Dr Amanda Thomson’s simple tips for better mental health
Dr Amanda Thomson knows what it is like to go without. She’s from an underprivileged background and she had to work hard to become a doctor. It’s left her with a desire to help people live their fullest lives, whatever their circumstances.
“My family was relatively underprivileged and I had to move out of the family home to complete my secondary education, which wasn’t particularly ideal,” she says.
Dr Amanda splits her time between the Sunshine Coast region (Australia), where she works in youth mental health and at an Aboriginal medical centre, where she works with the Butchulla people of the Fraser Coast.
“I am incredibly fortunate to work in two areas that I am especially passionate about – youth mental health and indigenous medicine for our first nations people. I feel very blessed to be able to provide quality care for these often underprivileged populations.”
As a doctor and mental health advocate, she has two areas of focus: youth mental health and caring for people in remote areas. She’s spent time working in youth detention and has worked in remote areas like Mount Isa and Arnhem Land. Her roles are linked by her desire to help people overcome challenges and live their best lives.
“I really enjoy engaging and encouraging people in all circumstances to dream big and help them realise that anybody can overcome adversity and challenges, and I enjoy helping them find ways in which to do so.
“For youth and adolescents in particular, life can often be so overwhelming even in the best of home life circumstances. Being able to be there and encourage and support young people to reach their full potential and live their fullest lives brings me an immense amount of joy and job satisfaction.”
It was working in a detention centre that drove Dr Amanda’s to make a difference in mental health and indigenous health. While working at the centre, she witnessed the high incarceration rates of indigenous youth and became determined to make a positive change.
“It both saddened and angered me in equal parts and really was the driving force for me to proactively pursue a career in youth mental health and indigenous medicine.”
She hopes that by helping the young people she works with to improve their own health and wellbeing, she can do something to lower the statistics.
“We discuss lifestyle factors which are so commonly overlooked. Things like establishing a daily routine, getting adequate restorative sleep, eating a wide variety of fresh foods to power the brain, finding some exercise ideas that are enjoyable for the patient, building connections/relationships with friends and family and developing passions/hobbies.”
Ultimately, everyone needs to attend to their own health and wellbeing. It’s a fact not lost on Dr Amanda who recognises that poor mental health is an issue within the medical community too.
“Doctors by nature are generally very caring people. It is very easy to over commit, particularly when working in under resourced areas. I think one of the main things I have learnt throughout my years of working in mental health, is to make a conscious effort to create time for self-care and to learn how to set boundaries at work in regards to work load, so as to maintain my own mental fitness and to ensure every patient receives the time that is required to provide optimum care.”
As a doctor, solo mum and mental health advocate, we asked Dr Amanda for her simple tips on how to feel better and improve your own mental health and wellbeing.
Dr Amanda’s simple tips for better mental health
I know this can be so very challenging with family commitments, children, long work hours, study, etc. However, it really is possible, (if you prioritise it), for everybody to schedule some time for exercise, to eat nutritious foods, to connect with friends or work on your passions.
It is so very important to find time, or create time, to pursue mental fitness for yourself.
A routine can help
I am a very busy working solo mum of two children who participate in extracurricular activities both before and after school, so I really do appreciate it is often very difficult for doctors to create some ‘protected’ time for themselves. For myself personally, I find having a routine helps enormously with creating some protected time for myself.
I go for a walk or run right next to the kids’ school when I drop them off on the days that I don’t start work until 9am, or I run around the oval while they do their sports training. Sometimes I’ll squeeze in an early morning HIITS class at the gym while the kids get ready for school. Recently with the COVID pandemic I’ve downloaded various apps which allow me to do some short exercise sessions in my garage with no equipment needed. I can do this while the kids get ready for school or after I’ve put them to bed.
Eat a variety of nutritious foods. The way in which I make this work is to cook extra every night when I’m cooking the evening meal, then pack the leftovers for my lunch. It’s such an easy way to eat a balanced meal during the day and there is no extra effort required.
Take time for things you enjoy
It’s so very important to create time to pursue your passions. I love relaxing with my guitar whenever I can, getting outdoors to do some photography and keeping fit with high intensity training and weights.
Are you a doctor with a story to tell? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.