Sleep: Do it Better to Feel Better

Sleep: Do It Better

Sleep: Do It Better

You know better than to stay up so late. You hear all the time how much you need to get your rest. Your body needs to recharge. Your mind needs to rejuvenate. Your attitude needs to adjust. Sleep is the key to all of that. Sleep matters.

It’s just that there’s so much to do. What does it hurt to shave off a few hours of rest?

Why is sleep such a big deal?

Why not put down your third cup of coffee and consider the benefits of a healthy bedtime routine:

Mental and physical health are reliant on proper rest.

  • The average adult is best served by 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly.

    Clarity, heightened concentration, and elevated mood are directly linked to sleep.

    Lack of sleep can contribute to irritability and aggression.

    Sleep deprivation creates cravings for fat-inducing, sugary, carb-rich foods.

    Insufficient amounts of sleep and rest lead to a compromised immune system.

    Research indicates that sleep affects how well we learn information and retain it.

    Lack of adequate sleep affects motivation, appropriate judgment and perception.

    Deep, consolidated sleep over the course of each night secures the best mental and physical health situation.

    Attempts to “make up” lost sleep are also rarely successful. You might feel a bit better on the weekends by making up the “sleep debt” incurred during the week; however, oversleeping usually leaves you feeling less alert and more groggy and lethargic.

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College Students: Mental Health and Coping Strategies

Seek Counseling

Stressed college students

College kids don’t talk about mental health much.

There’s a stigma… and that word “crazy” gets in the way.

The confidence of youth often clashes with the pain and shame of mental illness.

It keeps a student quiet and lonely and pretending too long that everything is fine.

Too many college students wait until it’s all too much, never once calling on counseling services or sharing the depth of their hopelessness.

They cope poorly. They leave school.

They suffer, feeling isolated and alone.

Having worked on college campuses as a mental health counselor, I have seen the under-utilizaiton of on-campus mental health centers.  Whether it is the result of the students not knowing the services are available or the fact that many students feel the need to handle their problems in secret or alone, they are not seeking the help they desperately need.

Yet, the numbers published in a recent survey conducted by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors reveal just how common mental health problems are on college campuses:

  • 95% of college counseling center directors surveyed said increasing “significant psychological problems” among students is a growing concern on their campuses.
  • 75% of lifetime cases of mental health conditions present before age 24.
  • 1 in 4 people between 18 and 24 have a diagnosable mental illness.
  • Over 25% of college students have been diagnosed or treated for mental health issues during the previous year.
  • Nearly 42%  of college students cite anxiety as the most difficult mental health obstacle, followed by depression at just under 35%, and relationship concerns at about 36%.
  • 64% of college students who drop out for mental health reasons leave primarily due to depression, bipolar disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder.
  • Depression and anxiety impacted academic performance negatively for 31% and 50% of surveyed college students, respectively.

College life entails a host of adjustments, transitions and relationships to be navigated. The pressures of young adulthood come with unique challenges. Students don’t have to feel like self-medicating, isolating or self-harming are the only ways to deal.

How can you or a student you know learn how to cope, thrive, and get the education and experiences you hope for?

  • Find help, get help, feel better.
  • School resources. Utilize campus clinics and counseling offices for help managing relationship conflicts, college and academic issues.
  • Community resources.Consider off-campus counselors if you have long-term therapy needs or require someone to prescribe and monitor medication.
  • Prep for health and success.
  • Think ahead about living, scheduling and social arrangements that will be the most beneficial to you during hard times.
  • Learn about your college’s academic requirements and services that might support academic growth and alleviate potential stressors
  • Reduce academic stress with strong time-management skills. Use academic services, study groups, and tutors to ease your workload. Make sure you plan well enough to avoid the stress of a backlog or assignment pile-up.
  • List symptoms, seasons and life events that appear to accompany your low moods; anticipate and prepare for their impact on your learning.
  • Maintain documentation you may need to share with your college regarding your health.
  • Develop clear language that accurately describes your mental health status, struggles or diagnosed illness.
  • If you take prescription meds, maintain your med schedule. Now is not the time to try to skip, skimp or do anything your doctor didn’t authorize.

Maintain and build support systems.

  • Connections with friends and family back home maintain roots and stability.
  • New relationships at school widen your pool of support and sense of belonging.

Be sure to practice good self-care.

  • Monitor mental illness symptoms. Notice significant changes in your eating or sleep pattern
  • Maintain healthy habits. Exercise, a balanced diet, and seven to nine hours of nightly sleep will keep you emotionally resilient.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Alcohol, marijuana and other drugs are poor ways to cope with stress and can exacerbate mental illness. Seek out drug-free, social activities you enjoy on campus.
  • Call a therapist if your symptoms steadily worsen; don’t wait to schedule a consultation.

Photo by DepositPhoto

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How A Gut Check Can Improve Your Mood

Gut Bacertia

Gut Bacteria Affects Mood

By Cathy Neville, LPC, on June 29, 2015

We feel what we eat.
Deeply, in our guts.
It’s true.More and more recent research confirms it. Your gut is literally filled with the stuff of emotion; and if we don’t address the needs of our bellies, many of us will find ourselves very sad, very anxious and in need of a gut overhaul.  A gut check may be just what we need!
Let’s look at the science:

Your gut contains healthy bacteria in the lining of the digestive tract.

That wealth of “good bacteria” is called the microbiome.

The digestive tract and its bacteria are actually the nexus of our nervous system, hormonal system and immune system.

Gut bacteria pull out the vitamins we need for use elsewhere in our bodies and help our cells respond to damaging germs and foreign invaders. Also, a delicate and important balance of the molecules that regulate emotion, and manufacture important neurotransmitters like the brain messenger, serotonin, occur there.

What happens in the gut keeps us healthy, physically and mentally.

If the digestive tract is so closely linked to our mood, it makes sense that improving digestion and bacterial quality/quantity in the tract lining could improve a mood disorder.

How do we improve digestion and the microbiome?
  • Probiotics.

Why? Probiotics are teaming with the good bacteria that also aid in obesity prevention, provide hormonal balancing, and support optimal kidney function, among many other benefits.

In 2012, Dr. Kristin Tillich led a team of researchers who conducted a study that proved a “gut-brain” connection. The UCLA study tested human brain functioning of 36 women, following four weeks of eating probiotic-laden yogurt. They reported, “The intake of an FMPP [probiotic] by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.”

In a 2013 press release, Dr. Tillich noted, “Our findings indicate that some of the contents of yogurt may actually change the way our brain responds to the environment. When we consider the implications of this work, the old sayings ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘gut feelings’ take on new meaning.”

  • Prebiotics

Now, there’s also solid evidence to support the use of prebiotics to ease depression and anxiety specifically.

How do we know? In the first-ever human study on the subject, researchers at Oxford University discovered that ingesting prebiotic bacteria seemed to inspire an “anti-anxiety effect.”

What’s a prebiotic? It’s a non-digestible food that feeds the body over and above what could be provided through diet. It helps maintain the healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut.

In a study published this year, a dose of prebiotic reduced participants’ desire to focus on the negative. Cortisol, the “stress hormone,” was reduced in female participants as well.

Stress and negative attention are huge factors in depression and anxiety disorders. The positive aspects of prebiotics in the 2015 research were so significant, researchers say it is as helpful as ingesting an antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug.

So, the real question is how can we claim some of those benefits for ourselves?

Facilitate better bacterial balance in your body by:

  • Eating a high-fiber, plant-based diet
  • Avoiding a high-fat diet
  • Avoiding high sugar foods
  • Ingesting more complex carbohydrates

Increase your consumption of probiotic foods that contain good bacteria. Try:

  • Yogurt with live active cultures
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Fermented pickles

Increase prebiotic foods that feed beneficial bacteria. Eat:

  • Banana
  • Whole grains
  • Honey
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Artichokes

These findings, supported by scientific evidence, suggest that it is possible to improve our sadness, fear responses, and other stubborn mood problems through diet.

How exciting and empowering when it comes to taking charge of our mental health!

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