This week I thought I’d write about mental health as many people have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Many of us are feeling flat and lacking motivation and some people who already have depression or anxiety are experiencing worsening of their symptoms. This is not surprising as we are all under increased stress with isolation, financial issues and uncertainty about the future.
There are a number of strategies that can help everyone deal with the stress of the pandemic a little better. Of course Mel and I have long appointments available to help you work out individualized strategies for your own situation. You can make an appointment via our website www.phillipislandhealth.com.au, our facebook page or the Hotdoc app which is easily downloaded.
The following strategies will help you get through these times more easily
1. Get enough sleep. While it may be tempting to stay up late and sleep in, the optimal time for going to sleep is between 9 and 10 pm. Our most restorative sleep occurs between 10 pm and 2 am. And getting 8 hours sleep a night is one of the most important things we can do.
2. Activity and exercise. Exercise is great way to boost our natural brain chemicals. In fact it has been shown to be as effective as an antidepressant in lifting mood and also helps relieve anxiety. If you lack motivation try to just do a short walk or easy exercise routine and work up to longer sessions.
3. Connect with others. This can be hard to do in isolation but connecting with friends and family is very important. Phone calls and video calls can relieve some of our social isolation. Here on the island we can still meet with friends so take time to connect.
4. Connect with the earth. We are so lucky to live on an island and it is easy to spend time connecting with the earth. This will help decrease our stress and bring us into a better space mentally. Walking barefoot is great, if a little chilly at the moment. Sitting on the earth or sand and just being still can quiet the nervous system and help with anxiety. Gardening is a great way to connect with nature.
5. Do more things that bring you joy. It is hard when activities that we enjoy have been taken from us so it is important to find things we can do that light us up and make us feel good. Play games with your kids, start a new activity you’ve always wanted to do, write that book, sing, dance, paint, create. Start small and have fun.
6. Eat healthily. Try to have more vegetables and cut back on sugar and simple carbohydrates. Not always easy when we sometimes eat for comfort. But a good diet will give us more energy and help our brains.
7. Avoid too much alcohol. It’s easy to turn to the glass of beer or wine at night and think it does us no harm. But alcohol actually has a depressant action on our brains. It might make us feel better for a few hours but overall it can lower mood and make things worse.
8. Try relaxation or meditation. These will help calm your nervous system. It doesn’t have to be formal sitting meditation. It can be mindfulness or breathing exercises or something like Tai chi or Qi gong. There are plenty of meditation phone Apps or YouTube videos available that can get you started.
9. Get help. There are of course more strategies to help deal with depression and anxiety so reaching out for help is the best step. You can see Mel or I at Phillip Island Health or go see another GP. You can also ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.