Many mental health conditions can be caused by errors in thinking and psychological traits, but they can also be caused by organic hormonal and nutritional issues. If you've suffered from or current cope with depression, anxiety, bipolar or simply mood swings, you've got to get these foundations of mental health down pat.
1) Protein - I talk about protein all the time because so many athletes aren't getting enough. If you workout 3-5 times a week, you need to have adequate protein in your diet to support your muscles AND your mind. All of your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) and enzymes that produce these feel-good chemicals are made of protein. Endurance athletes (triathletes, marathoners, swimmers etc) need to get 1.1-1.6g/kg of body weight in protein everyday. For a 150lb adult, that's 75-108g/day. Let's do some quick math. Your cereal might have 10g of protein MAX. A chicken breast? Probably 20g. Cup of chickpeas for dinner? 15g. That puts you at 45g. See, maybe you do need more!
2) Stress Management - sure, exercise might be the way you manage stress, but you also need a calming outlet. Journalling, meditation, gentle yoga, and reflection are all great ways to slow down and tune in to how you're really feeling. The goal of life is to feel GOOD. It's not hedonistic, it's true. If you're chronically worried about something, or under a lot of pressure, what can we do to change that? If no changes can be made, how can we reduce the impact of stress on your brain and body? That's what we've got to figure out.
3) Have FUN - when was the last time you did something FUN that wasn't a workout. I'm serious. What do YOU enjoy? Is it playing with your kids? Baking up a storm? Visiting a friend? Going dancing? Again, the goal of life is to feel GOOD. Make sure you're making time for the things you ENJOY. Not just the things you think you have to do.
4) Fat - Yep, we're back on nutrition. Healthy fats help to maintain a healthy brain. Omega-3 rich foods and possibly a supplement, can combat mood disorders. Consume cold water fish like salmon up to 3-5times weekly, or consider supplementing with fish oil. Flax, chia and hemp seeds are all good sources of Omega-3 and/or 6 fatty acids which can also help to support mental health.
5) Hormones - If you're menstruating and you suffer from cramps, PMS and a worsening of anxiety, this might be your problem. Anxiety can be worse when progesterone is lower than optimal, or estrogen is higher than optimal. Depression can occur in testosterone deficiency in both women and men. Ensuring your hormones are balanced can help you get back on track with your mood and help you feel GOOD.
6) Sleep - Trouble sleeping is the worst. When you're exhausted, your emotions can be all over the place. Hormones can play a role here too especially if you're having difficulty with menstruation or libido. Make sure you practice healthy sleep hygiene including limiting screen time before bed, to ensure you get a good night's rest.
By setting yourself up with these Mental Health Foundations, you should start to feel better. If you have a serious condition that goes much deeper than what is discussed here perhaps it's time for a visit with me or a health care provider to help you take charge of your mental well-being. If you're feeling alone, or have thoughts of hurting yourself in any way, make sure you seek help immediately. Visit your health care provider or call 780-482-HELP (4357) / 1-800-232-7288.