I have to say I have a heavy heart this week as it relates to issues of mental health. Along with the sad passing of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, there was a very young woman in my community that committed suicide this week.
My family, like so many, is not a stranger to mental health with loved ones, including depression, anxiety and suicide. This makes my conversations with Dr. Christina that much more important.
If you missed last week’s excerpt – we have been talking about improving mental health with naturopathic medicine (find it here). Dr Christina has experienced this first-hand having battled mental health her whole life, including an attempted suicide. She is an amazing advocate and gifted practitioner and this week we are digging into ways to bolster physical health when addressing mental health. I trust you will read on and perhaps share this blog in hopes it lands on someone who can benefit from its wisdom.
Dr. Christina, How do we best support the physical level of health when addressing mental health; can you share some practical tips?
In terms of the physical level, the key areas to address are: diet, sleep, exercise and managing stress. Here are some ideas for each along with links to a few videos I recorded. A great place to get started.
With respect to diet – it is important to understand that everything you put in your body informs your body in one way or another. Nutrition is the building block upon which you make your neurotransmitters and hormones, so it is important to ensure you are getting enough of the essential nutrients. An essential nutrient means your body does not have the ability to make it on its own, as such you must obtain these nutrients from your diet. Jump over to this video link for ideas on a supportive diet, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLtmlpcXFEM&t=4s (approx. 15 min)
Though it can be very hard, even seem impossible some days, exercise is highly effective as a strategy to support mental health. You don’t have to be a marathon runner, just getting out for a brisk walk in nature can have positive and lasting affects on your mental health.
I share personal details in the next short video (6 min) on how tennis provided many benefits for me and in fact, was largely responsible for me surviving and even thriving following my suicide attempt in 2009. Some days it was almost impossible to get the motivation but I never had a day that I exercised and didn’t feel better.
Walking, running, yoga, biking, swimming…the options are endless. The key; pick something you enjoy.
Sleep is essential to everyone. It is a time when your brain and body balance and regulate their vital systems to prepare for the next day. A lack of sleep deprives your brain and body of this essential rest period and can compromise your ability to get through the day successfully. Listen in to see if you relate to any of the sleep concerns Dr. Chris mentions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggpCvsp7stQ (9 min)
Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. But beyond a certain point, stress can cause major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.
Positive Coping Strategies for Optimal Mental Wellness:
– Nutrition: eat breakfast everyday and include protein (think eggs) or healthy fats (think avocado)
– Sleep well (7-8 hours/night)
– Ensure daily relaxation practices: yoga, tai chi, meditation, mindfulness, take lunch breaks, diaphragmatic breathing
– Time management and boundaries: learn to say “no” – you don’t have to be all things to all people at all times
– Release outlets: exercise, journaling, garden, create vision boards, dance, go for a walk, call a friend, laugh/be silly
– Relationships: avoid toxic relationships, pick your battles, agree to disagree, surround yourself with supporters
Next week we’ll look at Dr. Chris’s favourite area to address (and mine too!); mental, emotional and spiritual health.
If you can’t wait, hop over to Dr. Chris’s website or check out her book, Beyond the Label: 10 Steps to Improve your Mental Health with Naturopathic Medicine.