Around 4.8 million Australians experience some kind of mental or behavioural condition (that we know of). Honestly, with the stresses of social media, the 24-hour news cycle, an unstable economy and, more recently, a deadly virus and the ever-present threat of snap lockdowns, we can see why.
The past twelve months in particular have put a greater strain on mental health, with around 37.9 percent of Australians stating their emotional wellbeing has been worse than usual (and even the worst it’s ever been).
This isn’t just exclusive to Australians, either – earlier this year, the Harvard Business Review reported that 85 percent of people globally have experienced a decline in their general wellbeing since the start of the pandemic.
So, in the midst of Mental Health Month, we caught up with two health professionals to see what we can do about it.
What strategies can we use to support our mental wellbeing?
Australian psychologist Jaimie Bloch says she has seen the impact that lockdowns, closed borders and lack of connection this past winter have had on people’s physical and mental wellbeing.
“This second year of the pandemic has been felt a lot more intensely by the general population,” says Jaimie. “We are all experiencing pandemic fatigue. 2020 had its own challenges with the emergence of COVID-19, and now 2021 has been much the same with extreme uncertainty and on-off lockdowns.”
Ongoing exposure to stress, on-off lockdowns and ongoing instability can fuel emotional exhaustion, Jaimie says. And, on top of that, many of us are currently expected to work full-time hours or study-full time at home with limited social connection and interactions.
“When people work continuously without the ability to recharge and re-energise through holidays, social gatherings or engaging in passions, that’s when burnout strikes,” says Jaimie.
Fortunately, she says that with spring being a natural time for renewal, there are simple yet effective strategies we can incorporate into our daily routines to support and improve our mental and physical wellbeing.
“It is important to focus on the mind, body and soul together when we approach our overall wellbeing,” Jaimie says. “Having a good routine in place for your mind, moving your body every day and focusing on your passions are all great ways to nourish ourselves holistically.
“Something that plays an important role in both our mind and body is our diet. What we eat provides us with nutrients and vitamins that impact our gut health. When our gut is healthy, our brain effectively sends and receives signals to help our mind and body function optimally. A nourishing diet can improve our immune system, sleep patterns, motivation, concentration, decision making and ability to manage our emotions.”
How can we boost our mood from the inside out?
Well-known nutritionist and chef Teresa Cutter says many people are aware their mental wellbeing has been impacted recently and says eating delicious and nutritious meals loaded with vitamin C is a great way to build a healthy body.
“Eating well is not going to solve the world’s problems and substantial issues people are facing during this difficult time, from being separated from family to struggling with financial issues,” concedes Teresa. “However, diet can play an important role in supporting one’s mood and body function.
“To help me feel brighter and restore my body when it’s feeling sluggish, I make an effort to focus on foods with vitamin C such as adding a delicious kiwifruit – Zespri SunGold is my current favourite – to my breakfasts and even to salads.”
The health expert shared her top tips for including more vitamin C in spring;
- Snack right: Have fresh and easy snacks on hand to get your vitamin C when you’re experiencing an afternoon slump. Prepare a fresh smoothie to take with you on your travels, or have fruit and vegetables on hand that are easy to eat on the go.
- Fresh meals: Spring is a time for fresh salads. Try to add fruit to your salads to give them a ‘zing’.
- Start your day right: Wake up with a supportive vitamin C breakfast such as muesli with fruit – this will mean you have already met your daily vitamin C requirement before lunchtime.