There are four aspects of health that impact our wellbeing: physical health, sleep, food and exercise.
Physical health: In my undergraduate psychology we learnt about power of the mind when it comes ot healing the body. A recent study on the placebo effect - (ie creating the the mindset that people will heal, accounted for clinically significant benefits in an estimated 60-90% of conditions, including pain, anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, allergies, hypertension, immune deficiencies, and Alzheimer’s disease and even recovery from surgery. On the flip side there are also many physical illnesses that impact our mind, our mood and our behaviour. For example, when the bacteria associated with Lyme disease become active again after lying dormant and harmless for months, even years in the brain, they may manifest symptoms that match the clinical diagnoses for schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Thyroid imbalances and hormonal changes can impact mood. Something as straightforward as poor eyesight, if not corrected can lead to social mistakes, like not noticing and greeting a colleague who is on the other side of the office. No one performs at their best in an ability assessment if they have forgotten their reading glasses. Finally, you can’t really listen to someone at a noisy networking event if you have an undiagnosed ear infection. On a positive note, if you are a particularly healthy person, donating blood is a way to give back and share your good health with others. Sleep: We all know that the world is a marvellous place after a good night sleep. Spend time chatting to a new parent and you will quickly be reminded of the impact of sleep deprivation on mood and performance. Sleep difficulties amongst new parents contribute to a vicious cycle between sleep and the persistence of depression after the birth of a child. There is also a large body of medical evidence to demonstrate that our bodies need sleep for growth and repair and our brains to consolidate information. Sleep deprivation actually, causes more damage to the adolescent brain than a mild head injury. Regular readers will also remember that one of the circumstances in which the “Dark Side” of your personality comes out when is you are tired. Finally, for those who still aren’t convinced, there is a link between sleep deprivation and weight gain. My very first psychology supervisor taught me some useful sleep hacks which I shall share with you:Switch off mentally and physically (that means the phone and computer) from work at least one hour before sleep.Establish a bed time routine. This is a series of relaxing activities that over time your body will associate with sleep, for example a warm bath, hot herbal tea and a relaxation technique. For ideas read my previous blog or head to my resources page. Get up at the same time every morning, even on the weekend.Cut down on caffeine and alcoholAvoid sleep medicineIf you wake up in the middle of the night do not toss and turn, get up and repeat your going to sleep routine. If these steps don’t make a difference please go to your Doctor for determine if you need the expertise of a medical professional or clinical psychologist to ensure you get a good night sleep. Food: My children had a novel when they were growing up entitled "You are what you eat," where the main character was encouraged not to eat too much chocolate or she would turn to into chocolate. Despite being a rather silly story, it is surprising how few people stop to think about whether what we are eating is beneficial for our long term health and energy levels. In simple terms there are two categories of food:
Always foods: Fruit, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Include lots of variety to ensure you are getting necessary nutrition and to keep your food interesting.
Sometimes foods: excess sugar, unhealthy fats, chemicals, alcohol and caffeine. These foods do not actually give us anything but short-term energy, perhaps some holes in our teeth and maybe some clogged arteries?
So what should you do: Rather than copy the latest fad from your friends, there are three experts who can ensure that what you are eating is ideal for your health:
The Doctor: some medical conditions require specific diets.
Qualified Dietician: take the information on your general health from your Doctor, make an appointment with a qualified dietician to work out what specifically your mix of always foods should be. Use your self-awareness to identify the type of program and accountability that you require to ensure that you change your habits for the long term.
Clinical psychologist: will be particularly helpful if you know that your alcohol intake is excessive or if you have an unhealthy relationship with food. As the week comes to a close, take five minutes out fo your day and book a slightly longer than usual appointment with your Doctor, and ask them to check you from head to toe and provide referrals for all the age appropriate screenings.
Exercise: Recently I wrote a blog on the benefits of exercise and tips to keep you motivated. In summary exercise benefits your physical and mental health. There is an overwhelming amount of expert advice and fads around on the best form of exercise for your heart mind and body, however exercise is only good for you if you actually do it. So be honest with yourself and choose a form of exercise that your Doctor says is safe for you that you actually like doing and is practical in your life.
Final thoughts: Take a moment now, and book appointments with your Doctor, Dentist, Optometrist and any other health profession you know you should be seeing for an annual check up.
Crum, A., Leibowitz, Kari, A, &, Verghese A. (2017) Making mindset matter, British Medical Journal 356:j674 doi: 10.1136/bmj.j674 (Published 2017 February 15)
Håvard Kallestad, Bjarne Hansen, Knut Langsrud, Torleif Ruud, Gunnar Morken , Tore C Stiles, and Rolf W Gråwe (2012) Impact of sleep disturbance on patients in treatment for mental disorders. BMC Psychiatry 12:179
Lyytikäinen, P; Lallukka, T; Lahelma, E; Rahkonen, O.(2011) Sleep problems and major weight gain: a follow-up study. International Journal of Obesity; London Vol. 35, Iss. 1, 109-14. DOI:10.1038/ijo.2010.113
Nippoldt, TB (2017) Can thyroid disease affect my mood? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/thyroid-disease/expert-answers/faq-20058228
Saxbe, Darby E; Schetter, Christine Dunkel; Guardino, Christine M; Ramey, Sharon L; Shalowitz, Madeleine U; et al.(2016) Sleep Quality Predicts Persistence of Parental Postpartum Depressive Symptoms and Transmission of Depressive Symptoms from Mothers to Fathers. Annals of Behavioral Medicine; Oxford Vol. 50, Iss. 6, 862-875.
Salberg, Sabrina; Christensen, Jennaya; Yamakawa, Glenn R; Connor Lengkeek; Malik, Haris; et al (2018) A Bump on the Head or Late to Bed: Behavioral and Pathophysiological Effects of Sleep Deprivation after Repetitive Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Adolescent Rats .Journal of Neurotrauma; New York Vol. 35, Iss. 16, (Aug 15, 2018): 1895-1905. DOI:10.1089/neu.2018.5744