It’s OK to not be OK. While the stigma around seeking mental healthcare may still exist, hopefully it is lessening.
Lauren Groves, DO, psychiatrist with Our Lady of the Angels Health, shares tips to strengthen your mental health and how to know when you might need additional support.
Regularly getting good sleep can lessen the likelihood of depression and relieve anxiety. Studies show a relationship between sleep disorders and depression. It is thought that sleep problems can predict the onset of depression.
Proper hydration has positive effects on mood and anxiety. There are links between dehydration and depression, confusion and fatigue.
According to several studies, people who eat a diet high in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes and unsaturated fats (such as olive oil) are up to 35% less likely to develop depression than people who eat less of these foods.
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential to brain health and reduce inflammation and risk of heart disease. Oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies and sardines are the most highly recommended sources of Omega 3 fatty acids, and the American Heart Association suggests eating these types at least twice a week.
4. Vitamins B and D
B-group vitamins help to regulate neurotransmitters, immune function and amino acids – the building blocks of proteins in the body. People with a lack of vitamin B-12 may be at increased risk for depression, especially if they are older.
Vitamin D is important for optimal brain functioning, including mood and critical thinking. Sunlight is a major source of vitamin D. Five to 30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week generally produces enough vitamin D in the body. Lighter-skinned people require less time in the sun than those with darker skin. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to depression, in particular seasonal depression, which happens with reduced sunlight during winter.
5. Physical Movement
Regular exercise is known for its ability to improve mood and fight depression. One reason why is that exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good brain chemicals responsible for feelings of pleasure and happiness. Exercise can also improve your sleep quality, concentration, memory and overall daytime energy.
Knowing When to Seek Support
If you’re struggling with your mental health but aren’t sure if you should seek support, ask yourself, “Am I no longer feeling like myself?”
Notice if your appetite, attention, concentration and sleep patterns have changed. Notice if your relationships changed at home or at work.
And if they have changed, it may be time to seek care. Start with your primary care provider who can help and guide you if you need a mental health professional’s specialized support.
Types of Mental Health Professionals
Understanding the difference between a counselor, psychologist and psychiatrist can help empower you to take charge of your mental healthcare. Each role has differences in what they offer patients, depending on the patients’ needs.
Professional counselors must obtain a master’s degree or higher in mental health counseling or marriage and family therapy. They work with clients to help them learn better ways to manage their problems, mainly by providing talk therapy.
Psychologists perform the same duties as professional counselors, but they also provide additional psychological services, such as administering psychological or diagnostic tests.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed four years of a medical doctor degree and at least four additional years of specialized training in psychiatry. They diagnose and treat mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and serious psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, looking for both physical and psychological causes. Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medications to help with patients’ diagnoses, including mood disorders, anxiety, insomnia, psychosis and trauma.
Once medication is started and the patient starts feeling better, they often wonder why they didn’t start it sooner. You don’t have to feel like this every day – and you can get back to feeling more like yourself.
In addition to primary care providers, many specialists can also refer patients to psychiatrists. Gastrointestinal (GI) physicians, dermatologists and OB-GYNs can refer. Often there is a link between physical illnesses, such as stomach issues, skin problems or chronic pain, and mental health.