One in six Australians is currently experiencing depression or anxiety or both. Beyond Blue Breakdown: 17.0% of Australians aged 16 to 85 have experienced anxiety and/or affective disorder in the past 12 months. This is equivalent to 3.2 million people today. This is one of our team member’s stories on how she tackled anxiety. Tash has been suffering from anxiety since her mid-twenties. “All of a sudden the fear of being surrounded by tall buildings, being in an elevator, driving a car and sitting on board for a flight, became overwhelming and very scary for me. I was becoming my own enemy and the voices in my head told me that I was a threat to myself. I thought that one day these feelings would leave me, and they did, however, after several years, the type of fears changed, yet the anxieties remained. Walking alone in the dark from the tram stop to my house, being the only passenger in a taxi, the constant fear of losing my job, the list went on. I ended up having frequent panic attacks, would call an ambulance believing that I was having a heart attack. The pains in my chest would become unbearable yet, the doctor’s report on my heart health and blood tests were fine. I trialled various diets, did all sorts of physical exercise and spent time with quality social networks and friends, but would come back to the anxious moments and endless thoughts of the worst-case scenarios in any moment of being on my own. I disliked my own company as this was when my mind played up. The activities that I was enjoyed, became a task and I lived in my boxed mind. I was later diagnosed with an autoimmune condition as my body was either in a flight or a fight mode. Someone once told me, that when we are sad, our organs weep. This was true indeed. Constant arguments, misunderstandings with close people and family members, very little to no sleep for endless nights and no energy underpinned the feelings of low self-esteem and self -worth and I began questioning my existence and why all this defined me. I knew I had to see a therapist, but I struggled with finding time in work hours and also could not afford the cost of seeing one on a weekly basis. When I finally was provided an EAP benefit, I could not align with many psychologists or vice versa, and finding the best-fit mental health practitioner for my needs was not easy. It has been four months since I last saw my psychologist. She helped me ground myself, by bringing me back to the now. CBT and probing into the whys of my reactions to events and my thoughts and fears, I learnt about myself and knew that I was to change a few things in my life to get ahead of my situation. I started with being loyal to my needs first. I went to every psych consult religiously, and in the third session, realised how I was changing as a person, I felt strong, proud and empowered. I was taught to create boundaries and continue to enjoy amazing connections with my friends and loved ones. I learnt to self-love and nurture my needs ahead of others. I was learning to say “no” politely and firmly and to stand in what I believed. I felt like I could surrender to the new me and still feel free. Fast forward to now, I do these things daily to keep on top of my mental health: Embrace me and accept me for who I am Remind me of my strengths, values and principles Tell myself it is ok to not be ok Respect myself and others Not take life too seriously Take deep breathes and breaks from work throughout the day Be selective about friends and continue to be kind and loving Treat myself to my favourite snack, movie and pastimes without feeling guilty Do gentle exercises daily to rejuvenate Make a point to eat healthy fruit, veg, seeds and drink a lot of water Go to bed early and switch off from the screen an hour in advance It is ok to say no to demanding friends and relatives
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