Does mental health have symptoms?

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Mental health is recognized as a fundamental factor in our overall health – since it’s clear that it has a great influence both physically and mentally. As human beings, we want to understand the problem at hand and the precautions needed to reduce the problems it could cause. There is no guarantee that mental health disorders can be avoided – disorders that affect the mind, mood and behaviour, different beings react differently in life. However, several questions come attached to this topic when trying to attempt a solution.

How would you know if you have a mental health illness? Is there a guide book that allows you to check off each symptom? Most importantly, what are the symptoms, if any?

The cause of any mental health disorder or illness can vary on several factors, but when assessing the state of mind of a being – here are a few signs and symptoms:

  • Major changes in eating / physical activity habits
  • Substantial alteration in energy/productivity
  • Withdrawal from social life (friends & family)
  • Detachment from reality
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts

Mental Health Symptoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When any of these symptoms above occur, finding support will resort to great value. Whether it is professional medical care or referring to a friend/family member, the help that you seek can allow you to control the situation and positively adapt. In most cases, many of the mental health illnesses do not cure by themselves – so this is where the ones around you can boost you up before you even fall.

Each symptom attached to the person or mental illness can react accordingly to the environment or condition of the person. The first step is always to understand that there is an issue, and this would be followed by creating a plan that is ideal for the situation. There can be several risk factors and complications that can alter a lifestyle, so understanding when and how to react can have a crucial impact.

6 Tips on Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

1823694Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term for a decline in cognitive ability severe enough to limit daily functionality. It is no secret that as people age, their memory tends to get a bit funky but the key differentiator here is speed. Alzheimer’s is a progessive disease, meaning that symptoms grow worse and worse over time. In its early stages, impairment is mild and the individual is still largely aware of their surroundings. By the late stage, the person is unable to communicate or move, requires 24 hour supervision, and will inevitably die from complications.  

The thought of developing Alzheimer’s disease can be an extremely frightening. Although current treatments are able to slow the pace at which the symptoms progress, scientists are still looking for a definitive cure. Like cancer, preventative measures are still by far the most effective strategy. By identifying the certain risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s and making the necessary adjustments, you will be able to maximize your chances for a life-long healthy brain.

Although some genetic factors such as a family history of Alzheimer’s are uncontrollable, here are six pillars you can follow that are entirely within your reach.

 

Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent while slowing the progression of cognitive problems in those already with the disease.  The reason why is because exercise stimulates the brain into maintaining old connections and creating new ones. Try aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week with a balance between cardio and strength training.

 

Social Engagement

As humans, we are highly social creatures who do not fare well in isolation, and neither do our brains. Research has shown that having a strong network of friends can help protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life. You don’t need to be the biggest extrovert on the block, but do make sure to regularly connect face-to-face with people you care about.

Healthy Diet

When an individual has Alzheimer’s, inflammation and insulin resistance can injure neurons and hinder communication. Often described as “diabetes of the brain”, there is a strong relationship between metabolic disorders and neuron communication. However, if you make some small tweaks to your current diet, you can protect your brain. Examples include adopting a Mediterranean diet, drinking 2-4 cups of tea everyday, and cooking at home more!

Mental Stimulation

In an astonishing NIH ACTIVE study, elders who received 10 mental training sessions not only showed immediate improvements in cognitive function, but also as far as 10 years later. Similar to a language, if you don’t use for prolonged periods, you will start to lose it. The best advice is to set aside some time every day to engage in mentally-demanding activities (e.g. sudoku, playing a new musical instrument) to stimulate the brain.

Quality Sleep

New research has indicated that poor sleep can lead to higher levels of beta-amyloid, a brain-clogging protein that interferes with memory formation. If you happen to be struggling to get a good night’s sleep, be sure to be screened for sleep apnea and establish a regular sleep schedule.

Stress Management

Repetitive stress leads to negative effects on the brain including reduced neuron growth, shrinkage of a key memory area, and increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, the answer is so simple – don’t stress so much! Some stress management tools you can use include restorative breathing throughout the day, scheduling relaxing activities, and keeping a sense of humour.

Here at Optimity, we recognize that satisfying all six pillars on a daily basis is an extremely difficult task. People are occupied throughout the day with work and other commitments, meaning that they either don’t have the time or simply forget about these crucial exercises. That is why we have incorporated hundreds of micro-activities into our wellness app, designed to stimulate your brain and prevent Alzheimer’s disease! If you would like to learn more about us, feel free to visit: www.myoptimity.com/our-solution

Simple Ways to Help Treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Written by: Maxwell Li

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic event such as a serious accident, or military. Traditionally, PTSD has always been associated among the combat veteran community but it can affect individuals of any nationality, race or age. According to the National Center for PTSD, it is estimated that seven out of every 100 North American will encounter the disorder in their lifetime.  

Individuals with PTSD often have intrusive thoughts that come in the form of repeated, uncontrollable flashbacks and dreams. They can be so vivid at times that the individual feels like they are reliving the very moment before their eyes. As a result, they try their best to avoid people, situations or objects that remind them of their tragedy. If they fail to do so, something as ordinary as a balloon popping can cause them to panic and possibly have a flashback.

It is still unclear how some people go on to develop PTSD while others don’t. However, certain risk factors such as a prior history of mental health problems and/or lack of social support following the event, can greatly increase the odds of PTSD. Also, physical and genetic factors such as brain structure, stress tolerance and gender play a significant role.

If you or a loved one is suffering from PTSD, here are some daily habits that can help:

 

Meditation

 

Take 15 minutes out of your daily routine to sit down and meditate! Research has shown it to be very effective in reducing avoidance and negative self-confidence in individuals with PTSD.

 

Physical activity

 

Exercise works your muscles, improves sleep, and boosts energy. Getting that blood flowing can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety. Try to get in a minimum of 15-30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day, and gradually up those minutes!

 

Aromatherapy

 

Numerous individuals diagnosed with PTSD have advocated for aromatherapy when it comes to lowering stress levels. Try rubbing any relaxing oil (e.g. lavender, peppermint, sage) between the eyebrows and on pulse points for the best experience!

 

Keep a journal

 

Buy a personal journal and take a few minutes every day to write down whatever is on your mind! Research has found that this routine can reduce stress and improve mental health.

 

Connect with friends and family

 

Often times when an individual goes through a trauma, they tend to isolate themselves and thereby make their situation worse. Studies have shown that establishing healthy relationships with family and friends has an immensely positive impact on self-esteem and mental health. Try to talk with loved ones as much as you can, and preferably in-person!

 

At Optimity, we believe that prevention is always the best medicine! That is why we have incorporated hundreds of micro-activities into our wellness app, designed to promote a healthy lifestyle and in turn, excellent mental health. To find out more about what we do, visit: www.myoptimity.com/our-solution

Food for Thought: The Link Between Food and Mental Health

Written by Maxwell Li 

Your brain works around the clock to perform vital bodily functions to keep you alive. Similar to a sports car, our brains require constant premium fuel, in the form of nutrients from food for peak performance and in turn, good mental health.

The reason behind this lies in Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, mood, and pain. Around 95% of its production takes place in your gastrointestinal tract, which happens to be filled with over a hundred million neurons. Furthermore, neuron functionality along with serotonin production are highly dependent on the presence of “good bacteria” in the gut. These bacteria protect your intestinal linings against toxins and inflammation, improve nutrient absorption, and activate direct neural pathways to your brain.

In short, the types of food you choose to eat have a profound impact on your short-term mental health!

A study conducted by flagship medical journal, BMC Medicine, found that depressed individuals assigned to a Mediterranean diet experienced substantial improvements to personal mental health. This is because “traditional” diets (e.g. Mediterranean) are high in unprocessed vegetables, fruits, proteins, and grains, which tend to be fermented and thereby promote growth of “good bacteria” in the gut.

Here are five nutrient-rich foods that will do wonders when it comes to improving your mental health:

1. Salmon

This pink fish is rich in Omega-3 and anti-inflammatory acids that protect brain cell membrane. It also contains Vitamin D, which helps manage depression and protect immune function.

2. Lentils

Lentils are rich in the B vitamin folate which is vital in the production of serotonin. They also allow your blood sugar levels to rise more gradually, for a consistent energy level throughout the day.

3. Bananas

Bananas affects tryptophan, another important amino acid that helps with serotonin production.

4. Kefir

Often described as a drinkable yogurt, Kefir is high in the “good gut bacteria”, more commonly known as probiotics.

5. Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes contain high levels of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which protects against damage to brain cells and oxidative stress on DNA. Both processes have been linked to depression, anxiety and schizophrenia.

 

Here at Optimity, we recognize that a sudden dietary change is painful and often short-lived. That is why we have created a way to pursue a healthier lifestyle at the office or on the go, that is both effortless and rewarding for our users, through personalized daily health challenges!

 

To find out more about Optimity solutions, visit: www.myoptimity.com/our-solution

Eat Well to Live Well: Celebrating Nutrition Month (Webinar Recap)

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Written by Brett MacDonald

We had a great webinar in March, in honour of Nutrition Month. I sat down with Optimity’s Client Success Advisor, Mira Levine, to talk about how cooking at home is good for not only your body, but also your wallet. You can watch the full webinar here. Here are a few key takeaway points from the webinar:

Understanding the big picture and how the world wide physical burden is influenced by our dietary choices:


worldwide physical burden

  • Report made by The Guardian summarizing Global Burden of Disease Study showed that 20% of deaths world wide are attributable to poor diet
  • The biggest concern from these poor nutrition eating habits is a diet high in sodium

Not only does poor nutritional eating habits cost us physically, but there is also a financial burden associated:

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  • In Canada, the economic burden attributable to poor nutrition is estimated to be over CAD$13.8 billion/year
  • In America:
    • Medical cost associated with obesity is estimated to be US$147 billion/year
    • Medical cost associated with diagnosed diabetes is estimated to be US$254 billion/year
  • It’s important to note the difference in these monetary values, as America has a larger population and a different healthcare system compared to Canada which influences these values. However, it’s clear that regardless of this there is still a financial burden associated to poor nutrition

 

It’s essential to understand that poor nutrition costs us both physically and financially. See what can you do to ameliorate your eating habits and what the benefits of home cooking are:

Harvard School of Public Health Healthy Eating Plate

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This is an excellent guide to help you understand what a healthy eating plate looks like and how you can adopt these practices when preparing your own meals.

 

Top 5 Benefits of Home Cooking

  1. Saves Money
  2. Saves Time
  3. Healthier Ingredients
  4. Portion Control
  5. Social Impact

 

What to Look for When Grocery Shopping

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Optimity’s Zero Restaurants Challenge

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Optimity has a large library of activities and challenges related to nutrition such as our Zero Restaurants Challenge, where individuals try cut down their eating and spending at restaurants to zero for 30 days. We had a client from Linedrive join us during our webinar to talk about his positive experience with the challenge.

 

Establishing new healthy eating habits can be difficult at first. However, much like we learned from our January webinar on habits, small micro-changes to your diet and lifestyle will have the biggest impact on your health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

An Upstream Approach for a Healthy Heart

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Posted by Tasneem Panchbhaya

In honor of heart awareness month, we will be discussing why it’s important for employers to focus on an upstream approach to a healthy heart.

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Heart disease is costing companies billions of dollars in loss of productivity and absenteeism.

Workplace wellness program can help prevent heart disease for their employees and in return bring down cost.

It’s essential to understand that heart disease can easily be prevented by making small behaviour changes.

See what can you do to prevent heart disease:
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Physical Activity

  • Physical activity elevates your heart rate, which is essential for keeping your heart in shape.
  • Something as simple as taking the stairs, does wonders for your heart. To read more on helpful tips on how to get physically active, especially in the colder months, check out our blog post here on exercise.

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Nutrition

  • Nutrition is key to a healthy life.
  • Some helpful tips in eating healthy is avoiding the foods that are big contributors to heart disease. Processed foods are high in sugar, fat, and sodium, so these should be kept to a minimum.
  • Cook your own food, it allows you to eat as clean as possible when using raw ingredients to make your meal.
  • Eating with others makes you more mindful of what you’re eating, and how much you’re eating. For more information on healthy eating for employees, check out one of our popular webinars on nutrition and mindful eating the workplace for more insightful tips.

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Stress Less

  • Identify your stressors in order to avoid them or create coping mechanisms that work for you.
  • Physical behaviours such as stretching and yoga can help relieve stress.
  • Change your thinking: see if your stressor is actually rational or if you’re just blowing it out of proportion. Try to make your thinking more positive.
  • Meditation is a great technique that can be done just about anywhere, and is proven to reduce stress. Here is another great webinar we’ve done on mindfulness and meditation in the workplace.

It’s cheaper to prevent heart disease than to treat it! Simple lifestyle changes can have the biggest positive impact financially and on the individuals health. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for information on how Optimity can help you!

Or sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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Recharge Your Diet: Our Secrets for a Healthy Lifestyle

Posted by Emily Guterres

TIME STAMP: 3 MINUTE READ

It seems like everyone’s talking about the real solution to weight loss. Every day it seems like a new diet craze is ready to make weight loss faster and easier than ever before. However, beware most fad diets generally go something like: “Take a few foods give them magic power and set a plan to convince people that eating this way and only this way will promote weight loss.” says Alexandra Caspero, R.D a nutritionist based in Sacremento, CA.ye_girl_eating_a_salad.png

In a society that is so image driven, it seems as though everyone’s talking about it, “THE secrets to get that summer body.” If you searched online for weight loss solutions you get 38 million results. How is anyone supposed to find the real solution? With this overwhelming amount of information it can be extremely difficult to get started on achieving your goals.

BUT WAIT – We’re here to help you break through the 4 most searched for diets of 2019 and discover whether or not they’re really worth it.

1. 20/20 Diet 

The Claim: Wait Doctor Phil? You have the answers to all of my life problems and now you want to help me loose weight? Even though he doesn’t promise you’ll loose weight, he says you “may” loose weight.

The 20/20 diet is a cycling diet plan and was online most searched diet of the year. It’s a 30-day cycling diet, with three phases every 30 days. The first two phases are 5 days long and the third is 20 days. The foods Doctor Phil recommends are supposed to help with thermogenesis, which is a state where the process of energy production in the body caused directly by the metabolizing of food consumed.

The 20/20 diet is about looking past your dieting efforts, failed attempts and what you can do to make up for it. He is trying to repent you from your dieting sins and tell you all of these failures are what eventually led him to create this plan.

Worth It? This diet requires you to stick to a rigid meal plan and eat every 4 hours, which could be time consuming. Be weary, of diets that have a start and stop date, after all there are no phases or end dates to a healthy lifestyle.

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2. Zero Belly Diet 

Wait but actually? Trying to take away my carbs? Sounds like a nightmare. They’re also telling readers they can magically turn off, their fat genes.

The Claim – You can lose up to 16 pounds in 14 days. This diet and fitness program includes a list of nine foods that supposedly target and melt your fat cells.

Worth it? There is no way to turn off your genes to fast track weight loss. While hundreds of genes affect your overall weight in small ways, this isn’t to say that you can’t learn new healthy behaviors to adapt your lifestyle.

 

3.Mediterranean diet – Not the see food and you eat it diet? Ugh.

This diet emphasizes a primarily plant based foods including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seafood and nuts – coupled with physical activity. It suggests avoiding a list of unhealthy foods and ingredients such as processed food and added sugars.

The Claim: This diet will help you eat your way to optimal heart and brain health. Additionally it claims increased longevity and living a longer and healthier life. When there is a reduction in developing heart disease or cancer, there is a 20 %reduced risk of death at any age.

Worth it ? YES, this diet can have positive long-term effects on your over all health. Benefits include keeping you agile, preventing heart diseases and strokes and reducing Alzheimers.

So what is the real solution?   Remember those days when you were 6 years old and you used to carelessly dance around? Imagine even what a minute or 5 minutes could do for your over all health.

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Who says adults can’t have a little recess during their workday?

Many business leaders often discuss the value of adding healthy habits into their daily routines. It could be as simple as setting stretch goals.

Don’t be too hard on yourself; life is demanding. Between jobs, kids and everything else, life can get difficult. Give yourself a break, dieting shouldn’t be about extreme weight loss, it should be about slow and steady implementation of healthier habits that will lead to an over all healthier lifestyle.

 

Sign up here to start leading a healthier life and claiming rewards!

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