By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
How are you today? We’re asked this question all the time, but sometimes it’s hard to give an honest answer – especially when we’re not feeling our best.
Approximately one in four people experience problems with mental health every year. Contemporary life places burdens on us all, from family issues to financial problems, and these concerns can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. Though most of us know what do when our bodies aren’t working properly, worryingly few of us take action when it’s our mental health at stake.
Our bodies and minds do not work independently of each other. If we’re experiencing anxiety or low mood this can have an adverse effect on our physical health and lead to a greater risk of certain illnesses or conditions. Similarly, if we’re ill or injured, that can impact our mental health too.
However, there are many things we can do to help our bodies and minds work together. Exercise is known for its positive physical benefits, but it’s also proven to be a great way to improve symptoms of depression or anxiety. Whether you favour yoga, running, or simply a short walk, exercise encourages the release of chemicals called endorphins, which increase mental alertness, energy levels and positive mood. It also helps to improve your sleep cycle, helping you wake up refreshed and ready to face the day.
A healthy balanced diet not only keeps you feeling strong and energetic – it can also help manage and even prevent numerous mental conditions. B vitamins are particularly important. Found in whole grains, meat, green leafy vegetables and more, B vitamins play a key role in producing important chemicals in the brain. Vitamin B12, for instance, helps to maintain the healthy production of serotonin, which balances mood and improves sleep. Older people, vegetarians and vegans, and those with celiac disease or Crohn’s disease, may be deficient in Vitamin B12 and could benefit from a supplement such as Nature’s Bounty B Complex + B-12 or Vitamin B-12 on its own in strengths from 500mcg to 5000mcg. B-12 is also an ingredient in the multivitamin supplements like Centrum, One-A-Day and Rainbow Light.
That said, issues like depression and anxiety can affect anyone at any time, even the fittest of us all, and there is no shame in seeking help. If you’re unsure what to do, the pharmacy can be a great place to start. Pharmacists can talk through your symptoms and advise on the next steps to take. They can also suggest a range of options that may help you.
In addition to nutritional supplements such as Vitamin B12, herbal remedies can be very useful. St John’s Wort by Nature’s Bounty, (Hypericum perforatum), is a botanical compound known to help depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), mild anxiety and sleep problems. Valerian root can also be helpful. Usually taken before bed to help with sleep, it can also be used during the day to manage symptoms of anxiety or stress. Valerian can be found on its own in the vitamin section Nature’s Bounty) and also in Kalms – a supplement that is great for sleeplessness, stress and anxiety.
Many women find their mental health can suffer the week before their period. Evening Primrose Oil which is also in the vitamin section by Nature’s Bounty is a great way to balance your pre-menstrual hormones, helping to alleviate sadness and irritability – as well as other unpleasant symptoms such as breast pain and bloating.
Of course, if you are having mental health difficulties, you should always consult your doctor. However serious your symptoms, they can advise on the best course of action, whether that is a lifestyle change or a prescribed medication. Sometimes it just helps to talk through your experiences. Similarly, if you are worried about a colleague, friend or loved one, your doctor can offer advice on how you can encourage them to seek help themselves. In the meantime, be sure to ask how they’re feeling. You never know if they might need someone to talk to.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.