there because students and staff have had to work in isolation, and in some cases they’re not ok. There are a lot of people who don't want to admit that they're not coping. For example, health professionals, such as doctors, psychologists, nurses, social workers, feel they have to cope and many don’t say anything because they think it will make them look weak.

Dr Jane Harte
Dr Anna Kokavec
Dr Jane Harte and Dr Anna Kokavec

At resilience workshops, we talk about something called balance. It's that bio-psycho-social-personal balance we need to stay well. There are four building blocks that we say are needed to maintain ‘balance’:

Physical - there's a lot of research that shows that the food you eat will impact your mood. Exercise is a great positive coping strategy. We need things like sunshine and clean water, because if our physical isn't ok, we’re not going to feel good within ourselves.

Social - so who is it that you're spending time with? Are you taking on board stuff that actually belongs to other people? It's about those social boundaries. We do have a choice as to who we spend time with. And if you're going to just give, give, give to others, and you can't say no, that's going to have an impact on you.

Psychological - we know that our thoughts determine our feelings. What's your mind doing? Is it in the future, is it in the past, or is it in the present - which of course is where your control and power is.

And finally, Personal - this is the relationship I have with myself. When I look in the mirror what is it that I see? Do I see someone who has everything going for them, who can achieve whatever it is they set out to achieve, or do I see someone who is ugly and someone to beat up on all the time.

Each one of the four areas is important on its own and the way it works with the other three. All it takes is for one to be out of balance for us to feel unwell, whether mentally or physically.

Dr Anna Kokavec's @_MyProgram_ Instagram Feed

Dr Anna’s practical tool to boost your self-care

There are some great resources on the R U OK website for dealing with other people's stuff, but what about your own self-care? It is important to know how to take care of yourself as well.

During 2020 I launched an Instagram page to support patients who come to see me in my clinical practice. The Instagram address is: @_MyProgram_

What I wanted to create was a practical tool for those who want evidence-based tips on how to stay ‘balanced’. The Instagram page is full of great practical tips used by real health practitioners who have agreed to share their evidence-based tips.

There is a stigma around mental illness and many people don’t want others to know they are struggling, thinking it will make them look weak. The @_MyProgram_ Instagram feed is anonymous, available to use whenever you need it, and the best thing is, it’s free!

It’s time to check in and ask ‘Am I ok?’ so you have enough left in the tank to reach out to help others.

To find out more information on setting boundaries and how to approach conversations with others you may be concerned for, visit

To take advantage of Dr Anna Kokavec’s evidence-based health and wellbeing tips follow @_MyProgram_ on Instagram. New tips are uploaded every week.

If you have a passion for wellbeing, discover more about JCU Medicine.