We all know it's essential to prioritise eating well, exercise and relaxation in this incredibly stressful year but it can be a little easier said than done. Looking after yourself requires a multi-layered approach so below are some tips to help get you back on track.
- Exercise provides a mood boost and a more energised outlook on life thanks to the release of endorphins. Exercise can help to lift low mood.
- Exercising with a buddy, or as part of a team, provides a sense of belonging through the sharing of common interest. It also helps motivate and keep you on track toward your health goal.
- Participating in a sport or reaching a personal physical goal promotes a sense of mastery, accomplishment and increases self–esteem. Set yourself a physical goal no matter what your current fitness level is. Remember tackling small ‘chunks’ of a larger goal will see you mastering your chosen activity in no time! For example, commit to a 20-minute power walk each morning and increase this by 10 min increments each week until you are walking an hour a day.
- Exercise improves cognitive function. It has been proven decision-making and problem-solving ability improves after exercise. We all know the feeling of going out for a walk and coming back with a ‘clear’ mind. Some may even choose to use their lunch break as an hour to hit the gym, go for a jog, walk or train in a group.
- A good night's sleep helps foster both mental and emotional resilience. Chronic sleep disruptions set the stage for negative thinking, depression, anxiety and emotional vulnerability. Being physically active throughout the day can help you get a restful sleep. See here for more tips to sleep well.
- Every meal should include protein to ensure a continuous supply of the amino acid tryptophan to the brain Tryptophan is proven to boost mood. Add some fish, turkey, chicken, meat, eggs, legumes, milk, cheese, yoghurt, nuts or seeds to your meal.
- Studies suggest omega-3 oil can reduce symptoms of depression. You can include oily fish such as salmon in your diet or even take a daily supplement. Vegetarians get similar benefits from flaxseed oil, walnuts and chia seeds.
- Excessive weight loss through extreme dieting can make your mood worse and should be avoided. Rapid weight loss and lack of good nutrition will deprive the brain of glucose and other nutrients that control mood. If you are planning to lose a few kilos do it sensibly with a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise.
- An adult can lose up to 2.5 litres of water daily through the lungs as water vapour, through the skin as perspiration, and through the kidneys as urine. If you do not drink enough fluids to replace this loss you will get the symptoms of dehydration, including irritability, loss of concentration and reduced mental functioning. Replace fluid with drinks such as water and non-caffeinated herbal teas. Aim for about 2.0 litres each day, and increase water consumption on very hot days or when you have been exercising.
- Alcohol has a depressant effect on the brain and can result in rapid worsening of your mood. Also, the body uses important nutrients to process alcohol; those who consume alcohol excessively may suffer from vitamin deficiencies, which can in turn impact mood and overall health. Limit your alcohol to special occasions and drink moderately, avoid binge drinking altogether.
Alison Keleher, Director, Newport & Wildman
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