It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day and today, I am joining the conversation.
I’m so happy that we’ve been able to increase Canadians’ awareness around mental illness thanks to BELL’s “Let’s Talk” initiatives. Certainly, we need to be more empathetic and sensitive to the inner struggles of so many Canadians who suffer every day from a mental health issue. At the same time, I wonder out loud as a preventative medicine doctor, what else we can do than just ‘be aware’?
Beyond genetic predispositions, our ability or inability to cope with stress, can determine if a mental health illness could manifest. Hence, I advocate to everyone the need to learn coping strategies as well as develop resilience to developing or relapsing from mental health issues.
With respect to coping skills, my friend, Dr. Bill Howatt is a global expert in the field. Read about how to become a coping skills master.
Coping and developing resilience to mental illness requires us to do some basic things that are good for physical resilience to illness and disease. I often quote a prominent neurologist from Harvard, who says, “What’s good for our heart is good for our brain.”
Here’s what you can do now for your brain to build resilience from illness.
This means spending 30 minutes walking briskly each day. I’m not asking you to go to the gym, but ideally, that would be good. Listen up if you’re a weekend warriors, we recently shared an article based on a study that said exercising on weekends may be good enough. Check it out, here.
The most important brain foods are omega fatty acids. In my clinic, we measure omega fatty acids levels in the blood and few people have healthy levels of omega fatty acids. You can find omega fatty acids in all fish, ‘orange’ coloured fish such as salmon, rainbow trout or arctic char have higher levels as do sardines. If you don’t eat the recommended 3-4 servings per week, you may need to take extra omega fatty acids on your non-fish days. To know what is right amount of supplementation you require, get tested using a finger prick test.
Cut out sugars, eat less red meats and inflammatory foods, and nourish your bodies with anti-inflammatories. All alcohol is a depressant, in other words, ‘a downer’. Its best you stay clear of this drug, but if you must, limit yourself to only one drink per day, but not every day.
Caffeine is another drug you should avoid as its ‘an upper’. If you drink too much of it, your body learns to be lazy and stop producing hormones that keeps your energy and mood up. Hence, limit yourself to one coffee a day, ideally in the afternoon and start your morning with a gentle jolt of caffeine with green tea. Ideally, drink only decaffeinated coffee or tea.
Last but not least, we need to rest our mind. We need to sleep better – at least 7 hours of restful sleep per night. Find some helpful sleep tips on another one of my blog posts.
Meditation or Mindfulness Training
My colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Stavros wrote about the role mindfulness meditation has in causing positive physical changes in the brain, read about it here.
In support of Bell’s Let’s Talk Day, let’s walk our talk – its time.
Five Cents will be donated for every interaction. What you can do to support: