When hormones challenge our mood and emotions, it’s important to seek support from a healthcare professional. As well as this, there is plenty you can do to support your mental health through lifestyle changes. Whether you’re struggling with monthly mood changes, feeling low and overwhelmed following the birth of your baby, or think you may be entering perimenopause, Hormonally’s tips and tricks are here to support you to get you back to feeling like yourself again.

Changing hormones can take a toll on our mental health and emotional wellbeing, but we are more than just our hormones! Taking time to think about your daily routine and whether your habits are helping, or hindering your mental health, can be a great way to get started when it comes to boosting your mood.

Here are some fail-proof habits that may improve your mental wellbeing:

What you eat

really matters for your brain health, energy levels and stability of mood. Making small changes to your daily routine can make a big difference. Eating certain food for example, can help you to feel more energized and lift your mood too.

Keep as active as possible

doing anything you enjoy. Try to find a mix of aerobic and strengthening activities that get you moving and keep your blood pumping. If you can make some of your activities social and fun, that’s always a bonus!

Spending time outdoors

every day is important for boosting your mood.

Challenge your thinking

by learning a new skill or hobby, or take up an old interest that you used to love. Keeping your brain active is also a useful way to manage overwhelming thoughts.

Good sleep hygiene

is your body’s secret weapon when it comes to regulating your emotions

Try to manage your stress

as best as you can, finding different ways to unwind and engage in relaxation techniques.

Observe your thoughts

are you kind, compassionate and non-judgmental to yourself as much as you are to your close friends, or does your inner critic often speak loudly?

Nurture your relationships

we are designed to connect with others and our health can suffer when we go through periods of isolation or loneliness. Do you have relationships that offer you a safe space, where you can be yourself and be honest about how you are feeling?

If some of these points have chimed with you, see our top tips in the sections below.

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Researchers are learning more and more about how what we eat affects different systems in our bodies, and this is especially the case for our mood and our mental wellbeing.

We’ve read the science for you, so here’s the lowdown you need:

  • Eating regularly and eating foods that keep your blood sugar levels steady, rather than spiking up and down, is key to keeping your mood balanced.
  • Slow-release energy foods like wholegrains, nuts and seeds, brown pasta and brown rice, not white refined carbohydrates like white bread is best for balancing your sugar levels.

Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables

This tip is well known for a reason! Fruit and vegetables contain essential vitamins and minerals to keep your brain and body functioning well. They don’t always have to be fresh either – frozen, dried, and tinned fruit and vegetables count too.

Try to include protein in most of your meals

Protein helps all of the hormones in your body to work well. It specifically helps the brain to regulate your mood too.
Protein rich foods for meat-eaters could include:

  • turkey
  • chicken
  • lean beef
  • fish and shellfish
  • and dairy products like
    • cottage cheese
    • greek yogurt
    • milk
    • eggs

If you can’t or don’t eat animal products however, there’s plenty of other ways to get protein in your diet. You could try:

  • brown or wild rice
  • buckwheat
  • oats
  • pulses
  • nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds)
  • tofu
  • quinoa

Include the right type of fats

Fat can get a bad reputation as being unhealthy, but fats like Omega 3 are essential for maintaining your brain health.

Healthy fats can be found in:

  • olive oil
  • nuts and seeds
  • eggs
  • avocados
  • oily fish

If you’re vegan, some plant or plant seed oils that are rich in healthy fats too (such as canola oil, flaxseed oil, and chia seeds) offer good fat options.

If you can, try and avoid trans fats. These can often be found in processed, quick-convenience or packaged foods. Having a diet that is high in trans fats will have an impact on both your mental health and your heart health.

Think about gut happiness

You want to try and make sure your body has plenty of good gut bacteria. Bad gut bacteria can lead to things like: diarrhea, constipation, bloating, cramping
and farting.

Foods that are kind to your gut are also kind to your brain.
The good news is, a lot of the foods we’ve mentioned like fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and beans and pulses can help to keep your gut healthy and balanced.

You could also try adding in probiotic yogurt or take a pre- or probiotic as a supplement. Your gut – and brain – will love you for it!

Make sure to stay hydrated

When you’re busy it’s easy to forget to drink enough fluids, but even mild dehydration can impact your mood, attention and energy levels, so keep a bottle of water on hand especially when you’re out and about.

Reduce alcohol, caffeine and other drugs

Although these things can give a quick burst to your mood and energy, when taken regularly they also raise your risk of:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • disturbed sleep in the long run
  • developing heart disease
  • many types of cancer

Remember, caffeine is also in various types of soda’s, and can be found in chocolate too. So, try and think about how you could cut down, or cut out, some of these quick fixes.

Read more about nutrition for healthy living here.
For help with giving up alcohol, smoking or other drugs, try these websites.

For help giving up smoking or nicotine:

For help giving up alcohol:

For support with drug abuse or addiction:

Exercise does amazing things for your mental health, as keeping our bodies moving helps to boost endorphins – hormones that relieve pain and reduce stress.

When it comes to exercise, do the type of activity you enjoy, as long as it gets your heartrate up and means you are moving around. Try and aim for a mix of cardio and aerobic activity (such as running or cycling) mixed with some strengthening activities too (such resistance band training or lifting weights) to work the muscles and joints.

Exercising outdoors is even better, as natural daylight is good for your body clock and will help you with regulating your sleep pattern.

Vary your activities to include more lively and challenging exercises, as well as ones that are more relaxing like yoga, tai chi, or even just exercises specifically for breathing and relaxation.

You could also try exercising with a friend to make it more fun, more likely to happen, and maybe a harder workout if it brings out your competitive side!
Read more about keeping active here.

Ensuring you keep your mind engaged by taking part in activities that bring you joy, can be a positive thing for your mental health. It also helps to keep those neurons firing. You could take up a new hobby that involves developing a skill, such as learning a new language, or a musical instrument. Or, you could think about revisiting things you used to do, before ‘adulting’ got in the way!

Sometimes, we can become discouraged when we don’t manage to make time for the activities we have planned. When it comes to starting a new hobby, it’s best to begin by making a manageable commitment to yourself. As opposed to trying to fit in your new activity every day, try for once a week. You can always increase your commitment at a later date if you feel you have capacity. Taking this approach will help you to stay on track with positive change, as opposed to causing you to give up if you feel you haven’t managed to meet the goal you’ve set for yourself.

This one is hard for all of us as we don’t always know when we are getting stressed until it’s too late. A great place to start when wanting to reduce your stress is to a) get outdoors and exercise and b) improve your sleep, so take a look at those sections as they really help with reducing the negative effects stress has on the body.

Here are some other tips you may want to try to help manage your stress levels:

  • Write things down that are causing your stress. This could include:
    • making lists of the things you are feeling overwhelmed by
    • using a journal for your thoughts, ideas and emotions.
  • Deep breathing exercises (there are some great apps for this).
  • Self care and taking time to focus on the present (mindfulness and meditation can help with this)
  • Spend time enjoying activities purely for relaxation and pleasure
  • Talk about any stressors you are experiencing with a supportive friend. Sometimes it’s true what they say – a problem shared is a problem halved.
  • Schedule your days to include breaks, rest, leisure activities, and try to set work boundaries (such as only replying to emails within scheduled working hours).
Hormonally

Learning how to manage stress takes work and commitment and making changes can be a tough process. It’s often a lifelong practice so be kind to yourself if you struggle to succeed at first. There is always tomorrow to try again.

Good quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind to keep them functioning throughout the day. Sleep is a period in which your body both physically and mentally repairs. The age old advice of ‘sleep on it’ is actually, in this sense, pretty accurate. Our minds are far more cognitively engaged, and able to make rational decisions after a good night’s sleep.

To transform your sleep hygiene, and enjoy the benefits during the day, think about trying the following:

Create your cozy

  • dim the lights for a few hours in the evening
  • use blackout blinds or curtains (see why here!)[link to melatonin anchor in unsung heroes]
  • keep your bedroom cool, around 64°F or so
  • stop screen scrolling before bed, or try to use an app to reduce blue light emission
  • do things to encourage your body to want to sleep
  • take a bath
  • use some lavender pillow spray
  • listen to a podcast or white/brown noise
  • use a sleep mask and earplugs to block out distractions

Drain your brain – learn the tricks to help calm your mental chatter before you go to sleep.
This might include:

  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • breathing and relaxation techniques
  • journaling
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to learn the best ways to manage any anxious thoughts and worries that are keeping you awake.

The more you can try to get your thoughts ‘out’ before bed, and start to calm down your mind the better. Try to avoid anything that stimulates your brain – even if you love a true crime documentary, it might not be the best idea before you try to go to sleep as it activates and engages your brain.

Stick to time – give your sleep-wake cycle an easier job, by going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning. This really helps your mind and body give in to sleep at the right time. Unfortunately, this also means sticking to the same sleep schedule on your day’s off too…sorry!

Some people find taking a magnesium supplement can be helpful for encouraging good sleep. Other habits like physical activity, reducing the amount of alcohol you drink, and taking a proactive approach to managing stress, can all lead to big improvements in your sleep too.

Watching your thoughts

Daily check-in
Regular check-ins with yourself can be a good idea to help you recognize what you’re feeling on any given day. It also helps you to become curious as to the reasons why you may be feeling a certain way. Self-awareness is often needed to make lasting changes to improve your mental health.

Step back from your feelings at times
You may find yourself feeling too aware of what you’re feeling, as your emotions are strong and perhaps overwhelming at times. In these moments, it can be useful to take a step back and try and see the emotion from a distance to gain perspective.

Feelings are not facts!
Remember, thoughts are just thoughts, it doesn’t make them true. Figuring out what works for you when it comes to getting out of your head is hard, but a useful thing to practice. A good question to start with when you’re struggling is: Is this thought I am having a fact, or a feeling?

For example, if you struggle with anxiety or worry about what others think of you, ask yourself what the evidence is, for the thought you are having. Is it based on something you know to be true? Or, is it based on unkind opinions you have about yourself? When these feelings creep in, try to remind yourself that you have no way of knowing what another person is thinking. Even if it’s hard to do, checking in with what the evidence is, can be a good place to start with getting negative self-talk in check!

Keep self-talk kind
Another key part of watching your thoughts is learning how to speak to yourself. Is that inner voice compassionate or unkind? If your self-talk is unhelpful, try to challenge it. Try to talk to yourself as you would a good friend- supportive and non-judgmental.

Be thankful
Gratitude is a proven concept to consider when it comes to managing your mental health.

If you can, try and work on spending a few minutes every day noticing (and noting) things to be grateful for – even tiny things, like eating a nice breakfast or receiving a smile from a stranger.

Research actually shows that noticing and being grateful for things during the day can make a big difference to how you’ll feel at the end of the day.

Connect with others

It’s well proven that our social connections and quality of relationships really impact our health and wellbeing, either for good or bad if we are lonely. How connected you are to others on a frequent basis helps protect against a whole range of physical and psychological illnesses, especially depression and anxiety.

Loneliness and social isolation is now considered as great a risk to your long term health as smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.
When your mental health isn’t doing well, it’s easy to draw the curtains and ignore your phone for a while. This may feel like the right thing to do in certain moments, but it’s usually not the best idea in the long run.

If you don’t have a partner, or the quality of your relationships with your friends and family is not as you would like, it’s easy to feel alone. This can be made worse if you work from home. We know that group and team connections are important and that many people feel lonely because of their working situation and lack of office comradery.

It’s not about how big your circle of friends is, but how close you feel to them and how often you spend quality time with them. In-person is always best if you can manage it.

You may want to think about which relationships in your life are:

  • supportive
  • honest
  • respectful
  • bring positive effects to your wellbeing.

Spend your time investing in developing those beneficial relationships.
Try to remind yourself that building a network takes time but it’s worth the effort. If you’re struggling to connect with people, or you shy away from one-on-one interactions, you could try joining a group activity or club, so you have a shared interest and that will help conversation flow.

Prioritizing your mental health can often fall to the bottom of your to do list. When you have a busy and demanding schedule, making time to ‘do nothing’ can feel stressful in itself. Despite this, it’s important to remind yourself that your body isn’t built to run on fumes. Everybody needs to rest and recharge in order to function properly. When we don’t give our bodies the time they need to relax, they have other ways of letting us know they need to recuperate, and our physical health can often take a hit.

Adopting the tips and tricks we have mentioned will offer a big step in the right direction, but it’s also not a substitute for support from a healthcare professional. If you are struggling with your mental health, you may need to talk to a professional. They may recommend that you explore using a medication to help get your symptoms under control. Doing so may make it easier to start putting in place some of the things we have suggested above.

You may also benefit from speaking to a therapist about how you are feeling. Hormonally understands that therapy is expensive, and that a lot of people feel they cannot afford to talk to someone. If you have health insurance, be sure to check whether your plan covers some of the cost. Many therapists will accept patients via their insurance plan and it’s definitely worth exploring. There are also options for people without insurance. Community centers often run a variety of group therapies for vulnerable people, or may be able to refer you to organizations that offer discounted services to those struggling to afford sessions.

If you feel at risk currently or are in need of immediate support, you can:

  • call or text 988 or chat with someone at 988lifeline.org
  • reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741741 to reach a live, trained Crisis Counselor

Help is available and people want to support you, so please don’t suffer in silence.