Supporting your mental health
2020 has been a challenging year. With everything going on in the World, the regular pressures we encounter from day to day have not gone away. For many families, it has amplified. A lot of people have been stood down, lost their jobs and unsure of the future. People who were used to being out working every day, are suddenly at home either trying to work from home or look for work. Regular releases such as attending the gym or going out for mates is much more difficult. There is a major disconnect. It is natural that during these times our mental health is not at its best. Some people may be handling it better than others. While you may be a person that is often looking out for others or putting on a brave face to keep things running, it is important to support your own mental health needs.
Men in particular are reluctant to seek help or speak out when they are struggling or feeling overwhelmed. If this is something they were previously battling with, the current pandemic will have amplified these feelings. More than ever they may feel like they have to hold everything together for the sake of the family or to just keep working because financial security is up in the air for many. Their own wellbeing is often thrown out the window and instead they self medicate just to get through the day. This could mean turning to drugs or alcohol. Instead of hitting the bottle, there are healthier and more effective approaches to improve your wellbeing.
Mensline Australia promote the following tips to promote your own mental wellbeing:
- Develop and maintain strong supportive relationships with your partner, children, family and friends. We are social animals, and the people in our lives are our most important asset. Looking after your relationships requires time and care.
- Find someone you can talk to and who will listen. This can be someone from your family or outside such as a mate, work colleague or a professional. We all need someone to talk to when life gets tough. For many men, this might be the greatest challenge, as in tough times we tend to isolate ourselves and try to go it alone.
- Broaden your interests and do things you enjoy. There is more to life than work. So much of a man’s identity and sense of worth is linked to his work and what he contributes to his family and society. Engaging in hobbies and sport adds to our lives.
- There is a link between physical and mental wellbeing. When one is not functioning the rest of the system is affected. By taking care of our bodies, we take care of our minds. Think about your lifestyle. Eating well, exercising regularly, drinking in moderation, are proven strategies for health.
- Listen to what you are telling yourself. So often when we are under pressure, our thinking turns negative. We may worry, blame others, feel hopeless, and not want to take responsibility. Notice these signs to reduce your negative thinking.
- Ask for help and don’t go it alone. This may be a challenge for men. Many of the messages we receive are about standing on your feet and solving your problems. Some things we can manage alone, but there are some things we can’t. Knowing the difference is another important skill.
While we are restricted in some of the things that we can do, it is not an excuse to not try.
- We can still reach out to people. Phone your friends, have a video call.
- Support is also still available with many professionals offering telehealth appointments so you can still receive mental health care without having to leave home.
- While you may not be able to got the gym or play with your local sporting team, an hour of exercise a day can do wonders. Take the time out each day and make sure you are at least going for a walk.
- Talking about things can be the first step. Confide in your partner, your family and your friends.
Tips for looking after your mental health from Beyond Blue:
- Media coverage: find a healthy balance and limit news and social media if you and your family find it too distressing.
- Sources of information: access credible information from government and health authorities (i.e. Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Australian Government and World Health Organisation (WHO)).
- Maintain perspective: remember that experts around the world are working hard to help. Also, while coronavirus can affect anyone, those with the disease haven’t done anything wrong so don’t make assumptions.
- Stay calm and be practical: follow advice from credible sources (see above), and resist the urge to panic, as this makes it harder for authorities to manage the outbreak effectively.
- Stay connected and/or seek support: keep in touch with your family, friends, colleagues or professional support services by phone, video call, social media or email.
- Stick to a routine: aim to get plenty of sleep, maintain physical activity, eat healthy foods and allocate specific work hours and breaks. If you’re feeling frustrated about your current experience it can help to think about what positive habits you might be able to develop, such as spending more time with the family members within your household, getting to know your neighbourhood and cooking more.
- Financial support: visit the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to find relevant information for Victorians, or call the National Debt Helpline.
Remember, it is OK not to be OK. You are in the driver's seat and while it can be difficult dealing with a situation you cannot control, find the positives. Whether it is being able to bond or spend more time with the family, or finally being able to do that garden project, there is a lot to look forward to. The one thing you do have control over is how you react. It starts with you and the first step is to reach out.