4 signs your mental health needs attention
It’s always important to look after your mental health, but there are times when you need to take some extra care.
Mental health runs on a spectrum between being fine and having a diagnosable mental illness, and everything in between. Experts say it can help to picture this like a set of traffic lights. “There’s a green zone where everything’s okay, then the amber zone where things are starting to get a bit challenging, and the red zone is where you might have a mental health condition like depression or anxiety that needs specific attention,” says Dr Stephen Carbone from Beyondblue.
You might be getting some emotional, mental and even physical clues that you’re creeping from the green to the amber area. There are some signs to look out for and lots of ways to get back on track.
Struggling to concentrate
One big sign that your mind needs some attention is when your memory and concentration levels are dropping. “This might feel like you’re not quite at your peak at work or study,” Carbone says.
It’s tempting to try and push through this feeling, but it’s important to stop and look after yourself instead.
- Get back to basics: what are the things in life you can put aside temporarily?
- Meditate to clear your mind, self-reflect and get your thoughts in order
- Say no, to help clear the schedule and your mental to-do list
Getting really stressed out
There are times you can feel your stress levels rising quickly and often. This can be brought on by a big life challenge, intense pressure or just ordinary life itself.
“Often it’s when you see these changes in how you interact with your world that you start to realise you’re not feeling on top of things,” says Carbone. “You might be having trouble in your relationship, or acting tense and irritable.”
He adds that this stress is a big one to watch: “We all experience some sadness, worry and stress, but if these become more pronounced, persistent or disabling then it means they’re moving along that spectrum.”
- Do something you find fun; some light-heartedness can make a world of difference
- Take some time to relax, whether that means a massage, yoga or a sleep-in
- Sweat it out: regular exercise is the best stress-buster going around
Finding it hard to sleep or eat
Sometimes feeling sad is a clue in itself, or it might affect other areas of your life. The mind and body are connected, with research now showing strong links between physical health and mental health. This means your body might give you some clues that your mind needs a rest.
“You might notice physical changes like your sleep patterns, appetite or energy levels,” says Carbone. If you notice any changes that are lasting for a couple of weeks, it’s time to get yourself back on track.
- A good old-fashioned dose of fresh food to boost your energy levels
- Establish good sleep habits, like switching screens off an hour before bed and giving yourself some wind-down time
- Avoid alcohol while you’re feeling down; it’s a depressant that’ll only make you feel worse
Thinking differently to usual
Your mind might be going off in directions that it doesn’t usually veer into, and this is a sign to be gentle with yourself.
“You might be feeling more negative and pessimistic, or thinking about things in a more self-critical way,” says Carbone. “Another sign is when you feel nervous, jumpy or worried more often than you’re used to, or you might notice you’re feeling jittery or restless.”
The best thing to do when you’re being hard on yourself is to break the habit before it gets too intense.
- Indulge yourself a little: some self-love will be a reminder that you’re important
- Be mindful of your thoughts. Thoughts aren’t facts, they’re just small moments that change depending on your mood, and being aware of this is the first step to changing the negative self-talk.
- Talk to someone you trust, perhaps your partner, a friend, GP or counsellor
If you’re struggling please contact Beyondblue
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