Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. Just because society cannot see it and it’s not wrapped in a bandage, it does not mean that healing, rest, sensitivity, and support are not required; but it is harder for friends and family to understand your struggles. Life has no guarantees that it will be easy. Often it is more like a roller coaster with the highs and lows that everyday living throws at us. Everyday attitudes and lifestyle choices can help us maintain the balance to support mental well-being, ensuring the ability to bounce back from setbacks and determining inner resilience.
Here are 7 easy ways to remain strong when things get rocky:
The food-body-mind connection.
A few studies have shown people with diets high in junk food have a causal link with the onset of depression. The relationship between food and emotions is a complex one and for some, it can also be related to weight control and body image. The idea that food can trigger physical or emotional reactions may be a strange concept to understand. Many people now link certain foods to triggering physical problems, fatigue, inflammation, constipation, diarrhoea, or joint pain. Remarkably, the brain can be affected too. Simple reactions: irritability, anxiety, nervousness, aggravation, or depression can also be linked to food triggers in some people. Common food intolerances include gluten, dairy, soy, salicylates, citrus, aspartame, MSG, sulphites, and food colourings. Keeping a food diary and a rotational diet are excellent tools if you suspect foods are triggering reactions. Positive food choices such as fruit, vegetables, good sources of protein and grains provide key nutrients; vitamins, minerals, fibre, proteins, and phytonutrients that are the building blocks of health and create emotional balance. Researchers have shown key nutrients such as Protein, B Vitamins, Omega 3, Magnesium, Iron and Probiotics are very important too as approx. 70% of our happy hormones are in our gut.
A light bulb moment
The industrial revolution and the invention of the light bulb changed our lives and the number of artificially controlled daylight hours available. In doing so, it has also meant less time to sleep and the creation of walking zombies, aka ‘The Chronically Sleep Deprived. Those suffering from chronic sleep deprivation can suffer from weight gain, poor memory, trouble making decisions, poor motor skills, poor judgement and being emotionally over-reactive! It is no wonder that sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture! Living day to day tired is certainly not living life to your best. However, if this problem is torturing you then consider making your bedtime routine earlier and sleeping in a dark, quiet room. There are non-addictive nutritional supplements that support your sleep patterns, such as magnesium, botanicals, tart cherry, and even guided meditations that will help you relax and ideally, get a better night’s sleep.
The Water Alarm
Dehydration symptoms can become noticeable at around a 2% drop 1 of one’s normal water volume! Low energy, generally feeling lousy, experiencing mood swings, poor concentration levels are all signals more water is required. Research with women showed that mild to moderate dehydration resulted in a drop in energy, increased moodiness, lowered concentration, increased reactions to stress and a general attitude that life was lousy. Men were also affected. Unfortunately, many drinks we are attracted to such as Black tea, coffee, and soft drinks can be full of sugar and caffeine and can have dehydrating effects on the body. Ensure you are drinking enough water and consider some caffeine-free alternatives such as herbal teas or hot or cold fruit brews to top up your fluid levels.
Part of the Pack
As social creatures we were never meant to be alone or live-in isolation. But our current pandemic may have cut some off from friends and family for a period. A close relationship with others; partners, family and friends who are supportive, with whom we can spend time and share activities together are also important keys to well-being. Bonding with others is vital; whatever the activity, whether is it sharing and caring over a cup of tea, watching a funny movie with a friend, going for a walk together, being in contact with the neighbours or joining a sports team, generates a feeling of being accepted, valued, and connected. Volunteering in the community is also another option to feel connected while giving back to others.
Live in the Now
Worrying and focusing on the past or what is yet to happen robs you of energy for living in the moment and stops you enjoying the now. A popular saying ‘the past is history; the future is a mystery, and the present is a gift’. You can also find many Meditation apps or visit YouTube for some guided meditations to help you ‘stay in the now’, ‘let it go’.
It is time to get off the couch! Move it or lose it.
Our bodies and minds are designed to work best when we physically move. Numerous studies have shown all forms of movement; aerobic, resistance, yoga, and dance have a positive impact on reducing stress and increasing psychological wellbeing no matter what the age. If you have not exercised for a while, consider buddying up with a friend. Start slowly with 15 to 20 minutes of an activity that you would enjoy.
The work and activities you gravitate towards reveal your talents and these may be unique to you. The talent may be something you already do as a hobby, job, or interest but most likely it will be what drives you and gives you passion – what makes you feel alive. Many people target their weak points, but it is vital to stop comparing yourself to others and look at your skills and strengths. Sure, understand your weaknesses, but acknowledge that everyone is different and has their own weaknesses and strengths. Everyone has a unique gift; you just may not have found it yet. Have fun exploring your talents.
If your mental and emotional health are overwhelming you, then seek professional help. Remember, we are all a work in progress. No one is perfect. Putting in processes or consistently using lifestyle choices that support us when needed, helps to create a stronger internal mechanism to be more resilient when the lows of life become a challenge.
Sources for this article: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Dehydration (2021)