If you feel like something off with your mental health, there are many ways you can get help.
Often when people think of mental health they think of a mental health condition like schizophrenia of bipolar disorder. But mental health is simply a state of wellbeing that allows you to cope with life’s normal difficulties, work productively, contribute to your community, and ultimately live to your fullest potential.
Mental ill health affects anyone.
Accessing Support with Overseas Health Cover (OSHC)
All international students should have health cover that covers your length of your stay Australia. This would have been worked out prior to you coming to Australia and is part of the requirements for studying here.
OSHC benefits are similar to what Australians receive through Australia’s public health care system, Medicare. Some international students may even be eligible for reciprocal health care. Australia has agreements with 11 countries, click here to see if yours is listed.
Otherwise, your OSHC cover should cover basic necessities like: in hospital and out-of-hospital medical assistance, prescription medications, and emergency ambulance assistance.
How Much Does it Cost to Get Mental Health Support?
To see a psychologist or a psychiatrist you need a referral from your doctor.
Depending on the doctor you see, you may have to pay a fee of $30-50, so be sure to call ahead to ask about this when you make your appointment.
From there you can set up a mental health plan with your doctor. This plan makes therapy more affordable and accessible. Read our previous blog post about how to get a mental health plan here.
How do I check my policy?
You will need to call your provider. Their number should be on your card.
If you’re a student with Medibank Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), you can call the Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283 at any time of the day or night. They’ll offer you advice and over-the-phone counselling as part of your cover. They also have an interpreter service so you can speak to someone in your own language.
Allianz OSHC International Students using Allianz can call 13 67 42 and they’ll let you know which treatments are included in your policy.
For all others, contact them directly.
If you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn, a mental health care plan could help.
In Australia, a mental health care plan is for anyone experiencing mental health distress whether short-term or long-term. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a serious mental health condition to get a mental health care plan.
Having your own mental health care plan provides you with a more economical option for seeing a trained mental health professional.
Recently, the Australian government, boosted Mental Health Care Plan’s from 10 to 20 subsidised sessions per calendar year. This means you are entitled to 10 additional sessions per year that you can claim rebates on, making therapy much more affordable and accessible.
Steps for getting a Mental Health Plan
All you have to do is make an appointment with a doctor and explain what has been going on for you.
The doctor might ask you to take a test to determine what exactly is going on and who is best to help you. After you have your mental health care plan, your doctor may suggest a psychologist or counsellor for you to see, or you can choose your own. You can look through our list of mental health professionals on our website and choose who you might think is a good fit for you. Your doctor can then send a referral letter to that mental health professional.
How much will it cost?
This depends on who you see and how much they charge.
Every mental health professional is different and the charges vary depending on their qualifications. Mental Health Workers and Counsellors tend to be more financially viable, whereas Psychologists and Psychiatrists tend to cost a bit more. To know how much it will cost, call the mental health professional before to find out how much they charge. Then contact your OSHC provider and ask them how much money you can claim back. From there, you will need to pay the gap fee (the gap between the amount covered by insurance, and the total fee).
The road to getting help can be difficult, but help is out there and things can and will improve.
If you need help right away, phone Lifeline. They are available 24 hours a day on 13 11 14.
If you are aged 25 years or under you can also phone headspace on 1800 650 890 or chat online to a health clinician.
If you need mental health support in your language, you can call TIS National on 131 450 or visit tisnational.gov.au to get an interpreter. TIS National covers more than 100 languages and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the cost of a local call.
According to the Blackdog Institute, 1 in 5 (20%) Australians aged 16-85 experience a mental illness in any year. The most common mental illnesses are depressive, anxiety and substance use disorder.
If you have been diagnosed with a mental health illness then you’re probably already aware of how difficult it can be to find a sense of equilibrium. Even with medication and therapy, it can take time to find exactly what works best for you.
The most common self-help strategies are to exercise, meditate, eat a nutritious diet and learn how to be more present. Below we have a listed a few more techniques to add to your toolbox. Everyone is different and we all respond to things differently, so these are just some ideas. Some may work for you, others may not. Try them out and see what resonates.
In a previous blog post, we provided a few different breathing techniques that activate the body’s natural relaxation response. When we breath slowly with a focus on a longer exhale, we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Essentially, just by breathing we are able to feel more connected to our body and quiet our busy minds. This is not for everyone though. Some poeple may find that focusing on their breath can actually be triggering so just be aware of how your body reacts and adjust accordingly.
Grounding with the 5 Senses
If deep breathing is not something that works for you, another effective tool is to ground yourself through all of your senses. For example, if you feel triggered by something, stop and look around the room you are in:
5 things that you can see
Take conscious notice of 5 things that are in the room you are in. Notice the textures, colors, size and shapes. Imagine taking a mental snapshot of this room right now.
4 things you can touch or feel
Take notice of your body. What can you feel? Perhaps your socks gently covering your feet, or your elbows leaning against a table.
3 things you can hear
What are the sounds around you? Perhaps the voices of people, or cars passing by.
2 things you can smell
What are the smells? Are there any?
1 thing you can taste
What can you taste? Perhaps a mint or chewing gum, or noting at all.
Going through your senses helps you stay you present and focused on what is actually happening around you, rather than the stories or thoughts in your mind.
Cognitive reframing is an effective tool that counsellors use to help a client see a certain situation a different perspective. For example, you applied for a job and found out you didn’t get it.
While it would be disappointing, especially if you feel the interview went really well. It’s not helpful to feel bad about yourself and consider yourself bad or unworthy because you didn’t get the job. Instead, you could reframe the situation: I didn’t get this particular job, but now I know how I can improve for the next one. If I keep trying I will eventually find a job, and maybe the next one will be even better.
Radical acceptance means to completely and totally accept a given situation for everything it is.
It’s a skill taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy. To radically accept something does not mean that you are agreeing or approving with what happened. Instead, it’s simply acknowledging reality and not fighting it.
Some ways we fight reality is by saying “It shouldn’t be this way,” or “That is not fair!” or “Why me?!”. But unfortunately, fighting reality will only make things worse. Sometimes life will deliver something that we did not want and it can be painful to accept. Just like being diagnosed with a mental illness. You simply cannot change the fact that you have a mental illness. The more time you spend trying to “get rid of it” or pretending it doesn’t exist is only draining you of valuable energy. Instead, accept what is. Accept yourself and your condition. Only then can you take the necessary steps to take care of yourself.
It can be really hard to practice all these, and it takes a patience and persistence. You don’t need to do it alone. If you need help then find a trained professionals on our website – either online or in person- who can help you today.
If you want to be there for someone who is struggling, it’s clear that you are already a good friend.
It can be hard to know exactly how to help them, or what to say.
It can also be hard to know what exactly is going on. Mental health is complex and we all respond differently.
How do I know if my friend has a mental health problem?
Below are some typical signs of mental ill health but it’s important to remember that everyone responds differently depending on many different factors. If you know the person well, you may notice changes in their behaviour or mood.
Signs of depression
People who are depressed may:
- have low confidence
- lose interest in activities they normal enjoy
- lose their appetite
- get tired easily
- be tearful, nervous or irritable.
- may feel suicidal.
Signs of anxiety
People experiencing anxiety may:
- have difficulty concentrating
- be irritable
- try to avoid certain situations
- appear pale and tense
- be easily startled by everyday sounds.
Here are a few ways you can support them:
1. Consider the time and place
If you’re initiating the conversation take the time to think about the time and place. It’s best to choose somewhere you can talk openly, and a time when you can listen actively, without rushing or checking your watch.
2. Be prepared for setbacks
The person you’re reaching out to might not be ready to talk, and that’s okay. If you reach out and they dodge conversation or say it’s not something they want to talk about, it doesn’t mean the conversation is a failure. You’ve still let your friend or loved one know you’re concerned, and you’re there for them if they need you.
3. Ask gentle questions
Asking gently and compassionately can help your friend or loved one explore their options. You might ask how long they’ve been feeling this way, or if they need support to see a doctor (GP).
4. Know your own boundaries
It’s great for you to reach out and offer support, but it’s also important be mindful of where your expertise or capacity to help is limited. You might need to refer someone on to a professional or other support services.
5. Know who to call if there is a crisis
do your research to see what support groups are available in your local area. If someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, you should call 000 or reach out to a trusted person, like a parent, teacher, or health professional immediately.
6. Avoid minimising language
Try not to use language like “don’t worry”, “cheer up”, or “it’ll be better tomorrow” – language like this can make someone feel as though you’re minimising or trivialising their experience.
Also, try not to over-react by magnifying the issues and involving too many people. Avoid any fearful responses by reacting to unusual or eccentric behaviour by amplifying your own anxiety. Try to also avoid personalising what they are going through by telling them things like, “this is what worked for me, so it will work for you.”
7. Don’t diagnose
It’s important not to offer your own diagnosis of what they’re going through, or debating the facts of their experience.
8. Avoid trying to ‘fix’ the problem.
Though it is incredibly hard to see a friend or loved one hurting, it’s important to understand that mental illness is complex, requires patience, and won’t just disappear over night. Instead listen actively, practice patience, ask gentle questions, and suggest different ways for your loved one to seek support.
9. Try not to judge, analyse or question experiences you can’t relate to.
Experiences of mental illness are unique to each individual and can manifest in very different symptoms, behaviours and feelings. Try to listen without judgement, and to respond calmly, without exhibiting shock or alarm.
If a friend or loved ones need professional support you have a range of options.
If someone is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, call 000 immediately, even if they ask you not to. For a friend or loved one who isn’t sure what they’re experiencing, or needs immediate support, it’s best to go straight to a GP.
If you’re friend or loved one is ready to talk to someone and seek support, they might use a service like Radiant to find and connect to a counsellor or mental health professional that feels right for them.
If a someone you care about has been impacted by a traumatic event, it can be extremely distressing to watch them try to deal with the effects of such an experience.
It’s normal to want to help them or take their pain away. You may find yourself worrying about their well-being and you may feel helpless by their emotional reactions to the event.
Someone who has experienced a traumatic experience may seem ‘shut down’ or distant as a way to block out painful memories. Others may feel numb, or lack the energy to do things. They may stop participating in family life, ignore your offers of help, or become angry and irritable. Everyone reacts differently.
It’s important to remember that these reactions are signs that your loved one may not be coping. These reactions are not necessarily about you. If you are wondering what you can do to be supportive to a person dealing with a recent trauma, here are some places to start:
It’s important to recognise that they have been through something extremely stressful event and may need time away to process what happened to them. It can be difficult to accept this but you can help them by providing practical day-to-day support, like helping them with grocery shopping or cooking a meal.
This probably one of the most important things you can do. Doing “active listening” can be really important to survivors of trauma. This means devoting your attention to the act of listening carefully without judging, interrupting, or talking about your own personal stories. Asking questions and clarifying what you are hearing is also an important part of active listening as it shows that you are interested in getting the details right.
3. Don’t judge
Try to imagine how it might feel to be in their shoes. Judgments are a heavy burden that many trauma survivors are familiar with, don’t add to this burden. Instead, you can help by simply supporting the person without implying that they should (or shouldn’t) have done something differently, or that what they did was wrong or right thing, or good or bad. Let the person guide the conversation and take their lead.
Acknowledge what they are going through with statements like, “it’s really tough to go through something like this” or “This is such a difficult time for you”. Simply validating that they are going through a difficult situation can be really helpful. you can show that you understand by re-phrasing the information they give you. Try starting with something like, “You seem really…”, “It sounds like…”, “Did I understand right that you…”, “No wonder you feel…”
5. Avoid pathologizing
It’s normal to feel a range of different emotions to trauma. There is no ‘right way’ to react. Give the person a few weeks and refrain from labelling what they are going through as an illness. It only becomes a problems after a couple of months if their responses are interfering with the person’s daily life. If that is the case you could speak with the person about finding some professional support in a nonjudgmental way so the person does not feel attacked.
6. Take care of yourself
Taking care of yourself may be the most important thing you can do to help your loved one. Supporting someone who has been through a traumatic event can take a massive toll on you, so much so that your own health can be affected and you can no longer act as an effective support person. During these times, it’s critical to do your own self-care. You might also benefit from speaking to a counsellor or finding a support group. If you’ve tried all these strategies and things still aren’t improving after a couple of weeks, or if you or your loved one is having trouble coping with work or with relationships, talk to your GP. Your GP can help you and your loved one, and refer you to services and professionals that can help.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments in countries across the world have been doing what they can to help their citizens, keep them afloat, look after their mental health and attempt to mitigate some of the emotional, financial and psychological havoc that this virus has wreaked. There are a group of people that have fallen through the cracks, however. These are the numerous international students and graduates living and studying in a country that is not their own and unable to get support from either their home country or their host country.
In Australia, as of September 2019, there were some 720, 000 international students studying across Australia. Of these students, over 50% hail from China or other Asian countries. The export income generated in Australia from international students is $37.6 billion. Unfortunately, when the pandemic broke out, this group was overlooked and only recently, have Australian states made changes to assist international students and graduates living on the temporary graduate visa, which allows international graduates to work in Australia for 1-2 years to gain practical experience in their field.
If you are an international student in Australia and you are struggling, it is completely understandable.
Not only do you have the stress of financial difficulties, considering all the jobs cuts as a result of this pandemic, but you are far away from family and friends and your core support network. You have the added emotional stress of knowing that you can’t be near loved ones if they fall ill and even if you have the possibility of returning home, which in many cases is not an option due to border closures, you have the fear of jeapordising your studies and the even bigger fear of potentially contracting the virus while travelling and bringing it home to your families. It is absolutely normal that your mental health would be taking strain during this pandemic.
Before we get lost down the road of despair, let’s look at the things you can do to help yourself and the resources that are available to you.
Financial support by state:
Queensland International Student Crisis Assistance Package
Queensland has put aside $10 million to support international students who are experiencing severe financial hardship due to COVID-19. Check if you are eligible here. If you are a student and you pay separate utility bills (in your name and not as part of your rental payment), you are eligible for the Queensland Government’s $200 household utility bill relief, which should automatically be taken off your bills.
New South Wales
NSW have put together a $20 million package to fund temporary crisis accommodation for international students. The NSW Government will fund up to 20 weeks of accommodation at approved student accommodation and homestay providers for international students with no home or means to pay for one .To apply, visit Apply for international student COVID-19 crisis accommodation There is also a 24/7 international student support service, which you can access through the NSW Government COVID-19 hotline (13 77 88). Here, you can get free advice and information on other support available, such as the moratorium on rental evictions and medical, mental health and legal support. Foodbank and the Rapid Relief Team, along with the NSW government, are delivering emergency relief packages and food boxes to those who are being instructed to self-isolate.
StudyPerth Crisis Relief (SPCR) is a program aimed at looking after the needs of international students during COVID-19 by providing support services such as food, shelter, and health and wellbeing and legal rights support. Be sure to first contact your education provider to check how they can support you before you apply to SPCR, as students who don’t get support from their institution will get priority.
If you are an international student in Victoria and have lost wages and work due to the COVID-19, the Victorian Government’s $45 million International Student Emergency Relief Fund may be able to help you with a one-off payment of $1100. Other measures being taken are one-off rent relief grants, utility relief grants and assistance in finding work through Working for Victoria. Victoria has also set up a dedicated COVID-19 online support hub, where you can find support programs and services such as food relief. You can get free advice and support from the Study Melbourne Student Centre, including information about mental health services and referrals to other services.
South Australia is helping international students through their International Student Support Package. The South Australian Government have teamed up with the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia to match the funding they provide to international students. For international students not enrolled at one of these three universities, a $500 emergency cash grant may be available to those who meet the criteria.
You can get low-cost food with your student card at the Baptist Care Community Food Hub.
If you have been in Australia for longer than 12 months, you may be able to access your superannuation early. Login to myGov website and following the intention to access coronavirus support instructions.
If you are a temporary visa holder, you may be eligible for the Pandemic Isolation Assistance Grants to help with financial hardship. To access this service, call the Public Health Hotline on 1800 671 738.
Ask Izzy helps people in crisis find services available to them in their area. These services include emergency housing, food, health, counselling and more.
Australian Red Cross is providing an emergency fund for international students who are in crisis without support. International student visa holders should first contact the Red Cross by email to access the support.
International Student Support Network ISSN
If your education provider confirms that you are vulnerable as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible for a heavily discounted ISSN homestay placement, include a private room, meals, utilities and host family support.
Counselling services available for free:
eHeadspace provides free online support/counselling to young people 12 – 25, based in Australia. They also have free resources on their website. Their app, ‘Weathering the Storm’ gives you access to meditation, sleep, and movement exercises.
In NSW, international students can access mental health support from the Mental Health Hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. PH: 1800 011 511
The ASKPEACE Project provides counselling and support for people from non-English speaking backgrounds. PH: 08 8245 8110
- Beyond Blue
This non-profit organisation can help you with things like depression, suicide, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Online coronavirus forum
Phone: 1300 22 4636
Lifeline provides a 24-hour support & suicide prevention line and can help anyone who is in personal crisis.
COVID-19 Phone: 13 11 14
Getting a Mental Health Care Plan
The Australian Government requires health care providers to cover the benefit amount listed in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) for out-of-hospital medical services. This means international students are fully covered for sessions with general practitioners (doctors) and psychiatrists. But students are only partially covered for up to 10 sessions per year with psychologists, having to cover the remaining fee by themselves.
In most cases, students must pay the full amount up front and will only get the part payment back by going to the office of their insurance provider. To see a psychiatrist or psychologist you must first be referred by a GP and there’s a two month waiting period for pre-existing conditions. Further coverage is available at an increased cost.
Learn more about how to get on a mental health plan here.
R U OK? is a non-profit organisation dedicated to suicide prevention. Their vision is a world where we’re all connected and protected from suicide.
Their mission is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life.
Their goals are to:
- Boost your confidence to meaningfully connect and ask about life’s ups and downs
- Nurture your sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
- Strengthen your sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
- Be relevant, strong and dynamic
Here’s how you can initiate a conversation that could save someone’s life:
1. Ask: Are you OK?
Be relaxed, warm and concerned. Help them open up by asking open ended questions like “How are you going?” or “What’s been happening?”
Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like “You seem less chatty than usual. Is everything okay?”
If they don’t want to talk, don’t push them. Tell them you’re still concerned about changes in their behaviour and you care about them.
2. Listen attentively without judgement or interruption
Take what they say seriously and don’t interrupt or rush the conversation. Don’t judge their experiences or reactions but acknowledge that things seem tough for them. If they need time to think, sit patiently with the silence. Show that you’ve listened by repeating back what you’ve heard (in your own words) and ask if you have understood them properly. Sometimes just the act of having someone listen non-judgmentally can mean everything.
3. Encourage Action
Trying asking the following:
- “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?”
- “How would you like me to support you?”
- “What’s something you can do for yourself right now? Something that’s enjoyable or relaxing?”
If they’ve been feeling really down for more than two weeks, encourage them to see a health professional. Their GP is the best person to start with. Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times. If money is a concern, remind them that there are many community centres who offer free counselling for this exact reason.
Remember to call them in a couple of weeks. If they’re really struggling, follow up with them sooner.
You could say: “I’ve been thinking of you and wanted to know how you’ve been going since we last chatted.”
If they haven’t done anything, don’t judge them. Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference
Try to Avoid:
- Arguing or debating about their thoughts of suicide
- Discussing whether suicide is right or wrong
- Guilt tripping them
- Trivialise their problems by telling them others have it worse
- Say things like “don’t worry”, “you have everything going for you” or “cheer up”
- Interrupt with stories of your own
- Attempt to give a diagnosis of a mental illness
Losing something or someone is hard. Letting go and accepting it is even harder.
During this pandemic, many of us have experienced losses—of jobs, of family members, of friends, of security, of relationships, of our sense of who we are and how our world works. With every loss, grief is a natural reaction that needs time and space to work through our systems.
Psychologist at Uplift Psychological Services, Dr Katherine Stewart, notes:
‘Loss is a natural consequence of life. The loss of your house in a bushfire, the loss of a loved one to Covid-19, the loss of a beloved pet, a career, a marriage, cultural identity, or the loss of health. At the heart of loss sits grief, the emotional territory that has no map that clearly defines the nature and guidelines of the grieving process. While researchers, including Swiss-American psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, have attempted to identify the stages of grief, their models are often seen as general, linear and limited. They can miss the uniqueness of a person’s own expression of grief, whether it’s personal or cultural. People can grieve for days, years or a lifetime. Some people express their grief by crying endlessly, while others hold their breath and swallow hard, and others use their faith to calm the waters. Whichever way grief is expressed, it is all part of the human process’.
There is no one way to grieve and no quick-fix balm that will ease the pain indefinitely. Many times, your grief will subside only to reappear uninvited when a trigger or experience sets it off. It is said that time heals all wounds but some wounds are healed in waves. In the realm of losing a loved one, the current situation of social distancing and the inability to carry out the normal funeral processes can make it even more difficult to work through the maze of grief.
To help you, we have put together some ideas of ways to deal with the loss of a loved one and to grieve in a healthy way. These will not take away the pain, but they may help you to manage it in a way that does the least damage to your psyche.
Say goodbye in your own special way
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one recently, you probably wouldn’t have been able to say goodbye in the usual way that your culture dictates due to social distancing. If that is the case, try to create a space to say goodbye in a way that is meaningful to you. Whether that is lighting a candle and thinking of your good memories of the person, or going for a walk in nature and speaking out loud to them, or perhaps creating a tribute of some sort to them. Saying goodbye will help give you the closure you need.
Plan a memorial service
As funerals cannot be carried out in the traditional manner at the moment, see if it’s possible to livestream the service and send digital messages to be shared with others. Plan to have a proper memorial service when COVID-19 is done so that you can have some peace in knowing that, for now, you are doing the best you can in the circumstances to honour the person.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
As we have mentioned, there is no right way to grieve, no set timeline that is acceptable, and different people deal with things in different ways. Grief is a natural process and you are completely entitled to move through it at your own pace and in your own way. Try not to judge yourself too harshly if it takes you longer to get back to ‘normal’ again because that normal no longer exists. Your world has changed irrevocably and what you go on to create is a new normal.
It’s important to reach out to your support system. If you cannot see them face-to-face, the beauty of technology is that you can still video call and message. If you need time alone, let them know. If you need daily messages of moral support, let them know. Part of being human is our need and sense of community and you can and should draw on your community in times of loss.
When you are going through a loss, remember to give yourself simple pleasures and distractions to keep yourself afloat. Physical nurture like massages, exercise, good food, and mental nurturing like meditations, praying, reading books or articles that either inspire you or help you to process your feelings, can all help you to get through the most painful times. Sometimes writing things down can help. Journaling may take the turmoil out of your mind for a while and put it onto paper instead. None of these will eliminate the grief, but they go a long way to helping you to take breaks from it so that you can survive it.
Overall, give yourself time and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. You are not alone in your experience but it can sometimes feel that way. If you are struggling to get through it on your own and find that friends and family do not know how to help you, perhaps consider talking to a grief counsellor or psychologist (see blogs on how to find a psychologist and how to get a Mental Health Care plan). You can also find support in bereavement groups here: https://grief.com/group-resources/
Body image is a subject that causes many people a lot of emotional and mental stress.
We are constantly inundated with images on all forms of media of celebrities and models airbrushed to perfection and we are plagued by unrealistic expectations of how our bodies could or should look. To exacerbate this problem, many of us are now confined to our homes due to Coronavirus, which means that our routines for maintaining a healthy body and mind have been disrupted. It also means we are more likely to indulge in unhealthy eating habits stemming from feeling down or stressed, or just out of pure boredom.
With all the hype around the Quarantine 15—the idea that many people will gain around 15 kg during the pandemic—it is understandable if you are struggling with body image issues and are preoccupied with negative thoughts about your body.
If this resonates with you, here are some helpful tips to try refocus your mind and help your body during this time.
Curate your social media
Social media is useful for helping us to feel connected to others even though we may not be able to physically be in their presence. Certain aspects of social media, however, are not helpful and are possibly even harmful to our mental well-being. Luckily, you have control over what you do or don’t see. On any of the platforms, such as Instagram or Facebook or Tiktok, unfollow things that make you feel inadequate or lead you to start unfairly comparing yourself with others. Rather, find accounts to follow that inspire, motivate and uplift you. Perhaps it’s an account of motivational quotes or positive body image stories or something completely unrelated that piques your enthusiasm. Be selective about what you take in and your mind will feel the positive effects.
Here are some accounts worth following:
Do exercise videos at home that you enjoy
There is a myriad of videos on platforms such as Youtube on almost every subject you can think of. If you enjoy yoga, you can find a yoga video. If you prefer HIIT, there are numerous videos to work out to. The important thing is to choose something you genuinely enjoy and then commit to doing it a certain number of times a week. If it makes you feel good and you like what you are doing, you are more likely to stick to it. Incorporate it into your schedule.
Set a schedule
This leads to the next tip. Get a routine going with meal times, workout times, work times, relaxation times and social times. The stability a routine provides means that you are less likely to listlessly make your way to the fridge and snack unnecessarily. Having set meal times will help you to monitor your food intake, and planning around these will help you to make healthier decisions on what to eat.
“If you spend a lot of time online, finding social media accounts to follow that inspire, motivate and uplift you can be an incredible for learning body positivity.”
Learn to cook healthy meals
Most people have a bit more time on their hands right now. This may be a good time to learn a new skill and healthy cooking has the added benefit of improving your physical and mental health. Your body image can only improve if you feel good about what you are putting into it.
Meditation is a useful tool to calm the mind and practice controlling negative thoughts. Again, Youtube is a good source for learning to meditate. There are also numerous apps such as Insight Timer and Calm, where you can find guided meditations to get you started. A good idea is to start your day with a meditation to set you intentions and put your mind in a positive state.
Start practising self-love habits
We are often very quick to criticise ourselves but slow to offer any positive self-affirmation. Try to look at your good points—the things you love about yourself and the things that others love about you. Remember you are so much more than just a body and be grateful that your body can function in the ways that i does. Start talking to yourself like you would to a friend when he/she is having a bad day. As hard as it can be, learn to appreciate your flaws—they are what makes you human.. If self-love feels unachievable, focus on self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and your body.
Finally, if you are struggling to cope, there are sources that can help you. The Butterfly Foundation specialises in helping those who are struggling with an eating disorder. You can also call their national helpline on 1800 33 4673 or chat to them online. If you want to see a psychologist who specialises in Eating Disorders then it might be worthwhile to go on a Mental Health Plan by first going to your GP.
As we have seen in Melbourne, there have been a rise of new COVID-19 cases.
Anyone who has been to any of the current hot spots or has been in contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 must self-isolate. Even if you are tested and it comes up negative, the Government still wants you to self-isolate for 14 days in case the virus begins to show.
If you are currently self-isolating here a few ways to stay mentally healthy.
*For all Coronavirus related questions call the National Coronavirus Helpline at 1800 020 080. This line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Maintain a routine
Having some kind of daily plan, even if it is small, can help you feel like you feel a sense of control and satisfaction. Try to set an alarm if you know you oversleep, and force yourself to get up and do something. Getting out of bed will help you avoid falling into a slump.
Learn a new skill
The good news is that this virus has forced everything online. This means that you have the world’s knowledge right at your fingertips. There are literally hundreds and thousands of things to learn, whether a short course on Udemy or a longer term course through The University of Sydney.
Self-isolation is not a prison sentence (although it may sometimes feel that way). Stay in touch with friends. Call people and set up virtual hangouts. You are not alone.
Get lost in a book
Find a good story and immerse yourself in it fully! Books are one of the most healthiest forms of escapism. It will keep your mind active, your eyes away from a screen and a time for feelings of anxiety and worry to subside. If reading a book doesn’t feel manageable, try audio books – there are many free ones available online.
Nothing beats going through Netflix and watching every possible show, and re-watching your favourites!
DIY Home Spa
Self-indulge and soak in a bath with a face-mask and spa music. Pamper yourself!
If you have access to a garden, go out and pull out the weeds, mow and rake the lawn, trim the hedges, transfer plants, get your hands dirty. If you don’t have a garden then what about changing up your indoor plants?
Get fancy in the kitchen
Try your own MasterChef at home. Challenge yourself to create something that takes a lot of extra time.
Take time-out from social media and the news
This can be a major buzzkill. Try to find moments in the day when you are not connected to the internet. The news and media in general has become a great source of anxiety at the moment, and there is evidence of people either entirely disengaging or developing almost obsessive tendencies around keeping updated and informed.
Keep a journal
Studies have shown time and time again of the importance of journaling to release our thoughts. It’s almost as good as having your own therapist. Maybe by the end you’ll have some drafts for a book.
Try out meditation
Maybe this could be a good time to tap into your inner self. Try out some meditations to calm your mind. These are some skills that will help you ride the waves of anxiety well beyond your time in self-isolation.
Try out some drawing, or adult colouring books. Drawing has been proven to reduce anxiety and relieve symptoms of depression. It also gives your mind a chance to focus on one thing.
Book an online appointment with a counsellor
If all of all the above is not helping then check our online counsellors page here to learn more about booking an appointment with a mental health professional.
If you’re in need of mental health support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
For resources and up-to-date information for COVID-19 in Australia, check out health.gov.au, call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080 or speak to your GP.
Uncertainty. More than anything else, this word sums up what most of us have been struggling with during this pandemic.
Uncertainty about how long it will last, uncertainty about money, uncertainty about safety, uncertainty about the future.
What this equates to is a lack of control. This is unsettling and anxiety-inducing to most people but to those with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), this can lead to an unravelling of all the good work you’ve done on yourself to calm your obsessions.
What is OCD?
According to Health Direct, OCD is an anxiety disorder that is made up of two parts:
• obsessions – unwanted, intrusive thoughts, images or urges that repeatedly come into the mind
• compulsions – repetitive behaviours or rituals, that are difficult or impossible to resist doing, which are carried out to reduce anxiety¹
According to Dr Katherine Stewart of Uplift Psychological Services in Redfern, Sydney,
“If you’ve ever thought about falling off a ship in the middle of the ocean without a life jacket, you would know how it feels to experience OCD. Profound fear. The accepted model of treatment is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which views the problem as obsessions giving rise to anxiety, and this anxiety is then reduced by certain compulsive behaviours, for example ‘checking’. Certainly, the Covid-19 pandemic would be a nightmare scenario for many people suffering from OCD.”
Examples of compulsive actions are excessive hand-washing, checking locks multiple times, walking in distinct patterns on the street, turning doorknobs multiple times, to name a few. This can all be very time-consuming, exhausting and debilitating.
OCD & COVID-19
If you’ve been working on your OCD, going through CBT and beginning to convince yourself that these compulsive actions are not necessary to combat your irrational fears, a global pandemic that suddenly makes these fears a reality can be destabilising, to say the least. Many of your compulsive behaviours have now become World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended actions to prevent the spread of this virus.
People with OCD have reportedly reacted in one of two ways to this pandemic. Some have continued as normal because their everyday ‘norm’ has now become the new norm for everyone else. Their compulsive hand-washing is now a compulsion of the larger population and this makes them feel safer in general. On the other hand, some OCD sufferers are spiralling. All their irrational thoughts have now become rational in terms of the situation and this can be very hard to reconcile in their mind, especially if they have been receiving treatment.
Here are some signs to look out for:
If you notice that the amount of time you’re taking to complete the compulsions is increasing, this may be cause for concern.
Notice if your behaviour is having an impact on other areas of your life. Maybe you’re having relationship issues, struggling at work, battling to sleep, or your exercise or eating routines have been affected.
• Health focus:
You’ve been obsessing over your health and that of your loved ones and your hand-washing or sanitising compulsions have increased.
• Information overload:
You follow the news updates, social media and the COVID-19 statistics websites constantly, to the point that your daily life is affected.
Even after performing your compulsive actions, your anxiety level is unchanged.
People closest to you have commented on your compulsions. You’re feeling out of control and at the end of your rope².
It’s not an easy time, but there are things you can do to help yourself cope until this pandemic eases off and you can go back to your regular treatment to work on your OCD.
Here are some ideas to help you cope:
Be strict with yourself about how much news/social media you view each day.
Give yourself a certain time slot where you are allowed to check the updates on the pandemic. Once the time is over, switch off and continue your life. Constantly checking media can exacerbate your anxiety and your OCD.
Setting a routine
The lack of control and disruption of our routines that this pandemic has caused has unsettled a lot of people. Try to set yourself a daily routine so you feel in control of your life, which can then translate to control of your impulses.
Remember to self-care
We are all going through an unprecedented experience. Go easy on yourself. Many people are struggling at the moment and it’s important to do things that you enjoy, take moments to give yourself happiness and give yourself a break. Activities such as exercising, taking a bath, reading a book, building a puzzle or watching a feel-good movie are examples of self-care.
Monitor your obsessions and compulsions
Keep a journal of your thoughts, actions and the time of day and frequency with which they occur. This will help increase your awareness of patterns, triggers and loops and help you to take steps to reduce these.
Follow recommended advice
There are tips on how to stay safe on the Australian Department of Health website. Follow the advice to the best of your ability and you can rest assured you’ve done everything you can to prevent contracting the virus or spreading it to others.
Reach out digitally to family and friends. It is important to stay connected with your support systems so that you remember that you are not alone. And chances are, those who support you are also needing support right now. Make use of video calls, messaging and voice calls to connect with those you love.
Don’t stop your medication
If you are on medication, do not stop it during this time. This can lead to a strong regression and a spiral into compulsive behaviours. You need to keep your neurochemical balance, especially in this trying time.
Get professional help
If you feel like you are not coping and need professional help, you have options. There are multiple 24-hour free helplines that you can call for immediate advice and help. If you are not already on a Mental Health Care Plan, head to your GP and get a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist. While a face-to-face consultation might not be possible at the moment, counsellors are conducting sessions over video calls to assist their patients.
Finally, control what you can and try to accept what you cannot. Uncertainty is not a comfortable feeling, but if you can differentiate between the aspects of your life that you can control, it will help you to accept the things that are out of control and will, hopefully, help you to manage your OCD until this situation passes. Dr Stewart notes, “It it is always helpful to know that a thunderstorm becomes insignificant when considering that the vast sky has plenty of space to cope with all kinds of problems”.