New Zealand's Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) started on the 18th of September and runs through to September 24th, followed by World Mental Health day on October 10th.
Awareness weeks like this are designed to remind us of the importance of looking after your mental health and wellbeing and of seeking help if you need it.
This week provides an opportunity for people to talk about all areas of mental health, with a focus on providing help and advice.
The long hours and stressful experiences that come alongside being a doctor can have detrimental effects on mental health and wellbeing. Doctors often blame themselves for not being able to deliver the care required by their patients, or feel guilty for events beyond their control which is why taking a moment to reset and focus on mental health can be really important for those in the profession.
In the spirit of mental health and wellbeing, we’ve gathered some of our favourite quotes and ideas from inspirational doctors we’ve talked to.
1. Talk to someone:
Talking about what you are feeling or things that bother you can help you stay in good mental health and combat the times when you feel down.
“See a psychologist, see your doctor. That’s another tip – find a GP. See your GP. Talk, as a patient to your GP when you feel you need to – don’t ignore your own health.” Dr Amanda Wijeratne told Medworld.
2. Stay Active
Regular exercise can help with many things. It can help you concentrate, sleep, boost your self-esteem, and give you energy.
Exercise keeps the brain and your other vital organs healthy which contributes to your mental health.
“This pandemic has caused so much stress and anxiety. With the loss of incomes and so much uncertainty. Getting outside and staying active massively helps your headspace, helping us to stay positive as we move forward.” Dr Ash Bowden told Medworld.
3. Take care of your body
Take care with what you put into your body, this means limiting your intake of caffeine, bad fats, sugars, and alcohol.
Your brain needs a healthy balance of the right nutrients in order to stay healthy and function well, a healthy diet not only nourishes your body it nourishes your mind as well.
Sometimes it can be tempting to turn alcohol or sugar to change our mood. Some people drink or eat bad food to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary.
“I've been campaigning about the ravages of sugar and type two diabetes in our society these days, because I was seeing patients every year, seeing normal patients who were losing vision, going blind due to their diabetes (in particular type two diabetes, which makes up 90% of all the cases) […] This is a disease that shouldn't be happening at all” Dr David Muecke told Medworld.
4. Take care of your mind
Taking care of your mind is so important! Your brain is the most important organ in your body, so brain health is vital for our overall health and mental health.
Try practicing meditation and mindfulness to de-stress and clear your mind.
"Sleep. Exercise. Eat healthy food and try to prepare it yourself. Mindfulness. Take time to pause and reflect." Dr Sarah Arachchi told Medworld.
5. Keep time for doing things that you enjoy
Doing things you love helps keep stress at bay, when you enjoy doing something this can contribute to self-esteem and produce endorphins.
“Remembering how to have fun is critical I think. I try to remember now to have snippets of time when I’m just present with my kids” Dr Alecia Macrow.
Concentrating on a hobby like gardening or the crossword can help you forget your worries for a while and change your mood.
"Try to find social significance and community-oriented work - this creates a healthy existence" Dr Rolf Gomes
6. Ask for help if you need it
Even doctors are not superhuman, sometimes things can get too much and you feel worn-out or overwhelmed.
Don't be afraid to ask someone for help whether it be for advice, to help cover a shift or complete a task, or just a listening ear.
“Find a group of other practitioners who are passionate about what you’re passionate about, and whom you can touch base with, ask questions, and provide support.” Said Dr Alecia Macrow
Simple changes can make a big difference to your health and wellbeing. Mental Health Awareness week is designed to help people notice the signs in themselves or others and make the necessary changes.
Remember, it's OK to not be OK.
If you are struggling with mental health and need someone to talk to you can find the Australian and New Zealand helplines below.
Find New Zealand mental health helplines here.
Find Australian mental health helplines here.