Tag Archives: anxiety

Nutrition and mental health – feed your brain

13 Feb

Beans growing
Also speaking on Newstalk’s Global Village programme on Saturday night was naturopath and nutritionist Anne D’Arcy, who gave some fascinating insights into the influence of diet on mental health.

Anne made the obvious but often overlooked point that food is the raw material making up brain chemicals. It follows that not consuming the correct food and not being able to digest that food properly can lead to problems with brain chemicals and mental wellness.

Anne talked about the influence of such substances as zinc, vitamins B6 and C, iron and magnesium on serotonin levels and mood.

Caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and processed foods are generally recognised as being bad for our mood, whereas foodstuffs such as Omega 3 oil-rich fish, some green vegetables, bananas and certain nuts and seeds, including Brazil nuts, which are rich in selenium, can be beneficial for some.

Protein-rich foods can keep our serotonin levels balanced. As our bodies cannot produce the essential amino acid tryptophan, which is converted in our bodies into serotonin, we need to obtain this through food. Protein and tryptophan-rich foods, which include turkey, tuna, beans and seeds, can be effective in this respect when eaten alongside slow-release carbohydrates.

Read more on the website of Food for the Brain, a non-profit educational charity that promotes the link between nutrition and mental health

An article in The Independent on beating depression through diet


Depressed – or just SAD? From guest blogger Aloysius

11 Feb


SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – is often downplayed. After all, those with normal mental health only experience it for a limited time – usually during the cold, dark days of Northern hemisphere Winters. Hence we give it a label – “the Winter blues”– and dismiss it as a mild form of low mood.

For me, it is more than that and a succession of SAD days can lead to more severe depression. Today typifies an average SAD day for me. Despite it being a bright, ‘early Spring’ morning and the fact that ordinarily I am a ‘morning person’ I could hardly wake up. My body felt as if it had not slept at all. I could not open my eyes. My stomach felt sick and my head nauseous. I was producing saliva and mucous in quantities I would normally associate with having a virus. If I did not know better I would have said I had the flu. All I wanted to do was sleep on, or more accurately to bury my head under the covers despite the news bulletins reminding me every half-hour that the day was passing. The thought of opening my eyes, swinging my legs out of bed, walking towards the bathroom was literally a step too far.

It’s not just a ‘have a lie in on Saturday’ feeling. When I did eventually get up it manifested itself in over eating, the craving for a big, high-carb breakfast, and later in the day some junk food – but without the expected energy burst. It turned to boredom, the inability to concentrate on anything or to completing normal tasks, even simple ones like washing up, reading or listening to the radio. I wanted to be left alone, to withdraw from my family, ignore my friends, and even a reluctance to undertake ordinary social activities like shopping. And after a few days of this it leads to pessimistic feelings of hopelessness, a lack of any pleasure and depression with its many side effects: heavy sleeps followed by insomnia, anxiety, irritation, stressed-out feelings.

So, how do I counteract it?

Wake up calls: I set myself deadlines for getting up – setting my alarm at different times each day. And I leave a note by the bed to remind me to not just wake up but get up! Saturday and Sundays the deadline is 9:00 am at latest, Monday is an 8:00 am deadline.

What then? I once heard a mental health expert say: “Eyes open, feet to the floor”. It sounds simple, but it works – not thinking, just doing! Getting on, with getting up.

Following the light: SAD is supposedly affected by natural light, so I track the sunrise and sunset during my SAD period – using a phone app that gives me lighting up, dawn, dusk times, etc. When things are really bad I set my alarm for a few minutes before first light, open the blinds and watch the sun – or even just the light – rise. I have tried ‘bright-light’ therapy but it does not work for me. Some respond to artificial bright light therapy, or simulated dawns – personally I have not found these effective.

Taking my vitamins: Vitamins C and D in the form of orange juice and oily fish help.

SSRIs: If the Autumn weather and light are particular bad I anticipate a bad winter. So if the early feelings of a mood disorder are persistent I consult with my GP and usually take a course of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors – fluoxetine-based drugs – in order to increase my levels of serotonin. This takes forward planning as SSRIs can take 2-4 weeks to become effective. Above all, its about not allowing myself to be SAD.

Don’t worry, be happy!

Brent Pope – “A sensitive old soul”

9 Feb

The rugby world not exactly being renowned for getting in touch with its emotional side, it was refreshing to hear rugby commentator Brent Pope talk to Ryan Tubridy on RTE radio last week. The interview veered unexpectedly from talk about the rugby team to Brent’s anxiety and commitment problems.

As a child, teenager and rugby player, Brent was an extremely anxious person – about everything. Brent said he is drawn to art, books and other creative things. Being a deep thinker can be both positive and negative, as you can talk yourself into things.

He had, and still suffers, panic attacks for no particular reason and described how these can immobilise you.

Though he has met ‘wonderful women’ in his life, he is anxious about committing. Confidence is a problem: he worries when in a relationship about why they would want to be with him.

Brent said he works hard to overcome these problems in small steps and describes this as a long journey.

As ever when these issues are broached, particularly by men, there has been much positive comment about Brent’s courage in talking so openly. Hopefully, others experiencing similar problems will be inspired by Brent’s candidness to seek help or to use Brent’s interview as a reason for raising this topic with loved ones or friends.

Listen to Brent open up on RTE 2fm here (about 49 minutes in)

Read about Brent’s opening of an art gallery in Dublin’s docklands to encourage people with mental health issues to display their work

“I’m just tired of being afraid” – Ferris Bueller revisited

8 Feb

RTE showed the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off recently. Watching it as a 30-something adult, I was surprised to realise that in between the chicka-chicka music, Ferrari japes and Dean of Students baiting, there lurks a moving portrayal of teenage angst that had completely passed me by first time around.

Ferris’s best friend, Cameron, has a messed up home life and is pretty depressed. Ferris’s coercing of him to take the day off school is an attempt to take his friend out of himself and to help him take a moment to appreciate life.

Alan Ruck puts in a moving and witty performance as Cameron – probably helped by the fact that he was nearly 30 when John Hughes was directing the film.

“I realised it was ridiculous being afraid, worrying about everything, all that sh*t, I’m tired of it… I’m bullsh*t. I put up with everything. My old man pushes me around – I never say anything. Well, he’s not the problem: I’m the problem. I gotta take a stand. I gotta take a stand against him. I am not going to sit on my *ss as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m gonna take a stand. I’m gonna defend it. Right or wrong, I’m gonna defend it.”

Unlike me, this guy got the movie first time: http://blog.moviefone.com/2011/06/11/how-ferris-bueller-saved-me-from-depression/

Some resources for young people struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues here: http://www.letsomeoneknow.ie/good_stuff_from_others/

Are we finally opening up about mental health issues?

7 Feb

It seems that every time the topic of depression, anxiety and suicide has been raised on the airwaves recently, the floodgates have opened: people are desperate to talk about their mental health problems and extremely grateful that the issue is being broached in the first place.

Gary Speed’s suicide, Andy O’Brien’s depression, Kate Fitzgerald’s letter to the Irish Times and RTE’s The Frontline programme on mental health are just some of the triggers that have prompted people to take to the airwaves and letters pages in recent months to address the issue of our mental health and to share their experiences, often with devastating and moving honesty.

Continuing this national conversation, a listener rang into the Tom Dunne show on Newstalk today in response to an interview with Caroline McGuigan of Suicide or Survive. You can listen to Neil’s searingly honest account of his suicide attempt of 14 years ago and his ongoing battle with anxiety here: http://www.newstalk.ie/2012/featured-5-slideshow-homepage/suicide-or-survive-caller-opens-up-to-tom/

Neil made the crucial point that we need to talk more about this stuff as a country. More people commit suicide in Ireland each year than die on the roads, yet we lack a co-ordinated, high-profile, well-resourced campaign that addresses our nation’s mental health and seeks to remove the stigma attached to depression and mental health problems.

Could it be that the high-profile media attention devoted to this subject over the past months marks a welcome sea change in attitudes? If so, what can we do to exploit that momentum and make this an ongoing and nation-wide conversation?

Breakfast on Newstalk tackles depression

5 Feb

There was a huge reaction to Newstalk Breakfast’s discussion on depression on 24 January. Listen to the podcast here: http://www.newstalk.ie/2012/programmes/all-programmes/breakfast/discussion-on-depression-2/

Ivan and Chris spoke to Agnes Rowley, a depression sufferer and a volunteer for the last 10 years with Aware, and Dr Declan Lyons, Consultant Psychiatrist at St Patrick’s University, about the illness.

Agnes emphasised the importance of reaching out and talking to someone if you are depressed. She also noted the importance of family support, citing Aware’s three-pronged approach of patient, relative and doctor. Once again, the point was made that we need to talk to children about their mental, not just their physical, health and well-being.

The Irish charity Aware aims to create a society in which those with depression and their families are understood and supported, are free from stigma and have access to a range of appropriate therapies to enable them to reach their full potential.  It provides support services for those with depression and their loved ones, including: