Friday, April 26, 2013

Wellness Part I: Physical

I have been slipping into the vortex again because I have not been faithful to the lifestyle changes necessary to control my brain disorders. I have faithfully taken medication, but that's about all. 

Whether we like it or not {and act on it or not} wellness resides in a balance between four basic areas of life: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Volumes could be {and have been} written about each. Since I'm struggling in all of these areas, I'll share with you one topic a day - covering what I have come to know through experience, recovery, and incessant reading.  


Physical Wellness

It is so easy to forget that depression, anxiety, and chemical addiction are all physical diseases; and like other chronic physical diseases, they require physical lifestyle changes. Diabetics watch sugar intake, those with heart disease watch cholesterol and monitor blood pressure, asthmatics must avoid respiratory triggers and irritants, etc. 

What are the physical lifestyle changes necessary to support mental wellness - in other words, what have I been forgetting to do these past few months? And by the way, these are recommended for "normal" people too. It's just that people with mental illness have less leeway for slips in these areas.
  1. Obviously, take medication (if any) as prescribed by your doctor; and don't deviate from it without your doctor's permission.
  2. Take any supplements your doctor has recommended. For example, my GP has me taking Calcium w/vitamin D and a multi-vitamin; and my psychiatrist has added 2 - 3 fish oil capsules per day. I also temporarily take iron supplements, as I'm slightly anemic.
  3. Get 7.5 - 8 hours sleep each night; and go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  4. Drink about 2 liters of water per day - more if you are exercising hard, are on medication, and / or you are spending a lot of time in hot weather or dry climates.
  5. Exercise 4 - 5 times per week employing the fitness triad: aerobic (e.g., walking, running, swimming, biking), strength training (e.g., free weights), and flexibility training (e.g., yoga, stretching). (Obviously again, check with your physician before starting any exercise program.) Aerobic exercise in particular releases feel-good endorphins in your brain, strength training builds body confidence and strength, and flexibility helps prevent injury and reduces stress.
  6. Eat properly. It has been my personal experience that the following serve me best mentally {and physically}:
    • Eat (5) portioned mini-meals per day, approximately every 2 - 3 hours. 
    • Each meal should contain (1) lean protein portion, (1) complex carbohydrate portion, and at least one vegetable portionSome example of portions: protein is the size of a deck of cards; a carb, the size of a light bulb or tennis ball; and a slice of cheese is the size of a domino. 
    • Eat at least (5) vegetables and eat (4) fruits per day.
    • Limit simple sugar (white bread, white rice,white pasta, bottled juice from store, table sugar, etc.)
    • Limit butter and saturated fats. This is old news, I know; but it is true. Olive oil, olive oil, olive oil is good for the brain. Use it, damn it!
    • Do not drink diet sodas and avoid sugar substitute. {The latter is my idea - I just don't trust 'em.}
    • Limit caffeine and don't have caffeine after 2 or 3 PM. {As a chemical addict, this is the hardest of all for me!} Note that I didn't say eliminate, just limit. This is especially important for those suffering from anxiety.
    • Do not drink alcohol - obvious for an alcoholic / drug addict, but critical too for someone with depression and anxiety - especially when on medication. 
    • See, and for some more examples of proper eating.
Next up: Emotional Wellness


{REMINDER: I am not a doctor, therapist, or psychologist - just a recovering patient learning as I go.} 

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