People sometimes tell me they wouldn’t have thought there was a link between nutrition and mental health. It is my hope the following will help you understand there is indeed a huge link between nutrients, mental health and mental health problems. And by growing our collective awareness of this, we might reduce the stigma of mental health problems and create a climate where more people seek and receive help with their mental health struggles, and go on to live happy and productive lives.
Nutrition does indeed build us — it gives us our very physical foundations — right down to our cells. Cells that make up our brains, brain stems and nerves, our hormone-secreting adrenal glands and ovaries and testes. Cells that make up our hearts and lungs, our complex, mind-blowingly amazing — and often abused — digestive systems. Cells that make up our blood. Immune cells that fight infections and keep us well.
Christmas can be a painful time of year for many people - a time when grief, loneliness, health struggles, depression, anxiety, lack of money, or family trauma can be that much more prominent. And what adds to the pain for many of us, is the loud, deeply contrasting message that this is a happy, merry, joyous time. A time of togetherness, of fun, of treats. A time of spending lots of money and receiving lots of gifts. A time of family. These societal messages can be like salt in our wounds.
Yet this common human experience isn’t often talked about. In a spirit of acknowledging our human struggles and sharing ways to care for yourself through tough times, I’ve put together these mental health first aid tips for the holidays.
There are tips for those who are:
-feeling exhausted emotionally and physically
-impacted by toxic family, and
-for those who are struggling to sleep.
Cara (not her real name) was 33. She ate a variety of whole foods, was active and seldom drank alcohol. She had a history of anxiety and depression and very stressful life events, including childhood trauma and abusive relationships.
When I saw Cara for her first appointment, she was in many ways in a very good place in her life. She had in the past year come out of an abusive relationship and knew she would never be in one again. She had begun seeing “a really good therapist” who was helping her unpack her childhood traumas. And she had a small group of true friends she could rely on.
Cara also had a good set of tools she had learned over the years for looking after her mental health. She enjoyed running her small business, though it could be stressful at times. She was “mostly happy being single” and was active in outdoor groups to grow her social circle.
The tools we looked at in part one focused more on supporting your physical health. Let's now look at tools for supporting your emotional health.
Acknowledging your stress and trauma
Stress can be a big contributor to depression, and stress can be caused by many things.