How to look after your mental health in the silly season

Keeping up with hobbies is a good way to look after your mental health.

Self-care is needed more than ever at the end of this busy year, according to Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Mental Health executive director Professor Bill Brakoulias.

Prof Brakoulias is a senior psychiatrist who specialises in anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Professor Bill Brakoulias

He’s witnessed the challenges that 2020 has placed on people and is urging everyone to look after themselves during what can be a stressful holiday period.

“The stress and uncertainty of this year has already put a strain on people’s mental health. The last thing anyone needed is the additional stress of a new COVID-19 cluster in Sydney right before Christmas,” Prof Brakoulias said.

“I encourage everyone to focus on the positive parts of the festive season. Spend time resting, and have meaningful conversation with family and friends, even if you can’t be together in person.

“If you find yourself stressing about changing plans or simply last-minute gift shopping, there are some simple steps you can take to help you relax.”

Prof Brakoulias said self-care is not about “treating yourself” but rather taking the time to do things that are good for your mental health.

“Self-care should not be another task to accomplish. It’s about taking care of your own mental health, and finding what helps you to relax and recharge.”

Some self-care ideas include:

  • Slow down. If you feel your thoughts racing and anxiety building, it’s worth stopping for an immediate break. Take a few minutes to focus on your breathing and calm your thoughts. Apps like Headpsace can help you learn the basics of meditation.
  • Check in with yourself. Set time aside for yourself to reflect on how you’re feeling without the distraction of day-to-day tasks. A journal can be a helpful way to organise your thoughts.
  • Check in with others. An honest conversation with a close friend or family member is a great way to relieve the mental burden. This time of year is also an important time to reach out to those who may be feeling lonely – see more at R U OK?
  • Get active. It’s well known that exercise is just as good for your mind as it is for your body. Getting outside for a walk, yoga or your favourite sport has the added benefit of being in nature, which has been shown to help with issues including anxiety and depression.
  • Do something creative. The act of creation has therapeutic benefits – regardless of your skill level. Find a local pottery class, check out an online drawing tutorial, or get lessons for that musical instrument gathering dust in your garage.

WSLHD Mental Health Services are still available over the Christmas and New Year period.

For more information about the services available in Western Sydney, call 1800 011 511.

For crisis support at any time, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

In an emergency, call triple zero (000).

For a comprehensive list of resources including financial support, domestic violence assistance and addiction counselling, see: https://www.wslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/3292/COVID-wellness-contact-card.pdf.aspx

Keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 news and restrictions at https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19