The month of May is Mental Health Awareness month; a social issue that is near and dear to my heart. Some of you may know that the mental health profession is a passion of mine; before finishing my doctorate in naturopathic medicine I worked as a social worker with women and children in various organizations. As a social worker, I witnessed the lack of mental health supports in the healthcare system and the community at large, which is why when I changed career paths I decided to focus helping patients manage their mental health from a holistic point of view.

What many people don’t always realize is our mental health is strongly connected to our physical health and vice versa. For example, when we feel overwhelmed by increasing amounts of stress in our lives, our immune system gets depleted leaving us feeling run down and susceptible to colds, flus, and other viruses. Just like our physical bodies, we must nourish and care for our minds as well.

How can you support your mental health? Here are some tips for making your mental well-being a priority.

Seek professional help. It’s easy to think and feel like you can do everything on your own. In fact we live in a society that is very individualistic; however, trying to fix all our problems all by ourselves can become extremely overwhelming. There are supports out there; talk to your healthcare provider, go online and find a social worker or therapist, ask if your workplace has EAP (employee assistance plan) to connect you with a professional.

Eat right. Eat six smaller meals a day and focus on low glycemic foods (low sugar content) such as: lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, coconut).

Fit some active time into your day. Thirty minutes of walking three times a week improves both physical and mental health.

Modify stress. When possible modify your response and exposure to unnecessary stress. There are always going to be stressors that we can’t avoid but try to remind yourself, “Is this going to affect me long term?”. If not, then let it go and focus on the what you can control.

Check your vitamin status. More often than not our mental health may suffer as a result of vitamin deficiency. Ask your healthcare provider about blood tests that can assess your nutritional status, and which vitamins can help boost your mood, energy, decrease stress, and relieve symptoms associated with a mental health concerns such as anxiety or depression. Vitamins including B complex, magnesium, vitamin D, omega 3s, iron, and multiple amino acids can significantly improve your mental health.

Rule out food sensitivities. In some cases we may be ingesting foods that we are sensitive to but don’t know it. This results in inflammation, fatigue, low mood, weight gain, and many other concerns. By identifying and removing trigger foods we can alleviate psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety up to 81%.

Give herbal medicine a try. There are several herbal or plant medicines that have been studied for years and demonstrate as much effectiveness in improving symptoms when compared to prescription medications used to treat mental health concerns. Plants such as St. John’s Wort, Passionflower, Schisandra, Valerian, and many others offer great benefit when used in therapeutic doses.

Remember, before starting a new diet or natural health product seek professional advice. Not all “natural” products are safe for every body. In fact, natural supplements can interact with prescription drugs or may be contraindicated with certain health conditions. It’s better to be safe and seek professional advice from a licensed and regulated healthcare provider before purchasing an over the counter vitamin at your local health food store.

Know you are not alone; 1 in 5 people in Canada are directly impacted by mental health. The best thing to do is to talk about it to break down the barriers and stigma surrounding mental health. For more information about how a naturopathic doctor can help you with a mental health concern click here.

Yours in health,

Dr. Kate
Naturopathic Doctor

About the Author

Dr. Kate Klein is a licensed naturopathic doctor who has a general family naturopathic clinic located within Durham Sport & Wellness in Ajax, where she treats newborn patients to older individuals. Dr. Klein discovered her passion for natural healing after successfully working on her own chronic digestive concerns with a naturopathic doctor. Dr. Klein offers natural treatments and solutions for a variety of health concerns ranging from disorder sleep, allergies, fertility, headaches, digestive concerns, and much more. Dr. Klein believes that health is more than just the absence of disease; health is when we function at our best through proper nutrition, exercise, a balanced lifestyle, positive emotions, thoughts and actions. For more information about Dr. Klein or naturopathic medicine feel free to visit her website: www.durhamnaturopath.com