Sunlight and cold weather really start to drag us down around this time of the year. It’s apropos that November has a National Family Health Awareness Day. Around this time of the year, a lot of mood issues or family stressors pick up around holiday time so we need to help each other get through these months in a healthy way. Aside from other health issues, I find that so much of a family’s health status is depend on the mood and interactions of its members. I absolutely believe you should get your family member’s physical examinations done and stay on top of health screenings, but today, I’ll be talking more about the ways of addressing mental health for each of your family members.
Around this time of the year is when my patients start to complain of lower moods as the daylight hours start to wane and seasonal affective disorder symptoms sometimes start occurring. I feel that as we head into the holiday season again, we start to think about the stressors of holiday season, enjoy less sunlight, and bear the heaviness of feeling that another year has almost passed…it can get daunting.
So how can we lift ourselves up in the midst of all this?
Honestly, sometimes the anxieties, panic attacks, depressive episodes, manic episodes etc are so severe that there isn’t much you can do to help except to seek help from your doctors and to entertain the idea of medications to help rebalance your chemicals. For those people, I just want to support you and encourage you to face these issues head on and get help. Once you start to feel better, then all the healthy wellbeing options like meditation, exercise etc can kick in. Of course, I encourage you to do this if you are able to, but sometimes the mental illness symptoms are so strong that it’s hard to find the motivation or organization to get these things done.
If your symptoms are milder and you find that you are able to incorporate lifestyle factors that maintain balanced mental health…then by all means, I highly encourage that!
Here are some tips of various things you can do that have been shown to uplift and balance your mental and emotional health status:
- Exercise: Yes, it’s great for chemical and mood stability. The importance of this is to move daily and don’t stress yourself out about making sure to do a certain amount of time or how aggressive it has to be. Just do something fun, that you enjoy, so you can get your endorphins going. It’s fun to get involved in activities where the entire family can join in and get everyone’s endorphins up, like golf, cycling, tennis or hiking, just to name a few.
- Meditation/guided imagery/prayers: In this fast-paced world, sometimes we are so busy running around doing things, that we don’t have time to connect with ourselves. Ask ourselves what we need to feel fulfilled and happy. The most important relationship in our life is the one with ourselves. It’s hard to be there for others if you’re running on empty. Meditation, guided imagery, prayers or similar modalities, allow us to tap into our inner feelings and thoughts and needs. It’s important to do that sometimes so we make sure to address our own needs so we can feel fulfilled and balanced. It’s sometimes fun to do a family guided imagery night and get a pre-recorded segment you can play for everyone and you can do this together and connect together.
- Mood supportive diet: a diet balanced in protein, vegetables, whole grains and whole foods are ideal for mood stability. You want complex carbohydrates and proteins and vitamins/minerals from vegetables to balance your body’s needs to produce healthy levels of hormones and chemicals. The thing that I’ve seen really derail mood and energy is a diet high in simple sugars. Diets that are high in sugar load can really spike up your blood sugar level and then plummet. You don’t feel good with that. Your body can’t manage stress well with that. You think it helps you feel good in the moment but then when your blood sugar drops after the spike, you feel worse. It’s a vicious cycle. Try to eat balanced meals and avoid processed sugars, it’s Mother Nature’s health cocktail, her whole foods.
- Make time for activities you enjoy: Human beings can’t function always at one level of stress. It’s like always being in rain and never seeing the sun. We have to make time, even if it’s just a little bit of time, regularly for activities that bring us joy and happiness. Things that we are passionate about or we feel strongly for or bring us peace. Whether it’s volunteering, listening to music, seeing friends, playing music, painting, etc or all of the above, your mental health needs it. And when you are mentally and emotionally fulfilled, your body is healthier too. This can be great opportunities for the family to bond as well.
Finally, if you are feeling like you or family members need some mood support or you’re having a difficult time coping with life stressors or how you feel, please get help. Medical advancement in medications are much better than it used to be and there are a lot more options. As a physician who prefers natural approaches over medication, I’m still saying that in certain situations, you need the initial medication help to reset then you can discuss with your doctor about how you can eventually maybe lower the dosage or get off the medication once your symptoms are more stable. Please seek help if you need it!