Mental Health: It’s Time to Make It a Priority

Physical wellness is too often prioritised over mental health. While it is important to take care of your body, it is equally as important to focus on mental wellness too.

Making mental health a priority does not need to be complicated. You do not have to take an expensive vacation to relax or spend every single night meditating. This article will detail why it is important to take care of yourself mentally and list some everyday self-care routines.

Defining mental health

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health “is a state of well-being… and is fundamental to our collective and individual ability.” 

In other terms, mental health allows us to “think, emote and interact with others.” Promoting mental health allows people to improve their psychological state.

Usually, mental health is colloquially termed “good” or “bad.” However, this adds to stigmas people face and cannot be used accurately to describe everyone’s experience. The impacts of psychological health differ greatly between all sorts of people.

Medical News Today explains “peak mental health is about looking after ongoing wellness and happiness.” When life becomes stressful or overwhelming, it can be hard to look out for our individual happiness and prioritise wellness.

When people experience mental illness, it can create a variety of complications. Additionally, these indicators manifest themselves in various ways depending on the individual.

The Mayo Clinic lists the below as some common symptoms that arise due to overlooking mental wellness:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Confused thinking or reduced ability to concentrate
  • Excessive fears or worries, or extreme feelings of guilt
  • Extreme mood changes of highs and lows
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Significant tiredness, low energy or problems sleeping
  • Inability to cope with daily problems or stress
  • Major changes in eating habits
  • Excessive anger, hostility or violence
  • Suicidal thinking

Why is spreading awareness important?

Mental health awareness is often overlooked, so it is important to promote it whenever possible. Additionally, it is essential to let those know struggling with this that they are not alone.

Spreading vital information about psychological health allows for people to resist the stigmas that accompany it. 

Raising awareness about mental wellness can help people recognise the signs and when to seek help. Additionally, being aware of the signs allows individuals to be proactive in their mental healthcare.

A major part of mental health awareness is rejecting the stigmas. Too often, people struggling with mental health deal with shame and pressure of needing to prioritise their wellness.

The first step in taking care of yourself is by feeling supported by those around you. People should not have to feel ashamed of taking a mental health day.

Since mental health can impact people differently, the remedies will vary as well. Below are some simple ways you can practice self care and prioritise.

Taking care of yourself

The list of self-care practices is never ending. Here are a few simple things you can do to take care of your mental wellness.

  • Journalling: this is a great way to express your feelings, thoughts and reflect on your day
  • Hangout with family or friends
  • Spend the day outside, get some fresh air
  • Pinpoint reasons for your stress, think of ways to find balance
  • Experiment in the kitchen with new recipes
  • Take a mental health day off work: when your body is telling you to slow down, listen!
  • Seek out therapy or counselling: it’s more than okay to reach out when you need help
  • Spend the day doing things that make you happy: get back into your hobbies!
  • Meditate or practice yoga: mindfulness allows you to focus in on your intuition and can create a sense of relaxation

This list is not exhaustive. There are many other forms of self care and mental rejuvenation. Finding the activities and habits that best suit you is key.

Finding down time in your busy schedule is already difficult enough. However, it is important to remember to take time for yourself when you’re feeling burnt out. 

Listen to yourself and be aware of the signs. Your mental wellness should not be pushed to the wayside. 

 

A Quick Guide on Flexitarian Eating

So you’ve heard about veganism, the paleo diet and good old fashioned vegetarianism. As of late you may have seen the term “flexitarian” pop up more and more.

Other than being a new buzz word, what does flexitarian eating really mean?

What is it?

The flexitarian diet was coined by Registered Dietitian Dawn “DJ” Blatner. As listed on DJ’s website, the word flexitarian is made up of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian.”

Essentially, the idea of this diet is to allow people to minimize meat consumption as opposed to restricting it entirely.

A traditional vegetarian diet restricts the consumption of meat. For some vegetarians, cutting out animal-by products such as dairy or eggs is a part of the diet as well.

This can be somewhat confusing to those who are unfamiliar with the various differences between diets. As such, flexitarian is increasingly becoming a more popular way of eating.

Unlike some other diets, eating flexitarian doesn’t have a strict set of rules or guidelines. Being a flexitarian is more of a lifestyle than it is a diet. Those who choose to adopt this lifestyle are also choosing to not restrict certain foods.  This gives people more freedom with what they can eat.

In simple terms, flexitarians focus on eating a plant-forward or vegetarian diet most of the time. However, when a craving strikes or when someone simply feels like eating meat, they do just that.

The choice to be flexitarian is to not punish yourself when you want to eat meat. Instead, it promotes listening to your body and openly choosing to eat more vegetarian-focused meals on a daily basis.

DJ sums the above perfectly on her website: “the most important part of flexitarianism is not how many meatless days you have, but how many more vegetarian meals you prepare.”

Therefore, a flexitarian chooses to eat most of their meals like a vegetarian or plant-based eater but give themselves grace to consume meat when they want it.

Reasons for Eating Flexitarian

The reasons for living a flexitarian lifestyle differ from person to person. However, there are a few trends across the board.

For some, eating flexitarian is more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Meat consumption leads to greenhouse gas emissions which ultimately impacts climate change.

However, eating meat in moderation is absolutely safe to have as a part of your diet. As such, flexitarians give themselves room to consume meat here-and-there.

Other reasons to eat flexitarian include introducing more fiber or vitamins and minerals into your meals. Essentially, this diet focuses on consuming more plant-based, whole food ingredients such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

According to Registered Dietitian Alyssa Pike, “plant-based foods can help you get your daily dose of dietary fiber,” which is important as most people don’t meet the required amount of daily fiber.

Another potential reason or benefit is that it may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have cited this to be due to the increase in nutrients, antioxidant vitamins and better-for-you ingredients.

In addition to the reasons above, many of those that follow a flexitarian way of eating choose to do so to make a lifestyle change. Depending on your lifestyle goals, choosing to eat this way may come with its own personal list of reasons!

Things to Eat While Flexitarian

So, what does eating flexitarian actually look like?

There are in fact some major differences between what it means to eat vegetarian and flexitarian. For some, eating vegetarian involves eating everything but meat (and sometimes dairy/eggs).

While vegetarians might feel free to eat more pre-packaged or processed foods, the flexitarian diet actually cautions against it.

Specifically, flexitarians are encouraged to consume whole plant foods. This includes fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. As such, this promotes eating a more whole foods diet as opposed to processed foods.

However, that doesn’t mean you are prohibited from eating pre-packaged meals when flexitarian! Our Cauliflower Kung Pao bowl is a great meal option when you are trying to focus on a more plant-focused diet.

To elevate and meal prep the noodle bowl, we focus on pairing it with plant-based ingredients such as edamame and tofu. Learn how make our Cauliflower Kung Pao Meal Prep Bowls! They are a perfect fast and affordable meal prep idea for plant-based eaters.

While some diets and fads can be confusing, being flexitarian is not. If you are looking to ease your way into plant-based eating, or simply want to become a semi-vegetarian, flexitarian eating may just be the lifestyle for you.

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive eating (IE) is a philosophy or practice that is drive by an individual’s body and personal eating habits. Even if you are unfamiliar with the term, you may be practicing IE unconsciously. Unlike labeled diets and fads, intuitive eating does not include following certain restrictions. This practice allows individuals full freedom over their eating choices. Here is our breakdown of what IE is and how to fit it into your lifestyle.

The basics of intuitive eating

At its core, IE promotes eating when you are hungry and listening to your body when it is full. This can be easier for some and not others. Unlike diets, intuitive eating does not provide guidelines for how, when and what to eat. For example, on the paleo diet you are unable to eat products that include dairy, sugar, grains and even legumes. In contrast, adopting an intuitive eating perspective allows all foods to fit for all sorts of people.

The difficulty behind this is that you are the sole decider of what to consume. This means trusting your body and hunger signs completely. As a result, someone who follows IE has the freedom to choose what and when to eat. To achieve this, listening to your body is key.

For starters, you have to identify and listen to your body’s hunger signs. The signs are not universal amongst everyone but can include (and are not limited to):

  • Feeling of an empty stomach
  • Growling or grumbling from stomach
  • Feeling light-headed, dizzy or fatigued
  • Physical weakness
  • Feeling agitated, grumpy, irritable

Secondly, IE allows someone to honor their cravings. Is your body telling you to eat more veggies? Are you hungry for a high-protein meal? The beauty of IE is that nothing is off limits. You have complete control over what to fuel your body with. Again, this is easier said than done for some people. Intuitive eating is by no mean easy to adopt but there are small steps that can lead you in the right direction.

How to eat intuitively

There are a few tips and tricks to begin your intuitive eating journey. There are some standard or basic tips but you will also find there are practices that will work for you personally.

Here are some standard tricks:

  1. Find peace with yourself and your relationship to food.

The hardest but most important step to an IE journey is finding peace and acceptance within yourself and how to see food. One way to do this is to reject fads and diets that shame people into conforming to certain body standards. Breaking away from the cycle of comparison and forming habits of self-love is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this promotes a healthy and guilt-free relationship with food. After all, food is how we fuel ourselves!

  1. Understand the differences between emotional hunger and physical hunger.

These two different types of hunger are exactly as they sound. Emotional eating involves eating based off of your emotional state: boredom, stress, sadness, anger. At times like this, you are not necessarily eating based off of your physical hunger. Instead, you are turning to food based off of your emotional state. This can be an exceptionally difficult practice to break and requires you to listen actively to your body.

  1. Start with what you’re comfortable with.

If you want to adopt the practices of IE but struggle with certain foods, that is okay! We recommend starting from a place you are most comfortable. If you feel comfortable eating a specific food but not another, don’t push yourself too fast or too far.

By eating what your body wants and what you are comfortable with, you will begin to find an open and honest relationship with food. As a result, you can begin to work on eating and enjoying foods you once struggled with. The beauty of intuitive eating is that you can start where you are most comfortable and grow from there. IE allows all foods to fit and denounces restrictions – it’s all about tuning into what you and your body need.

Why IE?

Intuitive eating is a great place to start when you are ready to mend your relationship with food. If you have or are struggling with food freedom, IE gives you the space to find what works best for you. By rejecting diet culture, you are opening yourself up to food freedom and non-restricted ways of eating. Adopting intuitive eating practices will open possibilities of feeling comfortable with food! The opportunities are endless when eating intuitively.

10 Study Hacks Every College Student Needs

10 Study Hacks Every College Student Needs

Wishing you were still lying on the beach in the summer? Yeah, us too. But there comes a point where we have to get back to studying. Being a college student is challenging enough so why not make it easier with some simple hacks. We’ve got the study hacks you won’t learn in a lecture hall.

 

DRESS UP

No, not for Halloween or Prom, but for the day. The act of getting dressed up (as if you were going to leave the house) signals to your mind that you have something to accomplish that day. But we know comfort is just as important, so dress up in something cozy – it’s all about balance! Why not pair some simple black leggings with a fancier blouse to give the effect of a chic look.

PLAN

Credits to Benjamin Franklin for this one, but… “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” When you have an assignment coming up, break up the assignment into little tasks. Then, plan when those little tasks need to be completed. Pro tip: Set the due dates for the little tasks by working backwards from the due date of the actual assignment.

Be sure to also give yourself wiggle room! Plan on having your work done in advance just in case. You never know if a task is going to take longer to complete than anticipated (which is often what happens).

 

TUNE IN (OR NOT)

Some people like to study with background music and others don’t. As always, we suggest doing what works for you! If you like to work in a silent space, work in a quiet environment or listen to white noise. If you prefer hearing something in the background, we recommend listening to alpha wave. Shy away from any music that has lyrics in it because the brain struggles to process lyrics and do work at the same time!

 

UNPLUG WITH AIRPLANE MODE

You know when you get a notification on your phone/computer and the buzz goes off, there is no resisting. You go to check your notification, get distracted by something else, and somehow end up spending an absurd amount of time procrastinating. Putting your phone on airplane mode will make you more productive and stay focused.

 

PRACTICE THE POMODORO TECHNIQUE

The Pomodoro Technique – a time management method that uses a timer to break work up into sections. We know it’s hard to give studying your full attention when you study long hours, so it’s important to block off your time! Spend 50 minutes studying and then give yourself a 10 minute break (or whatever time frames work best for you).

FEED YOUR BRAIN

We’ve all heard about it, but how does it actually work? No, eating salmon (thanks to the fatty acids!) will not give you photographic memory or equations to all those math problems. However,  eating nutritious foods will help your brain function more optimally. When you want to reach for that candy bar, think about if it will help or hurt your mental clarity.

A lot of studies have found that foods like blueberries, nuts & seeds, avocados, and even dark chocolate are great for the brain! But we know eating those foods as it is can get quite boring, so we’ve collected a series of foods that will keep you fueled and focused. Even better, these snacks won’t be turning heads when you eat them at the library!

 

TEACH TO LEARN

Learning by teaching. When teaching someone else, it will show you what concepts you know like the back of your hand, what concepts you kind of have a grip on, and what concepts you have no idea how to explain.

Also, when studying with other students, try to study with the “right” people, a.k.a. no one who is going to distract you and take you off track!

 

SLEEP

“Sleep is for the weak,” right? No! When you’re sleep-deprived, you can’t focus, which means you’re not going to be able to learn properly. Also, sleep helps strengthen memory, which is obviously necessary when you’re trying to retain information.

 

MOVE

Move in a way that makes your body feel good. Running, weights, yoga, walking, swimming, barre, cycling… the possibilities are endless! And, no. You don’t have to slave away at the treadmill for hours to get in a “good workout.” You don’t even have to be drenching in sweat once the workout is done to call it a “good” workout! Taking short walks between study breaks can be just as beneficial. It is all about finding what works for your body. The body was made to move, so honoring that by exercising will aid in new brain cell growth! Not to mention, other side effects of exercising include boost one’s mood and sleep!

CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Same old thing making you feel uninspired? If so, switch up your studying environment! Libraries, coffee shops, study rooms, or parks are a few places you could go to study. Don’t want to leave the library? No worries! Just find another area in the library and it’ll feel as if you’ve entered a new space (because technically you have).

 

Article courtesy of Kira Bernhard