Dr. Niveditha Navin
Our brain is the most powerful and complex organ in our body. Besides being vital to consciousness, it is central to overall health and quality of life.
The current pandemic, as a consequence of social isolation, fear of losing jobs, loss of income has produced harmful repercussions on our mental health. Renowned psychologist Dr. Gregory Jantz stated, “Covid has created a mental health epidemic inside a pandemic”.
Researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, reported one in three adults experiencing psychological distress are Covid related. According to the WHO, depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide. It is important to remember that prevention plays a bigger role in improving depression and anxiety rates. Practicing good mental health habits before you feel distressed will prepare you for hard times.
Focusing on areas of our lives we can control makes it easier to deal with events that are out of our control. If you feel like you’re missing a positive mindset and a healthy lifestyle, try out some of these tips we gathered from psychologists and therapists on how to practice good mental health.
We all face anxiety, and worry about many things, but if you worry too much, you end up with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Thea Gallagher, Clinic Director at University of Pennsylvania’s Perlman School of Medicine calls worry ‘thought garbage’, as there is no connection between the worry and current reality. She encourages her patients to change how they think, by getting them to think on positive thoughts, rather than negative, unhealthy concerns. According to Gallagher, asking yourself Can I solve this problem? What can I do about it? If there is nothing you can do about it, there is no use worrying about it. Don’t waste time thinking up situations that are unlikely to happen.
Psychologist Danielle Forshee, suggests writing down your thoughts helps you objectively see them, and helps you find positive alternatives and solutions.
A healthy body leads to a healthy mind and a healthy mind leads to a healthy body.
Taking a 20 minute walk everyday helps keep you feeling refreshed. Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment because it releases endorphins which relieves tension, stress, boosts energy and enhances our sense of well- being. It gets you outdoors, under the sun, which increases your vitamin D levels, which in turn improves your mood. Deep breathing helps calm our monkey mind, and quieten negative thoughts.
Dr John Mayer, Clinical Psychologist tells us to seek new experiences. Experiment with a new recipe, write a poem, paint or try a Pinterest project. Creative expression and overall well-being are linked, it keeps your brain refreshed and helps balance your life. Spending more time on your hobbies or something that would elevate your mood, gives a positive outlook in life which builds up a strong barrier towards stress.
Helping others through community work allows you to focus away from yourself and helps gain a sense of satisfaction, leaving us feeling more empowered. This has a physiologic effect on our brains, triggering a release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin (the happy and feel good hormones) which is our ammunition in fighting depression and anxiety.
Specific foods provide vital nutrition that fuels the brain. Drinking plenty of water keeps you hydrated, and improves your mood.
Magnesium, aka the anti-stress mineral is needed for serotonin (feel good hormone) production. Magnesium also regulates melatonin production for a better, more restful sleep. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND recommends 500mg-600mg of elemental magnesium as an optimal daily amount. Food sources rich in magnesium include green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans and fish.
Muneer Imam, MD recommends an anti-inflammatory diet such as eggs, probiotic rich food, asparagus, almonds, spinach, salmon, as they reduce inflammation and supply brain with nutrients such as omega- 3 fatty acids, selenium, vitamin B12 and zinc that regulate brain function and relieve anxiety.
Avoid consuming too much caffeine, and heavy drinking, as it affects your quality of sleep and tends to increase depressive symptoms. Men generally should not drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day, and women should limit themselves to one. Limit your caffeine intake to 1-2 cups per day.
Including these strategies in your day-to-day life will change your life for the better and your positivity will also affect everyone around you.
About Dr. Niveditha Navin
Dr. Navin is a clinical research specialist, who holds a degree in dentistry. After completing her postgraduate diploma in clinical research, she has experience working as a clinical affairs specialist in the pharmaceutical industry. She is passionate about medicine and wishes to carve a distinct niche in the field of research.
- Wang Y, Kala MP, Jafar TH (2020). Factors associated with psychological distress during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the predominantly general population: A systematic review and meta-analysis.PLoS ONE 15(12): e0244630.
- https://www.today.com/health/anxiety-doctors-explain-when-worry-becomes-problemADAA member Thea Gallagher, PsyD, LPC shares her insights on worrying too much in this article.
- Ljungberg, Tina et al. “Evidence of the Importance of Dietary Habits Regarding Depressive Symptoms and Depression.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 17,5 1616. 2 Mar. 2020.