This is for the people who have found themselves struggling in their day to day lives, who have reached a place of unhappiness, anxiety, fear or confusion. From the ones who have never experienced these feelings before, to the unlucky souls who have struggled with mental health for as long as they remember, and everyone in between. There comes a time for most, where you start to realise that you can no longer continue on your current path. If these are the thoughts that have brought you here, I hope I can help you identify whether or not it is time to seek help from others, be it professional or personal.
Noticing the changes that happen to your body and mind is part of our responsibility as people. It is a duty we hold to ourselves, and perhaps the very foundation of ‘self-care’. However, as everyone knows, life gets in the way. Sometimes you can’t see the changes until they have progressed to the point of altering your day to day life. It is because of this, that the first question you should ask yourself, is about your normal routines and way of life. Firstly, what would you consider to be your normal, healthy day to day experiences? Have your noticed changes to this average routine? Have you stopped or started doing actions that are affecting the usual way you conduct your life? If something is interfering with your quality of life, it is absolutely time to seek help. Even if it seams like a small thing, like being unable to get out of bed in the morning. If it is hindering your ability to sleep, work, relax, eat or communicate, then there is help waiting for you.
One of the biggest tell-tail signs of a decline in mental health is changes to your sleeping pattern. Sudden or gradual increase in insomnia, or an inability to get out of bed can be a cry for help from your body. It is good practice to follow the rhythms of your sleep cycle in order to understand what is comfortable for you when you are at the height of your health. As with all things, what is normal is usually subjective. 7 to 9 hours of good restful sleep is recommended for most adults, while children and teenagers often need more. Good sleep is necessary in order to keep so many areas of our lives functioning normally, from our mood and emotional capabilities to our physical health and wellbeing. If you are experiencing changes to your sleep cycle or having difficulties with insomnia, lethargy or restlessness, please see your GP. There are multiple treatment options for sleep problems available, and your doctor will understand the importance of this issue.
Another great indication of mental health is your eating habits. Again, as with everything, this is subjective and what is normal for you will be different for others. It is up to you to look for and notice these changes, as they can often be subtle. Has your appetite lessened or grown outside of what is usual for you? Illnesses like depression can often cause a disinterest in the world around us, including food. The opposite is also seen, where we overeat to comfort ourselves. When things appear to be changing in our emotional states, our diets usually follow. This can cause a myriad of physical health problems, which can add to the load our mind is already struggling with. If you are having difficulties with balancing your diet in a healthy way, your GP is a great place to start. They know how to help, and to be honest, they have better information than what you will find online.
The first two items on this list may have been a little obvious to some. Watching how you eat and sleep are almost mundane parts of being a person. Something that we do not focus on enough however, is the general state of our minds and what place we are in emotionally. In this world, life can be hectic. Long work hours, caring for families and households and the general day to day can make it hard for us to read our own mental states. Am I just tired, or is this something more? Has it just been a rough few day at work, or is my depression coming back? Often its hard to tell. Keeping a close eye on how you are feeling can actually take a bit of practice and a fair bit of mindfulness. Watch yourself for irritability, or indifference towards people and events. Try to notice how you are reacting to small inconveniences, as these can often be an indicator of the bigger picture. Negative thoughts start small. Pay attention to them.
One of the biggest signs to look for, and also one of the easiest to misinterpret, is changes to your motivation and enjoyment levels. People who suffer from mental illness often notice that when things start to get bad again, they stop taking interest in things that they used to enjoy doing. They lose their drive and struggle to do every day tasks. Things that used to be fun suddenly feel boring and bland, they fall behind in household chores, study or workloads. When trying to understand the situation of a patient, one of the first questions asked by a therapist is related to this topic. If you have noticed yourself losing your passion for hobbies, or being unable to do tasks that used to be simple, its time to seek help. Don’t let it get any further, there is help available to you. Confide in a family member or someone you trust. Even better, find a professional. There are countless options for online or over the phone counselling these days, as well as face to face sessions. Counselling is not reserved for severe cases of mental illness; it is open to anyone and beneficial to everyone.
Finally, we have reached the last item on this list. When life is feeling a little darker than usual, its hard to see through the haze of our own experiences. Is this just a rough patch of unfortunate events, or am I struggling with something internal? One thing to look for, is how you are interacting with the people in your life. Humans are very social creatures; we thrive when we are surrounded with vibrant and healthy relationships. The most sinister aspect of mental health issues, is that it takes us away from our social groups. We feel the need to isolate ourselves. It is an almost unconscious action which is hard to notice while it is happening. Try to be mindful of how you are interacting with others. Avoiding meet ups with friends or making excuses to get out of events can be a reflection of your mental state. When we are in a bad place, we don’t want others to be there with us. Yet this doesn’t mean we have to be alone. Opening up to our loved ones is important, so they know how to be there for you. Don’t let the negative impulses of depression or anxiety take away your support system.
Life is messy and confusing. Sometimes, its hard to tell why we feel the things we feel. We are constantly reacting and interpreting our environment, and as a result we often forgot to look inwards. We all fall into a dark place at some point in our lives, but too many of us forgo seeking help because we are either too scared, or we simply can’t recognize the signs. If you have been feeling off, or if life feels a little heavier than usual, don’t be afraid to confide in others. If a google search brought you here, chances are that you are not feeling yourself. I hope this post can help you realize that there are so many resources at your disposal, and you are not alone during this time. There are numbers and websites listed below. Stay safe
13 11 14
Lifeline Australia (24/7 depression and suicide prevention hotline)
The Samaritans (24/7 general mental health hotline)
Australian youth services and counselling
Tons of information and help available, predominantly for depression and bipolar
Australia’s national counselling and referral service for LGBTI people
Fantastic service for support and treatment of depression