Looking after your mental health?

We've been reminded today to ask, "are you OK?" However, it's also important for us to recognise the warning signs of mental illness in ourselves.

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(Credit: iStock)

When you’re feeling physically unwell, looking after yourself is straightforward. You take time off work to rest and recuperate. But if you are mentally exhausted or struggling, the options aren’t as clear. With one in five Australians and Kiwis affected by mental illness, ensuring you know the signs that something isn’t right is more important than ever.

What are the warning signs?

It can be hard to put your hand up and say “I need help”, which is why keeping an eye on the key signs that someone (or you) might be struggling is so important. Some warning signs are recurring physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches, or realising your moods are often low.

With friends or family, you might see changes in their behaviours such as withdrawing from social situations.

What are some practical tips I can try to help support my mental health?

Be kind to yourself—eat well, sleep well and exercise. Stay socially connected and find that special thing that keeps you going. Go for a walk outside, a dip in the ocean, whatever will make you feel recharged.

Food matters too! Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet full of fruits and veggies. Here are three more food tips:

1. Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

The type of fats you eat can have a profound effect on your brain function. The cells that transmit signals in the brain are unusually rich in omega-3 fats, meaning this fat is really important. Try linseeds, walnuts or omega-3 enriched eggs.

2. Drink plenty of water.

Aim for at least eight glasses daily. Adequate water is needed to keep brain cells functioning optimally.

3. Get friendly with fermented foods. Healthy gut, healthy mind.

Fermented foods containing probiotics help to reduce stress. Fermented foods include yoghurt with active cultures, kefir, tempeh and sauerkraut.

Tips to support mental health

Have a good breakfast. It will refuel your brain, lift your mood and lower stress levels. Breakfast is brain food!

Eat foods rich in B vitamins. Vitamin B12, and folate in particular, can assist with low mood and depression. These vitamins can be found in wholegrain breads and high-fibre breakfast cereals, green leafy vegetables, soy beans and other legumes, sunflower seeds, and low-fat dairy or B12-fortified soy milk.

Activate yourself. Go for a walk outside or take a dip in the ocean, whatever will make you feel recharged. Walk daily to boost your self-esteem, distract yourself from negative thought processes and help you sleep better.