wellness

We asked 7 mental health experts for their one piece of advice right now.

The past 18 months have had an overwhelming impact on our collective mental health.

From the never-ending dire news cycle to the hard lockdowns, this global pandemic has tested us like never before. And it appears it will continue to.

Watch: Things you never say in 2021. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

To help us cope and make sense of this (don't say it) unprecedented time (sorry), we asked seven mental health experts to share their one piece of advice. Here's what they said.

Tara Hurster, Psychologist and Founder of The TARA Clinic.

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My main piece of advice is to remember that this isn’t normal (being in our houses and feeling restricted) so it’s important to give ourselves permission to not always get it right. 

While there are some sure-fire things you can do to help yourself, such as limiting alcohol consumption (as it increases anxiety), exercising (as it tricks the brain into thinking we have run away from or killed the tiger) and maintaining our sleep hygiene (only using your bed for sleep and sex, and going to sleep and waking up at the same times each day)… we aren’t going to feel calm and centred every moment of every day in lockdown

So give yourself a break and scream into a pillow if you want to!

Dr Averil Cook, Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at the Australian College of Applied Psychology.

Create small goals and reward yourself when you achieve them. Have coffee or lunch in the sun or remind yourself of past achievements. 

Have a hug (inside your household), pat your cat or send a gift to someone. Watch some comedy and have a laugh, send a funny meme or joke to a friend, or eat a few pieces of dark chocolate.

Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast. In this episode, we discuss the psychological impact of uncertainty. Post continues after audio.

Vikki Knott, Associate Professor at the Australian College of Applied Psychology.

Instead of constantly worrying throughout the day, try to employ the technique of daily 'worry time'. This is where you allocate a specific smaller window of time in the day - 10-15 minutes perhaps - to mindfully concentrate on your worries and form solutions to address them.

If worries arise outside of your ‘worry time’, defer thinking about them until 'worry time' arrives. Write them down in a notebook or your phone and decide to come back to them. 

Then, during 'worry time', focus on your worries and think about how you can solve them. If it turns out you’re worrying about things you can’t control, allow yourself to lean into the worries and then let them go once 'worry time' finishes.

This is a great technique that anyone can use. It helps us to avoid becoming overcome or obsessed with worries throughout the day, and it gives us the opportunity to mindfully think about our worries, and determine whether they are related to things we can or cannot control.

Luke McLeod, Founder of Soul Alive and Meditation and Mindfulness Expert.

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I actually think taking some time to rest is a good idea. Most of the advice I've heard is all about how to be more productive, start a hobby, clean out the garage, etc. 

How about we take a moment to just chill. Take more walks in nature, meditate, just give yourself a moment to recharge and reset for once.

Chelsea Pottenger, Founder of EQ Minds.

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We have to stop shaming people for taking medication for a mental illness. ⁠Medication for my anxiety has been a great tool with all the other tools I have to help me live a happy and fulfilled life. 

Some people can't absorb iron, other people can't make enough insulin, others (like me) have a difficult time making enough serotonin. ⁠We shouldn't feel guilty for taking medication, it helps people have a full human experience. ⁠

⁠It's important we are doing all the other things, like movement, good nutrition, sleep and stress management and view the medication as another tool in the toolkit, if or when you need some extra help.⁠ Please speak to your doctor, psychologist and psychiatrist if you need to explore medication for you or a loved one.

Dr Kieran Kennedy, Medical Doctor and Mental Health Advocate. 

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One thing the pandemic has brought is a narrowing of the spaces and places we live in. This is especially true for all those in lockdown at the moment, but it pertains to those not in lockdown too. Without travel, with recommendations to limit big outings and a definite shift to do more things at home, 2021 means our home has become more than a home in more ways than one. 

When it comes to a sense of self, getting a chance to unwind and even protecting our sleep through keeping certain spaces separate in the home is key. 

It can be tough depending on what the nest is like and how many you’ve got in the home, but keeping somewhere for work/home schooling, somewhere for chilling only, somewhere for exercise and somewhere for sleep can really help. Our mind and emotions respond to habitual cues from the environments and places we do certain things in - so keeping a place in the home that’s for unwinding or getting "you time" can be powerful.

This is especially important for sleep (which research shows has gone off for a lot of us over the last months/years). There’s a big temptation right now to have the bed and bedroom act as a stage for just about everything and I’m hearing this a lot. It’s not uncommon for people to be eating, working, movie watching or phone scrolling in bed as we’re spending more and more time at home - but the kicker here is that it isn’t at all good for a better night’s rest. 

We want to brain to associate our bed with sleep (and sex) only, so people often find they fall asleep much faster and deeper if they keep the other stuff out of the sheets. The flow on here is that better sleep can have a big impact on protecting our mental health so it’s an investment well worth making. 

Dr Andrew Thompson, Registered Doctor at InstantScripts.

I think the most important thing to remember is that this period is temporary and you aren’t alone in this. Many of us are finding it challenging to cope during this time, however these symptoms, such as increased anxiety and stress, wouldn’t usually occur under normal circumstances and can be managed through lifestyle changes. 

There are many services that can help during this time, from family members and friends, to a medical professional on the other end of the line.  

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature image: Instagram/supplied.