Hannah Longley, LCSW
Working in the mental health field for nearly two decades has resulted in many believing that I have the secrets to a happy life and a zen persona. I will be honest, I really don’t. But I have made it my life’s work to support others during difficult times. Although I am usually approached when people have reached a point where they feel hopeless or lost and overwhelmed with emotions, I rely heavily on science. The connection between the brain and the body is amazing, as well as the ability of both to heal themselves and compensate in various ways.
Simple steps we can take in our everyday life can have huge benefits on our overall physical and mental health, which in turn provides us with positive benefits in our personal relationships, our work lives, and our home lives. We overlook so many things that our moms hounded us about but that we continue to harass our own children about.
Things mom taught us that we should remember as adults:
Go outside and play. This seems silly, especially as I stare down my approaching 40th birthday. But this is the thing--vitamin D boosts the immune system, elevates mood, and combats depression and anxiety. It is also important to make time to engage in activities that make us laugh and have fun.
Go to bed on time. Without proper sleep (minimum should be 6ish hours) your body does not produce enough serotonin or enough dopamine receptors. This may not mean much at face value, but on a deeper level, these are two chemicals that our body produces naturally in order to combat depression. When we don’t sleep enough, our body stops producing enough, therefore depression, confusion, irritability, etc. occurs.
Eat your vegetables. Yes, they will help you to grow up big and strong, but they also help to make those happy chemicals our body’s needs. That serotonin your body is working to make while you sleep is mostly produced in your stomach with plant-based foods. By eating your veggies, you are providing the necessary nutrients for your body to make the chemicals.
Exercise. Yes, it bolsters your heart health and it helps you stay trim. But it also helps your body flush out the build-up of stress chemicals that can accumulate in your body throughout the day, caused by various experiences. It also helps to release other chemicals that boost your mood.
Mind the company you keep. Keep the company that keeps you on a good path, those that make you feel good. This is for both your family and your friends. It is important to pay attention to those who build you and support you in positive ways versus those who may pull you down, ignore you, use you, or always have a way of making everything about them. When you are having a difficult time, it is important to surround yourself with supportive people who try to build you up.
Drink some water. Water helps on multiple levels when it comes to improving mood. On top of health benefits (no one likes a headache), it also helps by flushing out those stress chemicals that can build up throughout the day. In times of high stress, it is also a way to trick your brain into remembering it isn’t in a survival situation. Our brains are wired to respond as if a saber tooth tiger is chasing us. Stopping to drink tells your brain and body that if you have time to drink, you are NOT in a survival situation.
Don’t worry, I won’t tell your mom she was right. But remember these actions and steps you can take most days to provide a boost to your body and brain and their abilities to take care of themselves!
A note from MCFA staff: Fishermen Wellness is an on-going series by NAMI Clinical Staff. Each week a new topic will be featured pertaining to mental health and wellness for fishermen. We hope that this information is helpful to fishermen during COVID-19 and also under regular circumstances. Thank you to the clinical staff at NAMI for their support and insight during this time.
Together, we persevere.