Mental health week starts today: how recording your life story can reduce anxiety
Mental Health Week starts today and its theme is anxiety. This week gives us the chance to learn how anxiety can affect us, what external factors can trigger it and how we can manage it.
Mental Health Week 2023
Mental Health Week and Mental Health Month (October) events put the spotlight on the mental health of all Australians and ways we can enhance our psychological well-being. Anxiety and depression are common throughout the Australian population. An Australian Bureau of Statistics National Study of mental health and wellbeing shows that in the age group of 16–25 years, almost one-third of Australians experience anxiety disorders. This is more in older people, who are more likely to experience contributing factors such as physical illness or personal loss.
Repeated research studies reveal that recording life stories has immense psychological and health benefits. Depression and anxiety decrease, mood lifts and general well-being and quality of life improve.
Storytelling enhances mental health
According to Beyondblue, storytelling can be helpful for people living with anxiety disorders and depression: ‘Sharing your story can be an opportunity to download your thoughts and feelings, help others by providing hope and encouragement, and also help break down the stigma around depression.’
Older Australians are particularly at risk. Some factors that can increase an older person’s risk of developing anxiety and depression and which may be helped through storytelling include:
- Losses: relationships, independence, work and income, self-worth, mobility and flexibility
- Social isolation
- Significant change in living arrangements, e.g. moving from living independently to a care setting
- Negative feelings like ‘I’m a failure or ‘Life is not worth living’
- Perceived change of status within the family
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or emptiness
- Feelings of being worthless.
Recording a person’s life story is key to their recognition, appreciation, and care, no matter what age.
Mental health benefits of writing your life story
Sharing your personal story helps you see you’ve lived a worthwhile life. The level of interest your family members display in your history may surprise you. Sharing a life story can deepen connections between family members and children or grandchildren can feel closer to their parent or grandparent as they experience what it was like for them when you were the same age.
Rather than focusing on what you’ve lost through illness and ageing, sharing your story can renew your vigour as you retell stories and share memories from the past. People who feel bored can feel more motivated, and those with anxiety and depression may experience relief from symptoms as they share their memories.
Sharing your personal story can help you re-establish a sense of personal power by exploring ways you coped with tough times in the past and identify how you can use these skills today.
Sharing your life story can re-establish life meaning through connection to the past and reassert your feelings of relevance and importance. Passing wisdom and life lessons on to children and grandchildren and being taken seriously can help to improve your self-esteem and confidence.
So this Mental Health Week, reach out to everyone in your family and encourage them to share their story with you. Just telling their story to someone who shows an interest in them can be a powerful way of improving their wellbeing.
Get in touch
If you would like someone to help you record and write your life story, please feel welcome to contact us at Share your life story. Our skilled team of writers will capture your memories for you and produce a beautiful book that expresses what it is to be you. Email [email protected] or drop us a line here.