Every week Elle Halliwell keeps millions of Australians up to date on all things entertaining, healthy and chic stylish thanks to her work with the country’s top media outlets. Elle’s career has taken her overseas reporting on global entertainment and fashion stories and seen her interview international stars including Angelina Jolie, Oprah Winfrey, Cate Blanchett, and Miranda Kerr for television, radio and print. In 2016 Elle made headlines herself, having revealed she was battling a rare blood cancer while pregnant with her first child. She is now the proud mum of a baby boy named Tor, and is on the road to recovery. Elle’s health battle sparked a passion for raising awareness of rare blood cancers and she is currently working with CML research pioneer the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute [SAHMRI], Cancer Council NSW and The Leukaemia Foundation. Health and wellbeing has always been a passion of Elle’s and she is a certified IIN Health Coach and is completing an Advanced Diploma of Integrative Natural Health at Sydney’s Nature Care College.
“What are you worried about?” This is the standard response I receive from almost every person when I tell them I’m in the throes of anxiety. Anyone, that is, who’s been lucky enough not to experience this debilitating, often chronic, mental illness.
A few months ago a close girlfriend of mine revealed she’d had her first ever anxiety attack. She was on a plane and all of a sudden felt a desperate need to get off it. She spent the next hour and a half hyperventilating and feeling as though she was having heart failure. Having never had a fear of flying, the experience hit her for six. READ: How To Recognise The Difference Between Stress & Anxiety
The tight-chest, heart palpitations and general feeling of angst have been almost constant companions for her since, worsening at totally random, inopportune times without warning or any obvious reason. “The weirdest part is that I haven’t been this happy for ages; I actually don’t have anything to worry about, except the anxiety itself,” she confessed. “Now I get what you’ve been going through all these years!”
My girlfriend and I are just two of the 14 per cent of Australians who, according to SANE Australia, are affected by anxiety each year. It’s the most common mental health issue affecting Aussies, and it doesn’t discriminate.
Since being diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder more than a decade ago, I’ve discovered a few hacks that help ease the distressing physical feelings that accompany it. These won’t work for everyone, and it’s always important to seek professional medical advice, but a combination of herbs and vitamins, distraction, elimination of sugar, alcohol and caffeine, mindfulness, exercise and sleep have become my anti-anxiety saviours. If I neglect to stay on top of more than one of two of these, it’s not long before I’m breathing into a paper bag. READ: Apple’s Mind-Blowing New Features Prove Our Tech Is Becoming Smarter Than Us
But this year I’ve added another string to my anti-anxiety bow, which has become a crucial part of my daily routine; wearable tech.
When Fitbit asked me to trial it’s latest tracker, the Fitbit Charge 3, as part of its month long Supercharge Your Summer program, I hadn’t even considered it might be useful from a mental-health perspective. My opinion on wearable tech was that it was a tool for athletes or an accessory for Sydney’s active wear-wearing mummy mafia.
So I would never have guessed that after a couple of weeks of wearing it I would notice an improvement in my anxiety. When I noticed the absence of the shallow breaths and chest pains (which had returned with a vengeance after being anxiety-free for two years), it took me a while to figure out why I simply wasn’t feeling anxious.
But I realised that by aiming to hit 10,000 steps a day and recording a good quality sleep each night, I was unwittingly improving not only my physical health, but my mental health, too. Countless studies have shown a correlation between exercise and reduction in anxiety and depression, as well as adequate snooze time, so recording both is a great way to find out if you’re getting enough of both. READ: 8 Apps To Download That Help Manage Symptoms Of Anxiety
After realising the connection, I started consciously using my Fitbit to keep track of my anxiety triggers. I now punch in details of my meals and any yoga sessions in the app and, if I sense the familiar symptoms of anxiety returning, I look back on my recent data to find out what might have sparked it. Too many coffees last week? Not enough sleep? The Fitbit Charge 3 is waterproof too, so I’ve been able to track my time spent swimming in the surf over summer, which to me is like moving meditation. While this method isn’t for everyone, wearable tech has become my go-to mental health mate.
Now please excuse me, I’ve got another 3,000 steps to punch out. Follow @ellehalliwell on IG here.