According to the Black Dog Institute (2017), a whopping 45% of Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Similarly, one in five (20%) of Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year, with the most common mental illnesses being: depression, anxiety and substance use disorder.
In celebration of World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October, I wanted to share a little bit of my story with you. Some personal circumstances, along with the loss of my father early last year plummeted me into a period of depression and anxiety. For quite a long time after that, I allowed it to control my life. There are still days where I’m left feeling nothing but pathetic and useless, and there are still moments when I let my anxiety consume me. I’ve decided however to make a change, to make a promise to all of you, to my friends and family, my colleagues, but most importantly, to myself, that I won’t let this control me. Below I’ve written about some techniques that have worked for me and others methods to help cope with mental illnesses, particularly anxiety and depression.
If left untreated, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can linger for months, sometimes even years. There is, however, a number of effective treatments available, as well as several things you can do for yourself to recover and stay healthy. It’s crucial to remember that recovery and learning to manage your mental health can take time, and your recovery may be completely different from others. So please, be patient, be persistent and most importantly, be kind to yourself.
If you’re concerned about your mental health, your best first point of contact would be your GP or a mental health professional. They’ll be able to talk you through your options and help guide you to the best sort of treatment for you and your situation. If you’ve already spoken to a health professional, there are a couple of other changes you can make or ways you can seek support. Keep in mind, that the ideas below aren’t the only things that may help with your mental health, they are just some of the ideas that I’m personally choosing to explore. Every person is completely unique, and different methods may work differently for other people.
Look after your body!
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is all about finding a balance that works for you, but it’s essential that you do your very best to nourish your body and get moving! I’ve found that eating well, whole foods and getting enough sleep can make an incredible difference on my mood and lets me control my thoughts and emotions a little more.
Another insanely important part of taking care of your body is making sure you’re moving. Although studies have found that exercise is no more effective than antidepressants or psychological therapies for reducing symptoms of depression, they have found that exercise is more effective than no therapy or treatment at all. Regular exercise may alleviate symptoms of depression by increasing your energy levels, improving sleep, providing a distraction and increasing a sense of control and self-esteem. If you’d like to find out more about getting some more movement or exercise in your life, and you have absolutely no idea how to go about it, feel free to pop into The Biomechanics or give us a call and we’d love to discuss your options!
It doesn’t matter if your exercise involves hitting the gym, or if it’s taking part in some form of sport, or if it’s a simple walk or jog. Exercise does not need to be extremely vigorous to be beneficial to reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. All that matters is that you’re getting your body moving. Along with good sleep and healthy food, exercise can assist in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Reducing Alcohol Consumption
I’ll be the first to admit that I won’t say no to a glass of wine after a long week, but it’s particularly important to remember moderation is key when it comes to alcohol consumption and mental illness. Drugs and alcohol affect the chemical messaging processes in your brain, and if you’re going through a tough time, it can be tempting to unwind (or try to relax) with a drink or two. For someone struggling with mental health issues or illnesses, it can become a little too easy to rely on alcohol or drugs to subdue their symptoms, and while it may make you feel better in the short-term, regular use can create other health problems, affect your relationships and cause unnecessary problems.
Whether it means finding an organised support group for people in similar circumstances or reaching out to those already in your life, the opportunity to connect with others may help ease the burden. It can be challenging to socialise if you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, and I personally found that I avoided social contact. I also found that spending so much time alone made me feel even more cut off from the world, making my recovery that much harder. If you’re not looking for support, it may help to let your family and friends know what you’re going through, just so they’re aware.
I think self-care is incredibly important for everyone to incorporate into our daily lives. If we don’t take time out for ourselves, time to refresh and refuel, we’ll burn out. It’s that simple. Sure, you may still be getting things done, but that doesn’t mean it’ll be done well. With increasingly fast-paced lifestyles, it’s so important to schedule in some time for yourself and the things you love.
If you or someone you know is in need of immediate assistance, you can contact the below National 24/7 Crisis Counselling Services:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
BeyondBlue: 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
BeyondBlue. (2017). Drugs, Alcohol and Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/drugs-alcohol-and-mental-health
BeyondBlue. (2017). Other Sources of Support. Retrieved from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/treatment-options/other-sources-of-support
BeyondBlue. (2017). Statistics and References. Retrieved from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/about-us/research-projects/statistics-and-references
BeyondBlue. (2017). Staying Well. Retrieved from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/staying-well
Cooney, GM., Dwan, K., Greig, CA., Lawlor, DA., Rimer, J., Waugh, FR., McMurdo, M., & Mead, GE. (2013) Exercise for Depression. Retrieved from http://www.cochrane.org/CD004366/DEPRESSN_exercise-for-depression
Mizra, I., & Pit, SW. (2009) Exercise for positive mental health outcomes in adults. Retrieved from http://www.cochrane.org/CD005615/MUSKEL_exercise-for-positive-mental-health-outcomes-in-adults
Moore, K. (2017) WTF is Self-Care and how do we practice it?. Retrieved from http://thecusp.com.au/self-care-practice-what-is-it-how-do-we-do-it/17799
The Black Dog Institute. (2017) Exercise and Depression. Retrieved from https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/about-us/publications-and-resources/fact-sheets
The Black Dog Institute. (2017). Facts and figures and mental health. Retrieved from https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/about-us/publications-and-resources/fact-sheets