This month I am focusing on mental health for a number of reasons. Not only is January a month where we tend to see an increase in anxiety and depression in the post-Christmas haze, but due to our current political and social climate people are feeling increased disconnection and isolation, all factors leading to a reduced sense of wellbeing.
Anxiety and Depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Winter blues… whatever you want to call it, it’s not uncommon to feel ‘off’ at this time of year. However, for some of us, feeling anxious or depressed is not just in the winter, but all year long.
When I was starting my practice, I was incredibly stressed and an anxious mess most of the time. I had terrible anxiety that impacted all areas of my life. My digestion was where I carried most of my stress and I suffered with a lot of stomach pain. My sleep was awful and often my anxiety would keep me awake for hours leading to mini-panic attacks at 2-3am. My relationships often took the brunt of my anxiety and I’m blessed to have the most incredibly patient family and friends who stuck by me when I was at my lowest.
Today I feel so much better. That’s not to say I never get bouts of intense anxiety, I do, but I’ve learned ways to successfully reduce these with Naturopathic medicine.
A healthy diet is not very exciting, but as I say over and over, Food is Medicine, and so making your diet a priority will improve your mental health. Reducing sugar is key to improved mental health. Sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup, is incredibly inflammatory causing increased stress to your brain and hormones. It causes a yo-yo effect on your blood sugar levels, which leads to an increased anxiety and it also causes imbalances in our digestive systems leading to a whole host of other problems ranging from heartburn to constipation, none of which improve your mental outlook.
Getting appropriate sleep is also key to improved mental health. It’s hard to feel happy if you’re exhausted or sleep deprived. Research shows that limiting screens/devices 30 min before bed will improve your sleep.
Deciding who in your life brings you joy and who doesn’t is one of the hardest decisions to make. It doesn’t mean you need to completely cut those that don’t out of your life, but simply reduce time spent with them, or reduce energy spent on them. I realize that this is easier said than done, but take a few minutes to consider how you might do this gently and kindly in your life.
There is no quick fix for anxiety or depression, but it does not have to be a life or seasonal sentence. There are many options to help you feel more joy and it will take some commitment and often some change, but it is worth it. Trust me, I know!