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R U OK Day: Six tips to improve your mental health

Between the pressures of high school, being a teenager and choosing a career (not to mention the added stress of a global pandemic), it might feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.

If you are struggling with your mental health there’s no need to feel ashamed or embarrassed. Stats show that around one in four young Aussies are up against a mental challenge like anxiety or depression.  

Initiatives like R U OK Day are making mental health less taboo, giving us the tools to spark conversations around anxiety, depression, obsessive, compulsive disorder (OCD) and more. 

Even if you’ve never personally experienced mental illness yourself, it is likely your friends have or will in the future and knowing how to bring it up gently in conversation may change their life.

Here are six simple tips to help you – or a friend – improve mental health.

Talk it out

You don’t have to tackle your mental health alone. If something is not feeling right, the best thing to do is reach out. You could start by speaking with a trusted friend, family member or teacher. You should also consider booking an appointment with a GP or a counsellor who will help you get to the root of your problem and find the help you need.

If you can see a friend or family member is struggling, ask them: R U OK?

Move your body

Don’t underestimate the power of those happy endorphins you get from moving your body. Exercise is super important and almost always recommended as part of the treatment for those struggling with a mental health condition. It’s a great preventative measure too.

Of course, if you’re starting from a point of zero you can’t be expected to run a marathon by the end of the week. Think about adding movement as a lifestyle change and start with something manageable, like a long walk once a day.

  • Start slow and keep your expectations low
  • Be realistic with the goals
  • Test and trial the best time of day to exercise
  • Ask a friend to be your exercise buddy

Getting out of the house and moving can completely shift your mood. Doing a HIIT workout or team sport gives you an hour to forget your worries and anxieties, while a long walk can be a time to reflect on your thoughts or listen to a positive podcast.

Eat good food

There’s a saying “you are what you eat” and it’s true. Food does affect your mood. Just like too much sugar will send you crashing down, a healthy balanced diet with fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and fibre will give you the energy you need to take on each day.

If you are feeling stressed before exams or are struggling to stay motivated with school work, eating well will help you sleep better, improve your concentration, give you more energy and make you less likely to crave bad foods. 

Yep, if your anxiety is peaking it’s tempting to reach for chocolate or soft drinks, but your body and mind will feel much better if you stick with healthy foods.

Get enough sleep

Like young people need encouragement to sleep in 😛

Getting a good night's sleep will help you build mental and emotional resilience, making it easier to overcome barriers and feel in control of your emotions and actions.

Poor sleep has links to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other conditions, so improving your sleep can help improve the other. Some people find when they exercise they sleep better, and when they sleep better, they feel better mentally – it is all linked.

Where to go for help

Of course, these are just a few tips to support and improve your mental health and every person is different. If you find yourself struggling, reach out to one of these free mental health services:

Lifeline – 13 11 14

Kids Help Line – 1800 55 1800

Beyond Blue

Plus, of course you can speak with your local GP and private or school counsellor.

How to help someone who is struggling

Whether there is someone close to you struggling today, or if you want to be prepared for the future, it can help to know how to start a conversation about mental health and the people at R U OK Day have some simple steps to help.

A conversation like this could change a life. You don’t have to be an expert counsellor, just a good friend and a great listener. These four steps will help you navigate a mental health conversation successfully:

1. Ask R U OK?

2. Listen

3. Encourage action

4. Check in

Simple? Yes.


R U OK Day falls on September 9 in 2021, but realistically we should be able to ask “are you okay?” any day of the year. If you see a change in behaviour among a friend or family member, ask this question and spark a conversation. If you are struggling with mental illness, use the above links, phone numbers and tips to change your story and find help.

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