A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Healthline.com. Healthline is a "comprehensive health information site that offers trusted medical information and rich, interactive visual tools to help you make better health decisions". (I stole that quote from their facebook page. This serves as my official bibliography. Don't sue me). I've checked it out, and love that it features doctor-reviewed resources, and that it focuses on all different areas of health. When they contacted me, they asked me if they could do a guest post for my blog, and asked if there was any topic in particular that I'd be interested in hearing about.
I practically frothed at the mouth. I love discussing health - I even went to school to be a paramedic until I realized that I couldn't lift a darned stair chair. Live and learn.
Anyway...I chose a topic near and dear to my heart: mental health. I asked if they'd be willing to write a post about how exercise and proper eating can benefit one's mental health - whether it be as part of a treatment plan, or as a preventive measure. Here is what they came up with:
How A Healthy Diet and Exercise Can Help You Cope With Mental Illness
Anyone struggling to cope with mental illness knows how hard it can be to manage his or her symptoms. Though the symptoms of mental illness may not be outwardly recognizable, they are in fact very real. Even with medication and therapy, many people with conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illness struggle to deal with their symptoms on a daily basis. The stress and anxiety of these illnesses can sometimes make everyday life seem impossible. Your first priority should be visiting a doctor for help with managing your condition, but there is nothing wrong with taking a more comprehensive approach as well. Taking steps to reduce everyday stress in your life and live a healthier lifestyle can help make a significant difference.
Reducing Stress in Your Life
Any mental illness makes the everyday tasks of life more difficult. Depression or anxiety may make it difficult for you to get out of bed in the morning, socialize with friends and family members, or even leave your home. Simplifying your life and making it as stress free as possible will go a long way to help you make the symptoms more manageable. Leading a minimally stressful life will not make the symptoms of your illness go away, but it can reduce the stressors that trigger them. If you are having trouble managing your fear, stress, and anxiety with medication or talk therapy, you should also re-evaluate the priorities in your life. Try to cut down on the number of commitments and obligations in your life, and make sure you focus on the things that are really a priority to you. The next step is making small changes to live a healthier lifestyle.
Improve Your Diet
A healthy diet full of nutritious foods is key to keeping your energy levels up and your mood positive. Everyone is aware of the strong link between food and emotions, after all that is what makes chocolates and other sweet foods so appealing. You might be tempted to binge on these emotionally satisfying foods, but that is not necessarily the right option. Carbohydrates with simple sugars, like chocolate and candy, are not the best foods to manage your mood. They will cause your blood sugar to spike, giving you a temporary mood and energy burst, but they will only leave you feeling down later on.
Choosing foods like whole grains, lean meats, fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and dark chocolate offer plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep your mood stable and your energy levels consistent. If your diet is lacking in major vitamins and minerals, you could easily be malnourished without knowing it, and this could be having a bigger impact on your mood than you think.
Get Plenty of Regular Exercise
In addition to your diet, exercise can be a great way to improve your mood. Regular exercise offers both short and long term benefits in stabilizing your mood. In the short term, exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are a chemical that reacts with your brain to boost your mood and inhibit sensations of pain. If you want a quick mood boost, a good workout can be a great help. A workout is also a nice way to take a break from whatever is stressing you out. Exercise can help to counteract some of the symptoms of depression and other types of mental illness through the release of endorphins.
Regular exercise also has many long-term benefits as well. Exercise improves your fitness level and helps keep your energy levels consistent. People who rarely leave their homes or interact with others due to their symptoms of mental illness can also benefit from the social element of exercise.
(Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.)
A big thank you to Valerie for writing this post for me! I must admit that I am very disappointed to learn that I should NOT be self-medicating with chocolate, though. There goes my excuse!!!
In seriousness...mental illness can be tough. It can be excruciating. If any of you suffer from it, please know that you are not alone. Please know that there is hope for you. This article is not intended to make people think that it's easy-peasy to keep mental illness under control, because it is often NOT; however, for those of us who are in the "right place" to do so, I am hoping that the above will provide some advice about how we can take some control of our condition. I know from experience that there is nothing worse than feeling like you can't contribute to your own recovery.
I'd love to hear any thoughts that you have about this. Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post a comment if you have anything to say, or if there is something I can help you with.