In the last post I promised that in the next one I would be sharing the 5 things that I try to do EVERY day, that I have found really help a lot when trying to balance and maintain good mental health. This is not meant to replace medication (if needed) or other forms of therapy. And if you think you may be suffering from depression or other mental illnesses, I highly recommend seeing a Psychiatrist to get an accurate diagnosis and help you formulate a good plan of action.
This is certainly not just for those who suffer with mental illnesses. These habits are great habits to adopt for anyone who wants to improve their physical, mental and emotional state. So please don’t click off now, I promise this will be worth it.
So let’s just jump right in! I am going to go in specific order of importance as they apply to me and my mental health, but I’m sure it may be completely different for others.
1. SLEEP- At least 6-8 hours of good solid sleep per night. It might seem crazy that I put this as the number one habit to adopt, but it is so so important! Sleep is when your body recovers, rejuvenates and repairs itself. If your not getting enough, your body can’t function as it properly should. Besides the obvious negativities like poor focus, fatigue and lack of concentration, poor sleep is linked to overeating, a greater risk for inflammation, depression, a greater risk of heart disease and stroke and it affects your emotions and social interactions. It also contributes to lower glucose metabolism and increased risk of type 2 diabetes and those are just a few of the negative effects. So it makes so much sense to give your body what it needs so that it can function as efficiently as possible.
Everyone is different and requires different amounts to be healthy but at least 6-8 hours per night seems to be a sweet spot for most people. There are so many benefits too. It can improve concentration and productivity, improve athletic performance. Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories. And it can improve immune system functions among many other benefits. For me it is paramount in keeping my mental health balanced and stable. Also one last word of advice for sleep is that if you find that you have lost sleep for a few days, try to catch a few extra winks as quickly as you possibly can. Sleep deprivation is a breeding ground for mania or manic episodes.
2. MOVE. YOUR. BODY.- At least 30 minutes daily of some form of movement. I notice a significant drop in my mood within a couple of days of not working out. It’s really kind of scary for me because I can feel depression settle in almost like a big black storm cloud if I go more than a few days without my regular workouts. I personally do my workouts at home so I don’t have to get dressed up and wear makeup (cause I don’t go anywhere without makeup, haha), or worry about others critiquing what I’m doing. Plus it saves money on babysitters and gym memberships. I have been working out consistently for over 25 years and have learned specific workouts that seem to have a greater positive effect for me. Over the years I have collected quite a variety of videos, and equipment to keep me from getting bored doing the same workouts.
But whatever works for YOU is great! As long as you are moving your body regularly. Some people love the gym. Some love to get outside and run or hike, and some enjoy the calming effects of a good yoga session. It doesn’t really matter what, where, or how you move. Just move and get those endorphins flowing! Not only does it benefit your mental and emotional health, it makes you look and feel better. And who can’t appreciate that?
3. HYDRATE- Drink at least half your body weight a day in water. I’ve been doing this for many years now and it might seem funny that I rated this more important than a healthy diet (spoiler alert, lol). And this is on purpose their are so many benefits to being properly hydrated. Here are just a few: Weight loss and good skin elasticity. Hello! Who doesn’t want to be more fit and have less wrinkles? (I attribute looking as young as I do at 50 to drinking a lot of water every day for the past 20 something years). Muscle efficiency, mood balancer (yes!), temperature control, memory function, and joint lubrication. It flushes out the toxins that build up in our bodies creating good bowel function. It aids digestion and creates better immune health. It’s just a good solid healthy habit to adopt.
4. Eating a Healthy Diet. – Try and stay away from sugary processed foods. And, I’m sorry for this one but, ABSOLUTELY no caffeine. Disclaimer, this is what I have found that works for me. I am not a Dr. so definitely consult your physician on the best diet for you and your body type.
I have personally found that cutting back on carbohydrates and cutting out sugary foods and drinks does wonders for my mental state. I know when I’ve gone to far with the trips to the ice cream store, because I start feeling lethargic, run down, lacking on focus and concentration and it’s easy for depression to set in. And as for caffeine, this was a hard line that my Dr. set with me first thing! I wasn’t thrilled about it for sure! But it has had a huge effect on keeping me out of a state of mania. When I’m entering a manic state of mind it feels almost like I’ve had a couple of cups of coffee or shot of caffeine. So it makes sense that this would be something important to implement.
I’m not going too far down this road because it can be a loaded topic. There are many options when it comes to healthy eating and different diet plans. If you want more info on what I DO eat, please DM me and I’d be happy to chat about it. Again this is what works for me. The side benefits are many and your brain and body will love you for it.
5. CUTTING DOWN ON HIGH PRESSURE STRESS- Stress affects your body, from your brain to your digestive system! This habit is probably the hardest one to maintain for most people. We have so many things going on in our lives from work and family to school, and outside activities. And that’s just naming a few. These are just some of the many ways that stress can affect us negatively. Headaches, muscle tension, chest palpitations, feelings of depression, ravenous hunger, and the list goes on. I have learned over the years that a good practice to adopt is that it’s OK to say ‘no’. Don’t feel like you have to do all and be all just because you feel like everyone else is doing it. Or that you just won’t measure up if you don’t. Your good health is more important than anything else. Even if it’s something you feel is really important! If you feel your body ramping up or getting anxious, it’s important to follow those signs it’s giving out. If you are overwhelmed and over stressed to the max and you don’t heed the warning signs, your body will do a mental re-boot without your permission. Trust me I’ve been there and it’s not pretty. Bottom line, down time is important and good for your body.
So that is a brief run down of the 5 habits that I promised to share with you. I thought of at least 5 more that can be helpful as I was writing but I’ll save that for a later post. Just one last final disclaimer: Don’t just take my word for it. If you are having warning signs, do yourself a favor and visit with your Dr. You only have one body. It might have come damaged somewhat, but there are still things you can do to keep it as healthy as possible.
p.s. Not one of these habits is a fail safe. You can’t just be one and done. Of course each one is very beneficial and if you can’t do them all, start by adapting one at a time. But they definitely work better in combination with each other.
If you made it this far, I hoped it helped and please share with anyone you think this might help. XO Wendy