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How food can affect your mood and help manage symptoms of depression

An international taskforce led by Deakin University found evidence that lifestyle approaches improved the mental health outcomes – with food as a key ingredient to changing your mood.

Lifestyle guidelines to manage your mood

The nine lifestyle guidelines recently released led by the Deakin’s Food & Mood Centre are a set of activities to help manage symptoms of depression that can help to improve or maintain our mental wellbeing are:

  1. Physical activity and exercise, including the importance of improving aerobic and resistance training while reducing sedentary behaviours
  2. Relaxation techniques, such as guided breathing exercises
  3. Re-engaging people with employment or volunteering
  4. Adequate sleep
  5. Mindfulness-based therapies
  6. Healthy diet
  7. Quitting smoking
  8. Addressing feelings of loneliness and improving social connection, and
  9. Interaction with nature (green and blue spaces).

Ensuring that you’re ticking off the nine key activities regularly is a way to ensure you’re supporting yourself through any workplace change or stress.

Recommendations for employers

The Federal Government’s Mental Health Commission has also researched the issue of mental health in our evolving workplaces, and has come up with a list of recommendations for employers to support their employees, including:

  1. Communicating and consulting – being transparent about changes that could affect workers’ health and safety (including mental health). If you work for an employer that makes sudden changes to your work requirements without consultation, it’s worth noting that organisations are legally required to consult workers and their representatives about changes that can impact your health. See Safe Work Australia for more information.
  2. A flexible framework – the Mental Health Commission says it’s important for employers to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to returning to the workplace. If your current work requirements are causing you anxiety or distress, it may be worth speaking up and outlining your needs.
  3. Learning from others – what organisations are managing the transition well, and what can we learn from them? Do you see any examples of what you’d like your work to look like and why it could work?

Above all else, it’s important to acknowledge that we are all operating in uncharted territory since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the technological advances we now have that allow us to work in a flexible way. What is an ideal solution for one person could cause anxiety or feelings of isolation in another.

Seeking support for your mental health

If you’re struggling or experiencing stress as a result of your work environment, speak to your boss or someone at work who may be able to help. And if you or a loved one need further support, you can get help and resources from:

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or beyondblue.org.au
Beyond Blue’s coronavirus support service: 1800 512 348 or coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au

You can also take the Beyond Blue quiz to see how anxious or depressed you might be, and whether you could benefit from support.

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