Archive of ‘Wellness’ category

Eating Your Way to Improved Mental Health

The age-old saying ‘you are what you eat’ applies to every aspect of your well-being. According to Harvard Medical School, a healthy diet is as important to your mental health as it is your physical health. In fact, it has been found that there is a very distinct link between a poor diet and the prevalence of mental health concerns. Nutrient deficiencies can also exacerbate existing issues by negatively affecting essential hormone levels in the body. It is therefore of the utmost importance that nutrient-dense food and beverages are consumed as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Food Can Affect Your Mental Well-Being in Numerous Ways

Our brains rely on a large variety of nutrients to remain healthy and function at an optimal level. When our diets are not rich in essential nutrients, our mental well-being can be affected in numerous ways.  Low blood sugar as a result of skipped meals can result in severe irritability and fatigue while eating an excess of sugary food can both decrease energy levels and result in pesky brain fog. If your diet is devoid of healthy proteins your body may not be able to produce enough of the essential neurotransmitters required to relay information between cells. This can, in turn, affect your dopamine and serotonin levels, leaving you feeling overly aggressive or increasingly depressed. If for some reason, your diet lacks vital nutrients despite your best efforts to eat healthily, it may be a good idea to invest in a quality nutritional supplement.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Good Gut Health

The food you eat can also affect your mental health in a more indirect way – through the gut-brain connection. This connection can link mental health concerns such as anxiety and stress to gastrointestinal problems and vice versa. One way to ensure that your gut remains healthy is to adhere to strict food hygiene protocol. Avoid consuming any expired food products and steer clear of anything that has not been cooked properly, especially chicken and seafood. Also, stay away from any food that has been dropped on the floor as it may have been exposed to a range of nasty bacteria. While many of us have undoubtedly sworn by ‘The Five Second Rule‘ at some point in our lives, scientists have found that bacteria transfers occur regardless of how long the food is in contact with the floor.

Eat All the Colors of the Rainbow

A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins has been linked to improved mental well-being. Unfortunately, the CDC has found that only one in ten American adults consume sufficient amounts of fresh produce.  In order to not only remain physically healthy but mentally fit as well, aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day in all colors of the rainbow.  This will provide your body with not only complex carbs but a lot of vitamins and antioxidants as well that can help combat anxiety and depression.  Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, and rye can boost serotonin production tremendously which can leave you feeling happier. Probiotic foods have also been found to be very beneficial to mental health according to a study published in Psychiatry Research. Next time you feel anxious consider indulging in probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi.

The food you consume on a daily basis can affect your mental health and overall well-being in numerous ways. While a healthy diet may not be enough to ward off mental health concerns completely, it can definitely go a long way in reducing your risk and decreasing the severity of pre-existing conditions.

By: Issy Lovett

After an initial career spent as a sexual health nurse, Issy turned to writing to make a living and now pens articles on topics relating to sexual health and the anxieties it can create. She believes strongly in talking therapies as a way to help overcome issues, after experiencing her own struggles with mental health. Issy now lives with her girlfriend and their pet dog Barney.


3 Things You Can Do To Encourage Your Husband/Partner To Speak Up About Their Sexual Health Without Fear

Although studies estimate that 15-20 percent of men deal with sexual issues, the overwhelming fear and shame of speaking about it continue to haunt them. In fact, shame is also a key reason behind 60 percent of men avoiding doctor visits. In a recent AARP survey, one in five men admitted they weren’t honest with their physicians, mainly due to the embarrassment of discussing certain issues, including their sexual health. However, by taking steps to encourage the man in your life to open up about their sexual health and concerns without the fear of judgment, you can begin to take the first steps in preparing for a successful marriage and lifelong relationship.

Time The Conversation, Mood And Location Well

Picking the perfect time to have a conversation about their sexual health is crucial to having a productive conversation. This is because you want to choose a time where you are both receptive and ready to listen to what each other are saying. For most couples, setting aside a time to discuss it normally helps. You can also help your partner feel more at ease by maintaining a calm and positive tone during the conversation. Efforts to help them feel more comfortable with intimacy of all levels will help them relax and be honest with you. You can do this by encouraging your husband/boyfriend, and setting aside designated time for intimacy. 

Reaffirm The Positives Of Your Relationship And Commit To Exploring Solutions Together

By focusing on the positives of your relationship, you can help your partner feel reassured in the bond that you have. Instead of focusing on the negative emotions surrounding sexual health, stick to the issues and potential solution, opting for a more positive ‘can-do’ attitude. It is also important to remain positive throughout the conversation by reassuring them that there are solutions to sexual health issues out there, and that you are committed to exploring any issues they have raised together.

This added support may turn out to be the boost they need to speak to their doctor about erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety, or any other sexual conditions that warrant medical help. There are hundreds of solutions out there for sexual issues, and they do not always include medication. In addition to a healthy diet, exercise, and couples’ mediation techniques, your partner can boost their nutrient intake to reduce nervousness. With so many studies showcasing the effects of stress and anxiety on the body, chances are that focusing on improving these can greatly help your partner with his sexual health. As a bonus, it may help them feel more comfortable, since the solution may not involve going to a doctor.

Practice Non-Judgmental Listening And Conversational Techniques

Communication is key in any relationship. However for a sensitive conversation to be truly productive, it must be free of judgment and assumptions. The alternative is that due to the fear of being judged, your partner opts to not be completely honest with you or engage in conversations about your sex life at all. This is particularly relevant if there is an issue of conflict in the bedroom. Research has shown that people avoid conflicts because it either presents a threat to their relationships, partner or themselves. However, with the use of non-judgmental listening, you can soothe those fears and encourage the man in your life to be truthful about his sexual health, shortcomings and all.

To Master Non-Judgmental Communication, Focus On Avoiding A Fault-Based Way Of Thinking

A great non-judgmental communication technique to use is the DUAL Method, penned by Leo Babauta. This recommends that you avoid passing judgment and become more self-aware before practicing empathy and understanding; accept the differences in your partner’s point of view; and embrace the good that comes with their sexual revelations. For instance, the positives of having your partner open up about performance anxiety include better communication of sexual needs and the chance to pursue a remedy as a couple. Pay attention to your non-judgmental cues in the conversation as well. These can be just as telling as your words.

Sexual health and fulfillment is a key part of satisfaction and happiness in any relationship. While men can find it difficult to open up about their sexual health, there are ways you can encourage them to do so. By creating a safe space and maintaining an emphatic and non-judgmental attitude, you can begin to build a stronger and more intimate relationship.

By: Issy Lovett

After an initial career spent as a sexual health nurse, Issy turned to writing to make a living and now pens articles on topics relating to sexual health and the anxieties it can create. She believes strongly in talking therapies as a way to help overcome issues, after experiencing her own struggles with mental health. Issy now lives with her girlfriend and their pet dog Barney.


Talking to Your Young Children About Race: 5 Ideas to Help White Parents Start the Conversation

My 5 year old has had a lot of observations and questions about race lately. Even though I try to shield her from the news (as I don’t think the news is appropriate for 5 year olds, generally-speaking), some racial differences are obvious and there are many questions a curious and observant child comes up with. On our neighborhood run today, she says, “Mommy, what do those signs mean….’Black Lives Matter”? As a parent, I start to clam up a little – like how do I appropriately answer that question without providing a comprehensive history lesson? Am I the right person to answer this? Am I going to say the wrong thing? These types of questions may raise feelings of discomfort for parents and lead them to gloss right over the question or change the subject to avoid the uneasiness. PLEASE don’t do this!!! Silence is not the answer. If we as parents are unable to respond to these questions, then who can? The news? A fellow 5 year old friend? A crotchety extended family member? No, I will not let someone else be the first to answer this for my child! This is our job as parents and our opportunity as human beings to model for our children how people ought to treat and respect one another. It is our opportunity to instill the values of kindness, equality, respect and awareness of similarities and differences. It is our chance to encourage our children to get comfortable asking questions, challenging norms, and for us to nurture cultural curiosity, sensitivity and openness. 

So, what are some ways we can have these essential conversations with our young children? Here are 5 ideas to get you started. 

Don’t Be Silent!

No, you don’t have to pull up a YouTube video of police brutality, but you don’t have to wait for them to ask either. Kids are not color blind and racial bias can be internalized for children as young as 2-4! Don’t be afraid to talk to them about skin color and why some people’s skin is darker than others (melanin). Talk about why it is good that all people are different and celebrate this! And definitely don’t shy away from a question if they ask you directly. You are their best and most influential teacher!!!  

Also, IT IS OKAY if you stumbled on some answers. If upon reflection and/or reading up on the subject, if you feel you could have said something better or differently, bring it back up with them. Children are WAY more receptive to repair than we realize and also WAY quicker to pick up on fear or discomfort than we know. Being silent or deflecting their questions could send them the message that it’s not a topic that is okay to discuss, and THAT is actually the more harmful outcome.  

Keep Your Answers as Concise as Possible

These are not topics of simplicity and quite the opposite, but the attention span of a preschooler is short! You could lose them if you give too much information.  If you are unsure of where to start, you can begin with teaching compassion, equality and inclusion of others that are different. You can later bring in more of the historical background information. 

Be Ready for Some Confusion; This is to be Expected

For example, preschoolers tend to learn about police and first responders as “good” people in our world. So, naturally, the question arises, “But Mama, I thought police offers are supposed to help people?” Kids want things to be easily categorized – good vs bad, wrong vs right, no grey areas. Their brains are wired to see the world with this dichotomy and developmentally, they won’t fully be able to comprehend that middle area for quite some time. But, you can prepare them so that when they are confronted with the grey it is not the first time they’re exposed to a new or different perspective.  You can say, “Well sweetheart, yes many police officers are good, but there are also many police officers that have used their power in bad ways. That is not okay and we want to change that.” 

Expose Your Children to People of Different Races in your Community

Attend an event put on by a local social justice organization, or donate/volunteer for their cause and talk to you children about it if they are too young to join you. Visit a museumThe George Washington Carver Museum (which is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns), is a great place to visit as its goal is to “create a space where the global contributions of all Black people are celebrated.” In the meantime, there is some virtual content on their website to explore. You could also visit the Six Square, Austin’s Black Cultural Historic District that “comprises six square miles of East Austin, home to numerous sites of significance featuring landmarks of Black architecture and design, historic cemeteries, sites of slavery and emancipation, churches and more.” Make a point to support black-owned local businesses. See a list of black-owned businesses in Austin here. 

Read Books Together that Include People of all Different Races

…and with nonwhite people as heroes and protagonists. Find movies, games and apps with diverse characters. Here are a few books that that are age appropriate for young children: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Saturday by Oge Mora and They Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson. Please consider visiting Black Pearl Books, an online black-owned bookstore based in Austin, Texas. Their website has an amazing list of books to help kids understand racism and diversity. Check it out! 

Talking about race with our children will only be an initial step. To raise a generation of culturally competent people, we will have to actively take steps to model anti-racism using our voices, attitudes, actions and behaviors. Ok, now go start the conversation. You can do this!!! 

By: Brooklie Benson Gonzales, LPC-Intern
Under supervision of Emily K. Slaughter, LPC-S


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