Take care of your physical health

Jun 12, 2019

Your physical health and mental wellbeing are inextricably linked. Things like the quality of your sleep, the food you eat and the amount of physical activity you do directly affect your mental state. The good news is that taking care of your physical health doesn't have to mean making drastic changes. Simply building small healthy habits into your daily routine can make a big difference.

Nutrition - Eat well!

The food we eat gives our body the energy, minerals and vitamins it needs to function. Without the right kind of nutrition, you may find it more difficult to regulate your thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

  • Eat regularly
    Some people lose their appetite during periods of low mental wellbeing, making it difficult to stick to three square meals a day. But eating regularly helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable, which improves your energy levels and your mood. If you're struggling to eat larger meals, try eating smaller portions more frequently throughout the day.
  • Stay hydrated
    When we're dehydrated we find it difficult to concentrate and tend to feel more irritable than usual. So it's important to keep your water levels topped up. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks, especially in the afternoon. While they do give you a quick burst of energy, they can also heighten feelings of anxiety and disrupt your sleep.
  • Get plenty of protein
    Protein contains amino acids which make up the chemicals your brain needs to regulate your thoughts and feelings effectively. Make sure your diet includes plenty of lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, legumes (peas, beans and lentils), soya products, nuts and seeds.

Exercise - Move more!

Even a short period of physical activity has a positive impact on our mood. It boosts our mental alertness, gives us more energy, improves our self-confidence and helps to relieve stress and tension in the body. That's because physical activity encourages our body to release endorphins. These feel-good hormones help produce positive feelings and reduce our perception of pain. It also increases our brains sensitivity to the hormone serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression.

Physical activity doesn't have to mean going to the gym and running marathons. Any movement of your body, from a brisk 10-minute walk to swimming, gardening or even energetic housework can make a difference to how we feel. The HSE recommends 150 minutes of physical activity each week. That could mean one 30-minute session, or three 10-minute sessions, 5 days a week. Whatever works best for you and your day-to-day schedule.

Get started with this simple guided workout from personal trainer, Neil Hussey. It's designed to improve your strength, balance and coordination.

Rest - Supercharge your sleep!

When we're asleep, our mind has time to process new information and sort through our emotions. Without enough sleep, you may find it more difficult to manage your thoughts and feelings. Negative emotions, in particular, can feel more overwhelming when we're sleep deprived. People also tend to feel more irritable and less able to concentrate or make decisions when their sleep is regularly disrupted.

The most important thing you can do when trying to improve the quality of your sleep is stick to a regular sleep routine. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, including at the weekends, helps your body find a natural sleep pattern. To strengthen this routine further, try to avoid the bright, stimulating lights of your devices and TV for at least an hour before bed. Exposure to light in the evening disrupts your body's natural circadian rhythm, which helps to regulate your natural sleep pattern.

Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.