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A 2022 Guide to Self-Care

“New Year, New Me” as they say. Although, I believe every day is a chance to try again.

by Urvi Patel, PA-C on January 03, 2022

Managing your mental health while trying to balance work life, school life, social life, personal life, and even family life is not easy. Do you feel burned out? Do you feel stressed? Do you feel anxious? Do you feel depressed? Here are some tips to better take care of yourself while working through the ebbs and flows of life. Remember, you come first. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Fill yourself with self-care and love before tending to others.

1) Eat right

Serotonin is a chemical in our brain that affects our mood, feelings of well-being, regulating hunger, and improving positive sleeping patterns. When there’s a lack of serotonin, we experience depression, stress, irritability, and even panic attacks. Did you know we even have Serotonin in our digestive system? It helps to push food through faster to reduce the time food stays in our digestive tract and the amount of irritation caused to our intestinal lining. Here are some foods that can help produce serotonin in our body:

  • Salmon: Rich in Tryptophan (produces serotonin). Also contains Vitamin D which is important in serotonin production.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Important food group that is rich in Tryptophan for our vegetarians!
  • Turkey and Poultry
  • Tofu and Soy
  • Milk and Cheese
  • Pineapple

2) Natural vitamins to fight depression

Clinical depression is more than just a feeling of sadness. Other symptoms include: feeling a sense of emptiness, changes in appetite, feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, restlessness, changes in sleep pattern, anger/irritability, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of suicide or death. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to reach out to a professional. But have you ever wondered, “What are some other things I can do along with getting professional help?”. Let’s talk about the importance of vitamins! Consult with a healthcare professional before taking these supplements.

  • B-12: If someone has low levels of B-12, they are likely to experience symptoms of depression such as fatigue and lack of motivation. It’s important to reach out to a health care professional to check your Vitamin B-12 levels and take supplements if necessary. Some foods that are high in B-12 include: fish, lean meats, eggs, poultry and milk.
  • Omega-3 Fatty acids are essential for the function and health of the brain. These can be taken as a supplement or in foods such as salmon, seeds, and nuts.
  • Magnesium: If your body is low in magnesium, you may experience worsening depression symptoms and insomnia.
  • Vitamin C: Known to both improve mood and cognitive functioning.
  • Vitamin D: Living in New England, it’s important to take Vitamin D supplements especially in the winter months.

3) Natural vitamins to fight anxiety

Unlike everyday stress, clinical anxiety is defined by excessive feelings of worry or persistent, even intrusive thoughts about certain fears or constant fears in general. Clinical anxiety may even be accompanied by anxiety attacks. If you or a loved one are having symptoms of anxiety, please reach out to a medical professional. Here are some natural tea remedies to help ease anxiety in addition to. Consult with a healthcare professional before taking these supplements.

  • Passionflower: Some small studies say this herb may help with anxiety, but not enough evidence.
  • Valerian Root: Available as tea and tablets. May cause headaches, dizziness, drowsiness.
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm

4) Exercise

The big “I know I should, but I feel so lazy”. Did you know a regular exercise routine has been shown to decrease depressive symptoms? There are multiple studies shown to prove this theory. How does exercise improve our mood?

  • Increases levels of “feel-good chemicals” such as serotonin, dopamine, endorphins
  • Improves function of immune system
  • Raises core body temperature which provides a calming effect
  • Provides an opportunity to take a break and work on yourself
  • Improves energy level
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Can help with insomnia

5) Spend some time with nature

In a world where COVID is ramping and working from home is becoming more common, it’s important to spend some time getting natural air. We were not made to be confined to one space.

  • Spending time with nature improves our emotional well-being. There’s a practice in Japanese culture called “Shinrin-yoku” which hypothesizes that mindful time spent in the forest can reduce anxiety and feelings of depression.
  • Focusing on all of your senses in nature can provide a way to feel connected to something bigger than yourself. Focus on all the beauty around you
  • There are physical benefits to nature such as the reduction of stress levels can reduce one’s heart rate and even decrease risk of stroke. Being in nature also promotes healthy levels of natural Vitamin D.

6) Meditation

Stress is something that consumes all of us. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. We are all stressed about something. We are all worried about something. This constant state of worry and stress keeps our body in “fight or flight” mode. Meditation is a way to decrease the tension that is built up in our body. There are multiple iPhone apps that may help you in your journey to meditation. HealthLine suggests: Insight Timer, Headspace, Mylife, Calm, Oak, Simple Habit, and others.

  • Stay consistent with your meditation routine
  • Start with 5-10 minutes a day
  • Pick a time you will not be interrupted

7) Practice gratitude

Scientific research shows that gratitude affects the brain’s reward system.

  • Every night for a week, write down three things you are thankful for.
  • Make a gratitude jar. Every day for the next year, write down something you are grateful for and put it in the jar. Read it when times are hard.
  • Purchase a “gratitude workbook/journal”

8) Read books that help shift your mindset

Here are some books I believe will help shift your mindset.

  • 101 Essays that will change the way you think – Brianna West
  • Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Search Inside of Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan
  • Rewire Your Brain by Jacob King
  • The Mountain is You by Brianna West
  • Winning the War in your Mind by Craig Groeschel

9) Self-Love

  • Treat yourself: Get your nails done, get your hair done
  • Call out of work and take that mental health day
  • Take a day to do absolutely nothing
  • Say no to those plans
  • Take time off social media
  • Mute/unfollow that account
  • Have that difficult conversation you’ve been avoiding
  • Repeat those positive affirmations
  • Do that thing you’ve been scared to do
  • Tell your friends how you’re really feeling

10) Therapy

I am not ashamed to admit that as a woman in the mental health field, I am also in therapy. I have been able to recognize my triggers and act accordingly. I am no longer who I once was. I am learning something about myself every day. I am learning to love myself a little more on the dark days. Therapy is more than just talking about your emotions/feelings. It’s learning to rewire your brain and an opportunity to rewrite your story. The girl who rose.

  • Check out Psychologytoday.com
  • Filter through based on insurances, gender, race, sexual preferences.
  • An insider tip: When you choose a therapist you’re interested in, give them a phone call rather than emailing them. Emails get lost in the inbox.

11) Medication Management

Sometimes, we can do all of the above and still experience persisting anxiety and depression symptoms that start to become debilitating. This is a reminder that it’s okay to seek professional help and learn more about prescription medication options. To discuss these options, reach out to a psychiatrist. There’s lots of stigma around medications in this day and age, but it’s important to remember that you come first. Depression and anxiety are caused by a chemical imbalance in our brain and there are medications that can help boost the serotonin a lot more rapidly than we ourselves can. Getting help doesn’t make you weak. In fact, you are brave and strong for taking that first step. I’m proud of you.

Sincerely,

Your local physician assistant, Urvi Patel