Written by Sai
As someone who has struggled with anxiety but has never been formally diagnosed, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to find the right resources to help navigate this journey.
I grew up with two sisters who faced the challenge of a mental illness that I found difficult to cope with. Unfortunately, this experience had an impact on my mental health during my gap year at home after completing my degree. Despite being naturally positive and optimistic, I found myself feeling increasingly anxious and depressed as time passed. There were instances where I felt I was being bullied through name-calling and put-downs, which added to the strain on my mental health. As a result, I began to isolate myself from others at home, spending most of my time alone in my room. There was a particularly tough moment when I woke up one morning feeling overwhelmed and disheartened.
Individuals who struggle with mental health challenges are often portrayed as vulnerable and in need of support, but in my experience, I was negatively impacted by someone else who was also struggling with their mental health concerns.
Over time, I was able to distance myself from the challenging situation I had been in. However, the anxiety I experienced during that time continued to affect me and gradually worsened, impacting my relationships in all areas of my life. I became hypersensitive to comments and feedback, interpreting everything as a personal attack because that had become my norm. This made it difficult for me to receive constructive criticism, which in turn made me feel worthless and led to hostility towards those who tried to help. This was an unfortunate cycle that left me feeling embarrassed and worried about being judged for my mistakes, even when they were insignificant. As a result, I often held back during team meetings and was viewed as someone who didn’t work well with others, despite my efforts to participate. While I tried to improve, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my personal struggles with everyone, so it was difficult for me to explain my behavior.
At the time, seeking help for my mental health was not something that I considered because I felt that I was functioning relatively normally, especially compared to my sisters. Additionally, in my culture, there is a belief that one should be resilient and self-reliant, so seeking help from others is not always seen as necessary, especially if the mental health concerns are not extreme. Furthermore, there is a cultural norm of keeping private family matters within the family, so seeking therapy or counseling would not have been a natural or easy option for me. I also struggled with being open with myself, let alone with others, which made seeking therapy seem even more daunting.
What led to the breakthrough
Two years ago, I made the decision to resign from my job and move to a new country to be with my husband. This change provided me with the opportunity to reflect on my past experiences and unresolved trauma. Although I knew that healing would require a lot of work, I found the generic tips for coping with anxiety to be insufficient. In search of a more profound approach, I discovered a mental health and nutrition course that intrigued me.
I had previously thought of food solely as a means to fuel my body. However, I discovered that modifying my diet to incorporate whole, unprocessed foods had a significant impact on my overall well-being. By cutting out sugar and processed foods and focusing on nutrient-dense options like lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, I noticed a transformative change in my mood, energy levels, and emotional stability.
Through this mindful approach to food, I also gained greater self-awareness and control over my thoughts and behaviors. Studies have shown that consuming a diet high in processed and junk foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can have negative effects on mood, increase inflammation, and contribute to the development of mental health disorders. In contrast, a balanced diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, can improve mood, reduce inflammation, and protect against mental health disorders.
Interestingly, I discovered that nutrition is not typically covered in medical degree programs, and if it is, it is only a small percentage. As such, many doctors primarily rely on pharmaceuticals to treat mental health disorders, funded by pharmaceutical companies. Unfortunately, statistics show a low recovery rate and people become dependent on medication, making it difficult for them to function without it. While it is still too early to know for sure, I feel fortunate to have found an alternative approach to my mental health journey.
My mental health journey is an ongoing process, and although it has not been easy, I have learned to cope with situations more positively. This newfound perspective has been transformative for me, allowing me to articulate my thoughts and proceed with normal life. I have taken accountability for my thoughts and actions and empowered myself with the belief that I alone have the power to choose what consumes me and where I direct my energy and attention.
I am grateful for the progress I have made so far. Through the combination of a nutritious diet, and intentional thought patterns, I am working towards a healthier future.
My advice to you!
With determination and consistency, you can achieve remarkable progress in your journey towards better mental health. It may seem daunting to make drastic changes, but even small actions can have a profound impact. For example, simply adding a banana to your daily routine can be a powerful start.
It’s important to remember that progress takes time, and there’s no need to rush the process. By taking small but consistent steps, you can create positive habits that will lead to greater well-being over time. Trust yourself and your ability to make progress and remember that every small step you take brings you closer to your goals.
If I can leave you with one piece of advice, it is Mental health is not something that can be achieved and then forgotten about. Instead, it is an ongoing journey that requires constant effort and attention. Just like any other journey, there will be obstacles and setbacks along the way, and it’s important to be patient with yourself and practice self-compassion. Taking care of your mental health is a process, not a destination, and it requires a commitment to continuous growth and improvement.
The Better Brain – Dr. Julia Rucklidge and Dr. Bonnie Kaplan
The Inflammation Spectrum – Dr. Will Cole
Courses – On EdX – Mental Health and Nutrition, audit class can be accessed for free, although it will restrict your access to certain materials.
Image credit: dbreen on pixaby
Sai – I spend my days writing and blogging to inspire and support others who may be facing similar challenges. As a mental health ambassador, I am passionate about advocating for those who find it difficult to voice their thoughts and emotions, and help them navigate life’s ups and downs.
Spending time in nature is where I feel most at peace. My love for the great outdoors is not only a way to unwind but also a reminder of the beauty and serenity that surrounds us.
If you have found these insights helpful, please consider following my page on Instagram: @ourmentalhealthandnutrition1, for more valuable resources and support.