Women of the drought unpack the load at the Ex Services Club

Local ladies enjoyed a night out from the drought last Friday when comedians Mandy Nolan and Ellen Briggs performed their show 'Women like us'.

The free dinner and show event was sponsored by HealthWise, Primary Health Network Hunter New England and Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP).

RAMHP coordinator Letitia Cross welcomed everyone to the evening and spoke about the importance of unpacking the mental load you may be carrying.

"Women are often the support system holding families, businesses and communities together," Ms Cross said.

"In this modern age multi-tasking has become a way of life, as women we live with a constant whir in their heads, the all-consuming juggling act, often putting everyone else first and still trying to keep up the perfect facade - it is not sustainable and as women, we are exhausted."

When drought and fire are added to the mix the stress grows Ms Cross added.

It is OK to no be OK and there is help available

Letitia Cross

"Evidence shows us that exposure to long periods of unaddressed stress can lead to a period of poor mental health or mental illness," she said.

"We know that mental illness is both common and treatable with 1 in 5 Australians each year developing a mental illness, and almost one in two across our life span.

"The concerning thing is that only 35 per cent of people seek help which means that people are in a much worse state when they get to help, or in rural and remote areas at a higher risk of losing their life to suicide."

But the good news Cross said is that like physical health there are things we can do to look after ourselves so that we are less likely to develop an illness.

"One of the biggest things we can do is to unpack our mental load and manage our stress," she said.

"Remember it is OK not to be OK, there is help available, and the help helps."

Letitia's top tips for unpacking your mental load

  • Be kind to yourself - you are enough, you do enough, be kind to yourself as you are no good to anyone else if you aren't breathing.
  • Take time for yourself - It is not selfish. Recharging is essential. So park the guilt! You need to do things that you enjoy, which is different for each of us. Research shows us it is protective for our mental health to stay active : socially (connected to friends family & community); physically (walk, ride, garden, yoga etc.) and mentally (things you get lost in, new skills, puzzles, education etc.).
  • Take regular breaks -10 minutes + daily makes a difference, as well as other longer breaks.
  • Being present - have quality time & focus on the current activity rather than letting the mental whir overtake the moment.
  • Eat well and sleep well
  • Avoid excess alcohol or drugs
  • Learn to say No - boundaries are essential to managing our mental loads and we can't help others if we are exhausted - over commitment short-changes yourself and others - take time to step back and assess what is really important .
  • Practice positive self-talk - women are so self-critical - negative self-talk is energy-consuming and counter-productive.
  • Find the fun - we can be too serious, look for laughter!
  • Gratitude - we all have high and lows, but it is important to conscientiously seek the positive emotions and focus.

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