Since mental health has an impact on our lives as a whole, it is important to know the risks and how to combat it. Oftentimes we can use physical factors to aid us mentally. Rather than through the use of medication, we can heal our bodies and our stress levels through nutrition, rest, and exercise.
Food is a fuel that can impact brain power and how we function, and lack of proper nutrition can enhance negative feelings. The importance of nutrition stems from a neurotransmitter known as serotonin, which helps our bodies regulate sleep, appetite, mediate our moods, and even inhibits pain. Since 95% of serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, making smart food choices can help support proper brain and body function.
A few examples of food that can support cognitive function, emotional stability, and overall well-being are lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Fermented foods, omega- 3 fatty acids, spices, tea, and vitamin D.
An example of a healthy diet that significantly slows cognitive decline with age and lowers chances of depression and psychological distress is the Mind Diet. This consists of:
- Natural plant-based foods
- Limited intake of animal and high-fat foods
- Leafy green vegetables
Another diet that is easy to incorporate into your everyday meals is the Mediterranean/Dash Diet. It helps to reduce the risk of developing neurological disorders by up to 28% compared to the use of other diets. It also helps decrease the risk of anxiety and mental stress. The foods consist of:
- Whole grain cereal products
- Olive oil
Along with nutrition, there is also the significance of rest. Quality sleep improves mental health, cognitive performance, and emotional resilience. If you’re not getting proper rest, it can increase your risk of mental health disorders. According to a study published in sleep medicine, sleep disturbances were linked to higher levels of psychological distress. Additionally, lack of sleep has also been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.
A few sleep tips to aid in receiving proper rest are:
- Keeping a consistent sleep schedule
- Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night
- Sleeping in a dark room
- Limiting exposure to bright lights
- Limiting caffeine in the afternoon
- No use of electronics 30 minutes before bedtime
- Exercising and focusing on diet
In addition to outside resources to help improve your mental health there are ways to alleviate/ combat mental fatigue for an overall better state of living. There are a few ideas to help begin creating healthy routines:
- Focus on eating a nutrient-rich diet, exercising, and sleeping
- Own your feelings – Identify what you’re feeling and taking the time to address it
- Learn your triggers – Knowing how to react and respond
- Connect with others – The importance of relationships
- Cultivate gratitude – Utilize a gratitude journal to thank the people in your life and appreciate other aspects of your environment
- Practice Self-Care – Using techniques focused on relaxation or movement can help soothe negative symptoms of mental illness
A few additional solutions that could be beneficial to improve mental health are to encourage work-life balance and the use of PTO and personal days or mental health days. Motivating others to participate in wellness seminars, challenges, and wellness programs. Seeking professional guidance through a healthcare provider or therapy sessions through an Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) or coaching program.
In order to help reduce the stigma around mental health, it’s important to educate yourself and listen. Learn about the issues, stigmas, and obstacles to gain an understanding of the societal changes needed. Be an advocate for those in need or struggling.
If you or a loved one are having trouble getting help, here are a few options to help get you started.
- Speak to a doctor or mental health professional
- Your EAP or healthcare provider should provide a service or counseling/telehealth sessions. Check out your benefits page
- Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 800-662-HELP
- Call or text 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline to be immediately connected to trained counselors
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