Mental health can easily be affected by stress. This year more people than ever are showing signs of stress-related health issues; high blood pressure, stress-fueled eating with associated weight gain, nausea, weight loss and hair loss from worry, and the list goes on.
Our mental health status occurs on a spectrum or continuum, meaning we all move back and forth between doing excellently and doing not so great.
We hope to spend the most time ‘in the green’, where we are responding appropriately to challenges, and managing emotions and pressures with healthy coping mechanisms, such as physical activity, rest, and connecting with others.
However, we all move back and forth along this continuum throughout our lives, and even throughout the week. We should all recognize signs of a decline in mental well-being before it becomes dangerous.
Sometimes, situations cause us to move ‘into the red’; if the news makes us feel fearful, if we lost our career or even a loved one last year, if our graduation plans fell apart and we feel a sense of loss, we may be more irritable or withdrawn.
How we feel also depends on our level of reactivity to these events. Our way of thinking about or interacting with the world or internal representation, known as our mindset, affects our mental health. Our food and lifestyle do too.
It should be a habit to check in with one’s own mental well-being and act as needed, should we start trending towards the red zone or staying there too long. Pay attention to signs of being at the unhealthy end of the mental health spectrum.
The more signs or symptoms you or a loved one has, and the more frequently they occur, the more likely it is that stress is affecting mental health, and the more urgent it is to act and to establish self care strategies.
Some danger signs to look out for in yourself or in the people you associate with include:
- I don’t feel great, overall.
- I have muscle tension or joint pains.
- My friend no longer keeps in touch.
- I have mental and physical fatigue.
- I feel I have decreased mental acuity.
- My co-worker shows signs such as irritability or sadness.
- I have been diagnosed with “adrenal fatigue.”
- I get dizzy or faint when I stand up.
- My partner cries easily or unexpectedly.
- I have difficulty falling asleep.
- I am acting cynical or sarcastic.
- I often feel emotionally numb.
- My family member is snacking all the time to feel better emotionally.
- I wake up multiple times during the night or have restless sleep.
- I have difficulty waking up in the morning.
- I do not feel refreshed, even after sleeping eight hours.
- My child avoids things they once enjoyed.
- I go for long periods being unproductive.
- I have been diagnosed with hypoglycemia.
- My neighbour has lost weight or seems unkempt.
- My hair is falling out or I have excess facial or body hair.
- My spouse gets anxious and irritable when they miss a meal.
- I can be intolerant of others.
- My friend seems jumpy.
- I have racing thoughts.
- I have seasonal allergies.
- I have allergies that have gotten more severe in the last year.
- I cannot seem to make decisions.
- My mom’s blood pressure has been elevated lately.
- I am forgetful or have poor concentration.
- My spouse sleeps in a lot, late in the day.
- I crave salty foods.
- I sometimes eat to deal with boredom, discomfort or to relax.
- My sibling gets sick a lot.
- I procrastinate and miss deadlines, or I overwork.
- My parent is having trouble coping with things.
- I can lash out at times.
- I have skin color changes, such as pigmentation or color loss.
- My friend feels overwhelmed with work and family responsibilities.
- I have excess abdominal fat.
- I have strange little calcium deposits, such as in the ear lobe.
- My roommate seems to drink alcohol more than usual.
- I don’t feel fulfilled.
- I have stomach or digestive problems, abdominal pain, or nausea.
- My dad complains of GI disturbances, constipation or diarrhea.
- I feel tired but wired or spend hours scrolling social media.
- My blood pressure, metabolism or body temperature is low.
- I am never in ‘the mood’, my libido is totally absent.
The more symptoms are present, the further your mental health or that of your loved ones is likely in the danger zone. If you notice many symptoms, talk to someone. If there are serious problems, such as panic attacks, feeling numb, or using alcohol to cope, seek out professional support.
Some of the symptoms above are linked to higher circulating levels of stress hormones, like cortisol. Cortisol helps us to wake up and respond to danger, which is great, but it should not stay elevated all the time, as that can put us at risk of impaired cognitive function, depression, and anxiety. It is linked to irritability and fatigue, affecting our sleep and our energy.
Cortisol can cause inflammation and pain and make us more prone to injury. It can affect our blood sugar and cause weight gain around the middle. It can constrict our blood vessels, impacting heart health and causing blood pressure irregularities. Cortisol can cause erectile difficulties and can impact libido and fertility, too.
Following our breath in and out can help us to handle stress. If you think you need more physical support to deal with mental and physical fatigue related to stress, and your worry tells you that only the most clinically studied herb will do, consider Stressveda™. For more information visit https://www.florahealth.com/us/stressveda/. You can save 15% on Stressveda™ now at www.florahealth.com with code STRESS15.
The KSM-66 Ashwagandha® in the formula has been proven to help with a laundry list of stress-related conditions and to improve overall wellness, and Stressveda™ also includes organic whole food, plant-sourced vitamins to replace the ones most commonly depleted by stress and needed to respond to stress, such as B vitamin complex and vitamin D3.
When things are good, nurture social supports that you have and reassure others. Listen and pay attention to yourself and your loved ones. If you have been spending a lot of time in the yellow zone, or trending towards the orange or red end of the mental health continuum, ramp up your self care practices and relaxation, and connect with someone you can talk with about your stress.
About the Author: Dana Remedios
Holistic Nutritionist Dana Green Remedios, RHN, RNCP has a passion for helping others break through their blocks to greater health, wealth, and happiness, working with transformational mind-body tools. The Vancouver-based educator and coach answers your questions in English, French, and Spanish as a Specialist working in the Product Information Department at Flora, and is a regular contributor to the FloraHealthy blog.