Friday, October 9, 2015

Preserving my mental health

In Australia this week is Mental Health Week. 10 October is World Mental Health day.
I have been told that some of my posts and talks about  mental health issues have been helpful and so here are a few random observations.

These are just some things that I have recently noticed and are helpful for myself. They are personal and so may not be helpful  for others. But, hopefully they may stimulate you to think about your own situation.

This is one reason to turn off email occasionally.
Do you really need email on your phone?
It is one of the reasons I don’t even have dumb phone!
I am currently in India and something I like about one of the places we regularly stay is there is no internet in our room. You have to walk outside 100 metres to a different building to access it.

Short breaks.
Several times a day I take a brief walk on campus to clear my head.
UQ has quite a nice campus and so this helps.

The more that it is integrated into your weekly/daily routine the better. I am fortunate that my home is 25 minutes walk from my office. A few years ago I started walking home several times a week.
Now I actually walk both to and from work on most days.

Take a Mental health day.
Minimise particularly stressful situations.
I have slowly learnt that there are certain individuals, activities, and organisations [whether social or professional] that take me a while to recover from. It is not possible to avoid all of them! On the one hand, I don't encourage people to run away from problems and difficult situations. On the other hand, you don't have to be a masochist. Sometimes it is best to opt out.

Get enough.
One or two nights with little sleep, either due to stress or travel, gives me a very bleak view of the world.

Daily victories and small satisfactions.
My view of life is much more positive is on each day I can achieve at least one small thing I think is of value or enjoyable. This is where this blog helps. Writing a post gives a concrete and tangible achievement for the day. I struggle to get such satisfaction from administrative responsibilities or research dead ends!

Physical illness may reflect stress and poor mental health.
I got a cold/flu a few months ago. I realised that I had not been sick for a year and that the last few years I rarely get sick. In contrast, in times when I have had a lot of stress I often got sick and sometimes it took me more than a week to shake off a cold/flu. There is a general folklore that stress increases the susceptibility of individuals to colds, flu, and infections. I did a quick search of the medical literature to see if this is really firmly established but could not find anything particularly convincing. Does anyone know of a relevant study?

Nature and humour.
These are two of the best drugs! The video below combines both!


  1. I really appreciate posts like this that put academic life into perspective. We are trained to live in our heads most of the time and over think things. Unfortunately, these are strategies that are not so helpful in dealing with the "real world!" Keep up the good work. Mental health issues are important to us all.

    1. I am glad it is helpful. Thanks for encouragement.