In our previous article, we talked about New Zealand’s mental health crisis, and how to recognise the signs of depression or anxiety. If you are feeling depressed or anxious, here are some self-care tips that may help.
Talking to someone you trust is vital. Choose someone with whom you feel safe discussing more personal topics, and who is likely to be supportive and a good listener. While it can be easier to make the initial approach by text or email, you should make a point of actually catching up in person. They don’t need any special qualifications. Often, just sharing your feelings with them can make you feel much better. Even if you don’t feel like opening up to anyone yet, try to participate in social activities like going for coffee, playing sport together, or helping out at a local community centre or marae. If you think you need more qualified assistance, find a good counsellor.
Care for your body
Your physical health affects your mental health, so even though you may not feel motivated to do so, it’s important to make an effort to look after yourself. This means cutting back on alcohol, eating well-balanced meals, staying hydrated, doing some exercise and getting enough sleep. Sleep plays a large part in regulating your mood. A recent study by The University of Oxford discovered that when almost 4,000 people suffering from insomnia were treated with cognitive behavioural therapy to improve their sleep, they became less likely to experience depression, anxiety and paranoia.
Care for your mind
Stress is a big contributor to depression and anxiety, so taking part in activities that reduce it can be extremely helpful. Several studies have found that yoga modulates the stress response, and meditation changes the way our brains deal with scary or upsetting sensations. You can download a mindfulness app to your phone or tablet and try it at home. At work, make sure you take your scheduled breaks and holiday allowances and try to switch off as soon as you leave the office. Participate in activities that make you feel good like walking, swimming, gardening or cooking. Doing something where you experience “flow” (when you become so absorbed in it that you lose track of time) is especially good for you.
Talk to your doctor
Depression and anxiety can start in unexpected areas of the body – sometimes they can arise from a vitamin deficiency or as a side-effect of medication for another condition. Regardless of where the problem originates, your GP can help you diagnose your condition and get you the appropriate treatment in the form of counselling, medication, or both. The sooner mental health issues are addressed, the better the chances of successfully treating them. Remember, a mental health condition is just like any other illness that you would normally consult your doctor about.
For more information on self-care, visit depression.org.nz or mentalhealth.org.nz. For urgent support, you can also call Lifeline on 0800 543 354, Youthline on 0800 376 633, or Healthline on 0800 611 116.