At some point in their lifetime, approximately 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental illness (depression, anxiety, substance abuse, etc.). Do you currently struggle with poor mental health? If so, you're not alone.
A lot of people deal with mental illness, but there's still a lot of confusion about where these conditions come from. Sometimes, an internal issue can be the driving force behind bad mental health. Read on to learn about some of the lesser-known issues that could be causing or contributing to your symptoms.
1. Unhealthy Gut
Poor digestive health is a major contributor to poor mental health. At first, this might seem impossible. How can what's going on in your digestive tract (or gut) contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions?
The gut and the brain are actually closely connected via the vagus nerve, which starts in your brain and runs through the heart and lungs, ending in the digestive tract. If you have poor gut health and a lot of inflammation in the digestive tract, this can have a negative impact on the strength of the vagus nerve (also known as your vagal tone). Poor vagal tone can cause digestive problems (bloating, constipation, etc.), as well as common mental health issues like anxiety and increased stress.
Because of the strong link between the gut and the brain, many people find that addressing their gut health and lead to improvements in their mental health. The opposite is also true. When they address their mental health through treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy, they often experience improvements in their digestion and gut health.
The term "eco-anxiety" is a fairly new one, so don't feel bad if you haven't heard it before. In simple terms, eco-anxiety refers to chronic anxiety about humans' relationship to the environment.
Eco-anxiety isn't considered a diagnosable mental health condition at this time. However, many mental health professionals have observed it in their patients and are using it to describe their symptoms, especially in discussions about the impact of climate change.
The world's rapidly changing climate can affect mental health in a variety of ways. The following are some symptoms a person might experience if they're dealing with eco-anxiety:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD)
- Substance abuse
- Aggression or mood swings
- Reduced feelings of control and autonomy
- Increased feelings of helplessness, fear, and/or fatalism
If you find yourself frequently worrying about the fate of the planet and these issues listed above sound familiar to you, it's likely that you're struggling with eco-anxiety.
Eco-anxiety and its symptoms might also be exacerbated by other issues, including those mentioned in this post. If you're dealing with poor gut health and a looming sense of doom whenever you think about climate change, for example, you're likely going to experience subpar mental health.
3. Low Vitamin D and B12
Deficiencies in essential vitamins can often contribute to or cause mental health problems. Vitamin D and vitamin B12 are two common vitamin deficiencies that you might want to test for if you struggle with depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition.
People who are depressed are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D. Researchers believe this is the case because of the key role vitamin D plays in proper brain function. If the brain isn't working properly, it's likely that you may experience decreases in serotonin and other neurotransmitters associated with a positive mood.
If you are deficient in vitamin B12, you might be more prone to depression as well. This has to do, in part, with the fact that vitamin B12 contributes to the production of many chemicals associated with a positive mood and proper brain function.
If you are deficient in vitamin B12, you might also be more likely to experience symptoms often attributed to depression, such as fatigue. You might also experience digestive symptoms and poor gut health.
4. Lack of Sleep
Poor sleep can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. If you're not sleeping well, you're going to have a hard time feeling well mentally, after all.
The problem, though, is that mental health conditions can also make it harder for you to get a good night's sleep. For example, if you struggle with anxiety, you'll likely find that your stress levels are higher, which makes it difficult to relax and rest when nighttime rolls around.
Our brains and bodies need a sufficient amount of sleep to function properly. If you find that you have a hard time getting to sleep, supplements that promote relaxation can be beneficial. You might want to look at certain lifestyle factors, such as caffeine consumption and blue light exposure, and adjust them to try and improve your sleep quality.
5. Weather (SAD)
Finally, changes in the weather can also exacerbate symptoms in those who are mentally ill. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is a common condition that involves feeling depressed or anxious when the seasons and weather change.
Most people associate SAD with a decrease in sunlight (and likely a decrease in vitamin D levels). However, heatwaves can contribute to seasonal depression and poor mental health, too.
When it's hot outside, people tend to be more aggressive and have shorter fuses. They might experience mood swings or become frustrated more easily, for example. If the heat is so oppressive that it forces you inside, the subsequent lack of fresh air can also cause you to feel anxious or depressed.
Combat Bad Mental Health Today
If you're been struggling, feeling frustrated, and frequently saying things like "my mental health is bad," hopefully, you now have more insight into what might be causing these feelings. By addressing your health from the inside out, you might be surprised at how your mental health issues improve.
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