40 Ways to care for your mental health

40-Ways-to-care-for-your-mental-health

As non-profits gear up for World Mental Health Day on October 10, now is the perfect time to consider how you can best take care of our own mental health. We all have our ups and down when it comes to our mental health, and this is often impacted by what’s going on in our lives and the world around us.

So how has your mental health been lately? Are you sailing along contentedly, or do you feel the weight of a thousand different expectations on your shoulders? Maybe you’re doing well for the most part, but you’ve sensed a shift in your mood since politics has taken over your social media? Or perhaps you feel isolated and lonely, and asking for help seems like a big step.

Wherever your mental health is at, this World Mental Health Day is your invitation to take stock of your wellbeing and have permission to care for it. This coming week, Australian charity Headspace is asking their supporters to answer the question: What puts you in a good headspace?

We’d love you to answer the same question. If you’re not sure, think about what makes you happy. When was the last time you felt most alive? And what helps you to relax and feel positive? You can find out more about Headspace’s Headspace Day campaign and fill out your own placard for social media here.

If you’re struggling to get started, here are 40 ways you can put yourself in a good headspace and care for your mental health.

  • Read a good book or watch a feel-good movie
  • Journal or colour in
  • Join a team sport
  • Go for a walk outside
  • Run or workout
  • Treat yourself to a delicious snack
  • Make a healthy (and yummy!) smoothie or juice
  • Go out for coffee
  • Take a ten minute break
  • Deactivate your social media
  • Catch up with a friend
  • Go to the beach
  • Go hiking
  • Turn off your phone
  • Try to bake something new
  • Try a new, healthy food
  • Go on a day trip
  • See a counsellor
  • Call a helpline or email them online
  • Write a letter to someone and never send it
  • Try a new hobby
  • Make a new friend
  • Go to a wildlife park
  • Ask someone to help you out
  • Take deep breaths
  • Meditate
  • Learn something new
  • Listen to music
  • Pat an animal
  • Book a holiday
  • Take a nap
  • Go to bed early
  • Cut back on alcohol and drugs
  • Learn about something new
  • Listen to a podcast
  • Read blogs online
  • Watch funny videos
  • Practice Mindfulness

Do you want to care for your mental health?  Would you like some support or guidance as you try these different strategies? Here’s what you need to do: contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.

This comic communicates the reality of depression perfectly

This-comic-communicates-the-reality-of-depression-perfectly

It’s not always easy to express how we’re feeling, especially when we are experiencing depression or are going through periods of grief. Thankfully, creating art gives many of us an outlet when it all feels like too much.  And that’s why we love this amazing comic by the artist Iguana Mouth.

Lots of people have drawn ‘mental illness’ over the last few years in an effort to explain it to their friends, but few people are able to capture the complexity and heaviness of it like this artist. Take a look at the comic below, and see if you can relate.

While this comic is dark, it is also a great reminder that depression passes, and our most difficult moments pave the way to a fuller and more meaningful life.

Next time you feel isolated, try drawing, putting on some music or meditating and wait for the feeling to pass. And show this comic to a friend—they don’t need to fix you; it’s just ‘being’ together in the moment that makes them easier to get through.

Do you feel isolated or depressed?  Do you struggle to explain how you are feeling? Here’s what you need to do: contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.

Self harm: 9 signs a young person may be at risk

9-signs-a-young-person-may-be-at-risk

As much as we don’t like talking about it, self harm is extremely prevalent in society. It can take many forms, and often carries the stigma that the person doing it is seeking attention. This is not true—self harm of any form is a cry for help, but that doesn’t mean a person struggling with it will automatically tell you they need your support.

So how do we identify the signs that a young person might be engaging in this harmful behaviour? Pretty Powerful Girls recently published a blog written by Colleen for Australia Counselling titled: Self harm: 9 signs a young person may be at risk.*

Take a look, and if you recognise any of these signs in someone you know, approach them gently. Remember, a lot of shame comes with self harm, and acting panicked or aggressive won’t help the situation.

Instead, speak to them about how they are feeling and encourage the person to seek further help. If you struggle with self harm, read this Hope Movement blog for more details on how you can find healing and use safe alternatives to manage your pain.

*Please note: This blog contains language and references to methods of self-harm, which may be triggering to some people.

Are you struggling with self harm? Please call 000 or 911 in an emergency or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.  For crisis hotlines in other countries, visit Hope Movement’s International database here. 

Your G.P. and/or a Professional Counsellor can give you the additional support you need. For a FREE 10 minute consultation as to how we can help you, ring Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 or you can book an appointment press Book Now to book in our online diary.

Nine tips to find the right counsellor for you

Nine-tips-to-find-the-right-counsellor-for-you

You have decided it is time to see a counsellor—but how do you go about finding the ‘right’ one for you? Beginning the process may seem overwhelming, but by following these nine tips, you’ll be able to locate a professional you ‘click’ with.

  1. Counsellor or psychologist—What’s the difference?

Deciding whether you need a counsellor or psychologist comes down to what approach you want to take in therapy.

Essentially the underlying difference between a counsellor and a psychologist is in the training that each undertakes. A psychologist is trained in the medical model treatment approach; that is to assess, diagnose and implement treatment interventions using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The emphasis is more likely to be upon diagnosis and relief of symptoms.

A counsellor is trained in the therapeutic model, where emphasis is placed upon the counselling relationship and the core principles of empathy, unconditional positive regard and genuineness. In this model, the person is at the centre of the therapy.

  1. Ask your friends

Word of mouth is always a sure way to find the right counselling professional for you. Your friend’s recommendation will be based upon their personal experience and effectiveness of the counselling professional they worked with.

  1. Research the counsellor’s professional affiliations

The counselling profession has strong professional code of ethics and standards that practitioners are expected to adhere to. Every counsellor should, at the very least, be affiliated with an Accredited Professional Association (APA).

In addition to this, in Australia there are two ‘umbrella’ associations for counselling professionals; the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation Association (PACFA) and Australia Counselling Association (ACA).

Alternatively, your counsellor may be affiliated with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) or the Australian Clinical Psychologist Association (ACPA). You will find this information on their web site and/or by asking the counsellor or the organisation they work for.

  1. Research the counsellor’s qualifications and experience

What is the issue you want to address? Counselling professionals are trained in the art of listening and facilitating dialogue that allows you to explore your personal experience and discover the necessary resources to encourage, motivate and empower you. In addition, counsellors will invariably develop an area/s of expertise as they continue to practice and pursue professional growth.

If you want to talk about the anxiety you experience, check that your counsellor has knowledge and experience in the area of mental health. If you are struggling with alcohol dependence or binge drinking, then ensure your counsellor has some education and experience in the area of substance issues. Do you need couple or marriage counselling? This is another area of expertise that you will want to ensure your professional is experienced in.

  1. Check out a counsellor’s website

A counsellor’s website is a great place to get a ‘feel’ for the person behind the content. Their personal and professional background, interests and the things they write about will all inform you about them.

  1. Talk to the counsellor over the phone

A personal conversation establishes so much more than the information you hear. In every conversation, be it on the phone, email or face-to-face, we are continually interpreting data by the nuances in the other’s speech; the pauses, a cough, the tone of voice, the pace of speech. All this information informs us about the person, and we respond in a positive or negative way accordingly.

Take the time to write down the specific questions you want to ask so that you ensure the counsellor is a ‘right fit’ for you and note how this interaction makes you feel.

  1. Gender

This is a personal choice depending on what you are comfortable with.

  1. Location and professional rooms

Location is an important factor not to be overlooked. You will want your counsellor to be readily accessible and feel comfortable in the space in which they work.

  1. Cost

There is a very broad spectrum in regards to the cost of a session, based upon a counsellor’s years of experience, expertise, whether they work privately or represent an organisation for which they are employed, whether they are registered as a Medicare provider or can provide some alternative rebate. These are questions to consider, recognising that the more specialised the field of practice, often impacts the cost of the service.

If you are looking for the counsellor that is ‘right’ for you, why not call us today? Here’s what you need to do: contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary. 

On Chester Bennington and how to identify someone at risk of suicide

On-Chester-Bennington-and-how-to-identify-someone-at-risk-of-suicide

Photo credit: Jonathan Denney

When news broke that Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington died by suicide last week, tributes to the iconic singer poured out online. And whether we lose someone who is beloved on a global scale, or a member of our community, the ripple effects of such a tragic event often lead to questions like “What could I have done?” and “How could I identify the signs they were struggling”?

In light of this, we wanted to share a previous blog with you, giving you five questions to ask someone you believe may be at risk of suicide. We hope this equips you to help your family and friends if you are concerned for their safety. 

Five questions to ask a loved one at risk

It can be scary to ask a loved one if they are at risk of suicide. There is a stigma within society that insists asking someone about suicide attempts, thoughts or plans will perpetuate the act of suicide—but this is simply not true. In fact, asking someone if they are struggling, and giving them the opportunity to share their pain with you, can actually alleviate the risk of the behaviour occurring.

If a friend or loved one has been acting uncharacteristically, either withdrawing from people or acting irrationally and stepping out in risk-taking behaviour, then you may need to ask them if they have thought about suicide.

Other indicators they are thinking about it are unexplained injuries, death or self-harm related content being posted on their social media, increased substance abuse, previous suicidal thoughts or attempts and a sense of hopelessness.

Here are five questions that will help you assess the risk of a loved one carrying out the act of suicide.

  1. Have you had any suicidal thoughts?

The presence of suicidal thoughts doesn’t mean a person will act on them—but it is still essential you know they are there. Suicidal thoughts will often perpetuate and can become more vivid as a person feels a greater sense of hopelessness.

Asking them this question doesn’t imply they want to suicide. Actually, finding out when the thoughts began and how prevalent they may be allows you to understand the weight of what your friend is experiencing.

  1. Do you have a suicide plan?

Asking a loved one if they have a plan in place to carry out the act of suicide is essential. If they do have a plan to suicide, either a carefully constructed and well thought out plan, or a fleeting idea of what it would look like, you know they are high risk and immediate action needs to be taken to care for their wellbeing.

A person who has a set time and place for the act of suicide, and who has begun putting their affairs in order (writing letters, cancelling registrations etc.) is at extremely high risk of carrying out the act of suicide.

  1. Do you have access to any weapons or means of suicide?

A person who has already acquired a weapon or means of suicide is at serious risk. Other people who know weapons or tools are available in their work place or at a friends or relatives place are also in danger.

If your loved one has access to a weapon, ask them how regularly this occurs, if they have considered how they would access it and the likelihood of this.

  1. Have you felt like this before?

Understanding if your loved one has struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past will help you to support them and keep them alive.  Ask if they have attempted suicide in the past, or thought about it. See if they have previously harmed themselves, and if they’ve created a suicide plan in the past.

If this has occurred in the past, the risk for your loved one increases, but this does not mean they won’t be open to help.

  1. Why have you chosen to stay alive?

Up to this point, your loved one has made the decision to stay alive. Irrespective of their struggles, they have chosen to remain. When people have suicidal thoughts, they resist them for any number of reasons: their love for family and friends, obligations, fear, the hope that things will change.

Take this reason and run with it. If a person is afraid of dying, they don’t want to die—they are likely exhausted and don’t know how to fight anymore. If family or friends is their motivation, remind them of the profound love they experience and the future events and moments they want to witness. If obligations are keeping someone alive, ask them what these mean and how they affect the people near them.

If a loved one answers yes to one or more of these questions, they need further help. Please call 000 or 911 in an emergency. If they are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or you are concerned for their wellbeing, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.  For crisis hotlines in other countries, visit Hope Movement’s International database here.

Your G.P. and/or a Professional Counsellor can give you the additional support you need. For a FREE 10 minute consultation as to how we can help you, ring Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 or you can book an appointment press Book Now to book in our online diary.

How one father explains mental illness and parenthood

How-one-father-explains-mental-illness-and-parenthood

Comics about mental health have been making the rounds on social media for the past few years, and artists like Toby Allen and Gemma Correll have changed the way many of us talk about mental illness. Now there’s another artist to add to the mix—but with a point of difference.

Toronto based teacher Chris Grady is the creator of Lunar Baboon, a series of comics depicting his everyday life. His comics are simple and sweet, showing the moments he interacts with his wife and kids. Notably, they also poignantly depict his struggle with mental illness.

In an interview with The Mighty, he explained that he began drawing to cope with his own struggles.

“After the birth of my first son, I was going through a really hard time. I wasn’t sleeping and started getting really depressed and found myself in a dark place. I needed something different, I was having a lot of negative thoughts and I needed a place to put them so I started drawing in a moleskin notebook and it’s taken off from there,” he said.

From comics about cheeky interactions with his son, to honest encounters with his wife, and brave attempts to find humour as he lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, there’s something instantly relatable about Chris’s work. What’s more, it shows how to healthily communicate in family relationships and what we can do to support one another.

To see more of Chris’s work, visit LunarBaboon.com. His book Lunar Baboon: The Daily Life of Parenthood is out now.

Are you a parent? Would you like support so you can manage a mental illness? Here’s what you need to do: contact WatersedgeCounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.

How to stress less and find happiness

How-to-stress-less-and-find-happiness

It’s hard to get through a typical day without experiencing stress, right? From money concerns to worries about work, 7 out of 10 of us feel extremely anxious or stressed each day.

When we’re stressed, we experience physical fatigue and tend to take out our concerns on others. We see it damage relationships and create tension in ordinary situations. So how do we beat stress? The fact 85% of what we’re stressed about never happens is a great stat to comfort us when we’re agitated, but it’s not always easy to let stress ‘roll of our back’.

The great news is that there are some simple ways to reduce stress in our every-day life. Talking to a friend or colleague, seeing a counsellor—even putting a pot plant on your desk can all help to re-establish your own well-being. Add some exercise, meditation or fun activities into your schedule and you’ll also begin to feel less stressed.

Take a look at this infographic by Happify and see what methods you can use to reduce stress in your life. Let us know your favourite relaxation techniques in the comments!

How-to-stress-less-and-find-happiness-infographic

Are you stressed? Would you like to break free of your anxiety and worries? Here’s what you need to do: contact WatersedgeCounselling on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now to book in our online diary.

 

13 Reasons Why: 10 Resources you need to see before you watch the TV show

13 Reasons Why

When hit TV show 13 Reasons Why debuted on Netflix on March 31, viewers quickly devoured the teen drama. Based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Jay Asher, it depicted the story of a Hannah Baker, girl who committed suicide and left 13 audio tapes for people in her life, explaining why she died.

Public response to the show has been varied: some viewers praised it for openly discussing mental illness, while others found it triggering due to its graphic portrayals of suicide, sexual assault, gun violence and bullying.  Several episodes include warnings, however some people don’t believe this is enough, prompting Netflix to include more. Despite this, it is likely a second season of the show is on the way.

If you have yet to watch 13 Reasons Why, or know someone who is watching it, it’s essential you know what the series is about so you can make an educated decision about if you will watch it, who you will do this with and when this will happen.

Here are 10 resources we found discussing the pros and cons of 13 Reasons Why. Take a look at each one and talk to a friend, mentor or colleague about how you will approach the series. By being educated about this pop culture phenomenon, you can better care for yourself and the people around you.

  1. To Write Love On Her Arms
    Blog: In response to 13 Reasons Why
    A non-profit that presents hope and help to people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and thoughts of suicide, founder Jamie Tworkowski discussed the show in a recent blog. Expressing concerns about the way it vividly portrayed suicide and the negative connotations it aired about seeking professional help, they praise people who “put [their] recovery first” by making the choice not to watch it.
  1. Headspace
    PDF: How to talk to young people about 13 Reasons Why
    After an increased amount of queries once the show aired, this Australian mental health service for young people released a PDF that clearly identifies the concerns people have raised about its content (eg. suggesting suicide is reasonable due to the ’13 reasons’). It also lists the research to support or dismiss each point, and suggests strategies to talk to young people about each topic.
  1. ABC
    Article: 13 Reasons Why: How to talk to teens about suicide and mental health issues raised in the Netflix series
    Dr Fiona Wagg a psychiatrist at Royal Hobart Hospital, discusses how parents can best approach their children and teens about the series.
  1. NY Mag
    Article: Teens explain what adults don’t get about 13 Reasons Why
    This piece by NY Mag is unique because it goes straight to the target audience of the TV show: teenagers. Revealing a variety of perspectives, you’ll find this enlightening as teens point out what they did and didn’t like about the series, and how it has impacted them individually, in their family and how its been received by the wider community.
  1. The Mighty
    Blog: 13 Reasons Why archive
    Mental health website The Mighty has published numerous articles on 13 Reasons Why. With blogs highlighting the impact it has on someone with PTSD and chronic illness, a parent’s point-of-view, how it has helped people find safety and overcome shame and even a piece where a young person discusses their regret upon watching it, this is an invaluable archive for personal responses to the show.
  1. Associated Press
    Interview with producer Selena Gomez
    This short interview with teen icon and producer Selena Gomez gives some insight into the purpose of the series.
  1. Vanity Fair
    Op Ed: 13 Reasons Why writer: Why we didn’t shy away from Hannah’s suicide
    Series writer Nic Sheff wrote this exclusive piece for Vanity Fair, detailing the very personal reasons he took on the controversial TV show. While this is important reading, it is extremely descriptive and graphic as Sheff talks about his own suicide attempt. Read with care.
  1. The Guardian
    Article: 13 Reasons Why ‘not helpful', suicide prevention summit told
    This piece by the Guardian gives a fantastic oversight of the response from the Australian mental health community, as well as a more general overview on the impact of suicide in society. Keep an eye out for quotes by Lifeline Chief Executive Pete Shmigel, who explains why they believe 13 Reasons Why has gone ‘too far’ in their depiction of suicide.
  1. CNN
    Long form article: Why teen mental health experts are focused on '13 Reasons Why'
    This extensive piece gives a thorough over view of the public’s response to 13 Reasons Why. Referencing the responses of mental health services across the world, the intentions of the show’s creative team and referring to appropriate statistics and research, if you’re looking for a single, overall piece to read, this is it.
  1. Netflix
    Documentary: 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons
    Also available on Netflix, this documentary accompanies the 13-part series and shows exclusive interviews with the cast, creators and mental health professionals, giving more context to the story. Please note that this documentary is rated MA15+ and could be triggering to viewers due to audio and visual content.

Have you watched 13 Reasons Why and had a strong, emotional response to it? Are you concerned about a loved one who is watching the TV show? Call Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation. To make an appointment, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling’s online appointment diary.

Managing Meltdowns: Wisdom from over the fence

Managing-Meltdowns

It had been a particularly rough 12 months for our family. My father was terminally ill, one of our children had additional needs, which required at least one therapy session a week, and my husband had had an incredibly stressful few years at work and had just changed jobs which necessitated that we move to a semi-rural suburb on the edge of Sydney.

I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but our change of location brought with it some wonderful benefits. We were on a large block of land by suburban standards and rather than being surrounded by 6 foot high fences, our property boundary was marked by chicken wire held up by neatly spaced stakes. We had an uninterrupted view into our neighbours yard, complete with a sweet little staffy dog, a small tractor and two horses. Much to our delight—the horses were stabled right beside our fence line.

I quickly became friends with our next door neighbour. Her name was Chris. She had been a nurse in a busy Sydney hospital but, in her 40’s, she left that career behind to take on a quieter existence. She earnt a small income as the ‘photocopying lady’ at a local private school and spend her afternoons tending her property. Just before five p.m. everyday, she would be out with the horses and I would often meet with her for a chat over the fence. She was full of wonderful wisdom about ‘country-etiquette’, gardening plus motherly advice and support.

One of my children was going through a particularly rough patch and she often heard the tantrums and meltdowns through the open windows of our house. She would ask me how I was coping with motherhood and chat with me about the challenges my children were facing. She never judged, she always listened. We just chatted, sometimes even as my child was wailing and stomping by my side.

I was so, so tired. Some days I just couldn’t give my children the time and attention they wanted. Sometimes their wants and needs took me totally by surprise. And sometimes, those screams and tantrums just kept tumbling out of my children, one after the other.

As much as the fresh country air and slower lifestyle helped me, it still wasn’t enough to quell the anxiety and depression that I had been battling as a result of the events of the previous year. The crisis point came when I suffered a minor nervous breakdown. I was overwhelmed with life, with the things we had come through and with the uncertainty of the future. I ended up in bed for two days, on a steady diet of lemonade icy poles, staring at ABC 24 and unable to engage with my children.

When I finally got up again, I went to the Doctor and asked for help. She wrote me a prescription for anti-depressants and referred me to a counsellor who could assist me in making sense of my turbulent emotions. With time, I regained control of my mental health, my mood brightened and I was more engaged with my family. I began to read my children’s behaviour much better and took pre-emptive steps to divert and avoid their meltdowns before they happened.

A few months into my new regime of medication and counselling I was chatting with Chris as she fed the horses. “I haven’t heard many tantrums from your place lately. What’s happening?” Chris asked. My response was simple

“I started taking anti-depressants and went to a counsellor!”

My neighbour smiled knowingly. She knew full well that children aren’t always to blame when meltdowns and tantrums occur. The fact of the matter is, a parent’s state of mind and their ability to respond to their children are actually key factors in avoiding the conflicts and misunderstandings that lead to meltdowns. It was a lesson I had to learn on my own.

Five years later, I continue to monitor my mental health, taking medication and seeing my counsellor as needed. It has helped me cope with the passing of my father, an interstate move and more career ups and downs. Despite this, I usually manage to remain the loving, engaged parent my children need. And I can tell you now….there are a whole lot less meltdowns in our house when I am looking after my own mental health!

Louise Griffiths is the founder of Exploring All Options, an educational consultancy and tutoring service that provides alternative ways to teach young people in a way that works best for them. Visit her website here.

Are your kids having a meltdown? Are you a busy parent who wants to care for your mental health? Call Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation. To make an appointment, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling’s online appointment diary.

12 reasons why a dog can help you cope with depression and anxiety

12-reasons-why-a-dog-can-help-you-cope-with-depression-and-anxiety

The World Health Organisation declared April 7 as World Health Day focusing on mental health. This year-long campaign aims to educate, raise awareness and help people suffering from mental illness

Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues now affect more than 300 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organisation, and more needs to be done to educate and inform people about what we can do to manage them, especially since they are usually also the underlying cause of many other social issues.

A great way to care for our mental health is to care for a pet. Those of us who have a dog in our life know just how important they are to help us stay fit, keep socialising and live life to the full.

My team and I at Pet Gear Lab created this infographic to highlight 12 reasons why a dog can help you cope with depression and anxiety. Take a look and make time in your day to experience the health-benefits of animals. Take your dog for a walk, cat-sit for a neighbor or go to an animal refuge and choose your own pet—not only will it improve your health, it will also give you a friend that will last a life time.

For more information about the holistic benefits of pets visit petgearlab.com.

12-ways-mental-health-petgearlab

Do you struggle with a mental illness? Would you like to learn about day-to-day strategies you can use to soothe yourself? Call Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation. To make an appointment, go to BOOK NOW and you will be able to access Watersedgecounselling’s online appointment diary.