This week in Australia is Mental Health week. A time when everyone is reminded how common mental health problems are. Statics state 1 in 5 Australia will have problems with their mental health this year. These numbers are reflected similarly in other parts of the world.
The Private Hospitals Association have decided to tackle awareness with the theme of addressing the elephant in the room. The phrase the elephant in the room means something large that is also in the room with you that nobody wants to talk about. But until it is addressed and dealt with nothing can change. Our hospitals all have large elephants with trunks pointing upwards throughout them to encourage everyone to talk about their mental health.
By making our mental health a priority in our lives, the lives of our loved ones and work colleagues we can help to control this illness and reduce the stigma attached to it. The more we talk about it, the more we can recognise its power and help reduce its impact in our lives.
Some areas of mental health that commonly affect people include but are not limited to:
- Bi Polar Disorder
- Drug and Alcohol issues
- Eating Disorders
Don’t assume everything will be okay. Talk to someone—a family member, friend or professional about your concerns. Your symptoms may be as simple as not sleeping well, having no energy and low mood. Don’t assume it will fix itself—address your elephant or help someone else address theirs. if we all work together we can help to normalise this debilitating illness and improve everyone’s mental health at the same time by getting treatment earlier and no hoping it will go away.
“Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.” – Edna Ferber
Do you agree with this statement on excess?
Life is a juggling act. You can definitely have too much of everything as well as have too little. It’s a continuum and like with most things the answer lies in the middle—the grey area. To help explain my point, I will use fats as an example. Everyone agrees that you can eat too many fats—most people do. Did you also know that you can also not have enough.
Fats are an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet and are essential for the healthy regulation and management of every function in your body and brain. Dietitians state that the exact amount required will vary with the individual, but 30% of your daily dietary requirements should come from fats. This is healthy.
The problem is that most people eat an excess of fats, some up to twice the recommended amount. Most diets also include trans fats which can lead to medical conditions such as:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
Fats helps us to absorb vitamins A, D, E and K and provide the essential fatty acids our body cannot make itself. These essential fatty acids are required to make our brain work and function effectively. Our brain is 60% fat and requires a regular supply of fats to work. Without fats in our body, our brain is unable to think and work properly and can shrink in size—a physical symptom of Anorexia Nervosa. The brain will only return to its regular size and function with weight gain and a regular supply of fats.
Using this example, draw your own continuum for other things can you think of that are as bad in excess as they are if we have too little of them. Remember everything is juggling act and you can find the workable grey area for all things.
If I told you about some amazing new research from Harvard that anyone could use, would you? Researchers Amy Cuddy and Dana Carney found changing your body position for as little as two minutes alters the testosterone and cortisol levels in your brain. Known as Power Poses, these changes can be planned or automatic.
Testosterone is the hormone associated with dominance and confidence. Cortisol is the hormone that measures your reactiveness to stress. People with high cortisol and low testosterone levels have little or no confidence and are very reactive to stress. On the other hand, people with low cortisol levels and high testosterone levels, are confident and able to manage stress well. They respond to stress, rather than react to it. Power Poses change the way you interact with yourself and as a result, how you interact with others.
This research is very valuable science. If you choose to use it, it can change you outcomes and your life. Give it a try. Next time you need some support or extra power to get through a difficult situation, try changing your body position. Make yourself big for two minutes. Use the changes in your brain to help you face your situation.
Just as powerful for this research is being aware of your everyday body positions. If you are regularly making yourself small, even by default, remember you are changing your brains chemistry. Get into the habit of sitting up and looking up. Be mindful of your body positions and give yourself an advantage.
Do you spend all day, every day inside or smothered with sunscreen? If the answer is yes, you like I, could have a vitamin D deficiency. According to The Medical Journal of Australia, 31% of adults have low vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D levels can cause serious health complications that include high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, depression, infections, muscle weakness, heart disease, cancer as well as osteoporosis. During the winter month, the number of people with a vitamin D deficiency increases due to less and weaker sunlight hours.
Vitamin D is a hormone that controls calcium and phosphate levels in the blood. It is second only to iron, as the most influential steroid hormone in a functioning healthy body. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is not found in many foods .It is produced when the skin is directly exposed to the ultra violet rays in sunlight and interacts with the melanin. Sunscreen and shirts, although they protect against skin cancer, put a barrier between your skin and the ultra violet rays therefore, they do not allow your body to produce vitamin D.
People particularly prone to vitamin D deficiency include:
- Dark skinned people, as they require approximately 6 times the amount of sunlight to create the same amount of vitamin D
- Obese people
- The older population
- The sick
- The very young
To increase your vitamin D levels there are a few things you can do.
- Eat oily fish and eggs as they contain vitamin D naturally
- Margarine and some milk has had vitamin D added to it
- Spend 6-8 minutes a day in summer and 26-28 minutes a day in winter, directly exposured to the sun, outside the hours of 10 am and 2 pm.
- Exercise daily as this increases vitamin D absorption .
Should you have a low vitamin D levels, treatment is simple. Your doctor will check your levels with a blood test and prescribe the appropriate number of vitamin D3 tablets.You will take these for several months or longer. You may possibly need to continue taking vitamin D3 longer term to ensure your body continues to function well.
Don’t risk your health. Take a walk in the sunshine daily, and have your vitamin D levels checked regularly.