Every month, iQ residents send in their wellbeing questions and the mental health professionals at SHOUT give the answers.
From stress and anxiety to depression and loneliness, let us know your questions via our social channels and we’ll get them answered.
What are some quick fixes to help me overcome my anxiety?
It’s important to remember that anxiety and any other mental or emotional struggle is not something broken within us that needs to be fixed. Certain levels of stress can be helpful motivators or indicators of things that need our attention or are important to us. When this stress reaction makes it hard for us to function, it might be classified as anxiety and require some tools to reach a manageable point where we can receive the helpful information our mind and body are communicating to us.
Consider looking for patterns – when is your anxiety the most disruptive? When is your anxiety the least noticeable? When do you feel calm and peaceful? It can be helpful to observe patterns for a week with a journal or notes on your phone. Can you incorporate more of the calming activities into your life?
Can you pair the calming activities with the anxiety provoking activities? For example, if speaking up in class provokes anxious feelings can you keep something soft in your pocket to touch before talking or bring attention to your breathing?
Do you have advice for someone who hasn’t made any friends at university yet?
It’s worth noting that different people form and value social bonds differently. Some people are very social and derive energy from being around lots of people. Others are energised by time alone or prefer 1:1 social interaction. There is no right or wrong way to be when it comes to social bonds – faster doesn’t mean better.
Take the pressure off and remember that just because your style might be different doesn’t mean something is wrong. Just by being you, you already possess the qualities that make a wonderful friend. Consider the friendships you’ve made in the past or would have liked to have made that you value the most. Do they revolve around a certain interest like a sport or activity? Think about the things you cherish in friends and look in places that might highlight those values – for example if you value creativity consider joining a club or group that revolves around something creative.
The more you expose yourself to people who possess what you value in friends, the more opportunities you’ll have to connect with people who are the right fit. It is also worth noting that everyone is looking for bonds – it’s human nature. So, take the plunge and strike up a conversation with someone – the vast majority of people will be eager to connect and happy you opened up the communication.
Is goal setting important for my mental health? I feel like I don’t have any at the moment.
“An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.” ~ Harold B. Melchart.
It’s human nature to struggle to find the balance between goal setting and being fully immersed in the present moment. Working towards goals can be enjoyable and energising but being overly concerned with the end result and missing the present moment can be a source of distress. If you become preoccupied with the idea that happiness will only occur once you reach the next milestone, happiness will never be where you are. Consider goals that energise you and find the joy in the work towards the goal, not just the end result.
Music helps me when I feel depressed/low. Any other tips you know about?
Finding coping strategies that work for you to manage low mood can be super helpful. Music can be an extraordinary tool to find relief and shift our mood.
When we are in a moment of distress, our bodies are in a heightened state and coping can be difficult. We can counteract this stressful overload by shifting our focus. This short break allows us to come back to a neutral state where we can manage our stress more effectively.
By stimulating our senses, we counteract our distress reaction. Just as you are doing by listening to music, try stimulating other senses as well:
● Vision: Stimulate your eyes with something. YouTube a video of natural wonders or Google pictures of your favourite animal. People-watch in the park or light a candle and watch the flame.
● Hearing: Bring your attention to the sounds around you. Listen to the traffic on the street outside. Put on your favourite song. Cook something and listen to it sizzle and crack. Play your favourite instrument or sing.
● Smell: Light a scented candle. Take a shower and pay attention to the smell of your soap. Spray a perfume or cologne on a scarf or t-shirt and keep it with you to take a whiff when you feel stress creeping in.
● Taste: Drink a cup of flavoured tea or eat your favorite food. Keep sweets nearby and taste the yummy flavours. Drink something cold and soak in the sensation.
● Touch: Put on your cosiest, softest jumper. Pet your dog or cat. Take a shower or bath and pay attention to the water on your skin. Walk on a carpet and pay attention to the feeling on your toes.
I feel tired all the time. Are there things I can do when I wake up to make my day more productive?
Tracking changes in our energy level is a helpful step towards managing your wellbeing. Sometimes changes in energy level can be an indication of something more going on, so if you notice these changes are extreme or having a noticeable impact on your ability to function it can be helpful to talk to a doctor or counsellor.
Often, energy ebbs and flows and changes are completely normal. Consider committing 15 minutes each day to documenting patterns you notice in your energy level – are you more energised from 6 hours of sleep vs 7? Are you more drained after being around other people or alone? Does yoga energise you but a jog in the park drain you? Do you wake up frequently throughout the night if you’re on Instagram in bed before turning off the lights? Does eating certain sweets give you a kick of energy then a crash, but coffee doesn’t?
Each of us is energised and depleted by different things. Experiment with different sleep, exercise, eating, technology, and social routines. See what fuels you and what depletes you. You’ll be surprised how much tiny shifts in your daily routine can revitalise you.