Feeding positive mental health this holiday season

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a hard year on everyone. From devastating bushfires to the global Covid-19 pandemic – which created vast uncertainty, lockdown measures, job insecurity, economic turmoil, restrictions and social distancing – 2020 has had an impact on our physical and mental health.

As we head towards the holiday season – and the feasting that typical ensues – it’s a good time to consider how healthy choices can help to boost our mental health and wellbeing.

“There are many ways foods affect how we feel and there is growing evidence to support the impact that nutrients, food and dietary patterns, like a Mediterranean style of eating, has on mental health.

“Choosing nourishing food and drinks can keep us feeling energised, alert and sustained,” says Simone Austin, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) and Senior Dietetic Advisor at Dietitians Australia.

Eat well

While the holiday season is a time to relax and let our hair down, and the perfect time to enjoy a treat or two, overindulging in these foods can ultimately leave us feeling tired and sluggish.

According to Dietitians Australia, foods that are going to help keep you energised throughout the holiday season, and that will also help to support positive mental health, include:

  • Wholefoods like fruit and vegetables;
  • Wholegrain breads and cereals;
  • Nuts and legumes;
  • Lean meats, poultry and seafood;
  • Eggs and dairy.

Including these foods will help ensure a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre – even in the holiday season.

Dietitians Australia adds that keeping to a healthy, balanced diet and including whole foods throughout the holiday season will have a positive impact on your gut, which will then, in turn, have a positive impact you brain health.

Stay hydrated

With summer here, it’s also important to stay hydrated. According to Dietitians Australia our body is comprised of 50-80% water, so it makes sense that staying hydrated will help you to function at optimum over the holiday season.

“Often we turn to caffeinated drinks for a ‘pick-me-up’, but too much caffeine … can affect sleep and may leave us feeling anxious and jittery,” says Ms Austin.

“Gaining adequate sleep is vital for mental health, more than people think. So, where possible, make water your drink of choice.”

Drink mindfully

If you choose to indulge in an alcoholic beverage over the holiday season, be careful to drink mindfully.

As Retail Pharmacy Assistants recently reported, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has revised the alcohol guidelines to help lower the risk of harm associated with drinking alcohol.

The revised guidelines state that ‘to reduce the risk of harm … healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and no more than four standard drinks on any one day’ – including the holiday season.

So, if you choose to drink, drink mindfully and remember to stay hydrated along the way, as well.

For more on the changes to the alcohol guidelines, visit: rpassistants.com.au/news/nhmrc-confirms-new-national-alcohol-guidelines/.

Reach out

If you or someone you know is worried about their mental health, especially as we approach the holiday season, reach out to your healthcare professional or visit: beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/supporting-yourself/coping-with-christmas.