In years gone by, mental health disorders were largely swept under the carpet. Stiff upper lip was the going wisdom. Thankfully, we don’t live in that world any more. It is no longer seen as a sign of weakness any more than, say, a cough or back pain. According to the most recent census, one in ten Australians were diagnosed with a mental health disorder. That’s over 2.2 million people. If that number seems high to you, consider this: it has probably always been this high, but people didn’t feel free to pursue help. It is much like when schools stopped punishing students for being left handed, and all of a sudden, the number of lefties skyrocketed. When we allow people to express how they feel, we finally get accurate data. In actual fact, the true number may yet be higher when you think about all the undiagnosed disorders out there…
Ultimately, it comes down to this: You or someone you love will one day need help with a mental health disorder. Fortunately, there is so much you can do. It is comforting to know that having a little lapse is not going to be permanent. It will go, and here are six things you can do to send it on its way as soon as possible.
A meta-study conducted by Harvard Medical School showed a direct correlation between your diet and your mental health. They found that if your diet is high in red meat or processed meat, your chances of developing depression were significantly higher. This was exacerbated by a diet of sugars, fats, and an absence of fruits and vegetables. So, you can almost flip this on its head to work out what you need to do to avoid depression: High intake of veggies and fruits, whole grains, antioxidants and low levels of meat. Often, when we are feeling low, we want that quick hit of a comfort food to release endorphins that make us feel good. But ultimately, this does us more harm than good.
Looking after your gut biome
There is a plethora of medical research coming out in the last ten years that is pointing to your gut as one of your most important organs when it comes to brain function (some researchers even describe it as your ‘second brain’). It is a finely tuned ecosystem of bacteria down there, but if we don’t take care of it, the balance can tip. This causes inflammation that can be linked to both anxiety and depression. To load yourself up with the good stuff, you should be getting more fermented foods into your diet: Kefir, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut. This is especially important if you have just done a round of antibiotics; these are amazingly powerful medicines, but in getting rid of an illness, they end up taking all of the good bacteria in your stomach with it. So you need to be really intentional in repopulating your gut with probiotics afterwards. Consider Caruso’s or something similar if you are after a reliable choice.
Get good sleep
Good sleep hygiene is critical to our mental health. It is the moment where the brain washes away all the carcinogenic toxins of the day and does a spring clean. If we don’t let the brain do this, it becomes dulled, and there is a strong correlation between people getting less than seven hours sleep, and developing depression. But the quest to get better sleep is always easier said than done. Some people simply need to modify their lifestyle habits to make this work: not using blue light screens after 7pm, or perhaps eating dinner earlier. For others, they hop into bed and their mind gets the better of them. They begin to fear going to bed because it is a time when loneliness kicks in and there is nothing to distract them. In that case, a supplement can come in and save the day. This might be something like Caruso’s MindEZE, which uses a variety of natural ingredients to calm your mind before bed.
Exercise does good things to your brain. It releases endorphins that mimic the effects of cannabis (endogenous cannabinoids), so you end up feeling a bit relaxed, slightly less pent up and with a better sense of well-being. Experts recommend getting 30 minutes of exercise three to five times a week, but if this is beyond you, even getting 15 minutes of moderate exercise (a brisk walk) is enough to boost your mood.
Maintaining social connections
This is closely linked to exercise because it is often a great way to kill two birds with one stone. The more you can interact with others, the less time you spend focused inwards on yourself. A recent study has shown that there is a linguistic indicator of depression: people who use a disproportionate amount of personal pronouns. That means they talk about “I”, “me” or “my” problems more than looking outward at others. Just by hearing about other people’s experiences, you get momentarily lifted from your own. And sometimes, that is exactly what you need.
This is not listed last because it should be the ‘last resort’. On the contrary, choosing to seek professional help is a really positive initial step. It is kind of like taking your car in for a service when there is a tiny oil leak, as opposed to waiting until your car is about to explode. Speaking to a trained counsellor can be life changing, and you shouldn’t put it off. Chat to your GP, and get a mental health plan. This allows you ten visits to a clinical psychologist which are heavily subsidised by Medicare. If it turns out that you were just having a moment, there is no harm done by talking about it.
Hopefully this puts some tools in your arsenal for how you might react when you or someone you love faces a mental health issue. Whether it be a supplement like Caruso’s, or a chat with a counsellor, you can overcome.