Lady sitting on her couch happy

Protecting Your Mental Health


What to do and how to cope with the emotions it will bring up in many
From our Nutritional Therapist, Lisa Borg

To maintain good mental health during this current time of isolation, ensure some structure to your day. Although it is common to complain about train delays, not having time to do things because of work, having to pick the children up at a specific time etc. these aspects of working and family life keep us on track, keep us busy and our minds focused on meeting all of these demands. When that structure is removed, even temporarily, we need to invent a structure of our own.

I strongly suggest those who are concerned about their mental health should make a schedule of daily activities and stick to it. Include time slots for exercise, for which I would recommend four times daily for 10-15 minutes each slot, preparation of meals, dining, communication with friends and family, work (if you can work from home or good old fashioned chores around the house and garden), list all the odd jobs you never find time for, and aim to complete at least one each day.

Stay in touch by electronic means with people who are upbeat and who you have a shared sense of humour with; laughter is truly a medicine for the mind, body and soul. Avoiding individuals who make you feel bad about yourself is a wise choice. If you have to be in touch with such people, keep it brief, and stay upbeat yourself.

Make every day count, you want to look back at the day and recognise and validate your own productivity.

For those who experience difficult emotions during this time, try to see it from an objective viewpoint, acknowledge the emotion and recognise that it is not who you really are but rather some mechanism you have fallen into at that moment and which you can come out of with a little effort. Even putting your attention outside (look out of the window) and noticing things like clouds or stars in the sky, road markings, parked cars, individual windows of buildings and the like, can bring one’s thoughts under better control.

Keep your attention on the fact that this is not a forever situation but rather a very rare time of increased freedom to do things you would not otherwise be able to.

Training your thoughts onto future goals you would like to achieve would be much more beneficial. Get yourself ready for the return of normality.

Why we need to take vitamin D more than ever

Vitamin D regulates immunity, which is why almost all supplement companies are now out of stock for the foreseeable future! However, Vitamin D is advantageous in many other, less-known ways. It is more closely related to a hormone in its functions and is also involved in the health of the mind, both neurological and cognitive, and our mood is strongly influenced by our Vitamin D status. Vitamin D contributes to the health of the gut, bones, joints, muscles, lungs, heart and vascular system, the reproductive system, and weight management.

How to anti-age your brain encompassing easy ways to do so with exercise, mental exercise and also foods

Regular physical activity increases the delivery of nutrients, including oxygen and nitric oxide, as well as fats, proteins, carbohydrates and the plethora of micronutrients called Vitamins, Minerals and phytonutrients to all areas of the body including the brain. This increased circulation and delivery of nutrients occurs alongside the removal of toxins from cells.

Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins that lift the mood, which in itself can help to keep one’s perspective younger than one’s years. It doesn’t have to be a full on workout 3-4 times per week at the gym to achieve the benefits. Short bursts of exercise, if undertaken regularly can be more health-giving and especially help to keep brain function at full potential. Even those who have limitations on mobility can exercise with a little imagination and determination. I highly recommend the sedentary folk experiment for just one week, exercising for 5 minutes, 4 times per day and assess their health and mental well-being after 7 days. There are good reasons why people can become ‘addicted’ to exercise and it’s not just for a slimmer, fitter body.

Mental exercise:
Brain games keep the neurons firing! They can be easily found with a search online, but for those who cannot access the internet some suggestions would be crossword puzzles, sudoku, and others found in most newspapers, jigsaw puzzles, strategy games like chess, backgammon, and other board games are all helpful at keeping the brain cells active. Number work is excellent cognitive exercise; remember the sums you did at school, all by yourself without a calculator? Just a little practice daily could see your mental calculator working faster after just a few sessions. Learning a new skill is a total workout for the brain!

A key factor in brain health, that is often overlooked and under estimated, is good quality sleep for a sufficient amount of time every single night. For most adults that is between 7 and 9 hours, and for teenagers up to ten hours, for the children aged between six and twelve, it is closer to eleven hours nightly. Insufficient sleep can impair memory, learning, concentration and stress-management.

Nutrition should focus on real food (unprocessed), and avoidance of sugar-laden foods including alcohol. The diet needs to supply sufficient fats (the brain is made of fat and functions much better if it uses fat for fuel as opposed to glucose), and plenty of antioxidants. As a guide, foods to feed your brain include: oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring, sea bass, halibut, haddock etc.) coconut oil, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, avocado, eggs,  dairy products like butter, cheese, kefir and yoghurt; walnuts, pecans, broccoli, celery, green leafy veg like spinach, kale, chard, and lettuces; beetroot, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. Herbs and spices are also beneficial especially Rosemary and Turmeric. Herbal teas, especially Green Tea, and dark chocolate that provides a minimum of 70% cocoa solids are also recommended for their health-giving! This list is by no means complete in what the diet should provide for all round health, but the foods listed are especially helpful for brain health.

By Lisa Borg, In House Nutritionalist