Alice looks a bit unhappy… perhaps too much cake and not enough tea?
I’ve been doing a lot of online research lately. Trouble-shooting I guess, since I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression. Wham! out of the blue I began having panic attacks two years ago, then last year I started having bouts of depression. I didn’t talk to anyone about it for a long time, then began therapy and finally admitted it to my sweetie. In August I found out these are very common symptoms of BII (breast implant illness) and usually go away after explant. Since I am not scheduled for surgery until July, I’ve been looking for a way to feel better sooner!
Everyone’s brains need feel-good nutrients now – what with the pandemic and the unfolding political situation here in the US.
While we can’t control either of those situations, we can take good care of ourselves, and our mental health, by eating right. Without a doubt, cocktails and comfort foods are comforting, but in the long-run they can leave us feeling worse. I have had to find a couple of alternatives to comfort myself that really do reduce stress and anxiety – picture Julie Andrews singing, “These are a few of my favorite things.”
A five or ten-minute guided meditation (found on Google)
An online exercise class (I do Nia with Holly Nastasi on FB)
A 20-minute walk outdoors, or if you live in snow-country, just a few deep breaths outside in the fresh air
A phone conversation with a friend
Hand-writing letters or notecards just to say, “Hi!”
Curling up with a really good book (I couldn’t put down “The Beauty in Breaking” by Michele Harper)
Taking a break for a “cuppa.” (see how testy Alice is getting…)
In my searching, I’ve found many articles written on the field of nutritional psychiatry: foods that help beat depression by giving the brain more of the nutrients it needs to thrive. I read that in a 12-week study, the people that improved their diets the most improved their mood the most. A long time ago one of my spiritual teachers said that “it’s not what’s eating you, it’s what you’re eating.” Turns out, there’s now the science to back him up.
So, what should we eat to feed our head? A Mediterranean-style diet full of fruits, fresh vegetables, extra-virgin olive oil, plain yogurt and natural cheeses, beans, nuts, seafood, smaller portions of lean poultry and meat, and whole grains (except I have to skip the grains, unfortunately.) Please, enjoy that fresh whole wheat bread for me!
I’m also focusing on specific nutrients that are especially helpful: Probiotics which replenish the good bacteria in our guts. There is a strong link between our gut health and our brain health. To benefit both, add plain yogurt, sauerkraut, Kefir, Kosher dill pickles and fermented vegetables like kimchi… which I really need to learn to make, and that can be a whole blog if I can get a friend to come teach us! Vitamin B6 regulates our sleep and our mood, and too little is associated with depression. It’s a daily need and easily found in pistachios, garlic, salmon and tuna, bananas, spinach, sweet potatoes, avocados and whole grains. And last, DHA the main omega-3 fat in our brains. It promotes new brain cells, and Heaven knows I need all of them I can get!
Seafood is probably the source we are all familiar with: wild salmon, oysters, mussels, and anchovies. But raw nuts; almonds, macadamia, cashew, and pecans are all good sources, too. There is one caveat – skip the can of dry-roasted, salted nuts – the processing and salt override their healthy benefits.
***I want to add a side-note here, I was taught long ago that if you eat well 80% of the time, you can “cheat” the other 20% and still be well. We all need an occasional indulgence!
So, that’s all the news for now. I’m going to make myself a cuppa and queue up “White Rabbit” on Pandora.