According to Beyond Blue, anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. On average 1 in 4 people – 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men, will experience anxiety. These statistics are frightening especially considering the impact anxiety has on wellbeing and quality of life. Similarly, on average around 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men will experience some level of depression.
If you suffer anxiety, depression or another mental health condition or know someone who does, here are some actionable steps, which you can take today or share with others:
Educating yourself on anxiety or depression and what help is available is the first place to start. Specifically, having an understanding of the symptoms of anxiety or depression and what anxious thoughts are, helps to give you power to recognise when anxiety, low mood or panic attacks are occurring and help you identity the triggers.
MindSpot, is a great resource available to help Australian adults experiencing difficulties with anxiety, depression and low mood. MindSpot provides free online assessment and treatment services or can help you find suitable local services to help. For more information visit the site here.
Hone in on diet
Many people do not know just how good they can feel when eating the right kind of diet for them! I have witnessed this first hand and cannot stress enough, the importance of diet, when it comes to mental health. Some key factors to focus on are:
Avoid skipping meals: not eating regularly can lead to poor blood sugar balance due to an impaired tryptophan (amino acid) delivery to the brain, which results in low serotonin production (our happy hormone) and not to mention feeling ‘hangry!!!” Commit to eating every 3-4 hours if you are prone to low blood sugar and carry some health snacks such as raw nuts or fruit in case you get caught without access to food.
Include a source of protein at each meal and snack: protein provides essential amino acids, which play a critical role in production of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters act as chemical messengers within the brain and are responsible for mood. Healthy protein options include eggs, meat, fish, legumes, nuts/seeds, dairy, tofu and tempeh.
Enjoy essential healthy fats: the brain is approximately 60% fat, essential fats are critical for the proper functioning of the chemical messengers in our brain, controlling mood and emotions. Research has linked low intake of essential fats with increased risk of low mood. Good sources include fatty fish, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts. Other sources of healthy fats include avocado, extra virgin olive oil and raw nuts/seeds such macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds.
Promote a happy gut: our gut and brain are linked as they share many of the same nerve endings, hormones and neurotransmitters. There is more and more research being published looking at the connection between gut health and mood. So taking care of your gut can only have positive effects on mood! Aim to consume at least 25 (women) or 30g (men) fibre daily including LSA, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts/seeds, wholegrain carbohydrates. Add some fermented food to your diet also, rich in live bacteria, including kimchi, kombucha, miso soup, tempeh, sauerkraut and kefir.
Flavour with Spice: saffron may be known as the spice to flavour and colour food, but in fact, it has been traditionally used as a medicinal plant to promote health for a long time. Saffron has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on the body and preliminary research is showing its protective effects on mental health. Furthermore, turmeric, rich in the active compound curcumin, boasts similar antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is believed to have similar effects. Use to marinate meats, in salad dressings, sprinkled on roasted vegetables, in the base of curries or added to smoothies/juice.
Don’t let excuses, lack of time or confidence stop you from moving in a way, which makes you feel good! Movement is critical for good mental health and should be factored in as part of daily self-care. Let go of any pressure to do an intensive ‘sweat sesh’ or beat a personal best, movement doesn’t mean pushing yourself if you aren’t feeling up for it. On days you are, go for it!
Gratitude and Optimism
It’s very hard for anxiety and fear to coexist with gratitude and optimism! This means, it’s important to practice both daily. This could be as simple as writing down 5 things you are grateful for on a daily basis and on waking, state that ‘today will be a great day’ – even if you have to fake it until you make it! Also, listen to the language you use and if it’s usually very negative, pull yourself up and flip it to the positive – slowly it will become the norm and you should notice a change in how you feel.
Anyone who suffers anxiety or even stress, should practice some form of breathing practice daily. It’s free, can be done anywhere, takes very little time and is incredibly effective! Set aside a few minutes each day to breath deeply or do a 5min meditation, schedule it in just like any other commitment.