The latest studies are showing an exponential increase in cases of cognitive disorders and all types of dementia, including vascular dementia (as a result of impaired blood flow to the brain) and Alzheimer’s disease. There were 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. It is forecasted to increase to over one million by 2021 and more than double by 2051. (1) According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are nearly 10 million new cases every year globally, with around 50 million people with dementia.
Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide, and the cost to health systems is astronomical, as well as, for carers and families, as it gravely affects memory, thinking, orientation, learning capacity, language, and judgment, and people usually require constant supervision. (2)
Considering that symptoms may take decades to show, an aging population may explain the rise in numbers, but it appears that teenagers and young adults are more and more prone to experiencing depression or psychological distress, which may also increase their risk of dementia later on in life. (3)
Lifestyle (i.e. cigarette smoking, alcohol, chronic stress, sleep deprivation, and sedentary lifestyle) and diet, as well as social interactions, have shown to be at the root cause of mental health issues. In fact, the greatest concern in our modern society is the ever-increasing cases of social isolation (real or felt — ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’), which has been hailed as a major health concern following recent events and for years to come. (4)(5)
Knowing this, it is important to follow these ten commandments that I’ve shared below.
Here Are 10 Tips to Help Protect Your Mental Health:
Nutrition is vital for optimal body and cognitive function. All of our cells require a constant supply of nutrients, including healthy fats, proteins, and ‘clean’ carbs, as well as phytonutrients (e.g. vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and enzymes). Brain cells are mostly made of fat; therefore, choosing the right type of essential fatty acids (EFAs), particularly omega-3 fatty acids, is absolutely crucial. EFAs cannot be synthesised by the body; they must be obtained from dietary sources, like wild fatty fish (e.g. sardines, mackerel, anchovies, herrings, and sockeye salmon) and seaweed.
Dulce, a type of algae, contains the highest levels of the “fish fatty acid” eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). EPA and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, another important omega-3 essential fatty acid) are crucial for the proper development of the nervous system and the brain. (6)(7)
Being in control of your energy and blood sugar levels is essential to reduce your risk of chronic metabolic diseases, including diabetes. Alzheimer’s disease has actually been identified as Type-3 diabetes, confirming the direct link between poor blood sugar management and diabetes. (8)
Rest and sleep are essential for mental health, as they allow for the mind to slow down, manage thoughts, and engrave memories in the subconscious. Sleep disorders may increase the risk of developing particular mental illnesses and also result from these in a self-feeding circle. Furthermore, sleep disturbances can exacerbate dysfunction associated with childhood trauma and increase anxiety disorders and depression in all age groups, but more so during adolescence, a time when attention to sleep is little. (9)(10)(11)
Observe strict sleep hygiene to restore cognitive capabilities.
For example, sugar, caffeine, drugs, and alcohol. Stimulants can increase focus in the short-term and help you ‘forget,’ providing levels of energy that cannot be sustained; the engine is ‘over-revving’ on an empty tank, and once the effect wears off, you may actually feel much worse.
Stimulants also increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels, which are signs of HPA axis activation (the stress response), and in the long-term increase the risk of sleep disorders and gut dysfunction, as well as, metabolic syndrome and lower cognitive capabilities by driving widespread inflammation responses and physiological changes in the brain. (12)
Oxygenation of the brain tissue is vital to support brain activity. You know from earlier in this article that reduced blood flow to the brain can increase the risk of vascular dementia. Poor blood flow to the brain also starves the nerve cells of the essential nutrients they need to function and survive. Without oxygen and food, brain cells just die, like we would without food.
Daily physical activity increases blood flow and moves the immune system, which is essential to increase the flow of nutrients to muscles and the brain and to clear out debris from natural metabolic processes. This may decrease the cell membrane’s permeability, or the gas exchange may be compromised (oxygen cannot enter the cell and carbon dioxide may accumulate within the cell).
By doing something you love or taking on a new hobby can help you calm the brain and cope following a highly challenging and stressful life experience. (13)(14)
It is understood that people are more likely to be creative when they are mentally well-balanced. People with pragmatism-thinking style are more flexible and show more creativity and innovation than others and seem to be equipped with enough skill to plan for unexpected days, and so providing an evolutionary adaptability advantage. (15)(16)
Ask for Help
Don’t keep things bottled up and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone can feel overwhelmed sometimes. We are all human. If you feel you cannot cope, talk to friends and family. They may be able to offer practical help, and if not a listening ear. By talking about your problems out loud, you have already dealt with them halfway. Next, you need to identify and address the problems. If you can’t, there are many local services and support groups that can provide the help you need. Therapy can also be an invaluable tool if you feel stuck.
If you don’t accept yourself, you cannot accept others. You may become a prisoner of your own mind and despise all that is good, in a self-sabotaging way to feed your insecurities and self-limiting beliefs. Affirmations can be a great tool to help you focus on the areas of your life you want to improve. Be objective. If you think you are far from being perfect like those models on the cover of magazines, just remember that the pictures have been processed in a way to make that model ‘look’ perfect and do not reflect reality.
Feeling good about yourself can help you feel more excited about life and help you learn new skills, visit new places, meet new people, and make new friends. Find your beautiful self again.
Have fun and avoid spending long hours on social media. Again, we are social animals and social interaction is not only amazing for our emotional health but it’s vital for brain health. Social isolation is by far our greatest threat to health today. Despite a lack of studies showing that time spent on social media may be tied to negative mental health outcomes, recent events have created an overwhelming centre of negativity and upset on all social media platforms. Related or not, about six months after lockdown commenced in most other European countries, evidence of a significant worsening of the population’s mental health is accumulating, along with the rise in suicide-related outcomes, which may continue to grow well after the sanctions on the public are lifted. (17)
Care for Someone Else
Having a purpose in life and feeling like you’re a participant in your life, rather than a bystander, can boost your emotional health and in the long-term protect your mental health. Dedicate some of your time to offer your help to local services or hospitals or do some voluntary work and experience the joy of giving without expecting anything in return.
If you can, getting a pet can truly lift your spirits, give you a sense of responsibility, and help you care for an animal that just wants to love you in return.
Be More Mindful
Be sure to take breaks and evaluate your state of being. Being mindful (living in the present moment and in touch with inner thoughts) and taking regular breaks can do real good for your mental health and reduce stress. Always look for the silver lining, because it is always there. There is beauty in every instant. Just be open to seeing it and ready to accept all that life has to offer. Open your mind and be flexible like a tree in the storm. The same storm that is nourishing its roots and helping it grow.
What are your favorite ways to protect your mental health? Please share them with us in the comments section below!
- (1)Alzheimer’s Society. (2020). Available at: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk. Last accessed: 7-Oct-2020
- (2) The World Health Organisation (WHO). (2020). Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia. Last accessed: 7-Oct-2020. 3 Twenge, JM. et al. (2019). Age, period, and cohort trends in mood disorder indicators and suicide-related outcomes in a nationally representative dataset, 2005–2017. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 128
- (3) 185–199. doi:10.1037/abn0000410
- (4)Usher, K. Bhullar, N. Jackson, D. (2020). Life in the pandemic: Social isolation and mental health. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 29(15–16), pp. 2756–2757. doi:10.1111/jocn.15290
- (5)Killgore, W. et al. (2020). Loneliness: A signature mental health concern in the era of COVID-19. Psychiatry Research. 290(113117), doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113117
- (6)Chang, CY. Ke, DS. Chen, JY. (2009). Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurologica Taiwanica. 18(4), pp. 231-41. PMID: 20329590
- (7)van Ginneken, VJ. et al. (2011). Polyunsaturated fatty acids in various macroalgal species from North Atlantic and tropical seas. Lipids in health & disease. 10, 104. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-10-104
- (8)de la Monte, SM. Wands, JR. (2008). Alzheimer’s disease is type 3 diabetes-evidence reviewed. Journal of diabetes science and technology. 2(6), pp. 1101–1113. doi:10.1177/193229680800200619
- (9)Palmer, CA. (2020). Tired teens: Sleep disturbances and heightened vulnerability for mental health difficulties. Journal of Adolescent Health. 66 (5), pp. 520–521
- (10)Azza, Y. et al. (2020). How stress affects sleep and mental health: Nocturnal heart rate increases during prolonged stress and interacts with childhood trauma exposure to predict anxiety. Sleep. 43(6), zsz310. doi:10.1093/sleep/zsz310
- (11)Goldstone, A. et al. (2020). Sleep disturbance predicts depression symptoms in early adolescence: Initial findings from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study. Journal of Adolescent Health. 66(5), pp. 567–574
- (12)Read more: https://www.nutrunity.com/apps/search?q=stress&filter=blog_post
- (13) Forgeard, M. (2018). Creativity for mental health: Seeking new answers to an old question. Creativity. Theories – Research – Applications. 5(2), pp. 165–169. doi:10.1515/ctra-2018-0014.
- (14)Carson, SH. (2019). Creativity and mental illness. In: Kaufman, JC. Sternberg, RJ. The Cambridge handbook of creativity. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 296–318.
- (15)Gillam T. (2018). Creativity and mental health. In: Creativity, wellbeing and mental health Practice. Palgrave Studies in Creativity and Culture. Palgrave Pivot, Cham. pp. 31–45. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-74884-9_3.
- (16)Fouladi, N. Shahidi, E. (2016). Creativity, thinking style and mental disorders. Journal of Fundamental and Applied Sciences. 8(2), Special Issue: Part 4. doi:10.4314/jfas.v8i2s.110
- (17)Office for National Statistics. (2020). Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/coronavirusanddepressioninadultsgreatbritain/june2020, and https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/ageing/articles/coronavirusandthesocialimpactsonyoungpeopleingreatbritain/3aprilto10may2020. Last accessed: 7-Oct-2020
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