Taking steps to stay mentally healthy is as important as looking after one’s physical health. After all, good mental health allows you to cope with life’s challenges, connect with others and lead a full life.
Here are 5 simple tips to look after and improve your mental health, courtesy of Clinical and Health Psychologist, Dr Aneta Kotevski, who consults at our sister clinic, Bluff Road Medical Centre. Read on to check out our Q and A with Dr Aneta.
Tip #1: Exercise regularly
When it comes to mental health, exercise has been shown to improve mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. What’s more, it increases serotonin and boosts the production of endorphins, making one feel more positive in general.
Experts recommend doing about 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Opt for a type of exercise you enjoy, so that you stay motivated.
Tip #2: Eat well
The food you eat can have an impact on how you feel – take caffeine as just one example. Eating well is an important part of nurturing your mental health.
Aim to eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fruit and vegetables for optimal brain health. You can find useful healthy eating tips on the Australian Government’s Eat for Health website (https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au).
Tip #3: Get enough sleep
Sleep is vital to physical and emotional wellbeing, as it allows your body and brain to rest and recuperate. However, many Aussies aren’t getting enough sleep a night. According to a report released last year by Deloitte Access Economics, an estimated 39.8% of Australian adults experience some form of inadequate sleep.
For optimal mental health, try to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. Avoid stimulants like coffee and screen time before bedtime and aim to be under the covers at a reasonable hour.
Tip #4: Practice mindfulness
Using mindfulness in your daily life can help keep your mental health on track. Mindfulness involves being present in the here and now. It’s a great tool for coping with stress and tough times.
You can learn mindfulness techniques through your psychologist, via self-education or through practices such as guided meditation or yoga.
Tip #5: Talk to others and know when to get help
Last, but not least, get into the practice of talking to others, particularly if you’re stressed or struggling with mental health. Communicating with people who can offer support can make a world of difference.
Remember, talking about your feelings should not be viewed as a sign of weakness. It takes courage, and you’ll feel more connected and less alone if you reach out.
Q and A with Dr Aneta
How can a psychologist such as yourself assist?
If people find they are struggling in their daily lives, for example with family, relationships, work, life changes, stress, anxiety or depression, my role would be to assess what’s really going on and uncover what the underlying problems might be. There can be any number of causes for these issues, for example it may be motivational, mood-related, or the fact that a person is struggling with chronic anxiety or depression, or the break-down of a relationship.
My role is to help my clients to understand why these issues are occurring and work with them to develop strategies to cope with and resolve them, so that they are able to lead normal, healthy lives.
What ages do you work with?
There are psychologists available who work with people of all ages, beginning from early childhood. I specialise in working with people in their late teens from 16 years and older, as well as adults of all ages from early adulthood through to people in their senior years.
Do you feel people’s attitudes towards mental health are changing for the better?
We are definitely making progress. Government and community initiatives are helping to raise awareness of mental health issues and the links with issues such as anxiety, depression, family violence and suicide. I think there’s still some amount of stigma around mental health issues and seeking help, but that’s certainly lessened over the years. This has been helped in recent years by people of notoriety, like sports players and other celebrities, who are opening up publicly about their personal journeys. It’s helping to normalize how the community views people with mental health issues, and seeking help.
Why is it important to seek medical help?
Through your GP, you can gain affordable access to a psychologist. Under the GP Mental Health Care Plan, patients may be entitled to Medicare rebates for six or more sessions with a psychologist (https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Medicare-rebates-psychological-services/Medicare-FAQs-for-the-public).
GPs have the skills to assess mental health issues and refer you to a psychologist who will provide the therapy that you need. It’s also important to rule out any other medical reasons for a person’s symptoms. A collaborative approach, with the GP and psychologist working together, can help someone who’s in need to achieve positive outcomes in their daily life.
About Dr Aneta
Dr Aneta consults at our sister clinic, Bluff Road Medical Centre, on Mondays and Wednesdays. You can find more information about her areas of interest and treatment approaches here.
For appointments, please click here to book online or call Bluff Road Medical Clinic on 9598 6244. We also have on on-site clinical psychologists who are able to assess and provide therapy for a wide range of psychological conditions. Please get in touch!