Mental health is a serious issue in the United States. It’s estimated that one in four adults suffers from some sort of mental health condition. Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health conditions plaguing our population. These conditions don’t discriminate and can strike when you least expect them, even during what’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year.
The holiday season is one typically filled with laughter, joy, and being surrounded by family and friends. But, with all that, it can bring about much stress, often leading to feelings of sadness, depression, and anxiety.
There’s a lot of pressure that can be placed on you during the holidays. From buying the right gifts to preparing the best feast, that’s a lot for one person. Fortunately, there are effective treatment plans for those individuals suffering from depression and anxiety. Ways to manage your symptoms so you can live a fulfilling life.
Tackling Your Feelings Head On
Having a strong support group and exercising to release stress are great ways to manage mental health triggers and feelings. Your support group can be there to pick you up when you need it and be your sounding board when emotions fly high. Exercise releases those feel-good endorphins and natural brain chemicals that can enhance your mood and well-being. Physical activity is also great at relieving your body and mind of tension caused by overwhelming stress.
How Diet Affects Your Mood
Did you know that your diet affects your mood? It’s true, and among all the treatment plans and strategies, eating the right foods is one of the best ways to safeguard your mental health. Studies have continued to show that your diet can play a role in managing depression and anxiety. Here are some easy nutritional tips that can help assist you on your road to happiness.
Make Sure You Get Enough Antioxidants
Whenever we talk about diet, we always mention antioxidants. And for good reason. These are the substances that help to protect your cells from being damaged by free radicals. When there is an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals, it results in oxidative stress, which has been linked to depression and anxiety, in addition to multiple other conditions, such as cancer and advanced aging. There are several ways to up your antioxidant intake.
Fruits and vegetables are packed full of antioxidants that help to protect your cells. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are some of the highest oxidant foods you can eat. Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and carrots also contain valuable antioxidants. In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, patients who were treated with antioxidants had a significantly lower depression score than those who were given placebos.
Support Your Brain with Omega-3s
Numerous studies have supported the findings that omega-3 fatty acids are vital for brain functioning. They help ensure the proper functioning of neurotransmitters or receptors in the cell membranes. And it’s these cell membranes that are responsible for functions including hormone production and inflammation, two key factors that can influence levels of anxiety and depression. Great sources of omega-3s include nuts like walnuts, which are one of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring.
Watch Your Sugar and Salt Intake
It can be easy to get lost in a bag of chips or indulge in several sugary treats when you’re feeling down or anxious. But those are the times you need to be cognizant of because you’ll only make matters worse. High consumption of sugar or salt can lead to inflammation, which has been linked to depression. Overconsumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals, thus creating symptoms of depression. In addition, studies show that people who regularly eat foods high in salt have decreased mental well-being and experience enhanced anxiety-related and compulsive behaviors.
Limit or Avoid Alcohol
Although alcohol may have an immediate calming effect, it can quickly become a trigger. As your body processes alcohol, it can leave you feeling on edge. This is because when you drink, there’s an increase in GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which is why you feel relaxed and calm. But as soon as you stop drinking, your body and brain begin to go through withdrawal. This sends you into a downward spiral with increased feelings of anxiety. Studies also show that people who are depressed and drink tend to have more frequent and severe episodes of depression. Heavy alcohol use can interfere with the effectiveness of antidepressants. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it’s best to limit or avoid alcohol use altogether.
Pay Attention to How Food Makes You Feel
Everyone is different, and everyone has different symptoms and experiences with depression and anxiety. How your diet affects your mood may be completely different from your friend or family member. Or what may send someone into a deep, dark depression may not affect you in the slightest. Our bodies all process things differently. This is why it’s important that you pay close attention to how you react to certain foods and items. If you notice that caffeine is starting to make you jittery and give you anxiety and stress, eliminate it from your diet. Your body will talk to you; you have to be willing to listen.
Speak With Your Primary Care Provider
Depression and anxiety are serious conditions that shouldn’t be ignored. Talk to your healthcare physician if you’re experiencing any signs of depression and anxiety. Together, you can create a treatment plan to help you best manage your symptoms. There are ways to successfully treat depression and anxiety so you can continue to live a fulfilling and happy life.