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Feeling Stressed? Here are my top tips to support your mood

In honour of October being mental health awareness month, I wanted to share my top tips to support a more balanced mood and increased feeling of wellbeing. If you have been following my blog you will know that this is a topic close to my heart. And for those of you who aren't familiar, I basically changed my whole approach to diet and lifestyle to support my own mental health. I am very grateful to have found a way to deal with my debilitating anxiety and unbalanced mood. Disclaimer- I still have bad days or weeks, I am human, I just know how to deal with them better.

First of all I want to make it clear that if you are feeling burned out, stressed, depressed, anxious or struggling with your mental health in any other way you should first and foremost speak to a professional. I recommend that you make an appointment with your GP, they will be able to signpost or refer you to a suitable mental health professional. I do know that waiting lists for doctor's appointments are very frustrating since the pandemic, another option is to reach out to one of the many mental health charities that have got helplines available 24/7. I have provided links for these in the references section below. (1) If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, speak to someone immediately, a friend or family member. You should advise them to take you to see your doctor or to call 911 or Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It is important to ask someone to stay with you and stay safe. For more information check out Mental Health First Aid's guide to helping someone who is feeling suicidal (2)

If you are feeling out of the danger zone with your mental health and able to make diet and lifestyle changes, there is lot's that you can do. The aim is to move away from a reactive approach to managing stress and wellbeing and implementing a preventative plan. This takes time, so be gentle with yourself. Find what works for you and what doesn't. We are all different, some of these tips may not be for you, and that's totally fine!

So without further ado, here are my top tips to support your mood.

  1. Be mindful of caffeine- caffeine stimulates the bodies fight or flight response. This is already over activated if you are highly stressed. This can make you feel on edge, fidgety and anxious. If you experience any of these symptoms consuming a lot of caffeine may not be the right thing for you. Caffeine can also disrupt sleep massively if it is consumed at the wrong time of the day. Aiming to cut caffeine off as early in the day as possible is recommended- research suggests 12pm is the best time to support the best sleep quality. Keep in mind getting adequate sleep is key to supporting mood. (3) (4)

  2. Eat regular meals- it is not recommended to fast in times of stress. Fasting increasing circulation of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. (5) This is something you want to avoid. I recommend eating 3 nutritionally balanced meals a day and aim to eat breakfast within 45 minutes of waking. (6)

  3. Follow a routine- our bodies love to be in a routine. It supports our bodily processes and circadian rhythm. Try to have a set time to wake and sleep everyday, this will help to support better quality sleep. Sleep is a restorative process that is important to support brain function. (6)

  4. Reduce your intake of processed sugar- a diet high in sugar has been linked to impaired cognitive function and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. (7) Starting off by being aware of your sugar intake is the first step. Sugar can sneak in through snacks, treats and even fluids that we consume. Aim to have more natural sugars like fruits rather than processed foods that have a high sugar intake. This will take some time to retrain your taste buds to appreciate the natural sweetness in foods. It won't happen overnight but you will get there! Also let's be realistic I am not saying never have sugar, we just want to aim to have less and not depend on sugary snacks as everyday options. Try not to depend on artificial sweeteners for this transition- I will cover this topic in an upcoming blog post.

  5. Move everyday- this doesn't have to be running a marathon or lifting heavy weights. It could be doing some light stretching or going for a walk. It could start off with 5 minutes a day and build up to 30 minutes. Do what works for you and your schedule, but aim to move in some way everyday. Research has shown that exercise can enhance mood and reduce stress. (8)

  6. Unwind and laugh- this is something that is probably the most difficult thing to do when you are feeling stressed or anxious. But taking some time to try to unwind is very beneficial. This can be doing some active meditation or breath work, which has been shown to have extremely positive effects for mental health. Slow breathing acts by increasing the bodies rest and digest system (opposite of fight or flight) and supports greater emotional control. (9)

On a lighter note this could include putting on your favourite funny TV show or having a laugh with a friend or family member. It is amazing to feel some worries melt away, even if for a few seconds, after having a laugh.

Like I said initially, this support will depend on where you are on your journey with your mental health. Please do know that you are not alone and there is help available to you.

Even on your darkest day look for the glimmers of light. These will all add up to longer feelings of wellbeing over time.

I hope this gives you some idea of where to start making changes to support your mood starting from today. Take care x

Papyrus suicide prevention



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