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Today is RUOK? Day – a great initiative highlighting the importance of asking a friend, colleague or loved one “are you ok?”
You never know what people are going through, from the outside we can appear as though we are doing fine. The clothes we wear are perfect, the smile on our face is always bright and don’t forget about those amazing social media posts which highlight how great life is. We become very good at hiding and supressing our emotions on the outside, however on the inside we may be crumbling. By having a conversation with someone today about their mental health, you could potentially save a life. By asking this question you are inviting them to reach out for help and letting them know you’re there if they need to talk.
I decided to write this blog post today because I have been in this position and know this feeling all too well. I remember it clear as day, it was this time 6 years ago and someone asked me the question “are you ok?” my simple and raw reply was, “honestly, I am not…”
I hadn’t been myself for months, but I was trying to ignore it because I had a life to run, a job to do, a social life to keep up with. But that was exactly it, I was imploding, I wasn’t the best version of myself at work and I certainly wasn’t the best daughter, sister or friend. It all got too much and I had to stop sticking my head in the sand and come to terms with the fact that I needed help, I needed life to slow down, I needed to find myself again.
I had reached a point of no return, I stopped showing up for work, I was constantly down, and the smallest of things would make me so frustrated. I had pushed away friends, family and colleagues and as a manager of a retail store I had become a horrible role model and mentor. I remember posting a status on my Facebook (so juvenile I know – I was 23 give me a break ok) and I had a large amount of people private message me asking if I was alright, if I wanted to catch up and chat. It took one message for me to turn around and be honest and raw and after typing those words “no I am not ok” – life was changed forever.
It was actually a superior of mine at work who reached out, took me out for dinner and helped me get my life back on track. I never would have thought someone in my workplace cared that much about me and had that much hope in my future. There is too much “hush hush” around the issue of mental health especially within the workplace. At work people feel like they have to protect their job by keeping their emotional status on the down low, but the fact of the matter is you are at work every day and by holding these feelings in, it is only going to damage you in the long run. The more openly mental health is discussed in the workplace, the easier people will find it to seek help when they need it.
Below are 4 ways you can improve your mental health in work life and everyday life;
According to the Sleep Health Foundation, 60-90% of patients with depression have insomnia and approximately 20% of people with depression have sleep apnoea. Having a good nights sleep, uninterrupted, is vital for mental health and wellbeing. Try using meditation apps before you go to sleep or play calming music to fall asleep to. This will help calm your nervous system and brings the focus into your mind and not on everything else that normally runs through your head after a big day. I found having a note pad and pen next to bed to write things down helped too. I would lay awake every night thinking about so many things that would be of no relevance to anything. Writing them down and looking over them again in the morning made me realise how much I need to meditate and clear my mind of all the junk that was clogging up my brain and my life.
The link between what we eat and how we feel is one of the strongest connections in the brain. A well-balanced diet will not only give you more energy, but you will have a better night’s sleep and overall improve your concentration. Consuming a fruit and vegetable rich diet makes it less likely for you to crave sugary foods which ultimately affect your health negatively.
Now if you’re like me, and you hate exercise more than anything then you’re going to find this one the hardest step of all. Whilst becoming a gym junkie isn’t realistic for anybody, starting with a light walk every second night or morning can do wonders for your mentality. The Royal Australia and NZ Psychiatric Clinical Guidelines lists exercise as a recommended treatment for mood disorders. By moving for at least 30 minutes a day, you will increase your mood and shift your focus from the day-to-day grind. So get up and go, whether it's in your lunch break at work to the local shops or not, just shift your surroundings and get some fresh air in your lungs!
Mental health is not something that should be dealt with alone. If you are struggling reach out TODAY and do not be afraid to speak up. A friend, a colleague, a family member were all put in our lives for support and advice. Verbally expressing your emotions is the first step towards a new, more happy and healthy you! Speaking up, or 'venting' as I call it, is one of the best ways to set yourself free and it was honestly the best decision I ever made. If opening up to someone you know isn’t your cup of tea, contact your local GP or book in to speak with a professional.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with mental health, there are free mental health services available including;
Lifeline – Ph: 13 11 14
Kids Help Line – Ph: 1800 55 1800
Beyond Blue – 1300 22 46 36
So that’s me………what about you? If you’re reading this, please take a minute, make yourself a cup of tea, and ask yourself whether you’re okay. Shut yourself off from the million things you have to distract you this week, step away from your crazy-busy inbox, your LinkedIn/Facebook feeds, that Netflix series you can’t press pause on, and try to ignore the looming deadlines in your calendar for a few minutes and be honest with yourself. RUOK? Hopefully the answer is ‘hell yeah’, and you can crack a smile and carry on about your day with a spring in your step. High five yourself, be grateful, and carry on being awesome. If you’re not okay though…then please don’t sweep it under the rug.
We live in a really busy world, and it’s often easier to distract ourselves than it is to deal with our problems properly…. because work, because deadlines, because (insert 101 reasons here), and because facing our demons can be hard/challenging/confronting. Many of us feel a strong need to help others, but if you’re struggling, as the airline safety videos tell us, you’ve really got to make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first.
By Olivia Buhagiar
References:Sleep Health FoundationRoyal Australian and NZ Psychiatric Clinical GuidelinesLifelineBeyond BlueKids Help Line
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