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Children tend to be more prone to some illnesses than adults because their bodies are still growing and adapting to their environment. Here are some common illnesses experienced by children in Australia, and their symptoms.

  1. Allergies

Allergies are experienced when a child’s immune system reacts to its environment; a foreign substance that does not cause a reaction in the rest of the population enters the body which leads to allergy symptoms. Common allergies include a reaction to peanuts, pollen, bee stings and pet hair.

Allergies are sustained because the immune system produces antibodies that mistake a particular substance as harmful even though it isn’t. The reactions can manifest themselves in inflammation of the skin, sinuses, airways and even the digestive system. Allergies range from mild to serious and can be caused by airborne allergens, certain foods or exposure to chemicals or insects.

Medical assessment is available to children to ascertain what they are allergic to and how best to treat symptoms. Antihistamines are helpful to relieve allergies.

  1. Asthma

When asthma occurs, the muscles in the body’s airways begin to tighten and its lining becomes swollen and inflamed in turn producing mucus. This clogs up the airways causing them to become narrow commonly inhibiting a child’s ability to breathe, and leading to shortness of breath, wheezing and tightness in the chest. This can be triggered by a range of different things such as exercise, the weather, allergy triggers or the common cold.

Asthma is one of the most common diseases for which children visit a doctor – around 1 in every 10 Australian children have asthma. While every child’s asthma is different, it can be managed and treated in a way which allows for a normal healthy life.

  1. Colds

Children can get colds more often than adults, as often as once a month. A cold is a mild infection and can be managed easily. It is generally a seasonal virus caused by the spread of germs in the air through coughs and sneezes. Colds usually affect the nose and throat – symptoms include a runny nose, sore throat, head or muscles aches, coughs and sneezing and even a raised temperature.

Children can have multiple colds per year contracting more colds than adults because they do not yet have the same strength of immunity. There is no cure so management of symptoms in the child provides relief – painkillers, saline drops and maintaining fluids.

  1. Conjunctivitis

This is an infection of the lining of the eyeball and eyelid. Symptoms include red, puffy and itchy eyes. This is sometimes accompanied by yellow sticky discharge. It can be bacterial or viral and occurs when the eye is irritated or as part of a cold.

Conjunctivitis is quite common, especially in children under 5 and can be contagious. Speaking to the child’s doctor is important if symptoms persist for antibiotic eye drops.

  1. Gastroenteritis (gastro)

Many children can contract gastro. Symptoms include diarrhoea, loss of appetite, vomiting and nausea, stomach cramps and fever. It generally lasts a few days and can be contagious, so it is important to keep up hygiene to prevent spreading the illness. It is caused by a virus or bacteria that causes infection inflaming the stomach and intestine walls causing the above symptoms. It is more severe in babies and children.

Gastro is not dangerous and does not necessitate use of medication, but it is important to manage a child’s symptoms – keeping fluids up on the regular to avoid dehydration and eating food even if they don’t feel like it.

  1. Nits

Head lice are small and wingless insects that live in children’s’ hair, feeding on blood in the scalp while nits are the eggs that they lay. The insects attach themselves to a child’s hair and skull to lay eggs, causing itching and scratching.

Lice cannot jump so spread usually occurs when children are in close contact – heads close together, sharing hats or using each other’s hairbrushes.

While lice do not carry any diseases, the itching sensation can be quite intense and bad cases can cause dermatitis, so they need to be removed; anti-lice products to kill the lice or wet-combing treatment to physically pull them out works.

  1. Warts

Warts are small flesh-coloured growth, usually on the arms, hands and legs. They are just harmless skin growths. They can spread to other children when there is skin to skin contact. Picking at a wart can cause more to pop up on the same child.

Half of all warts tend to disappear within two years. There is no need to treat them if they are not causing any problems, but there are ways to remove them if this is what is best for the individual child.

 

 

With researchers widely reporting the benefits of tea for reducing the risk of developing cancer, high blood pressure and even the common cold, tea can a great addition to a healthy life. But the endless options on the market can make choosing the right one an intimidating process.

Tea is not just a soothing drink to drown out a stressful day’s work, but it also has powerful antioxidants which target free radicals in the body – these are major contributors to the development of disease – and studies show this may play a role not only in reducing the risk of various ailments, but may also slow down the ageing process.

Lifestyle, environmental and diet choices, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol or skimping on regular exercise, are some of the main causes of oxidative stress; a state in which there is an imbalance of free radicals in the body. This imbalance can damage our DNA and could eventually lead to a number of health conditions, including:

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Diabetes
  3. Inflammation
  4. Heart disease
  5. Cancer

Research on green tea consumption found that regularly drinking the beverage has a proven reduction in cellular damage and it proved that the antioxidants, specifically polyphenols, in the tea trapped the free radicals, leading to a decrease in oxidative stress.

tea health
Photo Credit: Matthew Henry on Unsplash

It is clear that tea is a powerful aid to maintaining good health and, although tea may not cure illnesses, it can offer some relief and lessen the burden of some symptoms. Below is a list of some beneficial teas and what they can do – find out which one is right for you.

Camomile Tea

Best for

  • Managing blood sugar levels
  • Aiding sleep regulation
  • Reducing inflammation

Camomile has a long history of uses dating back to ancient times when it was highly esteemed throughout Europe and Asia for its many healing properties. Today, this tea is most popularly known as a calming drink, often recommended to those with jittery nerves. However, it has also been found to reduce inflammation – which is a major contributor to the development of conditions like high blood pressure, arthritis or even skin ailments like eczema. Some studies have also found that this tea can help manage blood sugar levels.

chamomile tea
Photo Credit: Vitolda Klein on Unsplash

Peppermint Tea

Best for

  • Indigestion
  • Bloating

The cooling and refreshing flavour and smell of this tea prove that it’s for good reason that so many products, including toothpaste, sweets and gum, use mint as a main ingredient. But the taste alone is not where peppermint tea’s best qualities lie.

Recognised for its benefits in reducing the pain of indigestion and bloating, this tea can be a great option for those with digestive issues. However, studies show that if one’s symptoms stem from GERD, this tea could further irritate the condition, but those suffering from IBS symptoms may find relief with peppermint, according to previous research.

Peppermint tea
Photo Credit: Anton Darius on Unsplash

Liquorice Root Tea

Best for

  • Supporting kidney and liver function
  • Reducing symptoms of respiratory illnesses

Liquorice root is in fact the same plant that the beloved confectionary liquorice is derived from, and unsurprisingly, the tea has a natural sweetness to it. Studies have found that the oleanolic and asiatic acids in this tea make powerful antioxidants, which in turn can fight the symptoms of some respiratory conditions including colds and bronchitis, by protecting the cells in the lungs.

This study also shows that liquorice root tea contains antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Though there is limited evidence, some believe this tea may reduce menopause symptoms such as hot flashes.

licorice tea
Liquorice root tea is known for its healing qualities.

Ginger Tea

Best for

  • Aiding digestion
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing congestion

This antiviral tea can aid in pain relief for menstrual cramps, indigestion and bloating and is a popular choice for reducing cold symptoms, including congestion. Ginger also has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, with one study reporting 5% less oxidative stress-related kidney damage in the subjects that consumed ginger than those that didn’t.

Ginger tea
Photo Credit: Julia Topp on Unsplash

Green Tea

Best for

  • Skin health
  • Antioxidants

This aromatic beverage is a powerful option and its health benefits are a force to be reckoned with, ranging from aiding digestion, boosting brain function and supporting skin health. The antioxidants found in green tea are a driving force for preventing cancer and inflammation. This tea may also fight halitosis – studies have found green tea reduced the severity of bad breath by inhibiting the growth of bacteria.

green tea
Green tea is packed with antioxidants.

Nettle Tea

Best for

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Bone health

This tea, sourced from the stinging nettle plant, is a nutritional powerhouse, providing doses of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and it also contains all the nine essential amino acids. Like the other teas on this list, nettle tea provides free radical-fighting antioxidants which are vital for maintaining healthy cells and preventing the development of many illnesses.

Nettle tea
Photo Credit: Debby Hudson on Unsplash

While these choices all provide a range of health benefits, it is important to remember not all teas are safe for everyone and some teas may interact with one’s medication and, as such, it’s always best to check with your physician before making any dietary changes.

 

 

Over 45% of parents feel the effects of parental burnout. The crippling exhaustion, overwhelming stress, and the feeling that everything is just a bit too hard, is a shared experience with nearly half of all parents. Here is what you need to know about this common phenomenon – and the steps to take to feel like yourself again.

Many parents have come to realise that having children is exhausting… And even more exhausting when a pandemic, working from home and recurring lockdowns are thrown into the mix. The overwhelming feelings of stress and exhaustion associated with trying to juggle both life itself and the lives of their children too, can sometimes feel like a bit too much to handle. If you, as a parent, felt this too, don’t worry – you are definitely not alone.

It’s important to realise that these feelings are completely valid and parental burnout is more than just general tiredness or irritability. If left unmanaged, the all-consuming sensations of burnout can have significant consequences on not only parents’ mental health, but the sense of equilibrium within the family itself.

The first diagnoses of parental burnout dates back to 1983, but more extensive research was carried out in 2017, by Belgium researchers Dr Isabelle Roskam and Dr Moïra Mikolajczak – who really delved into the prevalence of parental burnout, especially in the 21st century.

They found that since previous studies, society has placed more pressure on families to raise high-performing, healthy and stable children – as well as a shift in gender norms – especially during COVID – which has generated an increase in more working mothers, and less who stay-at-home full time. These subtle changes can make the act of parenting more difficult and stressful and thus, emerges the patterns of parental burnout.

Beyond the initial feelings of exhaustion, parental burnout can also manifest in:

If these symptoms are left untreated for too long, the damage to parents’ mental health, hormones and relationships with both partners and children, can be significant. Research has found that parents who experience parental burnout, are likely to be more coercive or neglectful towards their children – despite the initial burnout often resulting from putting too much time and energy into your children and neglecting your own needs.

Other common factors that can lead to the development of parental burnout are:

For parents experiencing this level of burnout – despite how difficult it may seem – there are several ways that this burnout can be alleviated. Here are some common and scientifically proven ways that parental burnout can be reduced:

  • Establish a routine: by creating a set schedule within the family that allows time for everyone’s respective activities and obligations – as well as carving out time to be together as a family – parents can set boundaries between work and home and lessen the expectation to be doing everything at once.
  • Communicate your feelings: whether it is with a partner or a friend, telling someone how you are feeling is the first step to treating parental burnout. As this condition is often provoked by bottling up stress and exhaustion, the first way to fix this is to let someone know you need support.
  • Go to a support group: support groups for parents are a great way to feel like you’re not alone. By talking to other parents who may be sharing the same struggles, feelings of isolation that may be contributing to the burnout can be alleviated.
  • Exercise: it’s a well-known fact that moving your body releases endorphins and, for many, provides an outlet where you can release pent up stress. This doesn’t have to mean killing your body in the gym six days a week. If you are starting to feel stressed or overwhelmed, even a ten-minute walk or stretch can help release the feel-good hormones to make you feel more relaxed.
  • Consult a therapist: regardless of if you think you don’t need it – everyone can benefit in some way from talking to someone professional about your everyday problems, or perhaps past trauma that has led to burnout. There is no shame in getting help, and if you feel you need to talk to someone, a psychologist may be able to provide the informed guidance that you need.

The chance of developing parental burnout doesn’t go away as your kids grow up. As parents, it is likely that you will always put their needs above your own at points in time. But it is the acknowledgement that you are struggling, communication that you need help, and the seeking out of support that will help you on your journey to feel like yourself again.

 

 

 

 

Anxious Mums author, Dr Jodi Richardson, offers advice for mothers and children experiencing anxiety.

One in four people will experience anxiety within their lifetime, making it the most prevalent mental health condition in Australia. Statistics determine it is twice as common in women, with one in three, compared with one in five men, diagnosed on average.

Having lived and studied anxiety, Dr Jodi Richardson  is an expert in her field, with more than 25 years of practice. In addition to her professional background, it was ultimately her personal experiences and journey in becoming a mother that shaped the work she is passionate about. 

Jodi’s books, Anxious Kids; How Children Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Resilience,  co-written with Michael Grose (2019), and her latest release, Anxious Mums; How Mums Can Turn Their Anxiety Into Strength (2020), offer parents, in particular mothers, advice on how to manage and minimalise anxiety, so they can maximise their potential, elevate their health and maintain their wellbeing.

The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first-hand experiences have inspired her work today, stating, “The more I learned about anxiety, the more important it was to share what I was learning.”

Jodi’s first signs of experiencing anxiety appeared at the early age of four. Her first symptoms began in prep, experiencing an upset stomach each day. Her class of 52 students, managed by two teachers, was stressful enough, on top of her everyday battles. Jodi recalls, “There was a lot of yelling and it wasn’t a very relaxing or peaceful environment, it obviously triggered anxiety in me, I have a genetic predisposition towards it, as it runs in my family.”

Twenty years later, the death of a family member triggered a major clinical depression for Jodi. She began seeking treatment however, it was in finding an amazing psychologist, that helped her to identify she was battling an underlying anxiety disorder. Jodi discloses, “It was recognised that I had undiagnosed anxiety. I didn’t really know that what I had experienced all my life up until that point had been any sort of disorder, that was just my temperament and personality.” 

After many years of seeing her psychologist, Jodi eventually weaned off her medication and managed her anxiety with exercise and meditation. Offering advice on finding the right psychologist Jodi states, “For me it was my third that was the right fit. I really encourage anyone if the psychologist you were referred to doesn’t feel like the right fit, then they’re not and it’s time to go back to your GP. Having the right professional that you’re talking to and having a good relationship with is really important for the therapeutic relationship.”

Jodi highlights the importance of prioritising mental wellbeing, affirming, “The more we can open up and talk about our journeys, the more we encourage other people to do the same and normalise the experience.”

Anxious Mums came into fruition after a mum in the audience of one of Jodi’s speaking engagements emailed Jodi’s publisher stating, “Jodi has to write a book, all mums have to hear what she has to say.”

Everyday efforts new mothers face, consign extra pressure on wellbeing and showcase the need to counteract anxiety before it subordinates everyday lifestyles. While Jodi’s children are now early adolescents, she reflects upon the early stages of new motherhood, “Ultimately when I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

When I became a mum with all the extra uncertainty and responsibility, as well as lack of sleep, my mental health really declined to a point where I ended up deciding to take medication, which was ultimately life changing.”

New mothers experience heightened anxiety as they approach multiple challenges of parenthood; from conceiving, through the journey of pregnancy, birth and perpetually, thereafter. Becoming a mother provided Jodi with insight into new challenges, in particular struggles with breastfeeding and lack of sleep. She shares, “It’s something that we don’t have much control over, particularly as new parents. We just kind of get used to operating on a lot less sleep and it doesn’t serve us well in terms of our mental health, particularly if there have been challenges in the past or a pre-existing disorder.

Research suggests women’s brains process stress differently to men, with testosterone also said to be somewhat protective against anxiety. This, along with different coping mechanisms of women, highlight statistic disparity between gender. For early mothers in particular, it is a time of immense change, as their everyday lives are turned upside down. New schedules, accountability and hormonal changes increase the likelihood of anxiety and depression, which are also commonly triggered in the postpartum period.

Jodi elaborates on important hormonal timeframes that shift women’s mental wellbeing stating, “Anxiety is heightened during times of hormonal changes as well as in the key points in our reproductive lives. Through having children and menopause and alike. It’s more disabling in that it impacts our lives in different ways to men, particularly I think, because we’re usually the main carers. There are stay at home dads, but predominantly that’s what women tend to do.”

Normal anxiety is infrequent and settles down, but when someone suffers a disorder, they can have incessant worry and avoidance. This can include anxiety around not wanting to participate, attend a function, for example, try something new or step up in a work role. Anxiety disorders can be crippling, leaving sufferers feeling as though they are unable to live their best life.

There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

There are many telling physical signs and symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Some indicative signs to look out for include a racing heart, trembling, sick stomach, frequent perspiration and dizziness that accompanies shortness of breath. Jodi says, “If you think that your anxiety might be a problem, that’s absolutely the time to go and make an appointment to see your GP. There’s no harm in going and asking the question because the gap between the first symptoms of anxiety and seeking help is still eight years in Australia.”

“Half of all mental illness comes on by around the ages of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children.”

Just as anxiety is common for mothers, it’s also important to observe and be aware of in children. Jodi reveals, “For parents it’s important to know that half of all mental illness comes on by around the age of fourteen. Most adults who have anxiety can track it back to when they were teenagers or children. 75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety.”

“75 percent of all mental illness comes on by about the age of 25, with one in seven children [4-17 years old] being diagnosed with a mental illness, and half of those have anxiety

These pre-covid statistics highlight significant numbers of anxiety in adolescents. However, with the current climate prevalent of immense loss of control, many are facing new heightened emotions and increased numbers of anxiety. Early research coming out of Monash University is showcasing significant growth of adults with depression and anxiety, including statistics of children in the early ages of one to five experiencing symptoms.

Similar research has given light to evidence portraying children mirroring stress responses of their parents. Jodi further explains, “They can pick up the changes in our own heart rate, in our stress response — we are told that as new mums aren’t we, that our babies can pick up on how we are feeling but the science proves that to be true as well.” Parenting is a consequential way in which children receive cognitive biases and behaviours, “Just the tone of our voice, the expressions on our face, the way that we speak, what we say, certainly can be picked up on by kids and mirrored back.”

Noticing these early signs in your children is essential to alleviating anxiety before it progresses, Jodi lists some signs to be aware of, “Avoidance is a hallmark sign of anxiety — I don’t want to go, I don’t want to participate, I don’t want to deliver that oral presentation in class, I don’t want to go to camp and so watching out for that sort of thing. Other signs and symptoms to look out for include big emotions. If your children seem more teary or angry than usual, are feeling worried or avoidant, can’t concentrate, having trouble remembering or difficulty sleeping.” It’s important to be aware and help counteract anxiety when you see it. 

Jodi offers parents, who are struggling coping with their children’s anxiety some advice stating, “It’s an age old question, how much do we push and when do we hold back; I think as parents we are constantly answering that question. We don’t always get it right, but the thing about avoidance is it only makes anxiety worse. So for the child who is anxious about going to school, the more they stay home, the harder it will be to front up on another day. Sometimes, we need to nudge them forward in small steps and that’s a technique called step-laddering. It’s about making a step in that direction.”

Jodi encourages parents to observe their children’s symptoms and to never feel ashamed to go see a GP.  She urges, “Sometimes we get that reassurance from a GP, it might just be developmental, but the sooner kids are getting the help they need, the better, and it’s the same for us as mums.”

There are simple everyday steps we can take to combat anxiety. When someone is anxious a threat has been detected within the brain, this part of the brain is called the amygdala, one of the most powerful strategies for managing this stress detection is regulant meditation. 

Jodi explains, “What meditation does is it brings our attention to the present, so we are paying attention to what’s happening in the moment.” Meditation recognises deliberate breathing with a focus equally on exhalation as inhalation, proven to be calming to the anxious brain, using the relaxation response. 

Commending the importance of the practice and its effect on functioning, Jodi describes, “Meditation is more that sort of seated and formal practice of focusing the breath. What we know this will do over time, is it reduces the size and sensitivity of the amygdala, so it’s less sensitive to threat which reduces long-term anxiety. For the average person, our minds wander around 50 percent of the time, when we can bring our attention back to the present we are much more likely to be able to settle our anxiety, and feel happier as well.”

Another everyday strategy for combatting anxiety is exercise. Jodi shares her experience and routine stating, “Exercise is something I’ve used my whole life to calm my anxiety. Even now, I do cross-fit, karate and walks every week. I think naturally I was managing my health and wellbeing without really understanding why, I just knew that it made me feel good.”

The fight or flight response tied to anxiety powers us up to fight physically to save our lives or to flee. So often, when someone is anxious, they are powered up in this way, but not doing anything about it. Jodi shares, “When we move, it’s the natural end to the fight or flight response. Not only that, when we exercise we release serotonin, which is a feel good neural transmitter, among with gamma aminobutyric acid, a neural transmitter that puts the breaks on our anxiety response helping to calm us down.” 

Jodi’s practice in physiology, working with clients using exercise to help them with their mental and physical health has led her to her understandings, “One of the things I can 100 percent tell you is that it’s best not to wait until you feel motivated — the motivation will come once you get into the routine of it.

Dr Jodi Richardson, anxiety & wellbeing speaker, bestselling author & consultant

I’d just like to say, anxiety isn’t something we need to get rid of to really be able to thrive, to do what we need to do and accomplish what’s important to us. But I really encourage to anyone, that there are lots of ways to dial it back. I think it’s very easy for us to wait until we feel 100 percent to do something, but doing anything meaningful is hard.

So don’t wait until your anxiety is gone because you might be waiting a long time.”

 

 

 

 

Anxious Kids Penguin Books Australia, Author: Michael Grose, Dr Jodi Richardson RRP: $34.99 Anxious Mums Penguin Books Australia , Author: Dr Jodi Richardson  RRP: $34.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help now, call triple zero (000)

Lifeline:  Provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14, text on 0477 13 11 14 (12pm to midnight AEST) or chat online.

Beyond Blue: Aims to increase awareness of depression and anxiety and reduce stigma. Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours/7 days a week, chat online or email.

Kids Helpline: : Is Australia’s only free 24/7 confidential and private counselling service specifically for children and young people aged 5 – 25. Call 1800 55 1800

To learn more about Dr Jodi Richardson’s work, watch the full interview below or on our YouTube channel.

 

 

In 2016, 20-year-old Lucy Dawson was sectioned for an apparent mental breakdown. Even though she had all the classic symptoms of encephalitis, she was misdiagnosed and left in a psychiatric ward until it was almost too late.
But medical negligence in women’s health is nothing new. Read Lucy’s story and the history behind it.
Female Patient

For centuries, doctors diagnosed women with “hysteria” – a condition characterised by emotional excess. In Western medicine hysteria was considered both a common and chronic disorder among women. Some of its symptoms included sexual desire, irritability, depression, and anxiety. In extreme cases, women diagnosed with “hysteria” were forced into insane asylum’s or underwent horrific and irreversible surgical procedures such as lobotomy or hysterectomy without consent.

The notion that women are somehow pre-disposed to negative behavioural conditions goes back to Ancient Greece, when the womb was thought to wander around the body and cause trouble wherever it went. This theory was rejected with the advancement of modern medicine, but the connotations persisted in Western popular thought for centuries. Today, researchers of medical history point to evidence that hysteria was simply a way to pathologize “everything that men found mysterious or unmanageable in women”.

Female Doctor

They were mutilated or molested – clitorises cut off when sexual pleasure was deemed to be the cause, or ‘medically stimulated’ into orgasm when sexual pleasure was deemed to be the cure.

Supposed ‘cures’ usually involved punishment intended to turn a difficult woman into a docile one. They were mutilated or molested – clitorises cut off when sexual pleasure was deemed to be the cause, or ‘medically stimulated’ into orgasm when sexual pleasure was deemed to be the cure. Hysterectomies and oophorectomies were unnecessarily performed – often without the patient’s consent – with the intent to sterilise reproductivity and neutralise hormonal fluctuations. Not to mention the dreaded ‘resting cure’ which inspired a short story so psychologically tormented that it convinced the pioneer physician to abandon it as a form of treatment altogether.

While hysteria is no longer recognised as a medical disorder, women are far more likely than men to be told their symptoms are psychosomatic or the result of a mental illness. The implications of this can be devastating.

Lucy’s Story

Lucy
Lucy Dawson photographed in 2021 by Christopher Thomond for The Guardian

In 2016, 20-year-old Lucy Dawson was sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 for an apparent mental breakdown. Even though she presented with all the classic symptoms of encephalitis, including confusion, personality change, hallucinations, and headaches, she was misdiagnosed and left in a psychiatric ward for three-and-a-half months.

During her time there, Lucy was given electroconvulsive therapy in a last-ditch effort to reset her brain, causing a seizure which made her fall out of bed onto an exposed radiator pipe.

Lucy recalls, “It was the end of November, so the pipe was as hot as it was ever going to be, and I lay on it half dead and having just had ECT, until an old lady screamed for help.”

Anti-psychotic medication had turned her from manic to catatonic, so she was unable to move or call for help on her own. When nurses finally discovered her, it was too late. She suffered third degree burns and was inexplicably paralysed in her left leg. Staff members falsely attributed this injury to one of many violent ‘breakdowns’ when friends and family started to ask questions.

Disabled Model
Lucy Dawson Photographed in 2021 at Cleethorpes Beach

In January 2017, Lucy was finally seen by a neurologist and tested for brain injuries. It was only then that she was diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a type of autoimmune disease where the body attacks otherwise healthy receptors in the brain. Lucy explains, “They call it friendly fire because your immune system identifies antibodies and healthy cells in the brain as being bad and attacks them.” This time, doctors explained that her paralysis was just another symptom of her disease.

Anti-psychotic medication had turned her from manic to catatonic; when nurses discovered her it was too late.

But Lucy was still not satisfied. She decided to hire a lawyer after being discharged from hospital and saw several specialists for her leg – none of whom could offer a real explanation. One day, a locum noticed the position of the scar the burn had left and checked it against a diagram for the sciatic nerve. It suddenly became very clear: the radiator had burned right through it. The damage was irreversible.

Since then, the hospital has apologised and launched a “robust internal investigation” to improve their standard of care for future patients. But Lucy insists nothing could ever make up for the physical and emotional trauma she endured at their hands.

Lucy
Lucy Dawson photographed in 2021 by Christopher Thomond for The Guardian

Lucy is now a British ambassador for disabled modelling and works to increase representation in the industry. She says that her success as a lingerie model “came out of nowhere. Because I’ve got quite a curvy figure, brands were interested and that became my niche.” She goes on to say that helping other disabled women to reclaim their sexuality “makes me feel what I do is worthwhile.”

In the five years that have passed, Lucy has encountered countless women with stories just like hers from all over the world. Australia is no exception.

Click here to follow Lucy on Instagram

A Bigger Issue

One in three women has had their health concerns dismissed by their general practitioner according to the latest figures from the Australia Talks National Survey 2021. It found that women were twice as likely to feel dismissed as men.

For instance, endometriosis affects one in nine women in Australia, but it usually takes six-and-a-half years to get a diagnosis.

“We literally know less about every aspect of female biology compared to male biology” – Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, director of the US Office of Research on Women’s health.

Research shows that health care providers prescribe less pain medication to women than men after surgery. In general, women report more severe levels of pain, more frequent incidences of pain, and pain of longer duration than men, but are nonetheless treated for pain less aggressively.

“It’s a huge issue in medicine,” says Dr. Tia Powell, a bioethicist and a professor of epidemiology and psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. Medical professionals may hold implicit biases that affect the way that women are treated, she said. “Medical schools and professional guidelines are starting to address this problem, but there is still much to be done.”

Karen Magraith, a GP and president-elect of the Australasian Menopause Society, said the gender gap extended beyond reproductive health issues.

Female Patient at Hospital

“We have evidence heart disease in women is not recognised as early, not treated as effectively and women receive less evidence-based treatments than men do. I think that’s a good example of where women’s health is not as effectively treated as men’s health,” she said.

One of the main reasons for this is that women have been historically underrepresented in clinical trials for new drugs, treatments, and devices in Australia and across the world. And in the few instances where women have been included, the influence of sex and gender is often ignored. As a result, women are more likely to be withheld effective treatment and exposed to harmful side effects – including a higher incidence of adverse reactions when new (and insufficiently researched) drugs hit the market.

The result? “We literally know less about every aspect of female biology compared to male biology,” says Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, director of the US Office of Research on Women’s health.

Lonely Woman

It would seem that women are just too hard to study. For decades, women were excluded from clinical drug trials based on the unsubstantiated belief that fluctuations in hormones associated with the menstrual cycle would make results more difficult to analyse. When thalidomide was found to cause serious birth defects in the 1970s, women of childbearing age in the US were banned from participating in clinical research studies in order to ‘protect’ their reproductive capabilities. Even though this ban was lifted in 1993, and the inclusion of women was mandated in government-funded research, drug companies were not required to comply.

A 2008 report found that Australian Human Rights and Ethics Committees (HRECs) failed to enquire about the numbers of male and female participants in clinical trials. The same report showed that opinions were also divided on whether research cost and convenience justified excluding women from research.

As it currently stands, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has no policy comparable to those in the US or Canada requiring researchers to test on both men and women.

But organisations like the George Institute are calling for policy reform in order to standardise the way sex and gender is collected in clinical trials in Australia. Their demands include gender specific reporting in academic journals and a more equitable balance of female and male patients in clinical trials.

Patient Diagnosis

In response to such demands, a spokesperson for the Department of Health pointed to the $535 million package set aside for female health as part of the 2021-2022 national budget. It serves to improve cervical and breast cancer screening programmes, provide Medicare subsidies for testing of IVF embryos for genetic faults, increase support for the mental wellbeing of new and expectant parents, and boost women’s health initiatives including the Periods, Pain and Endometriosis Program (PEPP-Talk) developed by the Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia.

However, this package amounts to less than $46 for every woman over the age of 15. More can be done to help.

What You Can Do

Standard consultations at the GP last just 15 minutes. Here’s how to make sure your health concerns are heard.

Come Prepared

Plan what you intend to talk about before you arrive for your appointment. Write down any concerns and questions so you don’t forget. Be specific.

Tell Your Story

According to Leana Wen, MD, author of When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests, “doctors end up asking about symptoms rather than the story. But studies have shown that over 80% of diagnoses can be made just by listening… By that, they mean listening to the story, the open-ended story of what happened, rather than asking a list of yes-no questions”

Be sure to mention:

  • When the symptoms started
  • Whether any life event/action coincided with the onset of symptoms
  • Whether the symptoms have appeared before
  • Describe how it feels
  • Whether the pain has increased/decreased
  • How often you feel the pain

Take Someone with You

If you are dealing with a particularly complex issue, have a condition that makes it difficult to discuss alone, or are particularly vulnerable, it might be appropriate to bring a patient advocate or a loved one along to an appointment.

Request a Female Doctor

Studies show that female doctors tend to listen more and their patients — both male and female — tend to do better.

Be Direct

If you still feel like you’re being dismissed, tell your doctor how you feel. Express concern that you are not being properly heard. A good physician should be able to listen and take your problems seriously.

It’s tropical season and coming into the summer months is the best time to look at new fruits to introduce into your diet. These are the most popular fruits of this season and their well-documented benefits for children.

PINEAPPLE

It’s November and pineapples are finally in season! To tell if they are ripe, sniff the stem and if it smells sweet, it is the one! Pineapples are rich in Vitamin C, B-6 and magnesium. Since they have a high content of Vitamin C, they are an essential tropical fruit that will help boost your baby’s immune health and help their body absorb iron from other foods.

If you are introducing pineapple to your child’s diet for the first time, try it in small doses to see how their system reacts. Pineapples can be introduced to your baby’s diet from six months old. They work well as a basic mash or even a puree, added to yoghurt or cereal.

Pineapple has been known to:

  • Improve hydration. Pineapples have 85 grams of water per 100 grams. This high level of water content not only makes pineapple a juicy fruit but helps to fight dehydration.
  • Regulate bowel movement. Pineapple also contains a good amount of fibre to help support healthy bowels and keep constipation at bay.
  • Help support a healthy heart. Pineapples contain bromelain, enzymes that have cardioprotective benefits when consumed regularly. Bromelain also has analgesic properties that can help relieve pain or control inflammation.

field of pineapples

MANGO

Talking tropical fruits that are in season, mangoes are one of the best fun fruits your child can consume! Named ‘king of fruits’, the mango is recognised as the most popular fruit in the world. When picking the best mango, squeeze them lightly to judge ripeness rather than looking by colour. If they give a little, they will be a good pick.

They are a good texture for babies. Good for babies who might be teething, as they can be frozen and soothe sore gums. As mangoes are full of fibre and digestive enzymes, they will help break down foods and prevent constipation.

There are various benefits for introducing mangoes into your child’s diet.  These include:

  • Promoting good health. Mangoes contain colourful phytonutrients, compounds that help maintain good health. Their high levels of fibre also promote a healthy gut.
  • Improving eyesight. Due to a high level of vitamin A, mangoes help foster good vision as this nutrient prevents multiple eye related issues.
  • Great skin. Vitamins A and C present in mangoes have been shown to improve complexion and moisturise the skin.
  • Improving memory. Glutamine acid is present in mangoes, an amino acid that assists in brain development and proper functioning.

mangoes and mango smoothie

PAPAYA

Papayas are often thought of as an exotic or rare fruit but have been used for centuries, particularly to treat worm infections. You will find them next to mangoes and pineapples when in season.  Papayas should be introduced in small amounts when your child is around seven to eight months old. Caution should be taken when introducing papaya if your child is prone to allergies, so ensure to watch for side effects such as irritations or stomach aches.

There are different benefits associated with papayas, including:

  • Healing properties. Due to a high content of vitamin A, papaya pulp offers medicinal properties that may reduce the visibility and burning sensation of skin sores and rashes.
  • Preventing macular degeneration. Papayas contain zeaxanthin, a carotenoid which helps protect the eyes from light-induced damage and oxidation. This can help to combat the harsh blue light rays that emanate from devices.
  • Preventing allergies. Papayas contain a high level of papain, a proteolytic enzyme which can help reduce pain and swelling, and boost overall health.

papayas and pomegranates

AVOCADO

Since smashed avo has become a trend, avocados have been at the forefront of the fruit and veg section. This is a trend you might want to buy into, because the nutritional value of the Hass is worth introducing to your child’s diet. Avocados are easy to prepare, making a good guacamole or addition to a salad and will ripen quickly in the fruit bowl.

woman with open avocado

There are various benefits for including avocado in your child’s diet, and it makes a great first food due to its texture and versatility.  Some other benefits of avocados include:

PASSIONFRUIT

Passionfruit is a healthy option for babies when ripe. It is a good alternative to unhealthier desserts as it is still sweet and tart and goes well in yoghurts or smoothies. They also hold a low GI value, meaning they will not cause a steep increase in blood sugar after eating.

There are several benefits of including this tropical fruit in your diet.  The most notable include:

  • Good bone health. Due to a high level of minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and phosphorus, eating passion fruits may improve bone strength and density. A high content of iron also helps prevent Anaemia.
  • Supporting the immune system. Passion fruits are rich in antioxidants such as carotenoids and cryptoxanthin and vitamins A and C. The seeds in particular contain lots of these antioxidants which can promote positive heart health.
  • Anti-carcinogenic properties. The antioxidants present in passion fruits help to eliminate free radicals, which mutate the DNA of healthy cells into cancerous cells.
  • Reducing anxiety and stress. High levels of magnesium present in passion fruits have been shown to minimise triggers of anxiety and stress.

passion fruits

We’re all familiar with PMS.

80% of women experience some form of physical or emotional symptoms just before their period starts. However, around 5-10% of women, experience what is known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD – a mood disorder that requires treatment to alleviate symptoms.

For these women, the week before their period marks the onset of symptoms so severe that getting on with daily life is impossible. These tangibly different yet similarly presenting conditions cause PMDD to be often confused for ‘severe PMS’. But, where PMS is uncomfortable or annoying, PMDD is debilitating.

PMDD was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mood Disorders as a depressive disorder’ just six years ago. Since then, the existence of the condition has been gaining awareness amongst women and the medical community. However, that PMDD is not widely spoken about or recognised means that more conversations and research into the condition are needed.  

PMDD often being described as ‘PMS on steroids‘ or ‘severe PMS’ signifies the possibility for accidental ignorance toward the condition.  When women are led to think of their incapacitating symptoms as ‘just PMS’ they may feel that their experience is ‘normal’.  The result of conflating symptoms causes many women wait to seek help until they reach their ‘breaking point’. By this time, women suffering from PMDD describe that their relationships, work and daily life have been significantly impacted.

How it impacts an individual’s life:

Gogglebox Australia’s, Isabelle Silbery, recently penned a deeply personal article recounting her feelings of desperation and frustration prior to being diagnosed with PMDD.

via Instagram: @IsabelleSilberry

Detailing an upsurge in arguments with her family accompanied by bouts of worthlessness, doubt, and despondence toward exciting things in her life – Isabelle called out for greater awareness and education for women regarding their cycles and the boundaries of what should be considered ‘normal.’

It was relentless. I hated myself, I hated my partner, I hated everything.

Isabelle says that her revelatory diagnosis stemmed from her mum, fortunately, catching a radio segment on triple R discussing a newly recognised disorder that bore markedly similar symptoms to her own.

Finding a printout on her pillow, she read about PMDD and was shocked and relieved to find she ‘ticked every box.’  Paranoia, fatigue, sensitivity – experienced only between ovulation and getting her period. Suddenly, Isabelle felt empowered – she wasn’t ‘going mad’ – there were answers.

Upon seeing a new specialist (who told her undoubtedly, she was experiencing PMDD) – Isabelle recalled asking:

Here I [am], 36 years old, having [had] my period for years now and birthed one child. How the hell did it take this long to figure it out?

Her doctor, Dr Lee Mey Wong from the Jean Hailes Clinic for Women’s Health, explained that ‘women who suffer from PMDD have what’s called a vulnerable brain’, meaning they may have suffered some trauma in their formative years. This vulnerability can lead the brain to be acutely sensitive to the by-product of progesterone – a hormone the body makes every cycle. This sensitivity contributes to the onset of symptoms that characterise PMDD.

In the process of learning about herself and her body, Isabelle found there was a lot more about periods, cycle phases and women’s health, in general, that she wasn’t across – prompting her to question: 

Why aren’t we educated around our cycles more as young girls? Being told you get your period and to use a pad or tampon is not enough.  

Isabelle’s message was simple: women are often made to feel crazy when they feel something is wrong. Yet we know ourselves better than anyone, and we’re usually right.  Information is power, and we need to empower ourselves and each other to assert control over our bodies. It is time we all prioritise our health and stop our silent suffering. To do this we have to stop demonising our hormones and periods.

A UK-based journalist, Jenny Haward, also shared her story of figuring out she suffered from PMDD. For her, the early years of getting a period were characterised by some ‘mild bloating’ and an ‘off chance that [she] might shed a few tears over a not-particularly-sad film’ with 48-hours of light bleeding to follow.

But, by her 30s, this had changed. Haward describes that being someone who had never tracked their period, it took her a while to make the connection that what she had begun to termthe dark week’ was linked to her cycle.

‘The dark week’ would bring tingling in her extremities, bloating of her stomach and hands and what she terms the PMDD hangover’ – Non-alcohol related but reminiscent of the hazy, sick feeling you get after a few too many, tinged with The Fear.

Haward describes the week before her period as charged with anxiety that pulsated through her, hyper-fixation on worries and exacerbated by insomnia – leading to fights with friends and terror toward work projects. But, as soon as her period arrived – she’d snap out of it.

Significantly, for Haward and many other women coming forward sharing their story – it took until the day she had to leave work, so ‘overwhelmed with misery and inability to function’ to call a doctor for an emergency appointment.

Haward wanted her story to reach women like herself and tell them: ‘there is help – you’re not making a fuss, or crazy or an awful person, and most importantly, you are not alone.’

PMS or PMDD?:

from Share the Dignity

Lynda Pickett, the Australian Project Coordinator for ‘Vicious Cycle: Making PMDD Visible‘, explains that PMS is an average onset of physical and sometimes mild emotional symptoms and typically doesn’t cause any life disruption.  On the other hand, PMDD is characterised by severe, life-impairing emotional symptoms that last 1-2 weeks before menses onset.

Recognising this difference between PMS and PMDD is crucial to understanding the significance of the disorder. While 1-2 weeks may sound manageable, when you factor in these symptoms occurring every month, every year – you can begin to get a clearer picture of the rollercoaster of emotion and life instability that sufferers face.

Symptoms:

Kin Fertility list the 11 symptoms of PMDD as the following:

  • Mood changes
  • Irritability or anger
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of interest in things you usually enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Bloating and breast soreness

Experiencing five or more of these symptoms in a life-impacting way mean that you may meet the diagnostic criteria for PMDD.

What is it? Why do we need to talk about it?

PMDD Cycle – Buoy

PMDD is a disorder that sits between psychiatry, gynaecology and other mimicking conditions—making getting a diagnosis a lengthy process due to the necessity to rule other possibilities out.

In Australia, the average ‘lag to diagnosiscan take eight years.

This lag is in part due to the experience of having symptoms downplayed by doctors as ‘just PMS’. This dismissal often requires a necessary determination on the part of the individual to challenge what they are being told.  Due to many doctors being unfamiliar with the condition, a referral is often necessary, or the individual has to search for answers themselves.

Lynda Pickett shared significant statistics relating to the number of people affected by PMDD:

Treatment:

Although there is no ‘cure’ for PMDD, there is a range of treatments available to help manage the symptoms.

Several medical therapies are effective, including antidepressants (SSRIs) which surveys show have provided relief to 75% of sufferers.

Oral contraceptives are also routinely prescribed to treat PMDD. Due to the pill’s interference on ovulation and the production of ovarian hormones, the pill can give greater control over the menstrual cycle and therefore reduce the severity of symptoms.

Further, many women report that additional things like reducing caffeine and alcohol intake and taking supplements such as magnesium, calcium and B6 can help. As well as making lifestyle changes in the lead up to their period in particular, such as more exercise, sleep and generally taking it easy, can make a significant difference.

Support:

Joining PMDD support groups can also give sufferers a much-needed sense of community and connection when coming to terms with their diagnosis and managing their symptoms on a day-to-day basis.

Lynda Pickett says she ‘doesn’t know where she’d be without her PMDD Peeps‘, the group name shared by her fellow PMDD community.  The hashtag ‘#PMDDPeeps’ is widely used across Instagram and Twitter to connect sufferers with PMDD.

Facebook groups for individuals with PMDD, partners, post-op groups or child-free women are also widely available. These groups exist to give and receive support from people who are in the same boat.

Other great resources and groups who are bringing people with PMDD together include:

www.viciouscyclepmdd.com = a patient-led project that is focused on raising awareness and raising the standard of care for those living with PMDD.

www.iapmd.org = A global charity that offers peer support, education, research and advocacy.

www.mevpmdd.com = a PMDD symptom app.

Walking 10,000 steps a day has been linked to various health benefits and reducing the risk of disease, and a healthy focus for weight loss. However, the basis for this target being introduced was not scientific or medical.

10,000 steps is a well-known target, however this amount did not originate in medical or scientific studies as you might have thought. The Manpo-kei step meter was created by the Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company.  Its marketing campaign was created by a Japanese health science professor who believed that walking 10,000 steps a day would help Japanese people avoid obesity.

The advertisements for the pedometer said “Let’s walk 10,000 steps a day!”, with the number 10,000 being chosen for the fact that it looks like a person walking in Japanese characters.

Celebrities such as Will Smith and Simon Cowell have taken to the 10,000 step challenge, likely due to advice from celebrity trainers. Harley Pasternack gives this advice to his clients including Adam Levine and Amy Schumer as a daily goal to challenge and motivate them to stay active.

The more steps the better!

Whilst the campaign for 10,000 steps may not have originated from a medical background, the sentiment remains a recognised goal. Most experts agree with the approximation of 10,000, slating this as a target as well as 30 minutes of activity a day. This is in line with the Australian guidelines which recommend 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Whilst there is no real rule, 5,000 steps a day is recognised as a minimum target, with anything less being considered sedentary.

Research has found that those who track their steps take an average of 2,500 more steps per day. Pedometers are mostly a thing of the past, with fitness watches such as the Apple Watch or Fitbit motivating walkers to reach step goals and activity rings. This can be a good way to stay motivated as you can compare counts and challenge friends and family.

legs walking up stairs with bright coloured shoes

Benefits of walking more

Walking is a low-impact workout available to almost everyone with good walking shoes, and a 2015 report found that Australians walked the most, with an average of 9,695 steps a day.

An Australian study found that the risk of prematurely dying was reduced by 6% with every 1,000 steps increase per day. This same study found that those who took 10,000 steps or more had a 46% lower chance of having an early death than those who didn’t.

There are several health benefits associated with walking more, including the following:

There are several social and emotional benefits to walking more each day, including:

  • Opportunities to engage with new people and friends, reducing anti-social behaviour
  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • A higher level of concentration
  • Better management of anxiety and stress

10,000 steps is often recommended as a target for weight loss. An average person will burn around 3,500 calories per week from walking this amount, roughly translating to half a kilo of fat. This should only be an indication however, as your speed and body weight will affect the amount of calories that you burn.

Recommended steps per age range

10,000 steps is regarded as a reasonable target for most healthy adults, who on average take 4,000 to 18,000 steps per day. Children however, already take around 10,000-16,000 steps per day.

The Australian guidelines to physical activity do not denote a specific number of recommended daily steps based on age, but instead base their recommendations around minutes of physical and vigorous activity. Young children aged 1-5 should be physically active every day for at least three hours in total. For children aged 5-12, this recommendation includes vigorous physical activity for at least one hour per day.

Adolescents aged 13-17 should also engage in at least 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity per day, focusing on activities that can help strengthen muscle and bone.

For adults aged 18-64, a minimum target of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity is recommended per week, with a combination of at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity. This amounts to a rough estimation of 10,000 steps per day.

Older Australians aged 65 years and older should aim to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, and continue at a level they did throughout their earlier life. A Harvard Health study found that for older women, 10,000 steps is a large goal, and instead taking a modest 4,400 steps per day at minimum was associated with a 41% lower risk of dying compared to other women taking 2,500 or less.

table of step counts by age
Source: First Quote Health

Ways to increase your step count

If you are finding it difficult to spend time walking to increase your step count and don’t have access to a treadmill whilst watching TV, there are other simple ways to increase your step count. This may include:

  • Getting a dog. If you’re a regular walker, training and being kept accountable by pets is a great way to stay motivated to walk.
  • Using a standing desk and standing up during commercial breaks.
  • Breaking walks into multiple little ones per day.
  • Walking with friends to socialise.
  • Cleaning your house.
  • Taking the stairs wherever possible.
  • Walking in shopping centres when the weather is poor.
  • Parking your car further than usual from your destination.

The industry you work in will also impact the amount of steps you do per day. For example, hospitality workers do roughly 23,000 per day, retail workers 15,000 but clerical and office workers less than 7,000.

woman walking shoes

If you’re someone who walks an average of 7-8,000 steps a day, considering challenging yourself to 10,000 steps to see the well-documented benefits. Remember the more steps the better, so don’t try to take more than 20,000 steps a day if you are just beginning to increase your walking capabilities, as you may burn out. Too much walking can take a toll physically and mentally, so remember to only do what challenges you, not society’s expectations.

Balancing your hormones is the key to health and wellness you didn’t know you were missing.

When we feel tired, sleep poorly, struggle with weight gain, or have mood swings, it can be hard to identify why. It might be simply that you need to get back to basics and balance your hormones.

The key to happy hormones and a healthy body is about adopting a healthy lifestyle. Below we have six easy adjustments you can make to assist with healthy hormone production.

Hormones are chemical pathways in our bodies responsible for sending messages through our bodies about what we need. If hormones are out of whack, it can lead to dry skin, hair loss, sugar cravings, bloating and lethargy.

Hormonal health is essential for women, as it can affect your menstrual cycle and lead to period pain, blood clotting, and a decrease in libido.

1. Drink green tea

Green tea has a multitude of health benefits and is packed with antioxidants and is all-around delicious. Green tea also has caffeine, which helps to boost your metabolism and provides energy. In addition, the antioxidants in green tea are thought to stop your insulin from spiking, so drink up.

2. Exercise

Exercise such as aerobics and weight training are effective in decreasing insulin levels and boosting your metabolism. However, if you are struggling to get into a fitness regime, grab your headphones and go for a nice long walk. Or maybe 20 minutes of yoga is more your style. Any exercise is better than no exercise.

3. Eat Fatty Fish 

Start adding salmon, sardines and mackerel to your dinner and lunch rotation. These sources of omega-3 fatty acids are powerhouses for hormonal health, as research suggests that they lower cortisol and adrenaline.

4. Avoid refined sugars 

This one might seem obvious, but refined sugars can have negative consequences for hormonal health. Refined sugars in beverages especially should be avoided, as they spike insulin and encourage your body to store belly fat.

5. Sleep 

It is essential to get enough sleep in the evening. Sleep is your body’s way of resetting, and the more quality sleep you get, the better. Avoid harsh lighting and looking at your phone before bed. Instead, try switching to a book, magazine, or podcast at least an hour before bed.

6. Manage Stress

This one is easier said than done but learning to manage stress is beneficial for your hormonal and overall health. The stress hormone cortisol can cause hormonal imbalance, weight gain, mood swings, and even cardiovascular disease if experienced long term.

Feeling like you are struggling with your health can seem overwhelming or be concerning. However, it is possible to address some of these things with small, incremental changes.

Try incorporating a few of these into your daily life and work your way up to as many as possible.

 

 

 

In a world flooded with global disasters and mental health conditions like eco-anxiety on the rise, author of the bestselling self-help book, Slow, Brooke McAlary, unveils the pitfalls of neglecting personal care in her new book, Care.

Brooke McAlary’s own experience with post-natal depression was the catalyst for her self-care journey and marked the beginning of her career change from business woman to self-help author. After the overwhelming success of her 2017 international bestseller Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World, Brooke returns to share her latest tips to live a slow and joyful life, through her latest book, Care: The Radical Art of Taking Time, published by Allen & Unwin.

After receiving her post-natal depression diagnosis following the birth of her second child, it was Brooke’s therapist who first recommended slowing down. This wake-up call prompted Brooke’s change of pace and her ensuing move to the Southern Highlands with her family. Burned out by her past career running a jewellery business, along with raising two young children and juggling excessive commitments, the self-care author reveals how she knew something had to change.

Brooke says, “Looking back, I can see my mental health started to take a dive…I write about slow, because I need slow, it’s not something that comes naturally.”

Self care is important for mental health
Photo Credit: Nikko Macaspac on Unsplash

In her book, Brooke tackles the exploitative nature of the wellness industry. The industry has high stakes in profiting from the growing market for self-care, reeling in nearly $4.5 trillion and representing 5.3% of global economic spending.

With increasing mediums for internet users to be inundated by advertisements and marketing campaigns, it is becoming easier for corporations to exploit the rising population of people seeking solutions to stress and burnout. Brooke says, “If you are buying into certain elements of self-care because you think there’s something wrong with you, you become vulnerable to that marketing message.”

Wellness services have flooded the market, many of which have been accused of charging exorbitant fees and exploiting desperation. Brooke challenges the exclusive tactics of self-care corporations, and offers a more accessible path to wellbeing in her guide.

“Everything I write about needs to be accessible to everyone, regardless of finances, geography, abilities,” Brooke says.

It helps if you’re already well, you’re slim and you’re 25, that kind of mentality is what has attached itself to self-care.

“In keeping with the idea of accessibility, I really wanted it to be achievable for people who are busy, which is a lot of people. If you’ve got thirty seconds, you can spend those thirty seconds looking out a window at a green view, you can write down one lovely thing that you saw today or you could hold the door for a stranger.”

Walking outside is a form of self care
Photo Credit: Юлія Вівчарик on Unsplash

Brooke unpacks the ideas of ‘Big Care’ and ‘Small Care’, and their significance in the past year where ‘Big Care’ has had a major global impact of “upheaval and collective grief,” with the climate change crisis and the COVID19 pandemic. While she acknowledges that these two types of ‘care’ don’t exist in a vacuum, she also identifies why we need to prioritise the ‘Small Care’ sometimes.

Brooke says, “I realised I had spent so much time and energy caring about all of these big, important global collective issues like climate change, COVID, the national grief we’re all feeling as a result of last year’s bushfires, but what I had neglected was the other end of the spectrum of care, the small acts of care.

“That is the genesis of the spectrum of care I talk about in the book. The reason we need to start spending more time on the smaller end of the spectrum.”

Brooke’s call for greater self-care and mental health awareness is all the more pertinent, with stress and burnout rapidly increasing among the population. Asana’s global study found that 4 in 5 Australians in white-collar jobs suffered burnout in 2020.

While a variety of symptoms are reported, the main signs often include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Brain Fog
  3. Maladaptive Daydreaming
  4. Lack of Motivation
  5. Sleep Issues
  6. Frequent Illness

With smartphone users clocking in 3 hours and 15 minutes a day and technology infiltrating all aspects of people’s lives, Care brings to light the role technology plays in exacerbating burnout and stress.

Fighting the temptation to keep scrolling on social media is hard when “it feels good in the short term because it releases dopamine”, Brooke says, but she maintains the need to substitute internet usage with more fulfilling activities.

Our phones, our laptops, our screens can be viewed much more like a tool… something you use for a job and then you put it away.

Brooke advises people to partake in hands-on activities outside of technology, suggesting that physical activities like yoga can positively affect the brain and even just “looking into the eyes of animals can release oxytocin”, also known as the love hormone.’

Looking into the eyes of animals produces oxytocin
Photo Credit: Nachelle Nocom on Unsplash

Brooke says, “If there’s an opportunity to go for a walk, or to sit and do something tech-related, I use that information for motivation.”

In her own life, Brooke has implemented this concept for her family, with her children creating a technology-free ‘slow room’ to help reduce outside sources of stress. She says, “I started experimenting and started to declutter and was astounded to find the impact it had on my mental health.” It was this realisation of how switching off can bring joy that inspired Brooke to share this practice with her children.

Practising self care as a family
Photo Credit: Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Brooke also outlines how ‘Small Care’ can affect our perception of time, revealing how anyone can harness the ability to “bend timeand alter their experience of its passage.

“As I get older, as my kids get older, I feel like time speeds up. That made me curious about why there were times in my life where time seemed to feel like more,” Brooke says.

Research shows that our perception of time changes as we grow older. When we’re a child everything is new.  As a result, time feels like it goes on for longer… That is the simplest way to bend time.

Brooke says when people’s lives become monotonous and repetitive, the brain doesn’t hold on to those memories, thus creating the illusion of time passing quickly. In Care, Brooke encourages individuals to embrace the sense of play and wonder from childhood, to slow down their perception of time and make space for ‘Small Care.’

Featuring Brooke McAlary, author of Care: The Radical Art of Taking Time.