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One woman's mission to improve NZ's mental health

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

In the face of record suicide numbers, reports of inadequate mental health support and increasingly demanding lifestyles, one woman is on a mission to tackle mental health issues at their source by bringing a little zen to people’s daily lives.

Carina Allen is the Founder of The Zen Division, a business focussed on helping Kiwis overcome everyday stresses with a toolkit to encourage intentional self-care. She says it is critical people take time to look after themselves in their increasingly busy lifestyles.

The World Health Organisation puts depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide, and says there are clear links to the suicide rate. The suicide statistics in New Zealand are as high as they have ever been at 13 deaths per 100,000 people.

According to the latest Ministry of Health Survey, a rising number of the population (seven per cent) are suffering from ‘psychological distress’ caused by anxiety and depression.

"It’s happening to everyday people," Ms Allen says. "It’s a crisis for everyone, not just people with a history of mental health issues. Many of us spend so much of our time trying to be everything to everyone, and trying to live up to unrealistic expectations. We are not allowing enough time to take care of ourselves."

Ms Allen has qualifications in counselling, fitness and exercise science and nutrition. She has worked in mental health for the last decade and says people are feeling they need to be constantly stimulated, thanks to an increasing array of distractions in their lives.

Through The Zen Division, she provides workshops on mindfulness and self-care. These focus on helping people seek solutions, including how they can find time for themselves, the level of rest they need, and techniques and equipment to support them.

Many workshops involve her custom-made ‘Lotus’ and ‘Guru’ acupressure mats, featuring small plastic spikes to stimulate the body’s pressure points. When used regularly, the mats improve circulation, relieve pain and tension and speed muscle recovery after stress.

Ms Allen says therapeutic equipment of this nature also helps people set aside time for relaxation. When combined with meditation techniques to help them feel more comfortable in their minds and bodies, it can make a massive difference to people’s mental wellbeing.

"We are programmed to better ourselves, and often think we need to keep doing more each day to achieve this. I realise through talking to people that a lot of them are on the verge of fatigue. We need to understand that being calm and centred can be much more effective.

"The Zen Division is about providing tools people can use to find sanctuary in their everyday lives. I try to help people find things that work for them personally, showing them how to take the time they have and use it to recharge rather trying to be active for the entire day or checking endless updates on social media."

The Zen Division also operates the ‘Zententions’ online self-care group via Facebook, and is currently developing a series of online courses to support mental health, for release in 2018.

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