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How to Survive and Thrive in the FIFO Mining Camp Life

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Fly-in-fly-out mining camp life can take a lot out of you physically and mentally. Long hours, social isolation and falling into destructive habits can all take their toll on you and your loved ones. The sad fact is that poor health, relationship breakdown and most disturbing of all, suicide, is just too often a part of the FIFO mining camp life.

Paul Smith described his journey into some dark days and back again while working as a construction manager in Saudi Arabia on a recent episode of the Full Production podcast. Since then he’s made it his mission to help others who find themselves in a similar place. Here are some of Paul’s top strategies for taking care of yourself on site:

Look for the Signs in Yourself, and in Others

Seeing the signs that something is not quite right in yourself and recognising it early is a huge key. Drinking too much, feeling overweight and lethargic and turning to drugs are some of the signs. There’s help out there and it’s getting better, “but it’s also up to the individual to realise that they’re not 100% and just put their hand up,” Paul says.  

When it comes to others, “the way people are perceived isn’t always how they are,” says Paul. “It’s quite easy to put on a brave face, but be crumbling behind the scenes.” A simple ‘are you OK’ might be enough to bring somebody out of a dark place and set them on a better road.

Make Your Environment Work for You

A big part of it is not letting the shit people or the environment dictate how you feel – being in control of your own thoughts and emotions. “It’s so true, who you surround yourself with is who you become,” says Paul. Sometimes it’s the small and simple things that can keep you mentally on top of things. That might be working out, reading, meditation or whatever. These simple daily rituals can be crucial to making the work environment work for you.

Find Life Beyond the Work Site

Paul’s own story working on a construction site in Saudi Arabia is a good case in point. Working 10 weeks on, two weeks off in a difficult and unusual culture a long way from home was sending him into a downward spiral. As part of a process of getting healthy again, he re-discovered his passion for rugby and signed up with a local team. It snowballed to the point where he ended up playing in the Dubai Sevens for the Saudi Arabian team. Think about what you enjoy doing outside of work.

It’s OK to Feel Like Crap, Own it

Most importantly, you have to break that stigma about not mentally being on top of your game – that kind of take a tablespoon of concrete and harden-up mentality. “It’s OK not to be OK. No-one is ever going to think anything less of you if you’re feeling shit and you need a hand,” Paul says. There’s help out there if you want it.

Listen to my entire conversation with Paul here.