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  • Writer's pictureMARY LIGHT ND MH LMT

Mental Health, Mental wellness -holistically


Many of us, including me, were brought up to view mental health as primarily a concept related to a serious diagnoses such as schizophrenia, OCD, bipolar, addictions, etc. But the truth is - the truth we must look at- is that all of us can become aware of taking better care of our mental health, and deepening our awareness. We do not need a psychiatric diagnoses to wait to do that. In fact, with holistic thinking and awareness, the majority may avoid, through sound practices and holistic interventions, the downward spiral of mental deterioration, which is related to our physiological health, our environment, and our thoughts/beliefs.

My philosophy in working with clients and teaching students has always been to incorporate the guiding model of PEMS - "physical , emotional, mental, spiritual" aspects of any health plan or goals. You would not think that eating garbage and avoiding sleep would improve your physical health, would you? No, you would seek out the best physical supports you can at the time. Mental health relies on the same orientation.

What we eat, whether we move with intention and joy daily, our thinking patterns, our sleep quality- these four seemingly simple aspects of living can make a huge difference in how we feel mentally and emotionally, and how we process the stresses of life. We may need to make real changes in our environment, including who we associate with.

There are a variety of simple ways in which a traditonal naturopath can assess weaknesses within individual Constitutions. My own constitution, for example, as classified through Faridean Iridology (Farida Sharan's work which began with her studies in the US and was refined with her practice in London)- is "Anxiety Gastric". Sounds like a heap of fun, right? Yet knowledge is power, and for me, when I began to abide by the recommendations defining this Constitution, my life changed. In short, this is one of 9 main constitutions in this system, and is defined by the need to be aware of support for the nervous system , particularly in relation to digestion. I learned how sugar in excess (a concept many of us need to look hard at) degenerates the nervous system and thus the endocrine system over time. There is research pointing to how the "biochemical imbalances" in severe mental illness are influenced by excess sugar. I learned what best to avoid, and what to do - meditate, walk, stretch, follow a whole foods diet, avoid junk food, alcohol....and to work to recognize and avoid conflict and ditch the psychic vampires that fly around in life. Herbal nourishment and protocols helped immensely.

In my work as a teacher and practitioner, more than 75% of people I meet are either quietly or not so quietly stressed out, and I see a high % of ongoing anxiety and depression. Candida and poor diet contribute to mental fog and other malaise. Adrenals are overstressed, undernourished and shot, but they can be restored fairly quickly with nourishment, which includes the superior nourishment within herbs, such as adaptogen mixes. Light, fun movement in a manner they like - swimming, walking, hopping on a bike for a little ride, yoga- has helped them dissipate tensions of body and mind. Short, fun consistent habits of movement go a long way. It is not necessary to model the commercials of people stressing to spend hours in exercise regimens.

I believe most of us can re-boot and also re-learn how to be mentally well, and engage in how to take into consideration that our mental health needs our self care. Doing some work with looking inward via retreats, meditation, beneficial mental ideas and practices- actually does install better circuitry in our overall body /mind. Get help however- in the form of holistic guidance and methods. Here is a list of how I and others have gotten help:

~ Movement, Diet - already mentioned- get help through consults, classes to learn movement and be supported in so doing; establishing habits and following through.

~ Bodywork- massage, reflexology, energy work, including Acupuncture. These avenues can be enormously helpful in grounding and supporting inner time. Not too long ago I felt I needed support after a period of haywire stresses, and made a half a dozen acupuncture appointments over the course of a few months. When my practitioner would ask "What do you want to work on"- I would say "Mental"!! Our work balancing meridians and ridding blockages helped me restore vitality and mental clarity to take me further down the good path.

~ Herbal Therapeutics- best undertaken with the guidance of a trained clinical herbalist. This is because with all the products out there, some of them are substandard, and many are used improperly and thus a waste of money. At our Center we meet people frequently who strongly desire to get off meds and come back to the restoration of their authentic self. With guidance this is possible.

~ Mind Medicine- I see this as engaging in approaches which work directly with thoughts and what we understand as our mind. This would include meditation, listening to beneficial guided meditation (The Honest Guys , are a great source), some simple breathing exercises, forming habits around positive and happy thinking, and arranging elements in our environment which support all of this, such as organizing our surroundings, using essential oils judiciously to support positive energy. Your own community probably has plenty of resources. You do not need to engage in some kind of cult or exotic belief system. (actually that would likely be detrimental).

~ Counsel and other professional support- seek out therapists /social workers and even good reputable life coaches when needed, perhaps short term to gain some insight and skills, but not by excluding the holistic supports for self care mentioned in this article. Health, and Mental Health, is a living process, best supported by giving to it what it needs to nourish and be in better energy.

One last thought- none of us will be turning cartwheels , serenely smiling or jumping for joy every single day. True mental health means processing through times of sadness, loss, transition, or confusionin a grounded manner. Having genuine feelings and then letting them pass. In fact, an occasional "off " day will come around for no obvious reason. This may feel as though we are not able to engage in or focus on the every day things; we may feel "not into it". I view this as an invitation to take care of the mind by detaching from the outer hoo-ha as much as possible, by resting, taking a longer time to sleep or a long nap, drinking more water, stretching. For myself , I am often attracted to light foods like raw fruit during those times. Giving yourself time to do this rather than mindlessly pushing through can lead to better balance and insights in the end.

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