We are constantly trying to balance work, family and a social life which can put pressure on our mental health. We may find ourselves over-thinking things and feel very detached from the lifestyle we want to lead. As a consequence, this can negatively affect our body, our relationships, happiness and overall health and wellbeing. Stress, commonly described as a physical pressure that interferes with our normal physiological functions, and anxiety, a fear or uneasiness of the mind which overcomes all other emotions, can take hold as we place harsh expectations on ourselves. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), around 45% of Australians aged 16-85 will experience a mental illness in their lifetime. By being aware of our mood changes and following the advice below, we can track and maintain a healthy mindset.
We all use excuses that life gets in the way and that we’re all too busy, but daily interaction with a friend, family member or co-worker is essential. Being in tune with our communicative skills takes the focus away from our own mental thoughts and gives us the opportunity to channel other emotions like happiness and joy. Our brains are interconnected and thus we are able to identify when our friends are stressed through emotions and facial expressions we all share. When we frown or lack an intimate response we are able to recognise when our peers are experiencing stress or anxiety. Sharing in emotional responses such as laughing and smiling relieves our mind of negative thoughts associated with stress and anxiety.
Australian health promotion organisation R U OK? is passionate about supplying people with the skills necessary to have the confidence to ask those they are worried about, who could be suffering from ill mental health, if they are OK and to talk about their struggles face-to-face. It is thanks to organisations like this that assist us in staying connected and bringing our stresses to the forefront. A friend can encourage you to talk through your issues, lend an ear and identify if a bigger conversation is needed.
Being in conversation with others nurtures our sense of belonging, reassures us there are others experiencing similar troubles or acknowledging that there are people willing to help. Always ask for help when you need it, never see asking someone as a burden or a sign of weakness. It is encouraged to speak your mind and often our support networks can offer alternative strategies to help manage our stress levels.
According to the Food and Mood Centre Australia, the major shift in our consumption of foods that are high in sugar and highly processed is contributing to unhealthy foods being the leading cause of early death. Our brain proteins need nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish to establish healthy functions. Studies have proved that lacking these nutrient-dense foods and replacing them with saturated fats and refined sugars has a negative impact on these brain proteins which can lead to stress and anxiety. Brain proteins are essential to protect the brain from stress and to promote healthy functionality and the generation of new cells. It is important to address your eating habits when feeling stressed. Making the right food choices will eliminate the risk of prolonged stresses and physical deterioration due to poor diet. As much as it is a convenience to reach for a pack of biscuits or skip cooking dinner and order takeout, your body will only be satisfied for a short period of time because these foods are low in nutrients. We can feel agitated and lose concentration when we are hungry and this can be increased when feeling stressed or anxious. Packets of chips, fast food, fizzy drinks and lollies are often a fast and cheap alternative for a snack. Instead, swap saturated fats for good fats such as smashed avocado with a hit of protein by incorporating a boiled egg or a handful of cashews and almonds. Snacks are a great way to fill the tummy with added nutrients in between meals. If preparing snacks is out of reach for you, why not consider a True Protein Sample Pack? These are easy and convenient protein powders for shakes on the go that taste great, are protein-rich and will leave you feeling fuller for longer.
Diet and exercise work hand in hand when managing a healthy lifestyle, and there is no doubt that exercise helps boost mood and physicality. Any exercise is beneficial, whether you prefer indoor or outdoor activities, physically moving your body helps to boost the production of chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. These chemicals physically make you feel good. Depending on your exercise style, there is no excuse not to fit in frequent repetitive movements such as jumping jacks, push-ups or mountain climbers. There is no need for equipment or an extended amount of room, so fitting these into a busy schedule should be a breeze. For the purpose of stress reduction, these small yet effective exercises will immediately leave you in a much calmer mental state and you will find your concentration levels increase.
Intense exercise such as cardio is an outlet for the body to enter into the natural flight or fight mode. This response helps to regulate stress via hormones that promote immediate physical reactions such as an increase in heart rate and breathing. These physical reactions strengthen our resilience to adapt to spontaneous and calculated decisions. These behaviours create an immense amount of muscle movement and physical exertion. Activating this response shocks the body physically and mentally so that we make the correct decision to handle the task at hand. Exercise pushes the body to enter into this state. Often stress leads to heightened aggravation or heated emotions; exercise allows our bodies to push the boundaries of this stress in a positive physical way. Once we finish exercising, our body and mind are relaxed and calm.
Joining a sports team or gym are great ways of channelling your mental focus and meeting new people. Playing a sport or working out is often very therapeutic for the mind whilst physically stretching your muscles and moving your limbs is helping to keep your body active and fit. Often people hesitate to exercise because they don’t actually like the exercise they are attempting. It is important to fit in an exercise regime within your lifestyle; one that makes you feel good after you finish a workout or complete a match. If the commitment is not for you then why not mix it up with a bike ride on the weekend, take a few dance classes or walk to work? Changing up your exercise routine has a multitude of benefits including increased mental alertness, a boost in energy and an elevated positive mood.
Exercising can be very dependant on the seasons so ensure you utilise the beach in summer and bring a few friends along for a swim. When you are enjoying yourself it won't even feel like exercising and stress and anxiety will be far from your core focus.
Often our anxious minds keep us up at night, preventing us from reaching the undisturbed seven hours of recommended sleeping time at night. Negative thoughts and poor sleep patterns are attributed to stress, anxiety and depression. The best way to manage a healthy amount of sleep each night is to stick to a sleep schedule. Trying to get into bed at the same time every night and waking up around the same time will force your body into a consistent sleep-wake cycle. It is, however, important to recognise when the body is still alert and awake. If you are laying in bed for over 20 minutes and not falling asleep, get up and leave your bedroom and do something relaxing to ease the mind into a sleep mentality. Listening to soothing music, reading, taking a bath or meditating are useful activities for preparing the body for sleep. There is a heap of great meditation apps and online podcasts which are specifically targeted for stress-induced sleep insomnia. Throughout the day, when we are stressed, anxious or busy, we do not take time out to consciously breathe. Before bed is a great time to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Breathing deeply, feeling the inhale and controlling the longer exhale not only feels good but also eases and relaxes the mind. Be mindful of your breathing patterns and inhale oxygen so that it fills your whole diaphragm. This exercise requires focus and timed breathing, you’ll find yourself slipping into a calmer state in no time.
Have you ever thought that maybe your sleeping environment is keeping you up at night? Assess the temperature and amount of light in your room. It is easier to fall asleep in a room which is cool or is at a controlled temperature. Your mind is often stimulated by screens such as your phone. 10 minutes before bed make a conscious effort to put your phone away or turn it off if you have to, so you can let your body completely relax and prepare for bedtime.
Why not try True’s ZMA blend for enhanced sleep performance? Mix 1 small TP scoop (6g) with 200ml liquid of your choice and consume 30 minutes before bed. True’s ZMA is magnesium-rich, which helps to promote a deep, restful sleep ideal for stress relief and recovery.
It is very important to recognise the effects stress and anxiety can have on our lives so that we can live every day to our full potential. Stress and anxiety can consume us. It is important to recognise that our stress can affect our relationships with others. If we focus on establishing healthy diets, exercise and sleeping habits and make a conscious effort to communicate with others without our social networks, our bodies can begin to de-stress and reconnect with the things we love doing and the people we love to be with.
If you know someone who is struggling, or you are facing difficulties yourself, you can reach out to any one of these charities for help and advice: