Mental Health Awareness Month is an observance meant to bring awareness to mental health issues. Self-care is an important, if not a crucial, way to look after your mental health. The DH team has assembled a list of things most of us can do for ourselves in order to improve our mood and general well-being.
The importance of getting enough (quality) sleep cannot be emphasized enough! Sleep helps our body regulate emotions and improves cognitive function (learning and memory). Consequences of poor emotional regulation include: anxiety, the feeling of ‘being stuck’, and an increased risk of developing a range of mental health issues. The best way to enable yourself to get enough sleep is to be aware of what outside factors impact your sleep negatively. Overconsumption (or just consumption) of caffeine, alcohol, drugs (and nicotine) notably reduce the time of slow-wave sleep, which is the stage of deep, restful sleep that leaves us feeling refreshed and alert in the morning. In short, if you’re lacking sleep, you won’t be able to properly do anything else, let alone attend to your troubles or talk about them with someone. So, before anything, make sure you prioritize getting enough of it.
- Physical Activity
Not everyone is able to exercise or go to the gym when the mood is not right, but most of us should be able to do some light physical activity or have a 30 minute walk. Numerous studies have found that even light physical activity boosts mood, lowers stress levels and even improves cognitive functions like attention, memory and problem solving. These benefits may be rooted, in part, in exercise’s ability to increase our brains’ production of the chemicals dopamine and serotonin, according to a review of studies published in the journal Brain Plasticity in March 2017. Regular physical activity also helps with sleeping patterns and is advised if one is having difficulty sleeping. If possible, try doing some exercises or walks outdoors, preferably somewhere in nature.
What goes into your mouth (wink, wink) impacts the way you function, whether you like it or not. There is a bidirectional communication system, between the gut and the brain, termed the gut-brain-axis. Studies show that your gut affects your brain health and vice versa. Your gut and brain are connected through chemicals called neurotransmitters and neurotransmitters produced in the brain control feelings and emotions. For example, the neurotransmitter serotonin contributes to feelings of happiness and also helps controls your body clock. So make sure you educate yourself on which foods impact your microbiome in a beneficial way. This, of course, doesn’t mean that you can’t have a pizza but make sure that your diet consists of balanced meals – probiotics and prebiotics, fermented foods, tryptophan-rich and high fiber foods (fatty fish, turkey, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, fruits and vegetables etc.) Preparing smoothies and steaming vegetables and fish (a pan with a lid, and a strainer is all you need), are an easy way to make sure you consume a diverse range of these essential foods.
What exercises are for your body, socializing is for your mind! Interactions we make with others are like ‘’training’’ for our brain, as meaningful social connections and participation in social activities can enrich our cognitive potential, improve brain’s agility and, in the long run, even lower the risk of dementia. The effort to stay connected with people around you can be worth a while, as it can save you from unhealthy form of isolation and ease your feelings of depression.
- Practice Being Present
Practice being aware of your environment. Focus and name (not necessarily out loud if you’re in public) the things you can smell, taste, hear and see at that moment, but without interpreting. Inform yourself on different mindfulness or anchoring techniques, the latter especially if you are experiencing panic attacks. Your mental health will also benefit from making a change in your everyday scenery or daily routine, especially if you’re experiencing ‘’brain fog’’ or feel a bit absent-minded. Take your time to recharge, read a book, watch a movie, listen to your favorite music and just take a break.
Important note: The above list is made only to help you ‘’through the day’’ and in certain situations, and is not to be identified with professional help, in case you may need it. If you experience constant struggle and feel your mental health is worsening, professional help is available, so please consult your nearest healthcare giver. Read more about Mental Health of Gay and Bisexual Men at DH Blog!
The Daddyhunt Team