I love nothing more than a ‘buzzword’. Whether it’s exploring the latest wellbeing fad or getting people to pay attention to things that are really important when it comes to their health, buzzwords often disappear as quickly as they popped up – or they stick around for a reason. There’s a few that form the latter that need your attention (pronto) if they don’t have it already.
We’ve been familiar with the term mental ‘illness’ for centuries, but mental ‘health’ is a more recent talking point. The World Health Organisation defines it as ‘…a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’
Sounds good, yet as many as of one in five 16-85 year olds struggle with some sort of mental disorder, which means that having a happy, healthy headspace is easier said than done. Anxiety disorders are the most common, with depression and substance use disorders close behind. Women experience poorer mental health than men, and our youth struggle the most.
Experts say getting clear on what happiness looks like and choosing it now (rather than when we nail that promotion/dream partner/financial goal) is a good start, but most importantly – knowing when to seek professional help is critical.
We’re hearing more about the importance of gut health on our general wellbeing, and know now that we’re made up of trillions of bacteria – called our microbiome. There are good bacteria and bad bacteria, and stress, antibiotics and poor diet wreak havoc on keeping that balance in check. Food intolerances (like gluten and dairy intolerance as well as coeliac disease and non-descript gut conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome) are more diagnosed than ever before, and other than the fact that we’re talking about them more, we don’t really know why.
We hear a lot about pre and probiotics, the latter being the good bacteria we need and the former being the food those bacteria need to survive. Increase your intake of probiotic foods with yoghurt, miso, tempeh and fermented vegetables, and prebiotic foods with bananas, whole oats, garlic (BYO mints), tomatoes and green vegetables.
One of the worst things about becoming an adult is learning how to deal with stress, and we’re typically poor at it. You know the feeling – your blood pressure rises, throat gets dry, palms sweat, mind races and your head starts to spin. And – according to the World Health Organization, stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century.
What exactly is stressing us out so much? Personal finances and family issues top the list as well as trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle and concern over the health of our loved ones. Live in a stressed state for an extended period of time and it can affect our mental and physical health, with symptoms like headaches, changes in appetite, fatigue, tension, irritability and poor decision-making. Sound familiar?
Stress is a biological (and very normal) reaction to a threat – without it we wouldn’t have survived as a species. But given we’re no longer running from tigers or bears, these days it’s often perceived threats like a work deadline or relationship conflict. What to do? Keep stress in check with exercise, a healthy diet, enough sleep and practising mediation and mindfulness.
Casey is a health and lifestyle journalist, producer and presenter and is a spokesperson for Fusion Health.
Fusion Health’s Tip: Supplementing with a good quality herbal mix can also be beneficial, look for a supplement containing calming herbs like Holy Basil, Indian Ginseng and Citrus Peel.
If you need help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14