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On World Mental Health Day, it's a good time to remember that your brain, like the rest of your body, needs to be taken care of.
Globally, one in four people will need mental health care at some point in their lives, and Dr Andrew Thompson, a registered doctor at InstantScripts, is seeing more patients than ever, particularly since the start of the pandemic, who are showing first-time mental health presentations.
"It has been a challenging period for many Aussies, however the most important first step to overcoming mental health concerns is to admit when we are struggling," Dr Thompson tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
"There are several ways Aussies can combat any symptoms they’re experiencing, from seeking a medical professional, tapping into their support network, and adopting certain behaviours, tools and strategies to cope."
Dr Thompson regularly consults patients helping to devise strategies to combat mental health symptoms and lead healthier, fulfilled lives. Here, he shares seven common symptoms and his tips for Aussies to overcome them.
Loss of appetite
"Suppressed appetite can be a common symptom of anxiety or depression, usually brought on by increased stress. If your loss of appetite lasts more than a few days, it is important to consult a medical professional. They can recommend several ways to increase your appetite, such as talking therapies, an exercise routine, including light exercise before meals to stimulate appetite, and an improved sleep schedule. They may also recommend scheduling your meal times – for instance, setting alarms to remind you to eat, and eating frequent, small and nutrient-rich meals each day.
Excessive fear or worry, or extreme feelings of guilt
"To overcome these feelings an important first step is to identify the source by making a list of worries, fears or the things you are feeling guilty about. Avoidance can often exacerbate these feelings. Seek a health professional to help you work through any avoidance and strategies to face causes behind the symptoms.
"They might suggest mindfulness meditation techniques to observe and acknowledge these feelings and bring a sense of calm. While fear and worry often arise by focussing on negative events or experiences, turning your attention to the positive can be beneficial. While meditation can help promote positivity, stepping outside for a walk can also help, particularly a walk in nature. Some studies have found connectedness to nature can induce feelings of happiness and reduce blood pressure and stress.
Fatigue or insomnia
"These symptoms can often be managed by adopting better sleep practices. This includes maintaining regular sleep and wake times, aiming for eight hours of sleep each night, limiting screen time or reading a book before bed, or trying calming herbs or herbal supplements. Fatigue or insomnia can also be linked to stress.
"Light, relaxing exercise before bed, such as yoga, can help you stay relaxed, calm, and better prepared for sleep. Keeping up regular exercise during the day can also help reduce stress levels, as it can decrease cortisol levels and stimulate the production of endorphins. Pathology tests to determine iron and vitamin D levels, such as InstantScripts’ ‘Why Am I So Tired?’ test, can help address deficiencies that may be impacting your sleep.
Low motivation and inability to concentrate
"These symptoms are commonly associated with depression and can often be linked to other factors, such as sleep. Mental disorders, such as depression, can physically drain you and maintaining a sleep schedule where you aim to sleep seven to nine hours each night is incredibly important. Lack of motivation and concentration can also arise from over-scheduling your day.
"Setting small, manageable tasks and goals to complete instead can be less overwhelming and realistic for you to achieve. The sense of accomplishment you can experience after completing a task can also help you feel motivated to take on more.
Detachment from others
"Social disconnectedness is incredibly common and while some alone time can be beneficial, missing out on forging social connections can also be debilitating for your mental health. Your doctor or another health professional can guide you through strategies to open up, trust others and regulate your emotions, helping you overcome your sense of disconnectedness.
"Social connections are important for your overall mental wellbeing, and it is important to maintain a support network of people you feel most comfortable around. Building strong relationships with a close few family or friends can allow you to share your feelings, share positive experiences and feel supported.
"The lockdowns in NSW and Victoria have caused isolation, making it difficult to maintain social connections. Phone and video calls don’t always provide the best means to build strong relationships, however now that states are heading towards opening up, residents can focus on reconnecting with others.
Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
"Identifying the problem or stress in your life and make the changes needed to combat it. Talking therapies can be an effective management tool. Talking to a doctor can provide the reassurance and relief that you may need.
They can help you express your feelings and provide strategies and changes you can make to overcome stress. It is also important to take time out for yourself throughout the day by taking regular breaks and practicing self-care. Sometimes a good cry can help release tension and relieve the emotional baggage you may be carrying around. Relaxing and calming practices such as yoga or meditation can also assist with regulating emotions.
"I recommend speaking to a doctor as soon as possible if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide. They can encourage you to tap into your support network, while telehealth services such as InstantScripts can begin talking or medical therapies.
Your GP can also develop a mental health plan for you and refer you to a specialised medical professional, such as a psychologist, who can provide detailed advice and strategies. Fortunately, there are also services and support lines that are available 24/7 that are always ready to help.
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