Mood and Anxiety
By Dr Emma Rees
The link between psychological and physical wellbeing has long been recognised. It makes sense that if you are physically unwell, that over time, this will have a detrimental effect on your mental health and vice versa. It should also make sense then, that we try to look after both our physical and mental well being whenever we can. Naturally, the focus may sway towards one area rather than another at any time but strive to maintain overall balance.
Changes in mood can be an early outward sign that something is wrong. People who know us well may suggest that we have become quieter or louder, touchy or introverted or even easy to irritate. This may be the first time that we become aware that something is wrong and it is worth listening when our friends and family comment upon our behaviour.
There are many factors which may affect us and manifest in our mood. Stress, pain, tiredness, hormonal changes, medications, illicit drugs and illness all have their impact. Likewise, when we are in a good place emotionally, pain can be easier to manage, sleep better and illness easier to cope with. The way that receptors in your brain are interacting with chemicals also impacts on your mental health and over time, even if chemical changes weren’t the starting point for your mood changes, they can become the result
It is always important to make sure we have a balanced diet, including avoiding highs and lows in glucose which can affect our mood. Substances such as alcohol and other drugs can feel like they are helping at first but often as they are coming out of our system, the receptors to which they have been attached become active again and this can make us feel worse.
Exercise is really important as it helps us to release endorphins, the body’s natural antidepressants and this can have a huge impact upon our mood. Additionally, sleep is also important as the hormones we release during sleep have a restorative impact on mood. Although you may have dismissed it before, trying sleep hygiene and sticking to a regular pattern if you can is absolutely crucial to overall well being. Similar to many lifestyle changes, it does take a few weeks for us to feel the benefits so don’t just try changes for a few days. It’ll take a few weeks for them to make a difference you can feel.
If you have tried lifestyle changes and haven’t found them to be helpful, don’t despair. There are many safe medications that can be used to help if needed.
There are a few important things to know if we are considering medication. Firstly, there are many different types and it may take a trial of more than one type of antidepressant before you find the right one for you. This is completely normal.
They take a couple of weeks to start working and up to 6 weeks before you feel the full effects. Again, this is normal and it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to work if it takes a little bit longer for you to see change. The first couple of weeks may also see you feeling agitated at times, however it usually doesn’t cause major problems. If however, they do start to make you feel really unwell, you must discuss this with your doctor. Usually, we will need to use them for at least 6 months before we consider stopping them. This is because if we stop them too early, in simple terms, the receptors they are blocking become active again and symptoms will return. If we use them for long enough and wean them down when stopping this can usually be avoided. There is no hard and fast rule about when to stop them and your doctor will usually keep them under review.