Poor mental health is a key focus for the Movember campaign. The devastating statistics are that poor mental health affects men more than women: three quarters of suicides are by men. Suicide represents the largest cause of death for men under 50 and the World Health Organisation estimates that 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year. That’s a staggering one every minute.
Poor mental health is still a subject that people find difficult to talk about and men are perhaps even less likely to open up about psychological and emotional issues than women. Talking to someone is one of the first steps to dealing with a problem, whether that be a family member, friend, or GP, and the sooner the better as far as mental health is concerned. The good news is that there’s lots you can do, and that applies whether you’re in the middle of a difficult time or want to be proactive and protect your health for the long term. We can’t always be in control of external events - stress is an inevitable part of our lives - but we can be in control of building resilience to enable us to cope better when tough situations do arise.
Get Moving to Manage Stress - Getting regular exercise is associated with so many health benefits, and stress-reduction is at the top of the list. Up there too with stress reduction are benefits such as improved mood, reduced anxiety, better cognitive function, increased energy and sound sleep – it’s not difficult then to see why exercise is so good for your mental health. Research has shown that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep and improve self-esteem. Even 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Walking, running, swimming, yoga, cycling, the list is endless. There are so many different types of physical activity you can get involved in, just find something you enjoy, and work out how you can incorporate regular sessions into your weekly routine for a huge wealth of benefits.
Learn Mindfulness Meditation to Beat Stress – Mindfulness meditation helps to soothe the nervous system, promotes deep relaxation and the production of feel-good endorphins. While stress activates the ‘fight or flight’ part of our nervous system, mindfulness meditation activates the ‘rest and digest’ part, helping with stress management. Chronic activation of the stress response is damaging to health and mental wellbeing, whilst the relaxation response is restorative. Try www.headspace.com for a simple way to learn mindfulness meditation in just 10 minutes a day.
Feed Your Mood – Our bodies produce chemicals called neurotransmitters, which have a major impact on mood. Serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter is made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan which is found in most protein foods and in particularly high amounts in turkey, oats, dried dates, chickpeas, bananas, almonds and sunflower seeds. As well as investing in an extra big turkey this Christmas, it’s worth noting that the body must convert tryptophan into 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) before it can make serotonin and you can further help this process along by supplementing directly with 5-HTP if you need an extra boost. As strange as it may sound, the health of your gut also has an impact on serotonin production. Not many people realise that supplementation with a high quality probiotic formulation to promote a healthy population of friendly bacteria in the gut can help to support serotonin production too.
Replenish Stress Nutrients – Periods of acute or chronic stress can rapidly deplete the body of essential nutrients. Whilst the body is busy feeding the nutrient-hungry stress response, other areas such as energy levels, mood and sleep can soon be affected. If (like most people) you’re suffering from any level of stress, make sure you’re getting enough magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C and zinc in particular. In addition adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, rhodiola and cordyceps can help to calm and balance the stress system too.
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