How Nutrition and Activity Can Help Mental Health
Stress is a normal part of everyday life. But when stress levels go through the roof, many moms can experience anxiety and depression. Some call it Mommy burnout. Some say it’s just a “phase”. But the reality is many moms, many parents, experience clinical depression and anxiety.
My first recommendation is to consult with your health care professional. Chronic stress not only wears down a parent’s body, physically and mentally, but it also has a direct effect on the way parents relate to their children. It’s important to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling.
May is Mental Health Month, established in 1949 in order to bring awareness to mental health, educate people and organizations about the importance of mental health, and help get rid of the stigma of mental health problems.
Health, oftentimes, is compartmentalized. We have liver specialists, hormone specialists, brain specialists and more. The reality is, though, we need to begin to look at health holistically, including mental health. Everything in our organism is connected, and if one thing isn’t going well, this causes a chain reaction throughout the whole body. This year’s mental health theme is Fitness #4MIND4BODY.
So, I’m concluding a month of celebrating mothers to give 7 exercise and nutrition tips to battle stress and depression and improve your mental health.
- Less is more: High levels of sodium, sugar, and all the un-pronounceable ingredients found in highly processed foods can bring a body down. Research shows that these kinds of foods actually can increase the chance of depression by up to 60%. Eating clean is a trend that can keep your body healthier. It boils down to ingredient awareness and choosing foods that are whole and/or minimally processed.
- Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, dark leafy greens, walnuts, flax and chia seeds should be on your mind when you head for the grocery store. Omega 3 fatty acids are a natural anti-depressant. Nutritionists recommend a minimum of two servings per week. Omega 3 supplements are a good option as well.
- Get your B Vitamins! B-group vitamins include folate, folic acid and vitamin B12. They help to regulate neurotransmitters, immune function, and amino acids. People with a diet high in B vitamins lower their risk of developing depression. So time to indulge! Folate and folic acid found in leafy green vegetables, legumes and whole grains are jam-packed with nutrients that. B12 is found in meat-based proteins, eggs and milk. Many breakfast cereals have Vitamin B12 as well, which are a good option for vegetarians.
- Take in the sun! Vitamin D is an essential nutrient found in fatty fish, eggs, and fortified breakfast cereals. It is also found in sunshine! Just 5 – 30 minutes of sunshine each week can fill your body with the Vitamin D. All of this sunshine helps decrease your risk of depression.
- The belly-brain connection. Gut health = mental health. Prebiotics and probiotics keep our intestinal tracts healthy. 95% of the serotonin in our bodies is produced in our guts. So a healthy GI tract produces more serotonin which lowers anxiety and stress.
- Drink away your problems. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of good hydration. Our brains are 80% liquid and need hydration. Dehydration causes fatigue. Fatigue causes stress. Chronic stress wears down our bodies. And we spiral into an unhealthy cycle.
- Walk it off. One step at a time can improve your mental health and decrease your chances of depression. Sedentary lifestyles and depression are bed partners. Exercise increases blood circulation to your brain, helping improve your mood. Depression and anxiety are a vacuum for energy. So oftentimes someone experiencing depression doesn’t exercise because, truthfully, her energy levels hit rock bottom. The only way to climb up from this abyss is by taking it one step at a time.
We’re ending a month of Moms. I hope I helped you discover ways to keep up your energy levels, spirits, and find healthy-eating short cuts while carving out time for exercise. Motherhood is tough, and so often in the madness we forget to take care of ourselves.
Being mindful of our needs is a great way to improve our mental and physical health.