It is no secret that there is a mental health crisis happening in our country. Everywhere we turn we see ads, articles and videos showing countless ways to cure any emotion that ails you. But what people aren’t telling you is that there are some simple ways you take care of yourself that can positively effect your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Let’s explore!
Managing your Mental Health for Whole Body Wellness:
Rest your Body-
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following hours of sleep per night:
Age Recommended Sleep
Children 3-5 years 10-13 hours
Children 6-13 years 9-11 hours
Teenagers 14-17 years 8-10 hours
Adults 18-64 years 7-9 hours
Older Adults 65+ years 7-8 hours
When you do not get the minimum hours of sleep for your age or quality of sleep needed, it can influence your outlook on life, your energy level, and your emotions. Individuals who do not get enough sleep have greater levels of depression and anxiety. If you find yourself sleeping too much or too little on a regular basis, it may be time to seek help from a professional.
Fuel your Body-
There is a lot of information circling around about the research of what to eat, what not to eat, and “superfoods.” When it comes to eating and mental health, there are a few things to be wary of. First-- eat breakfast! There is no easier way to set your day off than by skipping breakfast, which leads to fatigue and irritability. Your body needs breakfast to jump-start your metabolism and your brain needs nutrients (specifically protein) in the morning to learn, socialize, and create new memories. Sugary drinks and caffeine should be limited, especially if you are prone to anxiety or panic attacks, as these substances can increase anxiety symptoms. Diets that rely primarily on high-fat dairy, and fried, refined and sugary foods have been linked to not only weight gain and diabetes, but increased rates of depression. Eat a diet that relies on fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish and unsaturated fats (like olive oil), and you will receive needed vitamins and lower your risk for depression.
Move your Body-
Exercise is any movement that uses your muscles and expends energy. Join a gym, take a yoga class, go for a walk around the neighborhood, tend your garden, or play tag with your children. Our bodies need at least 30 minutes of movement a day to improve our quality of life. Health benefits from regular exercise include: stress relief, improvement in mood, increased energy and stamina, improved sleep, increase mental alertness, better endurance, weight reduction, and increased interest in sex.
Mental health and physical health are connected and are both important to your overall health and wellbeing. Poor physical health can lead to an increase in mental health symptoms, such as depression, and poor mental health can lead to increased physical health problems, such as heart attacks.
Humans need connection to thrive. Loneliness and social isolation is linked to higher rates of depression and low self-esteem. We are actually hardwired for connection and when we don’t have it, we decline in all areas of life, particularly our mental health as our relationships are likely in struggle increasing mental health symptoms.
Humans require times of play to be creative, rejuvenate, learn and be curious. Play for adults is often a forgotten component of daily life. Play builds the brains resiliency and provides natural hormones to the brain to improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Think of the last time you had fun? Was it doing your hobby? Going for a walk or hike? Was it dancing? Play is defined as actions that bring us joy or contentment. So how do you get your play on?
Have A Support System-
Who are the people you can call at any time in the day or night, and you know that they will be there for you? It could be a friend, a partner, or a family member. Humans are “hard-wired” for connection and without it we become depressed and anxious. We all need a support system or someone to be there for us when we are feeling overwhelmed and stressed.
Know Your Brain-
Our brains have chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters. Billions of these neurotransmitters work to keep our brains functioning, and they affect our physical and psychological functions, such as heart rate, sleep, appetite, mood, and fear/panic responses. This plays a major role in our everyday lives. Just as our brain communicates with our body, our body communicates with our brain. That is why people cannot simply *think* their way out of anxiety and depression.
We have to keep our body fueled, moving, well rested, curious, and engaged with other humans. And sometimes, we need to seek help when we are feeling stuck in our bodies and/or our brains. Life events happen that throw us off kilter. We experience: grief/loss, relationship challenges, social challenges, marriage, children, feeling isolated, divorce, sleep disturbances, anxiety/panic, ongoing feelings of sadness or helplessness. These are all common reasons why individuals might seek professional help. It is important that when you are seeking help, you know what to look for. Seeking out a trained professional with State Licensure is key, as their training and education is more extensive for assessing life challenges, mental health, and need for further medical intervention if needed. These are not areas addressed by Life Coaches, which are not a regulated profession. It can seem less intimidating to see a Life Coach, however it only perpetuates the stigma that our mental health is somehow less important than our physical health. Seeking the appropriate specialist ensures your health needs are being met most effectively. Your whole body wellness is the goal for Mental Health Professionals.
Stress is real and challenges your well being. Live life fully! Seek out assessment and treatment proactively and when your life is not on the path you desire.
For more information:
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Suicide Prevention/Crisis line: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text line: Text HOME to 741741