Good mental health means that you can deal with daily stress and meet your personal goals. Many factors, such as trauma, stress, and sleep problems, can affect your mental health. You may not be able to prevent a mental health condition, but you can take steps to protect and maintain your mental health throughout life.
How do food and drinks affect my mental health?
What you eat and what you drink can have a direct effect on your energy levels and mood. Researchers believe that making healthy food choices can have a positive effect on your mood.
- Getting the right balance of nutrients, including enough fiber and fluids, can help stabilize your mood. Processed and sugary foods raise blood sugar and then make you feel more tired and irritable when blood sugar levels drop.
- Certain minerals and vitamins can relieve symptoms of depression. Experts are investigating how a lack of some nutrients is related to depression in new mothers. These nutrients include selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc.
- Drinking too much alcohol can lead to mental and physical health problems.
- Caffeinated beverages make it harder to fall asleep, which can worsen some mental health conditions. Also, drinking caffeine regularly and suddenly stopping can lead to caffeine withdrawal, which will make you feel more irritable and lead to headaches. Avoid caffeinated beverages 5 hours before going to sleep.
Making nutritious food choices probably won’t cure a mental health condition, but healthy eating is a good way to start feeling better. Ask your doctor or nurse for more information on the right foods to keep your body and mind healthy. You can also visit one of these sites for free healthy meal plans and recipe ideas:
- Delicious and Heart-Healthy Recipes from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- What is cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl from the US Department of Agriculture
- Eat Well for $4 a Day: Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown
How does physical activity affect my mental health?
Physical activity can help your mental health in several ways:
- Aerobic exercise can improve your mood. Your body produces certain chemicals, called endorphins, during and after training. Endorphins relieve stress and make you feel calmer.
- Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep at night. 4 Creating a routine can help you stay motivated and get into the habit of getting regular physical activity.
- Physical activity can help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. 6 Studies show that regular aerobic exercise improves mood and decreases anxiety and depression.
- Physical activity can help slow or stop weight gain, which is a common side effect of some medications used to treat mental health conditions.
Regular physical activity can benefit your long-term health. Being active daily (at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking) helps maintain your health. All American women should also do strengthening exercises at least 2 days a week to build and maintain muscle.8 Your doctor or nurse may recommend exercise in addition to taking medication or counseling for mental health conditions.
Learn more about staying active to stay healthy.
How do traumatic or negative childhood events affect mental health?
Two out of 3 women experienced at least one serious negative or traumatic event during childhood, which increases the risk of health problems in adulthood, including mental health conditions.
- Traumatic events can include physical or sexual abuse, neglect, stalking, neighbor violence, natural disasters, terrorism, and war. While many people in the United States experience at least one traumatic event in their life, most do not suffer long-term problems as a result.
- Negative events during childhood can include abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual), neglect, or a problem with an adult in the home, such as witnessing domestic violence or a caregiver going to jail. The more negative events you experienced as a child, the greater your risk of a serious health problem as an adult. Learn more about negative (adverse) childhood events.
Women are more likely than men to experience certain types of trauma, such as sexual abuse , and are at higher risk of developing a mental health condition.
What other factor can affect my mental health?
Mental health conditions affect women of any race and ethnicity. However, your environment (where and how you live) can have an effect on your mental health. Women who grew up or live in poverty as adults and women from a sexual minority (for example, those who identify as lesbian or bisexual) are more likely to experience mental health conditions, such as depression.
- Some studies show that children who grow up in poverty are at higher risk of developing certain mental health conditions, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as adults.
- Children who witness domestic violence (also called dating violence ) are more likely to develop mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, as adults. Learn more about the effects of domestic violence on children.
- Lesbian and bisexual women are at higher risk for mood swings and anxiety disorders than heterosexual women.
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