How to beat that all-too-common mining Black Day

By psychologist Angie Willcocks

There’s a ‘FIFO phrase’ that seems to be popping up a lot lately and it’s called ‘black day’. After checking it out (among a few miners and their partners) it appears the term means different things to different people. Here’s what I discovered:

‘Black day’ is usually used by the person flying (or driving) out for work, as opposed to those left behind. Not surprisingly, it’s used to describe a FIFO or DIDO worker’s toughest day. For some people, the hardest day is the final day of their time off (the day before they leave for work) and for others it’s the actual day of travel back to the mine site.

People also use the term to describe different experiences: for some, it’s a day of feeling sad; for others it’s a day of worry or stress.

If you suffer from black days, it’s important to determine exactly what your individual experience is. You can then work on simple strategies to make your black day easier to bear.

People whose black day is one of sadness usually dwell on what they have already missed because of working away, or what they will miss this time. They might think about important family events, loneliness on the mine site, or anticipate missing their loved ones while they are away. All of these thoughts lead to feeling sad or low, which in turn might make them clingy and needy. (Alternatively, they can go completely the other way and become distant and withdrawn.) If your black day is one of sadness, it might help to increase your connections with those you love. For example, make sure you stay in touch with what’s happening the whole time you’re away. This will ensure you still feel ‘in the loop’, connected and an important part of the family.

For others, black day is more of an anxious day – felt as unease, restlessness or irritability. Causes of this anxiety tend to be worries or fears. Anxiety generally relates to nameless fears so it’s hard to generalise, but black day anxieties might include something bad happening to the family while they’re away, something going wrong with their relationship, or even not getting enough sleep while on site. If your black day is an anxious one, take some time to reflect on your exact thoughts and fears. Depending on what your thoughts are, you could simply choose to ignore them, or ‘challenge them’ (i.e. is this really a realistic/rational thought?)

For others still, black day is about stress. Like anxiety, stress can make people feel wound up and edgy. But unlike anxiety, the thoughts that go with stress are more ‘realistic’ and usually relate to being busy or having too much to do. If your black day is one of stress, it’s likely that your mind has switched back into work mode, maybe a day or so early. Your family might notice that you are grumpy and short-tempered, and that you seem to have a lot on your mind. Stress management techniques will help you manage your black day better – you’ll find lots of books and internet sites on the topic.

Next time you are having a black day, take the time to stop for a moment and think about:

It might seem odd, but even just noticing your black day thoughts can often help you to feel more in control and able to cope.

Strategies for dealing with sadness:

Strategies for dealing with anxiety and stress:

And finally, don’t forget to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, family or friends – especially if you can suggest ways they can help. It’s the old adage that a problem shared is a problem halved. Knowing that you’re not alone in feeling this way can be a huge help.

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