In the face of fad diets, weight-loss success stories and exercise sensations like Crossfit and Barre, it’s time to realise the importance of taking care of our minds, as well as our bodies. Did you know that in just one year, 1 million Australians will suffer from depression, and 2 million from anxiety? (Beyond Blue) You’ve probably seen mental health facts splashed over the internet, and the ABC’s Mental As campaign coming up, but let’s reiterate here: approximately 1 in 5 people suffer from a mental illness in Australia every year (SANE Australia), with instances worse for women. Mental illness is the third biggest health problem in Australia, following cancer and heart disease, and 1 in 7 take their lives every day. (HumanRights.gov.au)
These are staggering statistics, sure, but maybe it’d help to think about it in “real terms”. Think about your group of closest girlfriends; maybe they’ve been a huge part of your life since school, or Uni, or they make up your mother’s group and you’ve never lost touch. Imagine their faces, laughing as you catch up over coffee or cocktails. In each small group of girlfriends, at least one of them will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime; maybe they already do.
Awareness campaigns like R U OK? day last month have opened the conversation about mental health issues and no doubt given a lot of people an excuse, of sorts, to reach out to their loved ones. But we need to look further, at preventative methods for keeping the symptoms of depression and anxiety at bay, and how we can make a difference in our everyday lives, and the lives of others around us.
So, with Mental Health Week upon us, we’ve put together a list of 5 Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health.
1. Spend time with your support network
This week’s National Mental Health Week acts as a massive reminder of the importance of spending quality time with our nearest and dearest. It’s proven that time spent relaxing with friends dramatically reduces stress and anxiety, which can then lead on to depression and other mental health issues. Modern society puts us under so much pressure with work and general demands of life, so it’s vitally important that we allow our minds to switch off, relax and laugh with our loved ones.
2. Reconnect with your inner self
Studies by Harvard Medical School in the US and around the world have found that yoga and meditation help to reduce stress and anxiety by modulating stress response systems. Controlled breathing, relaxation exercises and stretching all have a positive effect on the body and the mind. If you’re too nervous to join a local class, try doyogawithme.com or a meditation app like Calm.
3. Go on a date with yourself
Spend quality time with the most important person in your life, and remind yourself how much you love you. Take yourself to a restaurant you’ve been meaning to try, get lost in a bookshop or go on a solo movie date (no one can judge you in the dark!). It’s important to remember the things that make you happy. You don’t even have to leave the house... it could be as simple as making a cup of tea and committing to sitting down with your favourite book or magazine for an hour or so. How many of us neglect spending time with ourselves in favour of the busyness of work and our social lives? Spending time alone, writing in a journal, being at peace with ourselves and resting and rejuvenating, is so important in preventing emotional and physical burnout.
4. Take time out
Whether it’s a day trip for some solo pamper time, a weekend away with your love or a couple of days away with the girls, no one can deny the soul-enriching benefits of breaking with your normal routine and leaving behind the stress of everyday life for a little while. Stress is one of the main catalysts of anxiety and depression. According to the Australian Psychological Society (APS) in 2014, 64 percent of Australians reporting that stress was impacting their mental health. APS will release the results of their fifth annual survey about stress and wellbeing in Australia, during Psychology Week 2015, from 8-14 November. So what better way to combat stress than kick back, take time out and spend nourishing time away from the daily grind with your nearest and dearest?
5. Reach out
Remember, depression and anxiety are not weaknesses; they’re mental disorders and the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that can be brought on by things like stress and grief. If you, or someone you know, isn’t managing well, it’s vital to reach out for help. Visit beyondblue.org.au, contact your GP for a referral or call Lifeline - a 24-hour free hotline – on 13 11 14.
We collect moments, not things.