Staying healthy in body and mind

Click to the right to watch a video from Best Beginnings and get some tips from Dr Alain Gregoire on looking after yourself.

Your mind and body are completely interlinked. Anything that affects one will inevitably affect the other. Being aware of how you can support yourself through self-care techniques and general lifestyle changes can lead to better physical and mental health as well as an improved quality of life. Implementing a healthy lifestyle can prevent problems from developing or potentially worsening.

There are a wealth of different self care techniques that are readily available within your local community, through the internet or by speaking to a health care professional. Some of the self help techniques you may be familiar with are books on prescriptions, digital apps, exercise, keeping a mood diary, identifying what your stressors are and accessing free support from talking therapies.

Making changes to your lifestyle can help relieve symptoms of physical and mental illness such as stress, anxiety and depression,. It is advisable to seek advice from a health care professional before making any drastic changes to your lifestyle. Exercise plays a big role in making positive lifestyle changes - this can be something as simple as going for a regular walk - and it's free! Accessing social support or joining a new group and even just getting better sleep.

It is important to prioritise sleep as it can have a big impact on your mental health. However this isn’t easy when you're pregnant or have a small baby. This is the time to call in favours - friends may be really happy to take your baby out in the push chair so that you can relax and maybe even take a nap. Also, don’t be tempted to rush round catching up on jobs as soon as your baby is asleep-you need your rest too!

Sleep tips:

  • Where possible, try to stick to a regular sleeping pattern
  • Be active during the day
  • Do something relaxing before going to bed, such as listening to music or having a bath
  • Learn some simple breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques
  • Have an hour of screen-free time before bed
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary foods before bed

Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet is essential for our overall physical and mental health. Eating a healthy diet is known to lessen the risk of developing certain diseases, reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Recent research show that our gut has a direct link to our mental health - so much so the gut is referred to as the second brain. New evidence is emerging which indicates that inflammation is linked to depression. Eating anti-inflammatory foods may be one way of tackling some of the symptoms of depression. Taking supplementary probiotics with two or more live cultures (for example lactobacillus and bifidobacerium) can improve the integrity of the gut, thus preventing toxins entering the bloodstream. Drinking water can alleviate symptoms of fatigue.

We know that it can be difficult to stop smoking, if you have made the decision that you want to stop smoking there are a number of different support networks that you can access for free. Speak to your practice nurse, midwife, health visitor or GP about local schemes that you can access to help you achieve your goal.

Taking drugs can be harmful to your physical and mental health both in the short and long term. If you would like to stop taking drugs or talk to someone about your circumstances you can contact your local support service for further advice.

Similarly alcohol can negatively affect your mood-see our separate page for more information including help to stop drinking in your area.

Alcohol is a depressant and causes chemical changes in the brain. Although it might make you feel more relaxed in the short term, regular alcohol lowers your levels of serotine (a hormone that helps to regulate your mood) and can lead to low mood . Regular alcohol consumption can also have a negative impact on your relationships and on the quality of your sleep, making you feel tired and sluggish (Drinkaware, 2016).

For more information about current guidance, visit Drinkaware.

Evidence shows that having positive relationships can help us to live longer and happier lives with fewer mental health problems (Mental Health Foundation, 2018). Positive relationships give us a purpose and a sense of belonging. Positive relationships are important no matter how old you are. For babies, children and young people, having positive relationships is key for their mental development and wellbeing (Mental Health Foundation, 2018). The couple relationship between parents is also important for a child’s emotional wellbeing (OnePlusOne, 2015). So if you are having problems with your relationships, there is no better time to seek help than when you are pregnant or have a small baby. There is lots of support available - you can seek support from your health visitor, GP, Relate or talking therapies.

For more advice and information click here to watch a video from Best Beginnings that asks “How do I know what’s normal?”