It was mental health awareness day recently and whilst I'm a little late posting (a whole month to be exact) this it's a subject that I've spent a long time navigating my way through. Everyone has a part of their health, I guess you could call it the weak link that is the first to be affected when your stress levels get high, when your sleep isn't great and you're feeling like you're doing and giving too much to others without supporting yourself fully. For some people their skin reflects how they're feeling, for others their immune system gets overloaded and they get sick. For me, it's my mental health that takes a nose dive. I start to feel anxious, low in mood, really emotional (more than usual for those who know me!) and if left without intervention depression can sink in.
I've spent a long time delving into what works for me, it's incredibly individual so it really is a matter of trying things on to see what fits. I look at my health from all angles so hopefully some of my experiences may be helpful to you in supporting your mental wellbeing. Here are some resources I have used / practice / found incredibly helpful.
Important note: If you have been diagnosed with any mental health condition then always speak to a professional before trying any of these resources.
Good nutrition is the necessary foundation in supporting mental health, mood and hormones. I won't go into the specifics of WHAT to eat because it's essential to look at you as a whole and unravel your individual root causes and imbalances.
This centre in London specialises in optimum nutrition for mental health recovery. I haven't used it personally but have heard good reviews about it.
Lifestyle medicine should always be addressed alongside nutrition, so check that your practitioner discusses this with you and includes this in your support plan. Movement and sleep are essential components in optimal mental wellbeing.
DR KELLY BROGAN
Specialising in women's health psychiatry, her book; A mind of Your Own is a game changer in the way people look at and treat depression and mental health. She looks at it from a holistic perspective and is a definite must read for everyone, not just women. She has some great resources on her site.
DR RANGAN CHATTERJEE
A GP shifting the way we look at health by looking at the four pillars of food, movement, rest and sleep. All of which can dramatically improve mental health without (or alongside) the use of medication. Dr Chatterjee has written a highly anticipated book which is available for pre-order. You can listen to Dr Chatterjee discussing whether there is a better way to treat depression with Dr Kelly Brogan here.
traditional Chinese medicine practitioner
I've always been drawn to TCM and have found it incredibly helpful. When I started to implement nutritional changes on the start of my journey I noticed that some of the foods I was eating were seen as healthy, were actually keeping me in an unhealthy state*.
In TCM emotions effect different organs. According to Chinese medicine the spleen is the home for your emotional worries, anxiety and overthinking. Cold food and drinks, raw foods, fried foods, sugar, snacking and overeating all weaken the spleen, so whilst in theory what I was eating was deemed 'healthy', the salads, snacking to keep my blood sugars stable. The crudites and hummus, coconut yoghurt, smoothie bowls, raw cakes and juices were all actually contributing to my anxious state.
The spleen is nourished by warm nourishing foods, soups, stews, warming spices, cooked vegetables, soaked and cooked oats, pumpkin, squashes and carrots.
*This is from my own personal experience and may not be the same for you so please see a registered TCM practitioner to discuss your own unique needs.
gut and psychology
The evidence to show the links between gut health and mental health is slowly becoming more widely understood. The first book I ever read on this topic was this, highly recommended.
One of the most powerful but underrated anti depressants / anti anxiety remedies there is available. Go outside in nature as much as possible, grow something, bring nature indoors.
Walking in nature is a powerful stress reliever. Scientifically proven to lower anxiety, improve mood and lower inflammation.
IN THE NOW / being present
I have to be honest here, even though I do meditate and have found it incredibly helpful. I do have an aversion to the words mindfulness and meditation. They are thrown around everywhere and can cause a whole lot of anxiety in themselves.
Anxiety is often the result of being too much in the future so bringing yourself back to what you're doing and focusing on that.
Breathing is the simplest way for me to bring myself to the present moment. Kundalini yoga is my go to resource for calming anxiety, balancing my mood and reducing fear when I find myself worrying about the future.
We (ahem* I) often over complicate ways of reducing anxious feelings when in reality anything can be overcome just by becoming aware of and changing our breathing.
This is an incredibly powerful tool for moving through any challenging emotion. I'd highly recommend a session with Ashley Neese for breathwork.
YOUR BODY + MIND
We are more than our physical body. Our emotions unless processed are stored in our body causing physical illness, unhelpful behavioural patterns, emotional distress.
The links between Childhood trauma / challenges and mental health are well known. Some great resources on understanding and healing emotional trauma (a major cause of poor mental health) that I've found incredibly helpful include;
Looking at your ACE (adverse childhood events) score - Niki Gratrix
The Body Keeps the Score by Basel Van Der Kolk
Childhood Disrupted; How your biography becomes your biology by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
Free + Native Online Unblocked programmes / 1-1 sessions with Lacy Phillips.
Chronic anxiety, stress and worry arise for many reasons and from different areas of life; money, career, relationships, health. I can attest to the deep shifts and change that happen with both Lacy's 1-1 sessions and online programmes. Addressing subconscious beliefs helps to bring in what you are asking for in the different areas of your life by getting to the root causes and reprogramming old beliefs.
For fast(ER) relief
When my anxiety, worry and stress levels are high acupuncture works like magic for me. I know that not everyone favours being poked with needles but if you haven't tried it I would highly recommend looking for a registered practitioner if you experience anxiety / chronic stress as it can be helpful. For someone who was also needle phobic I actually find it incredibly easy to relax during the appointments.
If being poked with needles isn't your thing then the next best thing for me is tapping, I always find this guys videos helpful. Tapping works by gently hitting meridian points whilst simultaneously talking through emotions or traumatic memories. Most people find varying degrees of relief depending on the feeling or emotion present.
Everything in this world is energy, including us. From what I've learnt and experienced first hand over the past few years understanding and looking after our own energy is essential but rarely explained or talked about (apart from in the spiritual world, which can often be seen as woo woo or nonsense). In other words, terms for things that others don't understand or are afraid of.
TALK ABOUT IT
It's essential to talk with people you feel most comfortable with, be it close family, friends or professionals if you're not feeling ok.
Unfortunately in the UK there can often be long waiting times to talk to professionals, (it is often much quicker to get talking / counselling support if you pay privately but I'm aware not everyone has that resource). This is a great stepping stone if you need support and a place to talk - Mindbox
Hopefully some of these resources are helpful to you. Give yourself the time to feel how you feel and above everything make yourself a priority, you can only give to others when you've filled yourself up first x