So it’s Mental Health Awareness month and as the title suggests loads of people have taken social media to say something about how important it is to recognise that this is prevalent issue for UK businesses and for people’s lives. I couldn’t agree more that we need to take more steps to say it is OK to talk about mental health. We are still in a time where the organisational culture is of such that we just need to get on with things (even more so for men).
But here’s what my problem is with this approach. It doesn’t really address the WHAT (we can do about it) and the HOW (we can implement ways to help us deal with it). I will just address the WHAT as the HOW I can bore you for a lot longer and it’s a complex process using behavioural psychology.
5 WAYS TO IMPROVE/DEAL WITH STRESS RESILIENCE & MENTAL HEALTH
1. Reduce sugar intake
Sugar is not only bad for your waistline but also bad for your mental health. In a study about the effects of certain food groups on key health aspects found that high consumption of sugar increased the likelihood of stress by over 1/3. Why? Sugar disrupts the biochemical process that happens in the fight and flight response and exhausts the adrenal glands with your energy levels following the pattern of a roller coaster.
2. Increase your intake of wholefoods
The state of anxiety is associated with raised levels of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol. Wholefoods (wholegrains, vegetables) give a constant release of energy and help regulate the release of these. Your brain is your largest consumer of glucose (the end result of digesting carbohydrates from food). So when your brain detects that blood sugar is falling (for example when eating fast releasing carbs) “hunger” hormones are released. Chances are that you will hold out until it’s too late and you grab the first thing at hand (maybe coffee, sugary snack, cigarette).
3. Increase your intake of GABA foods
GABA (gamma-amino-butyric acid for the chemistry geeks) not only switches off stress hormones, it also affects serotonin, thereby affecting your mood and therefore mental health. As consequence, adequate level in your brain is associated with being relaxed and happy, while low presence is associated with anxiety, tension, depression and insomnia. GABA can be supplemented, but there are also GABA high foods you can turn to like: oolong tea, cherry tomatoes, kefir.
4. Downward your way to blissfulness
Of all types of exercise, the best one for managing stress and mental health is yoga. It enables you to connect the breath and movement, turning on the right part of the brain (the part dealing with creative thinking and decision making). Going at it heavy in the gym when dealing with stress might not be the best approach as it puts increasing pressure on your adrenal system which are already at point of strike. Women are more vulnerable than men.
5. Become a compassionate mind
Studies have shown that Compassionate Focused Therapy (CFT) had significantly helped reduce depression. The application of this therapy allows us to understand how our brain has evolved and how we can manage thoughts and emotions through application of compassion. Don’t think airy fairy stuff here. It will innate the scientific geek in you. CFT is at the core of what we do at Metanoia Wellness to build stress resilience and promote mental health.
I will conclude with a quick summary of my story and mental health. I worked for a company that had a Mental Health department. But when I was close to hitting rock bottom from a high pressure, long hour’s job which did not fulfil my sense of purpose I never approached it. I felt I would be put into a category of mentally ill and not being able to cope (which did not work with my ambition of high performing C suit ambition career path). So it is incredible to see the work done by some companies and ambassadors of mental health around destigmatising this. BUT, it was only until I found that by taking care of myself through diet, exercise and mindset I was able to really change how I felt. I hope this gives you the power to find your inner wellbeing too.