Keeping on top of what your mind and body needs is not a set and forget exercise as Kate Jones reports.
In the wake of the pandemic, workloads have increased as plumbers play catch up and supply shortages and increased costs have compounded the issue. In a recent episode of Master Plumbers Radio, Dr Izzy Smith, an endocrinology doctor, spoke about the importance of looking after your mental health. Kate Jones reports.
In a recent episode of Master Plumbers Radio, Dr Izzy Smith, an endocrinology doctor, spoke about the importance of looking after your mental health. Kate Jones reports.
Mental health awareness
Our mental health is not linear and while you can’t prevent incidents that impact your mental health, Izzy says, the first step in managing it is self-awareness.
“Thinking about mental health and wellbeing sitting on a spectrum from green, which is where we’re really mentally healthy and well, versus it sliding down to orange where there might be some warning signs - maybe our sleep isn’t very good, we’re anxious, we’re being a bit irritable and snappy, (or) not getting on as well at work,” she says.
“And then you can slide down further to red, which is crisis.
“I’m really passionate about talking about self-awareness and recognising those orange signs. So, we can take actionable steps to try and get ourselves back to the green before we end up hitting crisis point.”
Recognising the warning signs and acting on them early is a crucial step in preventing your mental health from deteriorating.
“We need to learn how to check in with ourselves - ‘What is my body and mind telling me right now?’- and act on that,” Izzy says.
“Because if we just keep pushing those things to the side, we still feel (terrible), but we haven’t actually addressed why and (haven’t) taken actionable steps to make ourselves feel better.”
Resilience is an important skill to develop. Unlike previous generations, learning how to be resilient is now prioritised in primary schools. Why? Because it helps protects us from the tough times we inevitably face, says Izzy.
“Resilience, like other skills…is like a muscle that gets strengthened,” she says.
There are many different theories on how to develop resilience and it depends on the individual, but Izzy says there are some broad techniques that can be applied in most circumstances.
“When we talk about building resilience… (it’s about) accepting that life does have challenges and problems and that is a consequence of being human and living in today’s life,” she says.
“Being able to break things down into, what can I control and what do I have no control over? I think that’s a really important skill.”
Izzy says you must look at a situation and know not to continually throw energy at the things you can’t control.
Managing your stress hinges on knowing what to do when it becomes too much. Izzy’s theory on ‘stress cups’ points to knowing how much pressure we can handle.
“We have a cup and that’s how much stress we can deal with,” she explained.
“As we get older and more experienced, that cup gets bigger, but we still have limits. So, if you have a really big stressor in that cup, whether it’s maybe a relationship breakdown or you’ve lost your job, you want to make sure there’s no other stressors filling up that cup.”
Simple measures to reduce stress include getting enough sleep, eating well, being active and avoiding alcohol and drugs. Doing more of the things you enjoy is the next step and this could be spending time with family and friends, or indulging in hobbies.
There is a myriad of theories on managing mental health. There is no one size fits all. The best approach is the one that works for you.
If you are experiencing crisis and need immediate mental health support, Incolink has a free 24/7 counselling support service for its members available on 1300 000 129 or you can call Lifeline on 13 11 44.
Izzy Smith is an Australian endocrinology doctor, an ambassador and keynote speaker for Movember and Puka Up, and the co-host of the mental health podcast, Behind the Uniform.