Five factors that could be impacting your mental health
- February 8, 2022
By Dr Jacqueline Rakov
As the pandemic drags on and a sense of normality still feels like a pipe dream, our team at The Village GP Black Rock want to remind you that addressing your healthcare has never been quite so important.
More specifically, mental health care staff have seen a few patterns emerge in the last two years. Without wanting to fill pages and pages (and believe me, I could!) here are some things that as a psychiatrist, I recommend you focus on:
1. Sleep – Sleep disorders are associated with several serious consequences for both our physical and mental health. So many of the other factors I’m discussing can impact upon our sleep. Anxiety, mood disorders, personality difficulties and substances/medications can all have an impact, and sleep can in turn have an impact on these. Whether it’s insomnia (not sleeping), hypersomnia (sleeping too much), or simply unrefreshing sleep, your GP is able to have that discussion with you.
2. Nutrition – When we feel like the world around us is out of control, food is often something we turn to focusing on in attempt to regain control. If you think of yourself like a car, you are well-served to choose the best possible fuel for it to run well. Instead, due to many factors we oftentimes find ourselves pouring cement into the tank, or not enough fuel at all. There has been a surge in disordering eating of all kinds during the pandemic. If you’ve found yourself restricting, bingeing, overeating or relying on ready-made processed foods, a consult and some individualised allied health referrals could help you start to get back on track.
3. Connection – There is no question lockdowns, quarantine, isolation have had an impact on our personal and social lives. Some people are left feeling isolated and anxious to re-emerge, and others are noticing increasing tensions from having been cooped up together for so long. Irritability, low mood, mood swings, social withdrawal, poor concentration, a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, or dark thoughts could be signs of something more going on.
4. Movement – This is a bit of a chicken and egg one! A large body of evidence suggests that movement in general helps with mental clarity, memory, and concentration. Why? When we move, it promotes the production of BDNF which aids cognitive function (how well our brains work). In turn, if your mental health is limiting your energy and motivation, it is worth getting on top of that. There are so many ways to tackle ‘movement’ if you’re just starting out. Many private health funds subsidise gym membership and fitness equipment. Walking is free once you have appropriate footwear and clothing. If you have any old injuries or pain, they are worth getting onto sooner rather than later. It might be the case that you need a physiotherapist, specific imaging, or pain management. Additionally, if there are any obstacles to movement related to a chronic illness, speak to your GP about whether you qualify for a Chronic Disease Management Plan that allows some funding for the physiotherapist.
5. Physical health – Time waits for no illness. It is imperative to continue your screening checks and routine medical reviews so as not to miss anything or risk presenting with late-stage disease. Stress from our physical health can absolutely topple over into mental health, with up to 50% of those suffering chronic disease meeting criteria for depression. The specific effects of the mandated lifestyle changes have reared their heads, too. We’ve been sitting at desks more than ever, getting far less incidental exercise, and posture, muscle strength and injuries are also becoming more prevalent. We’ve been inside a lot, and we know vitamin D has a role in mental wellbeing.
We understand that sometimes looking after yourself can feel like standing at the bottom of Mount Everest and having no idea where to start. The team at The Village is here to be your guide and help you get over that hill, safely.