There is an old saying that goes, “You are what you eat,” and is often brought up in reference to junk food. A regular diet of things like hamburgers, french fries, and milkshakes will take a definite toll on your physical health after awhile. But did you know that what you eat can also negatively affect your mental health?
Therapists working with people who have mental health challenges tried various strategies to help their clients overcome these problems. While talk therapy and medication are often cited, one lesser-known strategy is diet. While the food these individuals eat will not fully solve their problems, a change in diet can often make mental health challenges less potent.
You have probably heard about how antioxidants are great for your physical health, but they are actually also beneficial for your outlook. People with large amounts of carotenoids (a form of antioxidant) in their system tend to be more optimistic and upbeat, which is the antithesis of depressed or anxious. Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables, so make sure that you have the recommended amount of both each day.
Junk foods make you feel more stressed
so-called comfort foods may indeed make us feel better for a time, but they are actually also making us more stressed. Heavy amounts of sugar and salt are not beneficial for people dealing with issues like anxiety and depression (or anyone, really). In the long run, a healthier diet will make you feel better.
You will get more sleep
Another thing that junk food is not good for is promoting healthy sleeping habits. People suffering from anxiety and depression often do not sleep well, which makes them feel really tired and that in turn heightens the already existing problems. The equation is simple: a better diet equals better sleep.
Life in today’s world can be extremely stressful. Between our responsibilities on the job and at home, coupled with worries about money and the state of the world, one can spend a great deal of the day in a state of unease. Constant stress can take a toll both physically and mentally, and we all need to find some time in our day to relax.
However, not all forms of relaxation are healthy. Alcohol and drug use may provide near-instant stress reduction, but they can also be quite bad for you in the long run. Ideally, you need to find a form of release that provides you with that needed sense of calm and balance, but does not also harm you in any way.
Fortunately, there are many ways to achieve this. Here are just a few:
Avoid Caffeine and Nicotine
These may provide a form of relief, however, like alcohol and drugs, they are ultimately more harmful than helpful.
Physical activity is the body’s natural stress reliever. Even just walking for a few minutes a day can help. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day as this will also help you maintain a proper weight.
Putting things down on paper can be very therapeutic. It allows us to relieve frustration in the moment, but also down the road. Chances are, when you look at what you wrote a few days after the fact, the situation will have either resolved itself or not proven to be such a big deal. That knowledge can help reduce the amount of stress you experience in future when faced with a similar dilemma.
Learn to Say “No”
Some people have helpful personalities. It provides them with a sense of joy and accomplishment to know that they are helping people solve their problems. Unfortunately, these same individuals can start to take on too much and that negatively impacts their ability to keep their own life in balance. If that is happening to you, don’t feel guilty about prioritizing yourself; say no, I’m sorry, I just can’t take that on right now.