What is Anxiety and Depression?
Did you know that October is Mental Health Month? To recognise this and bring awareness to this important topic, SWEAT will be bringing you a four-part mental health series over the course of this month! To begin with, let’s consider mental health as a broader topic.
What is mental health?
Mental health is a general term that refers to your overall state of wellbeing. It is about being emotionally and socially healthy, whatever that means to you specifically. Your overall wellbeing is so important for you to lead a full, happy and healthy life. There are many different ways that you can include positive habits into your daily life to improve your wellbeing and ability to cope with life's stressors — good nutrition and exercising regularly are great first steps!
While trying to live a healthy lifestyle and having positive strategies in place are important ways to contribute to the health of your mind, mental health involves much more than this. Some people may be impacted by medical conditions which are often referred to as mental health illnesses. These illnesses can have a significant impact on an individual’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours and can affect their life in many ways.
Here at SWEAT, we want to raise awareness around two of the most common mental health conditions that many people can face during various stages of life: depression and anxiety.
What is depression?
Depression is a medical condition that can show up in many shapes and forms. While everyone experiences some degree of sadness or unhappiness at various stages of life, depression occurs when this low mood lasts for an extended period of time — that is, more than a few weeks — and does not get any better.
There are many complex reasons why a person might develop depression and it can have a huge impact on a person’s life. In fact, depression impacts a lot more people than you might realise.
In Australia alone, 1 in 5 Australian women will experience depression at some point in their life. Considering this, it is really important that we, as a society, continue to communicate openly about this topic — doing so will get us one step closer to people not feeling alone on their unique health journey.
What is anxiety?
While there are many different types of anxiety that exist, in a general sense this condition causes an individual to feel regular stress, fear and apprehension. This then impacts how the person behaves and can also result in them experiencing physical symptoms.
Anxiety and stress are different
It is important to realise that it can be natural to experience stress and anxious feelings at different stages of life, whether it be in the lead up to a big life event, due to your life’s current circumstances, or because of any situation where you feel under pressure. There is a difference between feeling like this though and suffering from anxiety as a mental health condition.
Individuals who have an anxiety condition feel these stressful, fearful or apprehensive feelings for an extended period of time — often for no specific reason at all, or long after the thing that was making them stressed (referred to as a stressor) has passed.
One of the hardest things about overcoming this condition is that many people who suffer from it often let it happen without seeking any help. They may think that these feelings are due to ‘normal life stress’, or believe that it is just part of their personality — that they have nervous tendencies and so never seek professional help. Anxiety is a serious condition though that impacts many people worldwide — it is the most common mental health condition in Australia, with 1 in 3 women (on average) being likely to experience it at some stage of their life.
Mental health help — speak with a professional
While the team here at SWEAT feel strongly about bringing awareness to this cause, we acknowledge that we are not professionals in this field and therefore we cannot offer professional guidance specific to your needs.
Depression and anxiety are very complex conditions that need specific treatment unique to each individual. The important thing to remember about this is that they are conditions that can be treated. While the treatments will differ among individuals and their needs, there is always a way to get help and advice.
That’s why it’s so important to speak to a health practitioner if you feel that you or someone you know may be suffering from a mental health condition. Speaking to a health professional is confidential and they can offer the best advice and strategies to move forward, specifically based on your circumstances and needs. They can perform an assessment and discuss suitable options to help you or your loved one.
Mental health help — online platforms
There are also many mental health organisations that offer online support and guidance, making it easy to access confidential help at the click of a button.
It is important to note that the organisations available around the world differ based on your location. These organisations can offer detailed insight and advice into a range of mental health issues and can be a great source of guidance. We have listed some of them for you below:
Australia Mental Health Support
USA Mental Health Support
If you live in the USA, Lifeline America offers 24-hour phone support and is a confidential and professional crisis support network. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America also offers professional advice, research and help services.
United Kingdom Mental Health Support
If you live in the UK, the Mental Health Foundation offers professional advice, research and help services. Additionally, Samaritans is an organisation that has a 24-hour phone line that offers confidential emotional support.
Daily strategies for a healthy life and mind
Your wellbeing is so important, no matter where you feel you are at in life. We understand that it can feel a little confusing sometimes; there seems to be a huge movement of self-help and healthy mind strategies out there, so you might be a little unsure about where to start. While sometimes it may feel overwhelming or that some of these are simply popular trends, there is a lot of research out there to support the benefits of various wellness strategies. Even if you only incorporate a few of these into your daily life, it can have a positive impact on your overall wellbeing and mental health.
Here are two strategies that you can start right now!
1. Exercise regularly
Of course we were going to say this! Studies have proven that just one hour of physical activity a week can help protect against mild depression and will improve overall mental health. In particular, there are so many potential health benefits that yoga offers on both your body and your mind.
Incorporating mindfulness practices into your day can help you to cope with and try to reduce stress levels. While this might seem like it’s only a small strategy, in the long-term mindful activities (such as meditation, mindful guided talks, yoga, or mindful colouring) can have a really positive impact on your wellbeing and quality of life.
In fact, there are so many different ways that you can work toward being more mindful in your daily life that we are dedicating next week’s blog to this topic. We’ll provide you with some mindfulness exercises that you can incorporate into your daily life so be sure to check it out!
There is always someone who can support you
Your health and wellbeing is unique to you. No one knows you better than yourself, so it may take time to find out what wellbeing strategies best suit you and your lifestyle. Remember though, no matter what your journey, there is and always will be sources of help and support for you. Sometimes, one of the most important ways to move in a positive direction in life is to open up to a health professional in an effort to make sense of things — only positive things can come from having the courage and self-awareness to take that scary first step!
Be sure to stay tuned for the rest of the Mental Health Month blogs this month — subscribe to our newsletter on the SWEAT website to get them sent straight to your inbox.
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.