I experience many challenges dealing with breast cancer and often I find that the mental drain can overshadow the physical one. Thankfully as a nutrition and behavioural change coach I have learned many life skills and tools to help me live a live of great wellness in spite of an illness. I use these tools on a daily basis to keep me positive, motivated and strong. So I also encourage you to actively adopt these strategies into your lifestyles to keep you mentally healthy and well.
Understand the power of connecting with others – it’s good to talk to people, to your friends and family. Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel we are not alone.
Learn to Listen– Listening to your friends, a work colleague or a family member is invaluable. Making that time to connect and truly listen to someone else can deepen friendships and relationships. Ask yourself do you truly listen to understand or do you just listen to reply?
Learn to be more present. There is so much noise now from social media. Its fine in moderation but when it starts taking over your life, your thoughts and your attention and keeps you from connecting with others then it is a problem.
Breathe When we are anxious we are focusing on something that happened in the past or fretting about something that may never happen in the future. Anxiety uses up the energy resources we need to keep us healthy and well. A simple way to bring you back to the present is with your breath. Focusing on your breathing slows down your thoughts and feelings of anxiety. Breathe in for 3, out for 5. Feel your body on the chair and the soles of your feet on the ground.
Exercise – how you move can change our psychological state and flood our bodies with the feel good brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. These make you feel more positive, motivated and connected with others and that can help you think and feel better in yourself. However exercise can also be a stressor on the body so it’s important not to overdo it and maintain a balance.
Eat real food – learning to get back to basics. Avoid overly processed foods, white refined carbs, sugar, sugary drinks. Choose foods that are nutrient dense, lots of fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats that dampen inflammation in our bodies; a root cause of mental health problems.
Eat healthy fats to support your mental health. Do you know your brain is nearly 60% fat? The fat you eat literally builds your brain. Avoid the harmful trans fats found in processed foods. Eat full fat diary, grass fed meat and have oily fish 2-3 times a week. Eat nuts daily including walnuts which are great brain anti-oxidants and olive oil another healthy fat rich in anti-oxidants.
Protecting your Gut Eat foods that support your gut microbiome often referred to our second brain. More and more research is highlighting the link between our brain and our gut and how they talk to each other. What we eat can alter and change the make up for our gut bacteria which influences how we think, how we feel as well our immune system and our overall health and wellbeing.
Sleep A lack of sleep can affect your mood not to mention how affects hunger, cravings and energy. Even just one week of insufficient sleep can contribute to higher levels of anxiety and depression. Lack of sleep can affect your metabolism and contribute to weight gain which can affect your mood.
Learn to express gratitude. When you are grateful for what you have you are fostering a mind-set of positivity. We all have something to be grateful for in life no matter what challenges life throws at us. You just need to look for it. You can train your mind to see the good in everything. The habit of writing down or mentally noting 3 things every day you are grateful for is a very simple step in staying in the moment and not allowing your mind wander off into the future or back in the past. It is a great antidote to feelings of stress and anxiety. Stress is one of the causes of chronic illness in our modern world.
Learn to savour the moment and see the beauty in the simple things in life that are right in front of you. This could be being present with your friends, your children, your partner or your parents. Get out into nature. Spend time beside the sea. Walk in a forest. Get out of your heads and start living in the moment.
Learn to see the lighter side of life. Life can be hard and difficult at times. Spend time with people who lift you up and energise you. Do the things in life that you genuinely enjoy and that make you laugh. Play with your kids, jump on the trampoline and rekindle that inner child in you.
Talk to a professional. Counselling, behaviour change coaching and psychotherapy can be invaluable to gain new perspectives and get a new way of thinking to help us get over lives’ difficulties. It can help us quit unhealthy patterns of behaviour that don’t serve us and help us enjoy life in its fullest. We only get the one shot at this life.
Finally be compassionate to yourself. Learn to be kinder to yourself. Be mindful of your inner critic and how you to talk to yourself. Practise looking in the mirror and telling yourself what an amazing, fabulous human being you are. Go on give it a go!