How to recharge this summer

Head of addiction services at Te Whatu Ora Peter Carter. Photo: Supplied.

2022 was a turbulent year for New Zealand - and the world.

The swift spread of Omicron and economic shock of inflation are global events, to name a few, that have undoubtedly caused stress and anxiety for many.

As we begin the year, how can you recharge and look after your mental health? Peter Carter, head of addiction services at Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand, shares his tips for supporting your own and others' wellbeing - and where to get help if you need it.

'Reconnect and reset.”

That's how Peter Carter describes the summer break, a time of year he says is essential for prioritising the rest and recovery we all need to keep our physical, emotional, and mental health in check.

Globally, COVID-19 has had a major impact on our wellbeing, leaving many of us with heightened feelings of fatigue and stress.

In the first year of the pandemic alone, global rates of anxiety and depression soared 25 per cent, with loneliness, fear of infection, and financial worries cited as common stressors, the World Health Organization found.

New Zealand isn't exempt from this trend.

Almost one in five New Zealanders – 18 per cent – experienced some form of psychological distress in the past year, research by the Ministry of Health shows, up from 14 per cent in 2020/21.

'It's normal to not feel all right all the time — it's understandable to feel sad, distressed, worried, confused, anxious or angry – even during the festive season,” says Carter.

'Everyone reacts differently, and some may find this time of year more challenging than others.

'For some of us, the pressure is on to create a magical day for our tamariki and whānau. For others, the holiday season can increase loneliness and hardship, with limited access to kai, transport, and other services.”

Here are some tips for recharging this summer.

Put down devices

Carter says disconnecting from technology – a 'digital detox” – even in modest amounts, is his number one recommendation for recharging this summer.

'During these unusual times, many of us have turned to technology to help cope and distract us from the outside world. Technology, too, has provided us with connection and entertainment during periods of isolation, however it is important to put it aside every so often and focus on the outside world.”

Even setting small boundaries for screen time is a good idea: the time we spend on our smartphones is interfering with our sleep, relationships, memory, and attention spans, an increasing body of evidence suggests.

For many of us, unplugging entirely for extended periods of time is unrealistic. There are urgent calls from partners and family, calendar alerts about important appointments, and texts from people whose lives you are literally responsible for – your kids.

For those working through the holiday period, Carter recommends taking 'micro-breaks” throughout the day. This has the added benefit of increased motivation, energy levels focus.

Recognise and manage stress

The unpredictability and disruption to people's lives from factors such as COVID-19 has meant some people had been running on empty for a long time, says Carter.

'We all feel some level of stress, but sometimes this feeling can become so overwhelming that coping with day-to-day life – work, leisure, and relationships – becomes difficult.”

Stress affects us all differently; some people may feel anxious, tense, or afraid, he says. Other people may withdraw or isolate themselves, experience physical symptoms such as headaches, or increase their alcohol consumption.

Carter encourages people to prioritise self-care this summer.

'Make a point of daily exercise, getting quality sleep, and eating well.”

Our ability to manage stress is improved if we focus on those wellbeing pillars. It also supports a more robust immune system, research shows.

'Do what you can to calm your mind and body. Try mindfulness, meditation, or deep-breathing techniques. Connecting with your body in this way enables you to better manage anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.

'Plan, even if it is only one day at a time – and take control of what you can and release the rest.”

Spend time in nature

The environment we are in – what we can see, hear, taste, smell, and touch – has a significant influence on how we feel, says Carter.

Evidence from across the world is showing that spending time in nature helps us find balance, alleviates anxiety, and boosts resilience.

How that looks will be up to you. It might be just spending time in your own backyard, digging your toes into the sand, or stepping into the bush and sleeping rough under the stars.

Stanford University concluded that walking in nature can lead to a lower risk of depression. Specifically, the study found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with depression, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting.

'We are blessed to live in a place that offers us so many natural attractions.

'So, this summer, why not try everyday activities to improve your wellbeing, connect with people you love, and do something new?”

‘All Sorts' – a joint Mental Health Foundation and Te Whatu Ora initiative – has a helpful list of ways for enjoying the world just beyond our front door.

Remember, support is available

'We all need some extra support at various times in our lives,” says Carter. 'Remember, there are free resources and services available – anytime.”

During the summer break, people may be looking to familiar habits or seeking out new ways to cope with feelings or situations.

Mental health and addiction services continue to be available over summer.

'So, if you, or those around you, are already receiving mental health and addiction support, continue to do the steps that you know are helpful for your wellbeing, and contact the health professional you see most often if you need advice or additional support right now,” says Carter.

If you need further support, talk to your health professional, GP, or free call or text 1737 any time to talk to a trained counsellor.

Where to get help

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234 (available 24/7)
Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (12pm to 11pm)

Alcohol drug helpline: 0800 787 797 or text 8681 (available 24/7)

Gambling helpline: 0800 654 655 or text 8006 (available 24/7)

Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 or text 4202 (available 24/7)
Anxiety helpline: 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY) (available 24/7)
Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to make a comment.