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How Self-Care Can Improve Your Mental Health

By Liz Ferrell, Development & Community Outreach Specialist


May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as we head into summer, the Behavioral Health Team at HOPE Family Health wants to remind you of some ways you can enhance your own mental health. How? With some tried and true methods of self-care: a healthy diet and nutrition, physical activity and good sleep habits.

 

The concept of self-care has gotten a lot of attention recently. In the context of casual conversation, it can sound like self-indulgence. But what does it mean?

 

While self-care might include an occasional self-indulgence, it actually means the opposite. In fact, self-care is a medical concept that appears as a theory of nursing.*

 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Self-care is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote and maintain their own health, prevent disease, and to cope with illness – with or without the support of a health or care worker.”*

 

Medically speaking, the goal of self-care is for you to proactively take as much responsibility as you can for your own life, health and wellbeing. By taking care of yourself, not only do you remain well enough to care for others, you ultimately reduce the burden on society and the healthcare system – not to mention your own family and friends!

 

HOPE’s mission statement clearly seeks to engage every HOPE patient in self-care: “We restore dignity, faith, health, and hope in those we serve by making them partners in the healing process and providing them with competent, loving care.”


HOPE wants to educate and equip you with the tools of self-care so you know the steps you can take to ensure your mental and physical wellbeing. “Taking care of your mental and physical health is an act of self-love,” states April Reyes, HOPE’s Director of Behavioral Health.

 

Diet and Nutrition* 

It’s true - you really are what you eat!  Diet and nutrition play an important role in your overall well-being.

  • A low-carb diet combined with exercise can lower anxiety.

  • The Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of developing depression and can alleviate existing depressive symptoms.

  • Adding vitamins and minerals in the form of food or with dietary supplements can help:

    • Bipolar disorder – Omega 3 fatty acids and n-acetyl cysteine.

    • Schizophrenia – Vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids and n-acetyl cysteine.

    • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – N-acetyl cysteine.

    • ADHD – Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, zinc.

    • Major Depressive Disorder – Magnesium, Vitamin C, zinc, probiotics, Vitamin D, omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins.

 

Physical Activity*

According to the WHO, “Regular physical activity is a form of self-care that can avert an estimated 3.9 million premature deaths each year.” Immediate benefits to physical activity include improved sleep quality, reduced feelings of anxiety, and an improved sense of well-being. But there are long-term benefits, also: improved musculoskeletal health and a reduced risk of weight gain, depression, or developing dementia.

 

Sleep*

Sleep deprivation negatively impacts mental health. Some tips to improve the quality and quantity of sleep you get – and thereby improve your mental health – include:

  • Trying to keep a consistent sleep schedule – even on weekends.

  • Setting a bedtime that allows you to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.

  • Avoiding strenuous exercise within a few hours of going to bed.

  • Create a healthy sleep environment in your bedroom by avoiding bright lights and loud sounds, keeping your bedroom at a comfortable temperature, and limiting the use of electronics.

  • Avoiding caffeine and nicotine late in the day and limiting alcoholic drinks before bed.

 

Self-care may seem like a great excuse to take a breather - get a massage, indulge in retail therapy, take a hike, go to the beach, sleep in, go fishing, eat pizza and binge-watch your favorite show. And it certainly can and should include these things. But in fact, good self-care requires far more intentionality – adopting a healthy lifestyle so you and your loved ones can enjoy life’s little luxuries for a long time to come.

 


*Learn more

 

Links to source articles:

 

Professional journal publication sources:

  • Lachance L., Ramsey D. Food, mood, and brain health: implications for the modern clinician. Mo Med. 2015 Mar-Apr; 112(2):111-5. PMID: 25958655; PMCID: PMC6170050.

  • Jerome Sarris, Arun  Ravindran, Lakshmi N. Yatham, Wolfgang Marx, Julia J. Rucklidge, Roger S. McIntyre, Shahin Akhondzadeh, Francesco Benedetti, Constanza  Caneo,  Holger  Cramer, Lachlan Cribb, Michael de Manincor, Olivia Dean, Andrea Camaz  Deslandes, Marlene P.  Freeman,  Bangalore Gangadhar,  Brian. Harvey,  Siegfried Kasper,  James  Lake,  Adrian  Lopresti, Lin Lu, Najwa-Joelle  Metri, David  Mischoulon, Chee H. Ng,  Daisuke Nishi,  Roja  Rahimi, Soraya Seedat, Justin Sinclair, Kuan-Pin Su, Zhang-Jin  Zhang  & Michael Berk  (2022)  Clinician guidelines for the treatment of psychiatric disorders with nutraceuticals and phytoceuticals: The World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry (WFSBP) and Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) Taskforce, The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 23:6, 424-455, DOI: 10.1080/15622975.2021.2013041.

  • Jaqueline G. Borges-Vieira  & Camila K. Souza Cardoso (2023) Efficacy of B-vitamins and vitamin D therapy in improving depressive and anxiety disorders: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials, Nutritional Neuroscience, 26:3, 187-207, DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2022.2031494.

  • Wolfgang  Marx, Sam H. Manger, Mark Blencowe, Greg Murray, Fiona Yan-Yee Ho,  Sharon Lawn, James A. Blumenthal, Felipe Schuch, Brendon Stubbs,  Anu  Ruusunen, Hanna Demelash Desyibelew, Timothy G. Dinan, Felice Jacka,  Arun  Ravindran,  Michael  Berk  &  Adrienne O’Neil (2023)  Clinical guidelines for the use of lifestyle-based mental health care in major depressive disorder: World Federation of Societies for Biological Psychiatry (WFSBP) and Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine (ASLM) Taskforce, The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 24:5, 333-386, DOI: 10.1080/15622975.2022.2112074.

  • Lydia Alexander, Sandra M. Christensen, Larry Richardson, Amy Beth Ingersoll, Karli Burridge, Angela Golden, Sara Karjoo, Danielle Cortez, Michael Shelver, Harold Edward Bays, Nutrition and physical activity: An Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) Clinical Practice Statement 2022, Obesity Pillars, Volume 1, 2022, 100005, ISSN 2667-3681, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obpill.2021.100005.

  • Rachelle S. Opie, Adrienne O'Neil, Felice N. Jacka, Josephine Pizzinga &  Catherine Itsiopoulos (2018)  A modified Mediterranean dietary intervention for adults with major depression: Dietary protocol and feasibility data from the SMILES trial, Nutritional Neuroscience, 21:7, 487-501, DOI: 10.1080/1028415X.2017.1312841.

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