Long march to better mental health worth the effort

Opinion | First step to better health


Opinion
BETTER DAYS: 'It took me many years to realise that our physical, mental and spiritual health are interwoven,' Craig Hamilton says. Photo by Simone De Peak

BETTER DAYS: 'It took me many years to realise that our physical, mental and spiritual health are interwoven,' Craig Hamilton says. Photo by Simone De Peak

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There are no guarantees with your health. You just have to do your best, nothing more, nothing less.

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Our choices every day affect our health tomorrow.

At the moment, my health is good. But I no longer take my health for granted and assume it will always be good, as I once did.

By making better decisions and taking greater ownership of my wellbeing I intend to keep it that way. There are no guarantees, you just have to do your best, nothing more, nothing less.

For the past 15 years  I have been sharing what I have learnt through my experience of mental illness by speaking publicly in many forums around Australia. I have also written two books, which map out my experiences and the road I’ve walked to recovery.

The 21st century, with all its technological advancements, still presents many challenges on the health front. Stress, anxiety, depression and other forms of mental ill health are, for many people, a daily reality. I have no doubt that social media has in many ways compromised our overall well being. That discussion is for another day.

It took me many years to realise that our physical, mental and spiritual health are interwoven. By becoming more aware of our lifestyle, and how we recognise our stress and relieve stress, we change our health for the better. It is possible, but recognising that change is necessary is the first step.

For most of us, stress is noticeable only when it affects our sense of wellbeing and starts to have a negative impact on our work life, relationships, energy levels, moods and sleep. Usually by the time all those things are being negatively affected, the stress level is already high, anxiety may be present and mild or moderate depression also may be present.

Then, some of us take action to change things, but many of us still do nothing. Assuming we are powerless to work through the issues and continue to suffer the effects of poor mental health can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There is no quick fix here, but a slow, steady march towards better health.

I have learnt some very valuable lessons along the way, and now firmly believe that by being ‘more aware’ of our mood, sleep pattern, stress levels, workload, diet, emotions, and self-talk (that’s the voice in our head that judges everything, including ourselves) the better our mental health will be. 

A big part of achieving this awareness is actually becoming responsible for our mental health and owning our choices every day. It takes effort to make change, but the effort is worth it. 

By consciously doing things each day that minimise the impact of stress on us we can create an environment where stress, anxiety and depression don't have to be the overriding experiences in our lives. 

I think the most important things for me in managing stress and to stay well are a good sleep pattern, regular exercise, practising yoga, meditation, reduced alcohol consumption and a better diet, which includes as much unprocessed foods as possible.

The most important thing of all in managing stress, and also achieving a good work/life balance, is to consider any request for additional work carefully.

I believe the key to managing these states of ill health is to recognise the symptoms before they affect us significantly. This takes discipline, self awareness, better choices and, in some cases, fundamental change.

Believe me it’s worth it.

Craig Hamilton is an author, speaker and Beyond Blue Ambassador

The story Long march to better mental health worth the effort first appeared on Newcastle Herald.

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