Mental Health: How to Be Mentally Fit In Tough Situations

Maybe you have already encountered the popular term Cabin Fever. Wikipedia refers Cabin fever to the distressing claustrophobic irritability or restlessness experienced when a person, or group, is stuck at an isolated location or in confined quarters for an extended period of time. [1]

The term cabin fever is often used in countries where extreme weather and people are trapped at home started to feel sad, depressed, irritable, restless, lethargic, and even hopeless.

We don’t have extreme weather here in the Philippines but with the social distancing and new normal being implemented during lockdown due to global pandemic, mental health experts warn the public about developing cabin fever symptoms and bouts of anxiety attacks.

But whether you are lockdown or not, there are many contributing factors in your day to day living that cause mental stress and affect your overall psychological health.

Here are some tips on how you can stay sane in an insane situations.

1. Eat A Well-Balanced Diet

Have you heard the “food-mood connection”? Studies show a direct link of nutrient deficiency as a major cause of behavioral abnormalities. New research finds there is direct connection between what you eat and its effect on your mood. Your food choices directly affect the function and structure of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.

High consumption of fast food and processed food put you in a bad mood. A study showed that a diet high in trans fatty acids was directly linked to increased aggression [2]. Trans fats causes imbalance of omega-3 fatty acids in the body. A low level of omega-3 can result to pessimism, depression, and aggression.

Diet and frizzy drinks that contain Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, can slow down the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters necessary for proper brain function based on scientific studies [3]. Serotonin is a considered a happy hormone, therefore, low level of this hormone has a negative impact on your mode.

Start to load your plate with nutritious foods. The more natural food you have the better. Eat enough servings of colorful fruits and vegetables. Add food rich in omega 3 fatty acids like fish, chia seeds, flaxseed, and walnuts. And since our body is 80% made of water, drink more water.

2. Exercise

Regular exercise does a lot of health benefits. It doesn’t only help you become fit, but it also has a positive impact on your mood. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health did a study on the effect of exercise and depression and found that walking for an hour or running for 15 minutes a day decreases the risk of major depression [4].

Certain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin are being released in your body when you exercise. These chemicals help relieve stress, improve memory, and boost your overall mood.

There are a lot of exercises you can do at home like simple aerobic and stretching exercises. You don’t need to go to the gym. You can incorporate exercise in you daily activities as well. Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing like climbing up and down the stairs or sweeping the floor.

3. Have an Adequate Amount of Sleep

Sleeping is vital for maintaining good mental and physical health. It helps you to recover from mental and physical exertion.

Sleep deprivation can alter your mood significantly causing irritability and anger and may lead to inability to cope with anxiety and stress. Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to hallucination and cognitive impairments. Lack of sleep makes you feel tired, exhausted, cranky and moody.

Sleep requirements may vary from person to person and the age. Most healthy adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night and children and teens need even more for proper growth and development.

Sleep quality is equally important as much as the quantity. You need a good and restful sleep in order to wake up feeling refreshed, energized and ready for the next day.

4. Get a load of “Sunshine” Vitamin

Soaking in the sun is good for you. Sunshine Vitamin or Vitamin D precursors are present in your skin and activated by the sun. Vitamin D is required for calcium absorption to have strong bones and to prevent osteoporosis and rickets. 

Vitamin D also has a role in releasing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin (the “happy” hormone) which are necessary for proper brain functions. Studies show that low level of vitamin D is linked to depression, mood disorders and other psychological conditions. It was also observed that vitamin D deficiency impairs and prolongs recovery from depression.

One way of increasing vitamin D in your body is bathing in the sun aside from eating food rich in vitamin D like fatty fish, egg yolk, and liver. Some dermatologists recommend having a sun exposure up to 20 minutes each day as long as you don’t have complications with usual sunbathing, but they suggest it is best to stick to 5 to 10 minutes to reduce the risk of sunburn.

Things to consider

Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to adolescence and through adulthood. It is integral to living a healthy and balanced life. There are different measures you can take to improve your mental health everyday. But if you are struggling with mental health issues, it is best to seek a professional to help you.

Resources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabin_fever
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22403632/?from_term=transfats+aggression&from_exact_term=trans+fats+aggression&from_pos=1
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28198207/
  4. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2720689

Written by: Ma. Lorelee Quitay, PTRP, CMN

About the author:

Lorelee is a licensed Physical Therapist and a certified Medical Nutrition Specialist. She studied Orthomolecular Medicine in Malaysia and was doing her master’s degree before the lockdown. She is also a Sports Nutrition Consultant.

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