One in five (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. Almost half (45%) Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime.Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2009). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 4326.0, 2007. ABS: Canberra.
Over the years, I have compiled a short list of things that helped when I experienced depressive and anxious symptoms including stress, irritation, hopelessness or deep sadness. Finding ways to manage these symptoms made a world of difference in my life.
Remember, what may work for me may not work for you. Be patient through the process and don’t give up hope!
1. Mindfulness and body awareness.
Sometimes it can be difficult to calm ourselves down when our emotions overwhelm us.
Being mindful throughout your day can help, like noticing how sitting in a chair is supporting your body, or how laying in bed restores your energy – thoughts like this can lead to a calmer mindset. This can also encourage thoughts of gratitude and positivity.
Deep breathing – as simple as it sounds – helps us connect to our body. The main goal with breathing and exercise, is to get us out of our minds and into the PRESENT MOMENT.
Whenever an overwhelming feeling rises, take a few moments. Breathe deeply. Inhale in, slow exhale out. Scream into a pillow if it helps!
NOTE: Using a “mantra” can be useful to remind yourself to stay positive.
Things I say to remind myself:
“I acknowledge my pain but I will not stay in it.”
“I’m safe in this place.”
“Anger is a normal emotion.”
Take some deep breaths, acknowledge the emotion that rises and let it go.
Even 10 minutes each day can be beneficial. We hear it over and over how exercise helps — that’s because it really does.
- Promotes the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain, like endorphins and serotonin.
- Gives you a sense of accomplishment as your fitness improves and you start achieving your goals.
- Exercise is usually a shared activity with others so you get the added benefits of social connection.
- Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
When I struggled with depression and anxiety, yoga and walking really helped to connect my mind to my body.
On YouTube, I frequently watch Yoga with Adriene. She has a calming voice, is humorous and a great teacher of patience/respect towards our bodies.
I always try to encourage my boyfriend to go on walks with me also – having a walking buddy is nice! Even if you go with a friend, this can foster social connection which is a basic human need.
More recently, I’ve started working out at home. I purchased a Home Workout Guide from Madalin Giorgetta to help my confidence while building strength.
Watching YouTube follow-alongs of 10 minute workouts can be a great way to get motivated!
Exercise in general encourages me to stay active and push through any lurking negative feelings or mindsets.
3. Listen to podcasts or guided meditation.
Here are a few of my favourites:
- Ancient Wisdom Today on Spotify – the guy’s voice is really calming. He has a lot of encouraging words.
- Guided meditation: Michael Seeley’s channel on YouTube is great for guided meditation.
- Impact Theory. Watching interviews with leading experts in all things mindset, business and general well-being.
- Infinite Waters. “Diving deep” into consciousness, raising self-esteem and confidence.
Listening to what other people have overcome in their struggle, can be really uplifting.
Similarly, watching or reading about how people changed their mindset, manage mental illness and find love in the darkest of times can encourage you to keep swimming.
There were moments in my life where I felt like I shouldn’t be here on this Earth but forcing myself to watch positive, encouraging and strength-inducing videos helped me “get out of quick-sand”, so to speak.
Whenever I feel myself sinking, I have a common action plan:
- Talk to my boyfriend about it.
- Schedule friendship dates, outings and catch ups.
- Make sure to vent on my private blog.
- Schedule an appointment with my psychologist.
- Watch motivational videos and listen to big-idea podcasts.
This doesn’t always happen in that particular order, but these are my personal tried-and-tested options to get out of a negative mindset.
These days, I would say the most difficult times have passed, but I still refer to my personal action plan whenever I start to notice that dark familiar feeling.
4. Spend time with loved ones.
When we’re feeling irritable, it can be difficult to be social. In small doses though, loving company and light-hearted conversations can really help in uplifting our mood.
In the last few years I’ve become really honest with friends/family/boyfriend about my mental health.
If you feel comfortable to do so, share your struggles. This can unload some of the weight and help you feel calmer in your mind and body.
I’ve told my boyfriend how important it is that he is more encouraging when I feel really anxious or deeply sad and that has helped me feel loved and grounded.
It is okay to ask for help and to tell our loved ones what we need when times get rough.
It is all too common that we feel guilty or ashamed, but there’s no need to — you’re not doing anything wrong by reaching out or being honest with how you feel.
If you don’t feel comfortable or safe to talk to anyone around you, find online communities, mental health pages or speak to a counsellor or psychologist that you can trust.
5. Express your emotions.
What I’ve learned in school about emotion, is that we all need some form of expression or else normal things like anger and sadness can overwhelm us.
Whether it’s through writing, exercise, typing it out in a private blog or having a friend listen, these are good forms of expression.
During high school, I was grounded a lot and my only form of expression was to draw. All the pain, frustration and isolation I felt was put onto paper. Whenever I had the chance, I’d also write it out or type it up on a private blog.
Are there activities you naturally gravitate towards? Skate boarding, dancing, drawing, painting, restoring furniture, DIY projects, cooking, writing, photography?
Whatever it may be, find a way to get the emotion/frustration/joy from your mind out into the world in a creative and healthy way.
Bottling it up can make things worse so it is always better to find a way to let it out – trust me when I say this.
What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candor, and more unashamed conversation. – Glenn Close.
If you or someone you care about is struggling, please refer to the list below for immediate help and/or advice.
If it is an emergency, please dial 000.
- lifeline.org.au 13 11 14 – crisis support, suicide prevention
- healthengine – Find a psychologist in Australia
- healthengine – Find a counsellor in Australia
- blueknot helpline 1300 657 380 – complex trauma
- beyondblue.org.au 1300 22 4636 – depression/anxiety awareness
- kidshelpline.com.au 1800 55 1800 – private, confidential counselling
- qlife.org.au 1800 184 527 – LGBTI support site
- vvcs.gov.au 1800 011 046 – veteran, war-related support
- ReachOut – youth mental health and community forums
Image by Sven.