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Jennifer Highland

Self-care for mental health

Self-care for mental health means that individuals should develop a healthier lifestyle by paying careful attention to their diet, exercise, and sleeping habits. A person’s lifestyle can have a significant impact on how their mind and body respond to a mental health treatment plan.

Managing Stress

Stress can be defined as the brain’s response to any demand. Many situations can trigger this reaction, including change. It is important to learn to recognise the symptoms of stress which may include: difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol and other substance use, being easily angered, feeling depressed, and having low energy. [1]

The following activities may help individuals cope with stress:

  • Set priorities. Decide what must get done and what can wait, learn to say no when it’s necessary
  • Avoid dwelling on problems
  • Schedule regular times for relaxing activities
  • Explore stress coping programmes, such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi [1]

Exercise

Exercise is one of the most efficient ways to improve a person’s mental health. Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. Besides, it is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. [2]

A person can experience the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with just 30-minutes of moderate exercise a few times a week, and in some cases, two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can also work. [2]

Nutrition

Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress — the “waste” (free radicals) produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells. [3]

On the contrary, diets high in refined sugars are harmful to the brain. In addition to worsening your body’s regulation of insulin, these diests also promote inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and even a worsening of  mood disorders symptoms. [3]

Tips for healthy eating:

  • Prepare your own meals
  • Eat with moderation
  • Reduce sugar intake
  • Eat a mix of lean protein, whole grains and colourful fruits and vegetables on a daily basis

Sleep

There is a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Over an extended period, a severe sleep problem could make an existing mental health issue worse.

  • Establish a routine by going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day
  • Feel comfortable. Ensure the temperature, light, and noises levels are right
  • Stop any stimulating activities, such as working or doing exercise, and avoid looking at screens (phone, a computer, tablet, or TV) for one hour before going to bed
  • Don’t try to force sleep. If it’s difficult to sleep, get up, go to another room and try to relax
  • Avoid large meals, drinking too much water and stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and nicotine during the evening [4]

The Monsenso smartphone app for mental health

The Monsenso smartphone app for mental health is an excellent tool to support self-care. It can help individuals with a mental illness to self-monitor by filling in daily self-assessment on their smartphones that indicate their level of stress, physical activity, anxiety, the number of hours they slept, and if they took their medication. It also tracks sensor activity such as physical activity, mobility and phone usage.

The smartphone app can be configured to notify users and their primary health care provider if they present any triggers and warning signs, which means that the system identifies some of the person’s behaviours that are likely to cause a relapse. If this is the case, the smartphone app also provides users with customised action plans that can be used when their symptoms appear so they can take action. By using the Monsenso smartphone app every day, individuals can monitor their progress over time and learn to avoid the behaviours that trigger their symptoms.

In addition to this, all the information captured by the individual’s smartphone is synchronised with the user’s primary healthcare provider in real-time; therefore, when a person is called for a consultation, the dialogue is facilitated by the information in the system. To learn more about the benefits of the Monsenso app for Individuals click here. If you want to learn more about the benefits for clinicians, click here.

References:

[1] Fact Sheet on Stress. National Institute of Mental Health

[2] The mental health benefits of exercise. HelpGuide.org

[3] Nutritional psychiatry: your brain on food. Harvard Health Publications. Eva Selhub. 16 November 2015.

[4] How to cope with sleep problems. Mind.org