RUOK Day is this Thursday, the 9th of September…. And with half the country in lock-down my guess is that most people would definitively say NO. NO. I am not OK. I am frustrated, tired of home schooling, lonely, frightened and anxious because we do not seem to have a plan in sight.
Humans are not designed to be sedentary or socially isolated creatures and yet as a result of the devastating impact of covid-19 we are being asked to self isolate, and in the case of Victoria this isolation has simply devastated our once vibrant city and its communities.
Over 1 million Australians have lost their jobs, families are anxious about the impact of covid-19 on elderly parents and for those who are most vulnerable, our homeless, migrants and refugees and people living with a disability or chronic health condition.
At a time like this it is very normal to feel overwhelmed, burnt out and stressed.
It is great to ask the question, RUOK, but what if the answer is no. What if you know someone who is really struggling with their mental health? How do you support someone who is drinking too much, losing their temper or just not feeling motivated to get out of bed every morning.
Prior to lockdown, and often in collaboration with my great mate Dr Michael Carr Gregg, we would put together our top ten list of ‘digital tools’ that you could put into your wellbeing action plan, or bookmark on your browser as your go-to support navigator.
Today, on RUOK day, providing resources and tools that are simple to use and easy to navigate – with a direct call to action – is more important than ever. Good mental health, or ‘mental fitness’, a term coined by another great friend, Dr. Paula Robinson, is about optimising the way our brain responds to stress. Key building blocks that help support mental fitness and wellbeing include:
1. Stress Management
2. Alcohol Reduction
3. Staying Socially Connected
Top 10 e-tools TO help optimise and support good mental health:
1. Find mental health resources with Head to Health
The Head to Health website was designed by people with a lived experience of mental health and clinicians for people and provides an easy navigation tool to help you find resources and tools that are specific to your needs. Funded by the Australian Government it collates over 500 different resources and search is easy via Sam the ChatBot!
2. Ease mild depression and anxiety symptoms with E-Mental Health Practice
The E-mental Health Practice website, developed by Queensland University, provides a directory of Australian online therapies, all evidence based and proven to reduce mild symptoms of depression and anxiety.
3. Train your resilience fitness with High Res
Resilience is about your capacity to deal with life’s challenges and stressful situations. Just like training to be physically fit it is possible to train and build your resilience fitness. This helps you develop coping mechanisms so you can endure the tough times and bounce back quickly. Based on SMART (Self Management and Resilience Training), the High Res website and the companion app is a virtual gym, a place for you to practice techniques that will help keep you resilient. Originally designed for Defence personnel, veterans and their families the tools are just as relevent for the general community.
4. Meditate with Smiling Mind
The evidence is in – meditation is good for your wellbeing. A guided meditation app developed by psychologists and educators designed to help bring mental health and wellness into users lives. Smiling Mind has meditation programs suited for all age.
5. Practice Gratitude
According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day — and why the events made them happy — lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night. Keeping a Gratitude Journal, or simply expressing Gratitude can be great for your mental health.
6. Learn about the link between food and mental health with Food and Mood Centre
Professor Felice Jacka from Deakin University Food and Mood Centre has been doing some incredible research showing the link between the Mediterranean diet and depression. Good foods include a balance of fresh fruit and vegies, but some foods in particular, eggs, blueberries, yoghurt, fish, avocado and walnuts all show very promising results in promoting good mood and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
7. Take a break from alcohol with Hello Sunday Morning
Alcohol consumption is on the rise, and Professor Dan Lubman from Turning Point published Victorian data recently which shows a spike in alcohol related violence and injury being observed by our emergency services. Hello Sunday Morning is an online community of Australians taking a break from alcohol.
8. Sleep well
The benefits associated with a good night’s sleep are endless, yet a significant number of people are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Research by the Sleep Health Foundation has found between 33 and 45 percent of Aussies have poor sleep patterns that lead to fatigue and irritability that’s putting them at risk of low productivity, damage to their mental health and unsafe behaviours. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommend that adults should sleep at lease 7 hours per night regularly. Promoting regular sleep patterns and healthy sleep habits is known as sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene methods include going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, avoiding large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime, and avoiding nicotine altogether. Apps include DigiPill, SleepTime and Recolor, with descriptions provided on the Medical News Today website.
9. Support for teenagers
For families with teenagers that are struggling ReachOut.com https://au.reachout.com/ is an online social network for young people which includes a very simple to use navigation tool called Next Step. Reach Out also run moderated peer to peer support forums for young people aged 16-25. Two Reachout apps that help in the management of stress and that are just as useful for adults include WorryTime an app based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that helps people control anxiety by scheduling worrying so that it is confined to a specific time each day. Learning to capture and then postpone worrying makes it less intrusive and can bring about a greater sense of control. Breathe is an app that helps people understand their physiological response to stress and provides practical tips and advice to reduce the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety. The app uses the in-built camera on the iPhone or through the apple watch helps them to manage their breathing.
10. Stay social
While these apps and tools are helpful to support good mental fitness, humans by their very nature are social creatures and staying connected is critical to good mental health so check out some great ideas from our friends in Vancouver https://drawingchange.com/how-to-stay-connected-during-self-isolation-covid-19/
Strategic Advisor at Clarity Group