NZME’s Great Minds project will examine the state of our nation’s mental health and explore the growing impact mental health and anxiety has on Kiwis while searching for ways to improve it. Video / NZ Herald
Working full time and having three children means family life is “pretty full on” for James Mooney.
The 42-year-old says one way he keeps his mental health in check is transcendental meditation – an effortless
way of dealing with stress and fatigue.
A Rotorua yoga teacher says yoga helps to calm feelings of worry and anxiety, and a Tauranga clinical exercise physiologist says exercise helps people experiencing anxiety and depression feel more at ease.
It comes as NZME launched a major editorial project, Great Minds, which will explore the growing impact of mental health and anxiety on Kiwis and how we can improve our wellbeing.
As well as investigative reporting on the state of our mental health services and the effect of the pandemic on New Zealanders, we share personal stories, interactive features and wellbeing ideas to help our readers as we emerge from Covid.
Mooney said he and his wife have three children – two of whom were home-schooled and the other child has a disability.
He said Covid-19 brought uncertainty and difficulties, such as being in lockdown and being around his children 24 hours a day instead of going to work.
He regularly practises transcendental meditation and meditates for 20 minutes in the morning or evening.
“It decreases the fatigue – it gives your body that space to be able to relax and it takes you to a deeper relaxation than watching TV or going for a walk.
“Once you’re able to relax, your brain is able to get the benefits of deep rest … then it declutters your mind.
“It has been a good tool in the moments where the pressure does feel like it comes on.”
Mooney and his wife first started practising transcendental meditation 10 years ago when they were expecting their first child.
They were approaching a time of their lives where they knew they would need help with stress relief and coping with fatigue, he said.
“For me, mental health is exacerbated by physical things as well.
“If I’m stressed out with work and I’m not sleeping and not fuelling my body well … that’s where the benefits from meditation really step in.”
Transcendental meditation teacher Michael Kennedy said it was “a simple technique” of meditation that people practised for about 20 minutes by sitting with their eyes closed.
“It’s really practical in that you can do it anywhere … It’s just a technique for settling the mind to a quieter level,” the Katikati-based teacher said.
“There’s an awareness out there that we need something to help our mental health.
“Everybody’s dealing with high levels of stress and that can be disturbing and so people need time to recover from that.”
When done regularly, it helped neutralise stress and tension, Kennedy said. Starting the day with meditation could also help people focus better at work.
“The mind is thinking all the time … people notice that their breathing during a meditation is softer, their muscle systems are relaxed and basically, their mind is more settled during the practice.
“After meditation, they just feel a bit calmer and they feel maybe a little more energy after it.”
Rotorua yoga teacher Jenny Lux said yoga was a “holistic” practice that had physical, mental and emotional benefits. It helped support a healthy and “accepting” outlook on life, she said.
“We go through different phases and different struggles and yoga helps to take a step back and observe yourself.”
The mental practices of yoga, such as meditation and breathwork, helped to slow the “monkey mind”.
“If you are in a frantic, worried or anxious state, breathwork can help you to calm that.
“If you’re in a lethargic, stuck or depressed state, it can help to also enliven you.”
Lux said there had been a “big upsurge” in demand for online yoga during the pandemic.
Natalja Wiese, clinical exercise physiologist at The Centre for Health, said many people had been coming to the clinic with anxiety due to Covid.
She said people were sometimes in a flight-or-fight state. In the flight state, people felt stressed and could not relax.
But after exercising, their parasympathetic nervous system was more relaxed, she said.
“That way, things like anxiety [and] depression feel more at ease.”
Exercise made the heart rate go up so there was more blood flow and more oxygen going through the body, she said.
She said cardiovascular activity helped to get the heart rate up, such as going on the treadmill or going for a walk outside. Activities such as yoga, meditation and breathwork also helped.
“Through this whole pandemic, a lot of people obviously tend to just sit on the couch a lot … which doesn’t help with mental health.”
Wiese said it was important to find a balance between working, relaxing and exercising.
Where to get help
If it is an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
For counselling and support
Lifeline: Call 0800 543 354 or text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: Call 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Need to talk? Call or text 1737
Depression helpline: Call 0800 111 757 or text 4202
For children and young people
Youthline: Call 0800 376 633 or text 234
What’s Up: Call 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm) or webchat (11am to 10.30pm)
The Lowdown: Text 5626 or webchat
For help with specific issues
Alcohol and Drug Helpline: Call 0800 787 797
Anxiety Helpline: Call 0800 269 4389 (0800 ANXIETY)
OutLine: Call 0800 688 5463 (0800 OUTLINE) (6pm-9pm)
Safe to talk (sexual harm): Call 0800 044 334 or text 4334
All services are free and available 24/7 unless otherwise specified.
For more information and support, talk to your local doctor, hauora, community mental health team, or counselling service.