Thanks to our friends at Australian Unity, who are offering an ongoing 7% discount* for all readers (and 8.5% if you’re a Premium member!) on health insurance, plus 6 weeks free when you join hospital & extras online by 13 December**. Find out more here.
We’ll spare you the metaphor of putting your oxygen mask on first, because we know that it’s easier said than done.
Which is why it’s so important that you’re reading this right now.
October is Mental Health Month. A time to check in and reflect on how you’re feeling, pick up some new positive mental health strategies, and familiarise yourself with the signs to look out for in others. We caught up with Clinical Psychologist, author (and Premium member!) Dr Jodie Lowinger to get her tips on how to look after yourself during a tremendously difficult year.
We know that so many women in our community are the first to take care of their families and teams, putting their own needs on the back-burner. What are some practical things our community can do to support their own good mental health right now?
Part of the Mind Strength Method is embracing a toolkit to build resilience. Here are some simple and practical things from the Mind Strength Wellbeing Toolkit that I share with my clients that you can do to help you take the first steps to move from anxiety, stress or burnout to effective and resilient action:
Prioritising good sleep is one of the foundation stones to mental health and conquering anxiety. Whether you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep so you feel less stressed, more productive and emotionally resilient. I often start by helping people to notice worry and then to get some distance from the thoughts or the story, which might specifically be the ‘you won’t get to sleep’ story. This sets up a mental struggle where you start to try really hard to prove worry wrong: your brain gets hooked into the fight or flight reaction and you fight and struggle with the fact that you are not falling asleep. Noticing the worry story and acceptance of not falling asleep while taking long slow out breaths in the present moment is in fact one of the most powerful ways to fall asleep!
Eating a balanced diet that is low on processed foods and high on whole foods will help to improve your mood, your overall sense of wellbeing, your capacity to manage stressful life experiences and your ability to manage anxiety.
Eating a lot of processed food, refined carbohydrates and sugary snacks might feel good at the time but it can worsen symptoms of anxiety and stress. Healthy food is so helpful for a healthy mind.
Drinking water is one of the easiest things we can do in our day but when you are busy or stressed, it is often forgotten. Staying hydrated can impact your overall sense of mental health and wellbeing. Even mild dehydration can detrimentally impact mood, stress, anxiety and irritability.
Limit caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks and sip water through the day.
Exercise is so often de-prioritised in a busy schedule but it is a powerful positive contributor to moving from anxiety to effective action. Even just 5 minutes of aerobic exercise in your daily routine can be helpful to reduce the impacts of anxiety.
I recommend to all my clients to find exercise you enjoy doing because the more you like it, the more you will do it. Try and do something every day, even if it’s five minutes a day and get outside if you can.
Connection with family, friends and community
Connecting with people is essential for your mental and physical wellbeing and a protective factor against anxiety and depression. During this time of the pandemic face-to-face communication and human touch is restricted so digital connection can be a great substitute. Picking up the phone, setting up a video call or sending a voice memo are all powerful ways to connect with friends and family.
Consider reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken to for a while to re-connect. The chances are they are thinking the same about you and will be grateful to hear from you.
We’ve been thinking about our Victorian Business Chicks a lot over the past months. Can you share advice on keeping positive and staying on top of mental health during periods of uncertainty?
This is certainly a challenging time, particularly for our friends in Melbourne. Humans don’t sit well with uncertainty. It triggers our primitive survival instinct of fight or flight which is what we experience as anxiety and stress. When we have this over a prolonged period it can tip individuals into burnout.
Looking after your wellbeing is the best thing that you can do for yourself, your family and your business, particularly in a stressful time. As the saying goes, ‘fit your own oxygen mask before helping others’, so be sure to eat well, stay hydrated, get quality sleep, move your body and connect with people.
Don’t be afraid to seek out the help that you need from a well qualified mental health professional. My team of clinical psychologists at the Sydney Anxiety Clinic are helping adults, children and adolescents from around the country through online appointments – the beauty of digital is that help is in easy reach for everyone.
What signs should you look for to spot a friend, colleague or family member who might be struggling?
Anxiety and other mental health challenges can sometimes be hard to see in people around you so we need to consciously observe our friends, family and colleagues to spot signs of struggle and lean into checking in to see if our friends and family are okay. A couple of things to look for might include:
Withdrawal and avoidance of situations such as study, work, social life.
Restlessness, irritation, being wound up and edgy.
You may also notice when someone is fixated on negative news stories and unable to see the positive. If you spot any of these signs, start by asking are they okay and if there is anything you can do to help. It’s a simple question but it goes a long way.
Remember that there is no need for anyone to suffer in silence when the right psychological strategies are at hand. You can suggest they visit their local GP as start.
There’s been a lot of talk about Medicare-subsidised psychological therapy on the news. Can you please explain the process of accessing this for someone who has never seen a therapist before?
Start by visiting your GP either in person or through a phone appointment. When you make the booking, ask if a longer appointment may be needed. Your doctor will be able to assess whether you will benefit from a mental health treatment plan.
With a Mental Health Care Plan, you will be entitled to a substantial Medicare rebate for each session when you see a Registered Clinical Psychologist or Registered Psychologist and the great news is that the number of Medicare rebated sessions per calendar year has recently increased. If you see a Clinical Psychologist you will qualify for a higher rebate amount. For more information, visit https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-care-plan
The key message I want to leave you with is to please seek out the help you need. There is no stigma or shame in mental health challenges and the experience of burnout, anxiety or depression. It is important to respond with help seeking behaviour to these challenges because with the right scientifically supported strategies from qualified mental health professionals you can be equipped with a powerful toolkit to help. I have created a Mind Strength Toolkit which helps people turn anxiety, stress, low mood and burnout into empowered, resilient and high performing action efficiently and effectively.
Please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you have any concerns.
Australian Unity is health insurance that really cares about your health and wellbeing. Business Chicks readers are eligible for an ongoing 7% discount* (and Premium members an 8.5% discount*) on all Australian Unity health insurance covers. Plus, 6 weeks free** when you join hospital & extras online by 13 December**, and they’ll waive all two month (and optical) waiting periods on extras.^
You can switch your insurance to Australian Unity online in minutes here, so you can spend more time looking after yourself.
*8.5% Premium member and 7% subscriber discount includes all retail discounts and is available only when paying by direct debit. The discount is not available through brokers or comparators, and excludes Overseas Visitor Cover.
**Offer valid only for new members on new memberships, joined via the Australian Unity website, commencing between 14 October and 13 December 2020. 6 weeks free applied after you’ve served 60 days of paid membership. Full T&Cs at australianunity.com.au/tcs
^All other 6- and 12-month extras waiting periods still apply, except optical. All applicable hospital waiting periods still apply. Offer valid only for new members on new memberships, which commence between 14 October and 13 December 2020. Full T&Cs at australianunity.com.au/tcs