It’s Mental Health Awareness week and with the current lockdown restrictions in place, never has our mental health come into such sharp focus.
Life is very challenging at the moment for many people. Now is the perfect time to be kind to yourself and focus on your own mental wellbeing.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her top tips for self-care and self-kindness.
Focus on food
What we eat has the most profound effect on mental well-being as anything. Nothing works in isolation in the body, therefore everything we eat has a massive impact on our brain and emotional health.
As an example, there have been numerous research studies to confirm that diets high in junk foods cause low energy, increased anxiety, poor sleep, nutrient depletion, and of course, weight gain. Be kind to your brain and body and feed it with nutrient dense foods.
Make your meals as colourful as possible, including plenty of fruits and vegetables as these are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available to us. If you can’t always get fresh, then stock up on frozen which are just as good as they retain most of their nutrients having been frozen soon after harvesting.
Omega-3 fats are needed by the brain for it to function at its best. Found in oily fish, flax seeds and other nuts and seeds try to eat some regularly. Eating whole grain foods rather than ‘white’ refined ones is also important, delivering plenty of B-vitamins and other key nutrients needed to balance stress hormones and instil a sense of wellbeing.
Keep well hydrated
With the body consisting of around 70% water it makes sense that we need to keep well hydrated to ensure the body can perform all its vital processes. Dehydration also affects mental wellbeing; you can end up feeling foggy, edgy, confused and energy levels will be much lower.
Caffeinated drinks will cause more anxiety, so keep these to a minimum and instead try some herbal or fruit teas. Ginseng tea is incredibly restorative, camomile is calming, and mint tea helps digestion. Don’t forget to also drink plenty of water – around 1 ½ – 2 litres daily is ideal.
Start the day positively
During difficult times, such as now, that brief moment when you open your eyes can often fill you with dread. What challenges is the day going to bring? When you wake up, make a point of thinking of three things you are grateful for.
It doesn’t matter how small they are; it can be something as simple as being able to start a new book or planning a different walk that day. If you start the day on a more positive mindset, it will help you to cope better throughout the day.
Avoid the word ‘should’
It’s probably one of the most overused words in the English language: we often feel that we ‘should’ be doing something, and this can put more pressure on ourselves. The word can also convey very negative messages to the mind. Just because you may have more time on your hands, doesn’t mean you ‘should’ do things that are not going to make you feel good.
Tell yourself you have a choice – rather than what you ‘should’ do, think about what you ‘want’ to do. Do something that makes you happy, such as watching a movie you’ve been meaning to see or phoning a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while. Try not to allow your thoughts to drift into a negative or nagging territory and go with your feelings rather than the voice on your shoulder.
Invest in yourself
Is there something you’ve always wanted to learn or a job you’d love to do? Whilst big changes do take time, learning anything new can be very empowering.
There are so many educational, practical or creative things available, especially at the moment. We never stop learning and when we’re learning we’re growing as people. If you’re struggling with self-esteem issues right now, then there are plenty of self-help books, podcasts and webinars available to set you on the right path. Take some time to make a list of things you’d like to know or do and then give yourself plenty of self-love when you’ve achieved one, however small.
There’s never been a better time to care of our mental wellbeing, as well as supporting the health of others.
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