News

08-01-2018

Our New Year resolutions are often unrealistic and unachievable, especially when they involve big changes to lifestyle and diet. Smaller changes can be more easily kept and built upon over time.

1, Reduce stress

The psychological effects of stress are well known to us, particularly difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite irritability and risk of developing mental health complications.. Ongoing stress also has subtle effects on many systems including heart, gut and immune systems due to activation of the fight-or-flight system, increasing inflammation and reduced ability of the immune system to recognise and defend against infections.

There are many available strategies to reduce the effects of stress. Talking with your boss about changes that may reduce workplace pressures and your GP is a good start when choosing what other tools and strategies may be effective for you. The Black Dog Institute's myCompass app is a first step screening initiative before your appointment to define your main symptoms and problems.

There is a growing body of research indicating that well designed apps can be effective in alleviating or preventing symptoms of stress and managing mental illness. When choosing an app to trial, check if the principles it uses are evidence based, look who developed the app and consider whether they have a background or reputation in mental health and check if the app has an adequate privacy policy. The website Beacon, an online portal developed by the Australian National University panel of health experts has categorised, reviewed and rated all the mobile apps and websites listed.  The Australian Government's e-mental health portal website provides information and links to a wide range of online services in Australia including online programs, fact sheets, audio and video and online communities at www.mindhealthconnect.org.au

2. Drink Less Alcohol

Many Australians seriously underestimate how much we drink, and how many standard drinks are in that glass of wine, beer or spirit. In 2009, the National Health and Medical Research Council updated the Australian Drinking Guidelines. The guidelines include recommendations to ensure our drinking is " low risk". Low risk is defined as drinking at a level that reduces the chance an individual will suffer from short term injury or long term disease. Healthy men and women are advised not to drink more than two standard drinks on any one day. A standard drink is still 10 grams of alcohol,  for example 100ml of wine, 30ml of spirits, 1 stubbie or can of mid-strength beer.  Try having one or two alcohol-free days per week. Try alternating water between drinks and slowing alcohol intake by eating healthy food when drinking to reduce alcohol intake. You can check what type of drinker you are by taking the VicHealth drinking profile quiz at www.yourdrinkingprofile.com.au.

Reducing alcohol intake has many health benefits. Weight is easier to manage as many drinks containing alcohol contain large amounts of low nutritional content calories. Health problems such as liver disease, brain injury, cancer and heart problems are strongly linked to alcohol Those with pre-existing mental and physical health vulnerabilities are more at risk.

Alcohol increases the risk of mental and physical health problems and sleep is more disrupted ( falling asleep is easier, but poor quality and early waking is common after alcohol)

Poor decision making and inappropriate choices are associated with alcohol intake as can poor behaviour and risk taking.

3. Move More

Aim for 10 000 steps per day simply walking, try some gardening, take the dog for a walk or park further away from the shop to walk a little before your destination. Walk the kids to school this term, or part of the way Exercise is one of the most effective ways of reducing depression or anxiety, improving sexual function and maintaining cognitive function. Aim too identify exercise you find that is enjoyable and gets you out socialising and allows you to build competence as this will be easier to continue to do over time.

4. Stop dieting

There is considerable evidence that a New Year Resolution to slash your kilojoule intake will not lead to weight loss and restrictive dieting can lead to long term weight gain. People who appreciate their bodies irrespective of their size tend to have better mental health, better sexual functioning and do not avoid social outings, physical intimacy and exercise

5. Eat Vegetables

Instead of a list of foods to avoid, add vegetables. Try making it a condition that before the treat, something like the carrot or celery sticks and hummus need to be eaten first, use herbs, garlic and pepper for flavour rather than salt. There is a relationship between the gut, gut organisms and the brain .Those who eat more fruits and vegetables have lower levels of depression than those who eat less fruit and vegetables. Eating green leafy vegetables and foods in the broccoli family may even protect from cognitive decline.

6. Reduce Screen Time

Reducing the time spent with screens will open spaces for exercise. Excessive screen time is linked to poor sleep quality and depression

7. Sleep More

As many as 40% of Australians do not get enough sleep to feel rested and able to function at their best. The average for as adult is seven to nine hours. Our brain uses sleep time to sort information connections not needed and make space for new learning and memories.

Sleep deprivation is associated with reduced cognitive ability, irritability, increased snacking and difficulty managing food intake and increased risk of mood disorders.

To improve sleep, reduce exposure to bright lights in the evening, leave your phone in another room and get an alarm clock if you need one, keep you sleeping space dark, remove distractions, establish a routine to prepare for bed, talk to your GP if you snore or never feel refreshed after a long sleep to check for sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome and insomnia. These conditions can be managed and both your  physical and mental health will improve.

8. Stop Smoking

9. Support others

 Social connection is important for strong mental wellbeing. Consider volunteering to help a charity, keep an eye out for your loved ones and your friends and offer support when needed.

10. Use IT wisely to make the changes you want.

VicHealth reviews and rates Healthy Living Apps annually to assess whether they are likely to help users change their behaviours and achieve a healthier lifestyle at www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/apps

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