Self-care for better mental health
Stress and anxiety are common terms that we can encounter in everyday conversations. Stress is a normal human reaction to external stimuli that affect us emotionally or physically. For example, a difficult situation in the office can cause you to have simple negative emotions like irritability or worse like frustration. The body can also be subjected to physical stress such as when doing strenuous exercises or when it does not get enough sleep, as well as when we have to work for long hours without rest.
On the other hand, anxiety can occur in the absence of motivating factors or stressors. It is characterized by constant restlessness, restlessness, anxiety, fear, and a sense of dread.
Anxiety and stress can all cause different symptoms that affect blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, sleep quality, and especially the digestive system. Have you ever wondered why mental and emotional problems cause an upset stomach? Have you ever felt like you had to do a “number 2” (moving your bowels) when you’re stressed? This is because there is a connection between the brain and the intestine.
Chemicals in the brain that stabilize moods, regulate sleep and appetite, and hormones that help you deal with stress, are largely produced in the gut or intestinal lining. GABA is a brain chemical associated with fear and anxiety. Dopamine is the feel-good hormone. Serotonin is a mood regulator. It also plays a role in sleep, eating, and digestion. It’s safe to say that if you have a healthy gut through good nutrition, your mood will definitely be better – including how you handle stress.
The first thing to do to boost mental health is to make sure you’re feeding the good bacteria or gut microbiome of your digestive system with prebiotics. Prebiotics come from plant sources like bananas, mangoes, apples, garlic, onions, eggplant, soybeans, legumes, and whole grains like brown rice, oats, and psyllium husk.
The body also needs food rich in the amino acid tryptophan to make hormones such as serotonin. Tryptophan is a component of protein, and it is abundantly available in both animal and plant products. However, plant sources of tryptophan are better because plant foods contain fiber and phytochemicals or phytonutrients that help reduce inflammation in the body. This type of inflammatory reaction not only damages the gut, but also affects mood.
Leafy greens, soybeans, mushrooms, bananas, nuts, broccoli, peas, oats, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are abundant in tryptophan. Other relaxing and mood-enhancing foods include green tea, dark chocolate, cinnamon and turmeric.
Aside from nutrition, there are other natural ways to boost your mental health. The powerful mood stabilizer, serotonin, is produced when we exercise. If you haven’t exercised or you’ve lived a sedentary lifestyle all these years, you don’t need to do anything strenuous at first. Taking 10 to 15 minutes of walking a day will go a long way. It will stimulate blood circulation and oxygenate your brain well. Another way to produce serotonin is through sun exposure. You do not need to stay out of the sun for a long time lest you suffer the consequences of sunburn. However, being in the sun for 10 to 15 minutes in the morning will help you produce happy hormones. This will also help your body regulate sleep by producing more of the sleep hormone, melatonin, at night.
Just remember to nourish yourself with healthy food, move regularly and exercise, get enough quality sleep, and daily exposure to sunlight for healthier mental and emotional health. If you have already exhausted all natural ways to lift your mood, yet still feel anxious and cannot handle stress, it is recommended that you seek a health professional.
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