Early morning bootcamps, salads for lunch and stylish activewear are all things that may come to mind when you picture a healthy lifestyle, but are we forgetting the importance of looking after our mental health, too?
Despite our ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, almost half (45%) of Aussies are estimated to experience a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime.
While the causes or triggers for these conditions can vary between individuals, there are some general things that we can all do in our everyday lives to help us stay happy and healthy.
We chatted to President of the Institute of Clinical Psychologists, Dr Marjorie Collins, to get her 5 top tips for looking after your mental health.
5 ways to look after your mental health
Look after your physical health
Remember those bootcamps and salads we mentioned? Well, the good news is that Dr Collins says living a healthy lifestyle can also help nurture a healthy mind.
Regular exercise helps to release endorphins and serotonin, which can help to improve your mood1. Aim to get 30 minutes of exercise per day.
And remember, a gym workout or 5k run isn’t the only way to get exercise. You could go for a walk around the block, join a social sports team or even go for a dip at the beach!
By eating a well-balanced diet, you can help to prevent and improve symptoms of both depression and anxiety.2
Not sure where to start? Check out Beyond Blue’s tips for using food to maintain good physical and mental health.
When you sleep, you’re allowing your body to rest and your mind to reset for the day to come3. So instead of scrolling through your Instagram feed until midnight each night and getting just a couple hours’ worth of sleep, set a goal to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
Ever noticed a happy feeling after catching up with your mates on the weekend? Having people who you can trust and have fun with doesn’t just make you feel good, it can also give you a sense of purpose.4
Dr Collins says your friends and family also often notice changes in your behaviour or emotions that you may not have even noticed, so it’s important to be open to their input.
Here are a few easy ways to stay connected:
- Schedule video calls with friends and family – if you can’t see them in person, a simple call can make a world of difference
- Join a volunteer group – not only can you meet new people, but there’s no better feeling than giving back to others
- Organise regular check-ins with loved ones – it could be a text, a morning walk together or a monthly brunch date
Enjoy some ‘me-time’
While we know being socially connected is important for good mental health, Dr Collins recommends a bit of me-time to help reduce stress and give you time to check in with your own mental wellbeing.
You could treat yourself to a spa day, nestle in with a good book, enjoy some solo exercise or take a hot bath – whatever it is, try to make time for yourself regularly.
Practice mindfulness regularly
By helping you stay in the present moment and focus on the things that matter to you, practicing mindfulness techniques can help manage conditions like depression and anxiety.5
If you have a smartphone, check out the app Smiling Mind for loads of free mindfulness and meditation exercises.
Seek professional help when you need it
One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to ask for help when you need it. A good place to start is with a visit to your GP. Your GP can assess your symptoms, make a diagnosis, create a health treatment plan, or refer you to a mental health professional.
Medicare can help cover some of the cost of mental health treatment. If you have private health insurance, you may also be covered for certain treatments in hospital or out of hospital.
There are also some great free services available through mental health organisations such as:
For a full list of services recommended by the government, check out the Head to Health service providers page.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you’re not alone and there are several places you can turn to for help.
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This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.
1. Health Direct. (2019a, November). Exercise and mental health. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/exercise-and-mental-health
2. Better Health Channel. (2017, October). Mood and food. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/healthyliving/mood-and-food
3. Health Direct. (2018, July). Sleep. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sleep
4. Beyond Blue. (n.d.). Connections matter. Retrieved September 8, 2020, from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
5. Dr Grant Blashki. (n.d.).Yes, mindfulness is really a thing. Retrieved September 25, 2020, from https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/wellbeing/yes-mindfulness-is-really-a-thing