On January 26, Bell rolled out its annual campaign which seeks to end the stigma and open up conversations around mental health.
This is such a great campaign to bring awareness and understanding to an important issue.
Did you know that two out of three people with mental illness suffer in silence? More than 3 million Canadians are affected by a mood disorder such as depression and anxiety and by age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
Opening up this conversation is so necessary. Once we begin to open and recognize the presence and importance of mental health issues, we can finally begin to support our loved ones and heal the suffering.
Many people fear the stigma and experience shame around seeking help, but your mental and emotional wellbeing is just as important and valid as your physical health.
As part of the conversation, I wanted to share with you some effective ways you can support your mental and emotional wellbeing naturally.
Remember, none of this advice is tailored especially for you and should not be a substitute for advice given to you personally by a mental health professional or doctor. What I’ve included here in this article are general ways to support your mental wellness and you should seek the counsel of a professional directly to meet your individual needs if you are struggling.
1. Prioritize Your Basic Physical Needs
You’d be surprised how far making sure your basic needs are met impacts your mental wellbeing.
Eat Well - Nutrition is one of the most overlooked aspects of mental wellness. What you eat plays a significant role in your mental, physical, and emotional health. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats.
Cultivate Good Sleep Habits -Your quality of sleep directly impacts your mood. Try making good sleep a priority by going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. Turn off your devices at least an hour before bed as blue light can prevent you from resting well.
Exercise - Moving your body stimulates the release of feel-good endorphins, which improve mood. Getting 30 minutes or more of physical activity 3-5 days a week is linked with significant improvement of depression and anxiety symptoms. Some studies even show a higher rate of improvement from regular exercise than the effects of psychiatric medication.
2. Support Your Journey
These small changes can further support your mental wellbeing on top of the basics.
Eat Plenty of Omega 3’s - may be linked with lower depression rates and support for better brain function. They can be found in fish, nuts/seeds, as well as over the counter supplements.
Supplement with Vitamin D - There is increasing research showing the link between vitamin D deficiency and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. I recommend taking in liquid form for best absorption.
Take Care of Your - New research shows that gut bacteria communicate with and influence brain function. Gut flora imbalances can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.
Consider Some Herbal Support- Certain herbs can have mood-enhancing qualities, such as which is shown to reduce stress and chamomile and lavender which have calming effects.
Avoid Sugar and Refined Grains - Refined grains contain little to no nutritional value and deplete essential B vitamins in the digestion process. Sugars also send your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster which can lead to increased fatigue and low moods.
Avoid Alcohol - Alcohol is a depressant, so it’s best to avoid alcohol if you struggle with depression. It also causes blood sugar spikes, which lead to irritability, fatigue, and low moods.
3. Take Care of Your Emotional and Spiritual Health
Carving out the space to take care of your emotional and spiritual health is a powerful way to cope with and heal through depression and anxiety. Cultivating these habits will improve your sense of wellbeing and bring more positivity and joy into your life in both the short and long term.
Talk to Someone - Opening up about what you’re experiencing to a trusted individual or group is one of the most powerful things you can do to support your mental wellbeing. Not only is there a release in the process of letting it all out, but it also helps to dispel shame and cultivate feelings of interconnectedness. We are all in this together and you are not alone. Getting an outside perspective from friends, family, or a mental health professional can be the catalyst for empowered and healthy changes to begin your healing process.
Get Out in Nature - Getting out in nature, or even viewing images of nature reduces anger, fear, and stress and uplift your mood. Research has found that even having a plant in the room may reduce stress and anxiety.
Get your Boogie On - Dancing has been shown to reduce cortisol levels (The stress hormone) and increase endorphins.
Meditation - Meditation is so powerful in easing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety that some clinicians are starting to try it as a course of treatment before recommending any medications. Meditating actually changes the brain and the way the body responds to stress. Start with as little as 5 minutes per day and try to meditate first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day.
Allow Yourself Space to Feel - In many individuals, depression and anxiety is a natural response to trauma and repressed emotions. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions with the guidance of a trusted professional can allow you to process and release emotional baggage that is keeping you mentally unwell.
Start a Gratitude Journal - Writing down 5 things you’re grateful for each morning and evening is a powerful way to train your mind to focus on and look for the positive things in your life.
We are beginning to see a shift in our society as more and more people open up and share their experiences with mental illness. This is such a beautiful shift and I can see the day on the horizon where there is no difference between seeking help with a broken arm as there is discussing anxiety.
If you are reading this and struggling, please know you are not alone. There is so much support and love out there in the world for you.