Our diet, our sleeping patterns and the exercise we take can all have an influence on our mental health. You can click on the links to find out more about eating, sleeping and exercise.

Sleeping
Eating
Exercise

Sleeping

Can’t get to sleep, keep waking up and then can’t get back to sleep, endless lists and thoughts in your head preventing you from getting any sleep? It is well-known that sleep problems can be a key sign of depression. What people may not realise is that the reverse is also true – sleep disorders can actually trigger mood disorders and depression. It’s important to note that this is unlikely to happen in isolation and is more likely to occur if combined with other poor factors of wellbeing.

‘Sleep has both physical and mental benefits. Physically it is the time when the body can renew its energy store, but sleep also helps us to rebuild our mental energy.

Sleep is not just ‘time out’ from our busy routine. Most of us need to sleep well to help our bodies recover from the day, and to allow healing to take place. But with increasingly busy lives, it’s estimated that we now sleep around 90 minutes less each night than we did in the 1920’s. If you add to this the large numbers who are known to have problems sleeping, it’s obvious that many people are now functioning in a permanently sleep-deprived state.

Lack of sleep can make us feel physically unwell as well as stressed and anxious.

The Mental Health Foundation has some suggestions on how you can improve your sleep:

  • Exercise regularly, but at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid tea and coffee and don’t drink a lot of alcohol before bed.
  • Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine which lets you unwind and sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t worry about it, but get up and do something relaxing like listening to music or reading until you feel sleepy.

How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?

Diet

A diet isn’t something you count calories for, your diet is what you eat most of the time. We all know we should eat better, if you can adopt a 70-30 principle, whereby you eat healthy food 70% of the time.
Healthy eating is about eating a sensible diet in moderate amounts to help maintain a healthy weight for our height. So it is important to eat the right amount of food according to how active we are, and eating a range of foods to ensure a balanced diet.

Tips on healthy eating from the Food Standards Agency:

  • Cut out pre-cooked/pre-packaged food as much as possible
  • Eat lots more fruit and veg
  • Eat more fish
  • Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
  • Try to eat less salt – no more than 6 grams a day
  • Get active and try to maintain a healthy weight
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Don’t skip breakfast

For more information, please go to www.food.gov.uk.

Alcohol

Alcohol is ok in moderation, it’s high in sugar so not great for the diet, but enjoyed in small amounts won’t hurt. When it’s consumed above its suggested levels that it can become dangerous, alcohol is a depressant. Some people take alcohol in excess because they feel anxious or depressed and wish to be relieved of such negative feelings. However this relief is short lived, and it inevitably leads to a cycle of depression. If you feel you are drinking too much please visit www.drinkaware.co.uk for advice and information.
For advice on all aspects of healthy living and improving quality of life, go to www.nhs.uk/livewell.

Exercise

Research has shown that exercise can be beneficial to people’s mental health as well as their physical health. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain that can have a positive effect on our mood and how we feel.

Exercise does not have to be expensive or time consuming; all types of activity can help, ranging from going to the gym or for a swim, to walking to the shops instead of driving, or going out for a bike ride. Even doing the gardening can count towards your 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise!

For more information go to www.nhs.uk/livewell

Do you suffer from a Long Term Condition or Chronic Pain?

More than 15 million people, 30% of the UK population – live with one or more long-term conditions according to the Department of Health (2011) and more than 4 million also have a mental health problem. Evidence tells us that those with a long-term condition are two or three times more likely to develop mental ill-health. People with two or more long-term conditions are seven times more likely to experience depression than those without a long-term condition (World Health Survey, 2007)
Living with both physical and mental ill-health is incredibly damaging to people’s lives. It can be much harder to manage a physical condition if you’re also coping with depression. Your physical and mental health is inextricably linked and we think that they should be treated equally.
Living with a long-term condition such as (heart care, stroke, or dementia) can be a daily challenge. However old you are and however long you’ve lived with your condition, taking care of your own health, known as self care, can help you manage your condition and get on with your life – putting you in control. Find out how living a healthier lifestyle can help.

You can also try PLANS which is an online questionnaire to help you find local activities to support you in making changes towards a healthier lifestyle.

Support groups

There are different types of self-management courses and support available to help you build up your confidence and coping skills. Northumbria NHS Trust offer a range of Health Promotions groups and activities.

If you have experienced a life-changing event such as an injury, illness, trauma, or bereavement, you may lose your confidence and drop out of social activities or day-to-day tasks. Age UK Northumberland runs a project which can help you feel more confident and help you start to connect with people again. You can refer yourself, a friend, or loved one to the project, which normally lasts between 8 and 12 weeks.

Getting financial support

If you have a long-term health condition or a disability, you may be entitled to financial help. If you need help completing forms for Disability Living Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or Community Care Grants or the CAB can help. They can also can look into grants and charitable trust applications.

Chronic Pain

Pain is complex, so there are many treatment options – medications, therapies, and mind-body techniques. All pain is unique and can be crippling emotional and physically.

Here are some useful sites:

https://www.britishpainsociety.org/people-with-pain/
http://www.paintoolkit.org/
http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Pain/Pages/Longtermpain.aspx