Written by Lisa Guy, naturopath and founder of Bodhi Organic Tea.
Doing what we can to support our mental health and reduce anxiety during these challenging times is so important for our health and wellbeing and to help us cope with the difficulties that have been thrust upon us. All of this uncertainty brings feelings of fear, overwhelm and isolation for many of us. Some people have lost loved ones, people have lost jobs and businesses, and we’ve all lost personal physical contact with family and friends. Parents are juggling working from home with home schooling, and many people who live alone are battling with loneliness.
Even though our lives have certainly changed, and some have felt the impact of this pandemic a lot worse than others, there are still some positives to be found during this unprecedented time. Try to seize this opportunity to take pause. This is the perfect time to stop and focus on yourself, and work on nurturing your health.
10 ways to support your mental Wellbeing
1. CLEAN UP YOUR DIET
What better time to start making positive changes towards a healthier more wholesome diet. Start including more fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, nuts, and seeds, and other healthy protein sources like yoghurt and oily fish into your diet. A well-balanced diet delivers important brain-boosting amino acids and nutrients that help regulate brain chemistry to support mental health. Replace any processed foods with healthy unprocessed varieties e.g. swap white rice with brown, white bread and pasta for wholegrain, and sugary packaged cereal for oats. Replace vegetable oil for a healthier option like olive oil. Stop buying sugary snacks and instead try baking healthy cookies, muesli bars and cakes at home. Have a piece of fruit instead of fruit juice. Drink 2 Litres of water daily. Replace unhealthy soft drinks with natural mineral water, sugar-free iced teas or kombucha.
Now that we’re all cooking more at home start experimenting with new healthy recipes, or take an online cooking class. Have fun in the kitchen baking with your kids. Eating more homecooked meals and less unhealthy take-out is a huge step towards better health.
Excessive amounts of caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and depressive symptoms and can also contribute to insomnia. Caffeine stimulates your ‘fight or flight’ response which increases the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Switching your morning cup of coffee to a caffeine-free herbal tea like chamomile, licorice, ginger, or peppermint is a great way to lower your caffeine intake while reaping the health benefits herbal teas have to offer. Green tea is another excellent lower caffeine option. Polyphenols and L-theanine found in high levels in green tea have been found to have anti-depressive properties. (1,2)
A couple of drinks might seem like a good way to take the edge off when you’re feeling stressed, but drinking too much alcohol can affect your mood and can exacerbate depressive symptoms. Alcohol is a known depressant. Try limiting your alcohol intake and look for healthier ways to relieve your stress. If you’re used to having a glass of wine while cooking, or with dinner, try grabbing one of your favourite wine glasses and enjoy some kombucha on ice, iced tea, or sparkling mineral water with some lemon or a splash of juice.
2. LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Take this time to learn something new. What is that one something that you’ve always wanted to learn but have never had the time? Take an online course or learn a new language. There are endless online courses you can take. Read that book that’s been sitting next to your bed for months, or even start writing that book that you’ve always dreamed of writing.
3. KEEP MOVING
One of the best ways to support your mental and physical health is to exercise each day. Go outside for a walk or a bike ride. Try an online yoga or exercise class. Download a 7-minute exercise app to keep you active during the day, and to break up work and home schooling. Exercise is so important for maintaining good mental health and for helping you deal with stress. When you exercise endorphins and serotonin are released, which are the neurotransmitters that help boost mood and ease feelings of anxiety. Exercise is an excellent natural anti-depressant. Exercising outside will also have the added benefit of topping up your vitamin D levels. This important nutrient is needed for a strong immune system and for good mental health. Low vitamin D levels are associated with depression.
4. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
As tempting as it is to stay up till all hours watching Netflix try to go to bed at a reasonable hour. You should be aiming for around 8 hours of sleep each night. Getting adequate sleep is vital as this is when the body repairs and rejuvenates itself. The sleep you get before midnight is particularly important. Try to keep a good routine during the week – don’t go to bed too late, don’t sleep in too long, have a good healthy breakfast in the morning and remember to get out of your pyjamas. This will help you start your day on a positive note.
5. DAILY SELF-CARE
Write a list of all of your favourite things, that you can do now, that make you feel good. It might be relaxing reading a book, taking a Epsom salt bath, burning essential oils, listening to music, meditating, doing yoga, talking with friends, baking, getting outside in the sunshine, listing to your favourite podcast, spending time in your garden, or writing in your journal. Whatever it is, make time each day to do something from your self-care list.
If meditation is something that you’ve always wanted to do but have felt that you’ve never had the time, now is a great time to start incorporating this beautiful self-care practice into your daily life. Meditation is an excellent way to relax the mind and body. When you meditate it produces alpha brain waves that help promote calmness and relaxation. Regular meditation can also support the immune system and reduces cortisol levels. (3) There are a lot of great meditation apps and online resources available with guided meditations.
7. STOP MEDIA OVERWHELM
It’s difficult to avoid the constant barrage of bad news in the media at the moment. Constantly checking the news and obsessively checking social media for the latest updates will only lead to fear and feelings of anxiety. Limit your time looking at your phone. Also make sure you’re getting your information from reliable, reputable sources. There is a lot of misinformation out there.
8. STAY CONNECTED WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Make sure you schedule in regular zoom, facetime and phone calls with your family and friends. Staying in regular contact with those you love during this difficult time will help make you feel more connected and less isolated.
9. GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER
Having a cluttered home will only make you feel more anxious and overwhelmed. Now is a fantastic time to give your house a good once over. Clear out anything you don’t need and clean out your kitchen cupboards. Tidy up your desk space. This will make you feel more organised and will result in you having more productive work days.
10. HERBS TO SUPPORT MOOD AND REDUCE ANXIETY
Adaptogens are herbs that help support the body’s ability to cope with physical and emotional stress. Some of the best adaptogenic herbs include Withania (Ashwagandha), Siberian and panax ginseng, Brahmi (bacopa), Rhodiola, and Licorice. You will find these supportive herbs in our Bodhi VitaliTEA (ADRENALS) and PositiviTEA (MOOD).
St John’s wort is another valuable herb used to treat depression and anxiety, as it helps naturally increase serotonin levels. You will find this beneficial mood boosting herb in our Bodhi Organic PositiviTEA (MOOD).
Herbs that have mild sedative effects that help calm the nervous system are ideal for anyone who is stressed and has difficulty sleeping. Some of the best anti-stress herbs are chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, lemon verbena and passionflower. You will find these beautiful nervous system soothing botanicals in our Bodhi SereniTEA (CALMING) and TranquiliTEA (SLEEP).
Taking some positive steps each day to support your mental health and wellbeing health through eating a healthy diet, taking nourishing herbs, getting enough sleep, exercise and sunshine, and staying connected with family and friends will help you to get through this difficult time.