Over the next month we’re teaming up with HBF for a Connect On Health series, offering some actionable and achievable goals on getting healthier – head to HBF’s Health Blog for more useful tips towards a happier and healthier you in 2022 and beyond.
2022, along with the previous two years, has been a lot. We don’t need to recap it for anyone and suffice it to say just the past couple of weeks have been a confronting moment in global history, let alone the little pocket of the world we live in over in Perth. Even before factoring in recent pandemics, war, fires and floods, almost half of Australians will experience some form of mental health condition during their lifetime, with one in five experiencing mental health issues every year.
We’ve teamed up with HBF to try and offer a few achievable ways that can help your state of mind on a day-to-day basis. We are of course no experts, just sharing experiences we’ve found to help us when it comes to mental health, along with sharing the suggestions of those far more knowledgeable to offer a few small things you can try and work on each day that may help. If you’re curious about how health insurance can actually support your mental health, get your head around what’s covered with HBF.
Read on below, and if you or someone you know is struggling, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Sleep (and how to get more of it)
Sleep and mental health are intrinsically linked, and most of us will recognise the effect on our mood even one bad night’s sleep can have. Unfortunately it’s not always that simple to just get more sleep, but here are a few steps you can take to try and improve your chances of getting a decent amount, according to a qualified counsellor:
– Try and have a regular sleep time by getting out of and into bed around the same time each day.
– Relaxation exercises, breathwork, meditation and similar activities before bed can help induce a calming response.
– Turn off electronic devices and screens – we may love a good TV show in bed but the artificial light can suppress melatonin, which is tied to sleep cycles.
– Caffeine and cigarettes are stimulants that’ll make it harder to get to sleep. As tempting as that arvo coffee might seem, it might wreak havoc later in the night.
– Make your bedroom clean and comfortable – removing clutter, low lighting and decreased noise can help set your mind at ease before laying down to sleep.
Expert tips from HBF: 10 ways to get a better night’s sleep
Like sleep, ensuring you are getting recommended levels of physical activity can have many benefits for mental health, along with physical health, stimulating mood-enhancing chemicals in your brain and improving memory and learning parts of your brain. We understand that exercise can be a daunting or difficult habit to get into, but it doesn’t have to mean 6am starts running up and down Jacob’s Ladder every day – it can be as little as just one hour per week.
In an interview on the subject with HBF, Dr Joanna Crawford from the Black Dog Institute said, “A study by a researcher at the Black Dog Institute found that just one hour of exercise a week – even if that’s broken across the week – was seen to significantly prevent the onset of future depression.”
If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, this can feed into your ability to get out there and do some exercise, so try and make it easier on yourself: “So if you are finding it hard to get started, then start small. Take a short walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, take the dog for a walk,” says Crawford.
Expert tips from HBF: Why is exercise good for mental health?
Take a break from social media and the dreaded “doomscroll”
Like most of the suggestions on this list, nothing is as easy as we’d like it to be, and social media addiction is right up there with habits hard to kick. And recent global events have definitely increased in many of us a propensity to “doomscroll”, something you might not even realise you’re doing.
It’s the act of spending a heap of screen time absorbing “negative news” – something there seems to be an abundance of in recent years, with the explosion of social media and the 24-hour news cycle. In fact, how many of you wake up and the first thing you do is jump onto your social media and quickly brush up on the news of the day? We know we do.
Putting measures in place to mitigate the amount of time you spend on social media, along with changing how you use it, can be a helpful way to improve your mental health. According to child psychiatrist and researcher Dr Philip Tam, creating a more intentional social media use and favouring “healthy digital diet” over mindless scrolling can have a positive impact on mental health. “And most importantly, balance it with real-world activities… getting out of your bedroom, or at least away from your screen.”
Expert tips from HBF: 7 tips for creating new habits – and sticking to them
Connecting with your friends/community
You may not want to be around people when you’re stressed or feeling down, but it might be helpful to catch up with a mate over coffee to chat about what’s on your mind. Even if you don’t get into super deep chats, having friends can play a vital role in maintaining and strengthening your mental health and wellbeing. Remember when the pandemic began and we were all jumping on Facetime and Zoom to have chats with our pals? There’s no reason we couldn’t still be doing that.
This chat with Beyond Blue Speaker David Corduff on the Beyond Blue website is an excellent example of what we’re talking about. David speaks of struggling with mental health issues for decades, and trying to take it all on by himself: “If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be that if someone reaches out with a connection, accept it. I pushed back because I didn’t want to admit I was struggling, but I now understand those connections could have been a shortcut towards feeling better.”
More expert help from HBF:
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, Head To Health offers an extensive list of providers around Australia.
And if you’re looking for some financial help with mental health treatment, HBF has some cover options to explore HERE.