By Eric Eisenhammer
This last year has been challenging for all of us. So challenging in fact that University of Chicago researchers examining data from the COVID Response Tracking Study and the bi-yearly General Social Survey found Americans are at our unhappiest in 50 years.
Perhaps the pandemic has put new stresses on your finances or your relationships. In honor of National Mental Health Awareness Month, this post offers five simple tips on taking care of your mental health without drugs — and I’ll tell you which of these tips helped me save a life once!
My grandpa swore by vitamins. Unlike many older people, my grandpa didn’t take any prescription medications, but he took his vitamins seriously and he credited them with his good health and vitality. Turns out science backs him up.
Arizona researchers studied 468 students at two inner city schools. At one, they conducted a vitamin intervention that raised students’ nutritional levels to international standards while they distributed placebos at the other school. At the school where they conducted the vitamin intervention, incidents of anti-social behavior dropped in half. (1)
Eat healthy and get your sleep
Unhealthy eating and bad sleep impact your mood but did you know these two factors operate in tandem? You need a good night’s sleep to feel your best, but when you eat fast food and sweets, your sleep tends to suffer. (2)(3)
Get a dog
British researchers report when we bond with dogs, our brain releases a hormone called oxytocin. As many dog owners will tell you, this experience produces a sense of well-being, and scientists say there is no synthetic alternative comparable to interacting with an actual dog.
Exercise stimulates endorphin production, which is why the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that exercise is one of the most common recommendations physicians offer to patients who are having trouble managing stress.
“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem,” ADAA states.
Get a checkup from your doctor
Did you know that mental illnesses can often stem from an underlying physical illness? And sometimes getting that right can be a matter of life or death.
Physical illnesses being mistaken for mental illnesses is not an uncommon phenomenon. One study examining 100 patients involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital found 46 percent had an underlying physical condition that led to their admission. (4)
A teacher friend of mine once called me to tell me one of her students had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. While he was released after several days, he was ordered to take psychotropic medication. He didn’t like the way the drugs made him feel and wanted to get off, so he turned to my friend, who turned to me.
I told her that while I’m not a doctor and can’t make a medical recommendation, I suggested he find an ethical doctor to do a complete exam and see if something else might be going on. He did just that, and what the doctor found was a brain tumor requiring immediate intervention. Fast action may have just been the difference between life and death.
Eric Eisenhammer is CEO of Dauntless Communications
- Schoenthaler, S. J., & Bier, I. D. (2000). The Effect of Vitamin-Mineral Supplementation on Juvenile Delinquency Among American Schoolchildren: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal Of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 6(1), 7.
- Azadbakht, L. , & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2012). Dietary patterns and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder among Iranian children. Nutrition, 28(3), 242-249.
- Blunden S. L, Milte C. M., Sinn, N. (2011). Diet and sleep in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder : Preliminary data in Australian children. Journal of Child Health Care, 15(1), 14-24.
- Hall, R. C. W., Gardner E. R., Stickney S. K., LeCann A. F., Popkin M. K. (1980). Physical Illness Manifesting as Psychiatric Disease. Archives of General Psychiatry. 37(9), 989-995.