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Food’s effect on our mental health

I met Sarah McKay (medical writer / neuroscientist / blogger) at last week’s trivia tournament – not only is she lovely, Sarah was also was a total boon for our team! I’ve read her blog on and off for a while now, so it was great to meet in person and chat about some of the fascinating work she does.

Sarah recently shared a great infographic on her site, which you can see below. Diet, digestion and lifestyle play an important role in so many body functions, including our mental and emotional health.

The Nutrition of Mental Health

The Emotional Tank

This is great. An important reminder.
Good health encompasses all of these aspects: physical, mental, spiritual and emotional.
Are your tanks full?

Years ago I heard a talk about our four gauges. Let me explain.

The speaker spoke of the various internal gauges that he had noticed in his life. He had a spiritual gauge and as a religious person he felt that this tank was regularly filled. Think of a gas tank. When the gas runs out, the engine stops. He also noticed his mental gauge – as a scholar he kept that tank filled almost all the time. He was also a marathon runner and knew implicitly that his physical gauge was good. So he was in tip-top shape right?

Wrong.

What the speaker did not realize was that there was a fourth tank, an emotional tank. People who are caregivers, or young parents, or counselors, or that ilk are required to empathize with people, to care. You can jog all you want and it won’t fill your emotional gauge…

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Stay away, Sicko.

It’s that time of year: snot-ridden, cough-laden cold and flu season.

As a result, do you know what I’m seeing a lot of? Sick people. In the clinic, yes, that’s to be expected. But everywhere else too… at the shops, on public transport, in offices and schools, at the movies… they’re everywhere! Everywhere, that is, except where they should be, which is at home convalescing.

My friends, when you are sick, STAY AT HOME*. You will not get better – or it will take you much longer to do so – if you do not allow yourself the time to heal. Seriously, no heroics necessary. You are not a hero if you come to work when you’re ill and infectious. You are annoying and inconsiderate. When it comes to contagion, sharing is most certainly not caring.

Ideally, you are practicing preventative health – eat well, drink fluids, get sunshine, move regularly, sleep enough, etc. Even better if you can take things to boost your immune function when you know you’re ‘at risk’ of picking something up. For example, I work in a busy medical clinic where I am constantly exposed to people with all sorts of infectious (and non-infectious) conditions, particularly at this time of year. Apart from eating well and upping my intake of immune boosting foods, I also take a regular dose of zinc, vitamin C and vitamin D (my levels tend to low) plus a herbal immune tonic. Sometimes, however, I catch a bug. It happens to all of us. And when I do? I choose not to inflict it on my co-commuters, colleagues and – importantly for me – patients. I rest, I recover quickly and I return to work. From my observation of of the population, however, it seems that this is not usual practice.

I was in Melbourne for a course recently and there was a TV at the foot of the bed in my hotel room (don’t even get me started on the sleep hygiene issues with that). We don’t have a TV at home, so I’m mostly immune to television advertising… and I was amazed at the number of advertisements selling quick-fixes for colds and flus. Pop a pill to mask symptoms of illness and, to borrow a catch phrase, soldier on. Well, I call bullsh*t! Why soldier on? To prove you’re tough, that you’re really committed to your job? So you can deliver a sub-par quality of work because your head is clogged and energy in your boots? Or is it so you can spread the germs around? Give me a break.

Listen, if you are starting to get a tickle in your throat and your head is heavy or nose blocked… talk to someone like me about how to intervene before you’re properly ill. And if you are properly ill, by all means come and see me in my place of work, but please stay away from your own.

*steps off soap box*

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* A visit to your naturopath / GP / preferred practitioner is the exception – this is an outing to nurture you health that should also, hopefully, be brief so you can get straight back to bed.

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