We’re committed to improving the mental health of our community and that starts with education and understanding. On this page you’ll find great resources to learn more about mental health and management strategies.

Please note that the NHC is not set up for emergency support. If you need professional help urgently, please contact crisis services such as Lifeline (call 13 11 14 ) or Beyond Blue (call 1300 22 4636), or call 000 for emergency services.

Stress hacks: 5 easy tips to help manage everyday stress levels

By Mylie Sell – Clinical Psychologist, Higgins.

All of us struggle with stress at various stages in our lives.  The unpredictability of 2020 is putting a mental strain on many of us, often compounding the work, financial and relationship situations that cause stress and anxiety. 

I’ve put together 5 great tips to help you manage stress, based on years of experience with my patients here in Canberra.  Important to remember that these are general in nature and when it comes to stress and mental health we’re all a little bit different.  Find strategies which work for you and please reach out to your GP or specialist if you’re having a tough time.

1. Learn and Practice Self-Compassion

Ever noticed that you’re way harder on yourself than you are on your best friend?  That the compassion and understanding that come so easily when someone you love is in a tough spot is so much harder to apply to yourself?

Self-compassion is an essential component of mental health.  It starts with learning to acknowledge when you’re not yourself and then expands to a mindset of self-kindness, not self-judgement.  We all have challenging times and we all make mistakes – learning to give yourself the benefit of the doubt in these moments is an invaluable skill.

Self-compassion.org is a fantastic source of information and strategies to help you learn and practice self-compassion.

2. Exercise Regularly

The relationship between physical and mental health is much stronger than many think.  Exercising releases chemicals which improve our mood and can reduce stress and anxiety, as well as often providing a better night’s sleep. 

Of course, the world of exercise itself can be stressful – needless to say not all of us feel at home surrounded by dumbbells, lycra and protein shakes!  Find ways of exercising that you enjoy and remember that a simple walk around the block is often enough to clear the mind.  Now that summer is on the horizon try to get outside when you can, if you have friends or family who like to join that’s even better.

Our region is full of great nature reserves to explore – offering both a workout and precious peace and quiet.  The walk up Mount Painter – not far from our Macquarie clinic – is a personal favourite of mine.

3. Take a deep breath

It’s said so often that it can sound cliched, but deep breathing is a crucial part of stress management.  A deep breath sends a message to the brain to slow down when it’s trying to race at a million miles an hour.

Deep breathing can take many forms, ranging from personal practices to formalised classes.  Taking a couple of minutes at your desk to breathe in the course of a busy day is a great trick to ease stress and regain focus.  You don’t need to take a long time out of your day to do it – the secret is to sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe slowly, and focus on your breathing.  Just a couple of minutes can make a big difference to your day.

Yoga classes are a fantastic way to practice breathing and also a great form of exercise.  Meditation is also an incredible way to manage stress. If you haven’t tried it before I’d recommend to download either the Smiling Mind or Headspace app to your phone and give it a try – they’re both free!

4. Try floating to release muscle tension

Muscle tension is another reflection of the complex and reciprocal relationship between mental and physical health.  Massage is a proven method of managing stress and for many of us an hour or two with a masseuse is the perfect way to put our mind at rest.

There are other approaches however that aren’t as well known.  One that I personally really like is called floating.  In short, floating involves a private water tank loaded with healthy salts that make floating inevitable – like a brief escape to the Dead Sea if you will.  This not only provides the perfect setting to drift off and truly relax mentally, but the magnesium in the salts is said to improve sleep and release muscle tension.

See the folks at Astral Float Studio in Bruce or Phillip if you’re interested to know more – they’ve been kind enough to offer a $15 discount to NHC members for their first 1-hour appointment, just use COOPHEALTH when booking online or over the phone to redeem.

It’s not for everyone, but many of my patients have found they love it.  Whatever floats your boat, right?

5. Don’t cut out the fun in times of stress

When you have work, bills, and other sources of stress on your mind, there is always a temptation to cut out fun and social activities to allow more bandwidth to resolve these dilemmas.  This is definitely the wrong approach, as doing the things you enjoy is one of the best defences against stress.

Hobbies are really important.  There is no hierarchy when it comes to hobbies, it really just comes down to what you most enjoy to do – it might be gardening, craft, reading or sport.  Try to establish a routine and commit yourself to dedicate at least a couple of hours a week to your passions.

2020 has provided us all with a lesson on the importance of social connection. Human beings are social creatures and time with close friends and family is one the best antidotes for stress and anxiety, even just a half-hour coffee catch up can quickly turn around a challenging week.

Mobile mental health: the best apps for everyday peace of mind

By Mylie Sell – Clinical Psychologist, Higgins

The modern world is loaded with lots of great digital resources related to mental health, many of which you can take with you in your pocket via a mobile app.  The challenge is to wade through all the options and find the best ones! 

Here are 5 of my favourites, give them a go and see how they work for you.  All of them are either free or have a free trial feature, so you can give them a go before you need to hand over any money.

Of course, while apps can help a lot they’ll never offer a complete solution.  Get in touch with your GP or specialist if you’re having a difficult time, and remember that sometimes putting the phone away and disconnecting is important too.

  1. Mindshift (Anxiety Management)

Mindshift uses scientifically proven strategies based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to relax and manage anxiety.  It has a huge range of features, ranging from easy day-to-day tips to navigate moments of stress to long-term strategies to understand, monitor and improve anxiety.  All of the tools are simple to use and designed for mobile, with a lot of interactivity and personal input. 

  1. Happify (Mood improvement)

Happify is the product of more than 15 years of research into ‘positive psychology’ – put simply how we can turn negative thoughts into positive ones.  This involves breaking bad habits and reframing everyday challenges in a more positive light.

Happify has a range of different themes – called ‘tracks’ – each of which has different levels and tasks.  The tasks come in a variety of forms, from self-reflection through to games and mental challenges.   Don’t let the name fool you, this is much more than just a gimmicky ‘cheer-me-up’ tool – it provides genuine insight into your thought patterns and how they can be framed more positively.

  1. Calm (Sleep assistance)

The value of a good night’s sleep is difficult to overstate.  Calm is the leading app the sleep space and has proved a hit with people of all ages right around the world.

Calm is a holistic experience, which focuses on first providing calm before then progressing to sleep advice and functionality.  From breathing exercises to meditation, to daily tasks and relaxing sleep soundtracks, you’ll find a huge selection of different tools you sleep well at night and thrive during the day as a result. 

  1. Smiling Mind/Headspace (Meditation)

Meditation is often thought of as a spiritual pursuit – and for some, it can be – but fundamentally it’s about learning to observe the way your own mind works.  Meditation helps you become more mindful – that is to say present in the moment – and more aware of the negative and positive feelings that you experience.

Before you fork out for a 10-day retreat in the mountains, there are some great mobile apps that allow you to try meditation in the comfort of your own home.  Both Smiling Mind and Headspace are really thorough and have fantastic programs for beginners. 

  1. PTSD Coach

More specific than the others on the list, this offering from the Australian Government is a great asset for anyone dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Beyond information on PTSD and treatment strategies, it comes with a range of tools to monitor and manage symptoms, stress management techniques, a schedule to manage self-care and appointments, and easy ways to contact help should you require it. 

Valuable resources from around the web

The internet is full of content on mental health, the challenge is working through what is credible and what isn’t.  Here are some great resources that are recommended by our clinical experts.

Lifeline – The authority on crisis support and phone counselling, please contact immediately if urgent assistance is required.

Beyond Blue – Offer a huge range of services, including emergency and crisis support.  The ‘Personal Best’ section of their site has a great selection of resources to help you manage your daily mental health.

Self-Compassion – Learn how to give yourself credit and forgive yourself for any mistakes.  Self-compassion is a crucial element of mental health and this page is full of useful content.

Reach Out – An NFP dedicated to mental health for young people, they have counselling services and some great content – including for parents, teachers and other professionals working with youth.

Head To HealthDeveloped by the Australian Government, this page has thorough content on everyday mental health as well as information on Government services during COVID and for those effected by bushfires.

ACT Department of Health – Understand the public services that exist in our region and all the options that you have to get support.

We’re here to help

If you want to speak to someone about your mental health, our team will always lend an ear, starting with a caring GP.