Mental health is a state of well-being and is just as important as your physical well-being. This week is mental health week, hosted by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). It is aimed at raising awarenss and educating individuals on various mental illnesses. In today's society chronic stress can have a big impact on one's physical and mental health. Did you know that long-term stress increases the risk of mental health conditions like stress, anxiety, sleep problems and substance abuse? Today, lets talk about how to best handle stress!
How many times has someone asked you what the plans for the upcoming weekend are and all you desperately want to say is “NOTHING, JUST REST”. We all know that is never the case with all the birthdays, baby showers, bridal showers, family dinners, soccer games, etc. that require our presence and attention. It’s no wonder burnouts, also known as adrenal fatigue are so common these days. The fact of the matter is we take on more than we can handle, devoting our time and energy to those around us and forgetting to take care of ourselves - physically & mentally. Putting our needs on the backburner has almost become second nature to us.
What exactly is a burn-out? Medically speaking, Cortisol is a hormone that is released from the adrenal glands to give us energy in times of stress. Cortisol keeps up with the energy demands by breaking down carbohydrate and protein stores. Short term, this is actually quite protective, however, in the long run, this forces your adrenal glands to go into overdrive leading to insulin resistance, a weakened immune system and muscle breakdown. Soon enough, our cortisol levels drop because it just simply can’t keep up with our body’s demands and we go into a state of chronic fatigue. In lamen’s term's a burn out is a state of chronic exhaustion where you feel helpless. It is associated with physical, emotional and mental withdrawal. It's that feeling when you can’t cope up anymore.
It is so important to listen to your body when it is screaming for some serious R&R! Here are my 5 tips to help you avoid that burn out to protect our mental health.
TIP # 1 – NOT DOING TOO MUCH
- Set clear boundaries for yourself on what you can and cannot handle
- Prioritize a schedule in order of importance for optimal time management. This can help you gain control of your life by focusing on what’s important and what’s just not at the top of your list
- Learn to say NO
TIP # 2 – TAKE TIME FOR R&R
- Schedule downtime on your list of things to do
- Get adequate rest – Rest allows your mind to make space for processing experiences
- Pause for a second vs. just pushing through. We need to rest to work better and more efficiently
- Ignoring what your body is trying to tell you can lead your body into overdrive
TIP # 3 – MOVE OFTEN
- Spending time in nature is a great way to focus and reset
- Exercise is important to bring stress hormones back under control
- Aim for 20-30 minutes of exercise 3-4 x a week. These 30 minutes does not have to be continuous or strenuous. 10 minutes of brisk walking 3x a day can be just as effective as a 30 minute walk!
- It helps to reduce stress, depression and anxiety
- Take bio breaks to go to the bathroom and hydrate. This allows you to move away from your desk and take a physical/mental break
TIP # 4 – AVOID STIMULATION
- Quick fixes like caffeine and sugar can end up depleting our energy more in the long term if used in excess
- During your mid-afternoon energy slump, reach for herbal tea, water or a snack that is high in good quality fats (nuts, avocados) which provides a more sustained form of energy
- Skip the sugary snacks as this can prevent further drain on the adrenals
TIP # 5 - SLEEP
- Last but not least, SLEEP! Get your 8 hours of sleep, even if you feel like you can “get by “ with less
- Sleep, mood and stress are closely connected. The connection between stress and sleep is a two-way street. Stress can interfere with your sleep and lack of sleep can cause irritability and stress – a vicious cycle!
- Wind down 1-hour before bed. No work, no TV, no phone!
If you are feeling anxious before bed with thoughts running through your mind, get into bed 20 minutes earlier and perform a guided meditation (Headspace is a great app!)
- Try Veeva Sleep Formula or Veeva Stress Formula for some added support
It is important to listen to what your body is trying to tell you and respect its wishes. So if you are tired, just relax and say no, don’t overextend yourself. Balance activity with rest. Remember self-care = happiness!
The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.
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Written By: Dr. Saira Kassam | 2017