Even if you are not currently experiencing mental health challenges, it's important to care for your mental health for preventative purposes. Life happens, the sun hides for weeks (along with our serotonin) and then anxiety, depression and other mental health symptoms can develop or increase. Doctors recommend annual physicals to care for physical health along with healthy eating, exercise and stress management, but there's not as much guidance for caring for mental health. Below are my recommendations.
1. Therapy. I think everyone should have a therapist, and I've heard some medical doctors agree with this belief. Mental health providers are skilled at helping people mentally process and regulate their mental health. Sometimes it can take a few therapists before finding the right one, but it's worth pursuing the right therapist so that person is there for you when you really need help. Additionally, the demand for therapists is quite high these days, so finding someone who is available can take time. Ask your healthcare providers who they recommend.
2. Acupuncture. Acupuncture is excellent at supporting mental health, which is why I've chosen to specialize in treating mental health. East Asian medicine doesn't see a difference between the mind and body...rather the two are considered one entity. Also, anxiety, depression and trauma are not viewed as being imbalances strictly in the mind but rather in the whole being.
3. Probiotics. There is a growing amount of evidence that supports the connection between brain health and gut health. Taking probiotics can be an excellent way to support gut health. I highly recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor to get the best advice for what probiotics are right for you. Taking the wrong probiotics can lead to small intentional bacterial overgrowth, which is very uncomfortable and can take a long time to resolve (and the resolution usually involves an extremely strict diet).
4. Hydration. Drinking water won't fix anxiety or depression, but a well hydrated body generally functions well. To determine how much water you should drink per day, divide your body weight in half and that number is the number of ounces of water you should drink daily. For instance, a person who weighs 160 lbs should drink 80 ounces of water daily. Drinking more than what is recommended can tax the kidneys, so stick to that equation for your water consumption.
5. Movement. Movement metabolizes emotions. A basic principle in East Asian medicine is that when there is movement there is no pain, when there is no movement there is pain. As I mentioned earlier, the mind and body are considered one in acupuncture, so movement can resolve physical and mental pain. Sometimes movement means going for a walk. Other times it could mean speaking to a therapist or writing in a journal. Moving every day as much as possible is important for supporting overall health.
6. Favorite Activities. Do your favorite activities as often as possible. If you love to paint, carving out time daily to paint can ease the effects of stress from the day. Cooking, dancing, reading, rock climbing, woodworking, volunteering, improvisational acting...whatever it may be, be sure to do it as often as possible.