Leading a healthy lifestyle can help lift your mood, reduce anxiety and reset your brain chemistry.
Anxiety attacks cause the fight or flight response. This is where the body produces a rush of adrenaline and other stress hormones to prepare you for sudden physical activity such as running away or fighting. This is an evolutionary response, which enhances our chances of survival when in danger. When you get an anxiety attack, the body thinks it is in danger and prepares your body for explosive physical exercise. If you don’t carry out that physical exercise, the adrenaline and other stress hormones wash around your body and are not “used up”. This is detrimental to your well-being and it is thought it can affect your brain chemistry by reducing the levels of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and noradrenaline, in your brain, resulting in negative moods.
By taking physical exercise you are “using up” excessive stress hormones. Furthermore, it is known that carrying out physical exercise increases the amount of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are “feel happy” hormones that make you feel good. So if you can manage it, take as much physical exercise as you can. This will make you feel better and it will also hasten your recovery. Of course, when you are ill, you will feel that you have no energy and that you don’t want to do anything. But if you can try to force yourself, a bit at a time, this will be beneficial for your recovery.
Another benefit of copious physical exercise is the fact that you will get physically tired. Depression often results in a certain degree of insomnia. Physical exercise will certainly help you sleep better, which is good for your recovery.
When ill with depression, your eating habits usually change. Some people eat more comfort foods, resulting in weight gain. Many people lose their appetite and eat less resulting in weight loss. Whichever way it goes with you, it is important that you try to eat healthily with a good balanced diet. We are not talking about weight gain or weight loss here. It is not important if you put a bit on, or lose a bit. A good balanced diet will provide you with the nourishment you require to help fight it. Your body needs sufficient energy, vitamins and minerals. Vitamins, trace elements and minerals are particularly important as they are required for healthy brain chemistry, acting on neurotransmitters, endorphin levels, and so on. For example it is important to ingest sufficient iron, selenium and zinc. You don’t need to take supplements. You just need to make sure that you eat sufficient fresh fruit and vegetables, fish (very good), unprocessed meat, pulses etc.
A good diet will aid your recovery, and will have benefits too after you have recovered.
Avoid alcohol and smoking
Apart from being bad for you anyway, smoking is very detrimental to mineral and vitamin absorption. This can slow down your recovery. If you really feel you need to smoke, try out vaping.
While ill, it is best to avoid alcohol, especially if you are taking antidepressants or tranquilizers. Alcohol is also a depressant, and drinking it the night before will make you feel worse in the mornings. Further it may have an adverse effect on the medication you are taking.
However, when you feel you are on the road to recovery and you are managing to socialise with friends on some evenings, the occasional glass of wine will not do you any harm, even if you are still on anti-depressants.