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How lifestyle changes can help
Many of the same lifestyle changes that will improve your physical health can also improve your mental health. Exercise, diet and sleep all play a key role in your mental wellbeing, but when you are feeling low, overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, a healthy lifestyle is often among the first things to suffer If you experience physical pain or have difficulty managing other health conditions such as diabetes, you might find they improve as your overall wellbeing and mental health improves.
Increase your daily activity
It can seem counter-intuitive, but when you’re feeling down, or depressed or anxious, you sometimes need to do the opposite of what you feel. Your body may be telling you that you are too exhausted to do anything, but participating in activities you enjoy or find rewarding can help distract you from the negative thoughts and give you more energy. Pace yourself and slowly build up to more activity.
Exercise to improve wellbeing
Getting regular physical activity is a positive thing for you can do for your mental health. In combination with your prescribed treatment plan regular exercise may help you manage stress and improve your sleep, and it may also lift your mood, confidence and self-esteem and reduce anxiety.
Eat for your mental health
Eating nutritious and healthy meals can help boost your energy, which is especially important when you already feel flat.
- Eat more vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes
- Eat less empty carbohydrates (foods and drinks that are high in sugar), refined starches and highly processed foods—these have been linked to an increased risk of depression.
- Limit or skip caffeine, alcohol and other drugs—these can make symptoms worse.
Prioritise a good night’s sleep
Sleep can boost your mood and your ability to cope with stress. As your sleep improves it’s usually easier to keep up the healthy habits that benefit your both your mental and physical health, too. Unfortunately depression and anxiety can often disrupt sleep, but there are several things you can do that can help. Check out our sleep guide for tips and information on getting better sleep.
Find ways to manage stress
Deep breathing exercises can help you relax, reduce stress and improve sleep. Get as comfortable as you can. Take deep breaths, breathing in slowly through your nose and out through your mouth. Concentrate on each breath, noticing how your abdomen and chest move as you breathe. Another way to relax is to slowly tense and release each muscle group in your body. You can start with your toes, then your calves, to your thighs, moving up throughout your whole body. Focus on how your muscles feel as they tighten and relax.
Cut back on drinking and drugs
People sometimes use alcohol or drugs to cope when they’re feeling down, but these can make your symptoms worse. Alcohol and drugs can also interact with medicines for anxiety and depression and reduce their effectiveness or increase the chance of side effects. Check out this article for more on how drugs and alcohol impact mental health, and tips on how to cut back.
Reach out for support
Talk to your doctor, psychologist or another mental health professional if you continue to struggle. It’s also important to connect with friends and family who you trust and feel comfortable talking to—the more support you have, the better.
Online resources and support
In addition to in-person services, there is also a number of resources and services you can access online, including:
Beyond Blue has a 24/7 national support line where you can talk with a trained mental health professional who will listen, provide information and advice, and point you in the right direction to seek further help on 1300 22 4636.
PANDA provides a free confidential helpline service offering support for new and expecting mums and dads who are struggling with becoming a parent. You can call 1300 726 306 to speak with a trained counsellor 9am-7.30pm (AEST), Monday to Friday.
Our team of mental health professionals are here to support you on our 24/7 Mental Health Phone Support line. It’s available to Medibank members with hospital cover 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1800 644 325~.
Looking for something else?
Visit our Mental Health homepage to find more tools and advice.
Things you need to know
~ OSHC members should call the Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283.
# Check your cover summary to see if these services are included on your extras cover and if any waiting periods or annual limits apply.
While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees).
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