While I was officially given a mental illness diagnosis over 22 years ago, I struggled long before that.
That means I’ve spent most of my life battling my brain.
These five things help me manage my symptoms and keep me checking in with myself. When I’m feeling off, I check in and ask myself how I’m doing in each category.
- Move. I’m not talking about intense exercise for 30 minutes to an hour every day. I’m talking about continually moving my body throughout the day, even on days when I’m home relaxing. If I’m not moving regularly through yoga, walking, weight lifting, a fitness class, or even just basic stretching and breathing, I don’t function as well as I would like. These days, I’m more into gentle movement here and there throughout my day than any kind of “one and done” workout.
- Protein. I strive to get a quality protein at every meal. Why? Because protein contains essential amino acids, and those amino acids convert to important neurotransmitters. Animal protein contains the most complete forms of protein, so I try to focus on good quality animal sources of protein. When I don’t have time for a complete meal, I like to drink protein drinks – though I prefer chewing my food. Lately I’ve been loving how I feel on Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Protein. (You can get 20% off your first order with the code sparking)
- Veggies. Duh. If you’ve been here awhile, you know I love veggies. I try to aim for at least five different types of veggies a day, and more than that if I’m really getting intentional. I feel so much better when I’m getting lots of colors and variety into my diet. Vegetables feed my gut bacteria and create diversity in my microbiome, which I need for a healthy brain!
- Breathe. Throughout my day, I take lots of deep breathing breaks. It’s amazing how much of my life I spent only taking short, shallow breaths. That keeps us in fight or flight! When I can take a second to breathe, I can pause and check in with myself. I do an inner scan – how am I feeling? Stressed? Tense? Sad? Anxious? When I can pinpoint what’s going on and acknowledge it, it allows me to be present with my feelings and keeps them from bubbling up and spinning out of control.
- Supplement. While I don’t take medication for my mental health any longer, I do like to support my body’s healing through supplements. I consistently take probiotics to counter the many rounds of antibiotics I’ve consumed in my lifetime, not to mention the antibiotics and pesticides through food that break down my gut. My favorite probiotic is Plexus Probio5, that has worked wonders for me and my digestive and mental health. It contains an enzyme blend to break down the bad guys while restoring the good guys in my gut. I also love magnesium, which I take in glycinate form from Nutritional Frontiers, and a multivitamin/multimineral called X Factor Plus (also from Plexus) that I recently added back in which is really supporting my ever-changing hormones. My go-to for stress is Source Naturals Gabacalm, which helps my brain unwind and relax before bed, or helps take the edge off in the afternoon. During times of intense stress I take Sleep Time from Nutritional Frontiers, and that has been so helpful for creating a level mood and supporting deep sleep. My supplement routine has changed over the years, and I add and remove according to the season and stage of life I’m in, but these are all pretty standard.
There are so many other things I do to actively take care of my brain (many that I’ve already posted about before), but these are the ones that are tried and true, always present and consistent for the last decade.
Remember – you don’t have to be officially diagnosed with a mental illness to struggle with your mental health. Brain fog, overwhelm, and fatigue are very common complaints I hear from clients. Ups and downs are normal, but persistent symptoms are signs to pay attention to.