An alarming fact of the 21st century is the growing prevalence of detrimental mental conditions amongst individuals across age groups. Stress has become an unavoidable part of day-to-day existence, with people facing new challenges regularly, be it in their personal lives, or professional environments.
Stressful conditions often lead to the development of anxious disorders, and over time, depression. These states are accompanied by feelings of helplessness, worthlessness, a loss of interest in activities, fatigue, restlessness, insomnia or excessive sleeping, loss of appetite, and a number of other issues. Hence, it has become increasingly important for individuals to find new ways to manage stress, anxiety and depression.
While psychotherapy, nutrition and other forms of methods already exist that are used to treat depression, anxiety, and stress, another effective and clinically tested way to treat such conditions has been yoga. Yoga provides a systematic method, along with a structured approach towards managing and treating mental conditions to provide relief to individuals over time. The benefits of yoga are many. The myriad asanas and breathing exercises help in improving bodily functioning, while also strengthening the individual's mind. Yoga can be a useful means to supplement psychotherapeutic treatment for depression, anxiety and stress.
Here are 5 asanas that can be easily incorporated in daily schedules to manage and combat the ill effects of these dire mental conditions, and start the journey to recovery:
Balasana (Child Pose)
Balasana is a comfortable pose that stretches the upper-body and back muscles, relaxing the body and mind. It relieves tension from muscles, leading to improved posture, blood circulation, and alleviation of stress.
Performing the Balasana is easy and comforting. Kneel and sit on your heels onto a yoga mat, touching the big toes together. Spread your knees hip-width apart and place your palms on your knees. Now, bend your torso forward and between your divided thighs, and touch your forehead to the mat. Bring your arms forward and place them on the mat, stretched out in front of you. Hold the position for a few minutes, and return to the initial position slowly.
The Balasana induces a state of calmness, relieving stress and anxiety effectively, helping in dealing with bouts of depression with better preparedness.
Sethu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
The Sethu Bandhasana is a powerful inversion that opens up the chest cavity, improving cardiovascular health and increasing clarity and focus. This pose is also a great way to open up and strengthen the back, hips and hamstrings, working wonders for the tensed rear musculature.
To perform the Sethu Bandhasana, lie down on the mat on your back. Place your palms facing down by either side of the body, and fold the knees to bring the heels closer to your hips. Keep the feet a few inches apart. Now, gently elevate your hips and back from the floor and hold the position for a few minutes. Relax and return to the initial position, exhaling as you do so.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
A thoroughly rejuvenating and relaxing pose, the Savasana is a great way to calm the body and mind, alleviating tension from the muscles and causing relief from the effects of stress and anxiety. It provides a scope for healing and relaxing for individuals.
Savasana is performed by simply lying down on a yoga mat facing the ceiling. Keep your legs and feet a few inches apart, letting them fall sideways. Place your hands on either side of the body with the palms facing upward, while relaxing the body in this position for a few minutes. Now close your eyes, and allow your body and mind to relax.
Uttansana (Standing Forward Fold)
Uttanasana is a great way to stretch the legs, back, shoulders and neck. It improves blood circulation and the overall functioning of the nervous system. It produces calming effects and reduces stress and anxiety effectively.
In order to perform the Uttanasana, stand straight with your arms by your side. Bend forward at the hips, trying to go as low as possible, till your chest touches your thighs and your head reaches your knees. Hold this position for a few breath before gently releasing it and resuming the initial position.
Halasana (Plow Pose)
Halasana is an effective pose that stretches the entire back, improving posture. This asana has a relieving effect for the brain, and provides a great stretch for the entire body. The effects of this asana also help in managing symptoms of insomnia, relieving fatigue and anxiety.
Halasana is performed by lying down on your back, with your arms by your side and feet joined together. Lift your legs up in a 90 degree angle, and hold your hips with the help of your hands to support the elevation. Now, bring the feet back and down to the floor, extending behind the head. Ensure that the thighs remain straight and avoid touching them to your head. Hold this position for a few breaths, and release the position while exhaling to resume the initial lying down pose.
These yoga asanas among others can be a useful means to manage the damage caused to the mind from conditions like depression, stress and anxiety. Yoga can be a great means to resume your faculties and stay in the moment, which can be difficult when dealing with depression and anxiety. However, if done regularly and appropriately, combining with other forms of therapeutic treatment, yoga can become a great way to manage everyday stress, anxiety and depression effectively. (Meenakshi Mohanty, Fitness Expert)
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Among the many benefits of maintaining heart health include the ability to live a long life, relieve symptoms of depression, and reduce the chance of dementia. According to a proverb, "With a healthy heart, the beat carries on." The path to a healthy heart is broken down by Luke Coutinho, Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle - Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Founder of You Care.
Tips to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Emotional Health: Today emotional health is a no.1 priority for better heart health. Negative emotions and thoughts stimulate the flight and fight response which results in the production of cortisol. Elevated levels of cortisol are known to also elevate blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation, all of which can harm heart health. Invest more time in healing yourself emotionally through yoga, pranayama, meditation, visualization, laughter, positive affirmations, etc.
Vitamin Breathing: One deep inhale and exhale is all it takes to calm your mind and heart. Deep breathing is known to shift our body from a state of fight and flight to a state of rest and digestion almost instantly. This makes a regular practice of deep breathing an extremely heart-healthy habit.
Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant-Rich Foods: The main reasons behind heart attacks are not cholesterol but inflammation and oxidative damage in the heart, blood vessels, endothelial lining, arteries, etc. Inflammation and oxidative damage are caused by the free radicals from the food that we eat, the air that we breathe, and several lifestyle choices that we make. Foods like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and black pepper - are potent foods to curb inflammation. Additionally, eat an array of differently colored fruits and berries when they are in season.
Prioritize Sleep: Poor sleep or lack of sleep can be destructive to our heart health. This is because when we sleep, the heart gets a break and works lesser. The heart is a muscle and it requires recovery. Lack of sleep also increases insulin resistance, blood pressure, and inflammation.
Stay Active: Sitting excessively is like smoking. Make sure you are physically active throughout the day. The risks of heart attacks are more in people who live inactive lifestyles. Walking, yoga, Zumba, and trekking are extremely beneficial exercises for the heart.
Cut Out Smoking: Both active and passive smoking is toxic to the heart. Smoking contributes to both oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. The chemicals emitted from cigarette cause plaque build-up in the arteries. It also depletes several vitamins and minerals and hardens the arteries.
Get more raw food in your diet for its fiber and antioxidant intake.
10 foods that will help your heart stay young and healthy
Good Quality Oils: like coconut oil, pure A2 Gir cow ghee, and mustard oil help boost good cholesterol and fight inflammation.
Omega 3-Rich Foods: Omega 3 fatty acid is an important and extremely healthy fatty acid for the heart. It helps in curbing inflammation, heals arterial walls, and boosts HDL while lowering LDL. E.g.: fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts, and chia seeds to name a few.
Beetroot: for its ability to act as a vasodilator and high antioxidant content.
Garlic: for its inflammatory and bad cholesterol-lowering properties. It also acts as a natural blood thinner.
Organic Tea (black, white, oolong, matcha): for its high antioxidant content, especially EGCG. Also, research now finds that it holds potent cholesterol-lowering properties and can prevent plaque build-up in the arteries.
Fruits Like Grapes, Pomegranate, and Berries: for their high antioxidant content.
Vitamin E-Rich Foods: for their ability to curb inflammation, fight free radicals, cell repair, and heal arteries. It's a must-have for people who are exposed to cigarette and industrial pollution. E.g.: sunflower seeds, unsalted peanuts, avocados, almonds, and sesame.
Magnesium-Rich Foods: for their ability to boost cardiac muscle health, and blood pressure. E.g.: all nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, cacao.
Potassium-Rich Foods: plays a role in every heartbeat. It manages blood pressure, and cardiac muscle contractions and keeps the heart rhythm steady. E.g.: banana, avocados, pumpkin.
Vitamin K-Rich Foods: for high antioxidant properties and preventing calcification of arteries. E.g.: green leafy vegetables, broccoli, prunes, avocado.
Foods to Avoid
Refined Sugar and Refined Carbohydrate Intake: Both of them can contribute to inflammation, spike blood sugar levels and thus increase the risk of a heart attack. Also, excess of both could lead to elevated triglyceride levels. On the other hand, complex carbs like dosas, idlis, rotis, hand-pounded rice, etc are all healthy carbs and can be included in your diet for good health and preventing the risk of a heart attack. People who give up on such complex carbs end up being deficient in Vitamin K2 - which can result in the calcification of arteries.
Refined Salt: Refined salt and MSG can create inflammation in the body, elevate blood pressure and cause water retention thereby burdening the kidneys. One can opt for Himalayan pink or rock salt after they keep their health professional in the loop.
Refined Oils: Refined vegetable oils are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega 6 is harmful to health as it leads to inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
Processed and Packaged Foods: Processed and packaged foods too are causative to increased rates of heart attacks and stroke. This is again because this packaged and processed food is prepared with low-grade refined oil which increases oxidative damage and inflammation in the body.
Excessive Tea and Coffee, Alcohol: Overconsumption of tea, and coffee can aggravate or cause acidity and inflammation, more so if the beverage contains sugar, cream, and other additives. Alcohol too can raise bad cholesterol, cause inflammation and elevate blood pressure.
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Anyone can experience fatigue at any moment, although it usually manifests itself after strenuous physical activity, a demanding workday, or both. Exercise frequently results in fatigue, which can be reduced by getting enough rest, taking a good nap, or getting a full night's sleep. Contrarily, fatigue is a persistent, uncharacteristic state of tiredness and sleepiness. It might be difficult and demotivating to maintain your regular routine when you're tired. It may be chronic (lasting longer than a month) or acute (lasting more than a month or 1 to 6 months or longer).
One's short- and long-term levels of fatigue are directly related to the food they eat. For instance, iron deficiency is linked to fatigue, reduced work capacity, and subpar academic performance. Similar to empty calorie items, foods with added sugar and solid fats like sweets and soft drinks have little nutritional benefit. As a result, you might feel full even when you haven't eaten any of the nutrient-dense foods your body needs.
In order to survive in the fundamental metabolic processes that enable core cellular functioning, we all require a balanced diet and adequate nutrition. Because of their involvement in energy-producing metabolism, DNA synthesis, oxygen transport, and cerebral functions, a balanced diet is crucial for brain and muscle function. As a result, cognitive and psychological processes are impacted, including physical and mental fatigue. Iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, and the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8, B9, and B12) all help fight weariness.
Here are some easy tips on using diet and nutrition to beat tiredness and stay upbeat:
Add Protein to You Diet
Protein helps keep up stamina levels and build endurance. Because it helps your muscle to repair wear and tear, and reduces muscle loss, it ensures your body has enough muscle to sustain everyday living. This is the reason why athletes or those with active lifestyles swear by protein intake through their diet or supplements.
Hydration is The Key
One might wonder, how a calorie less, flavourless liquid like water help with energy levels. Dehydration causes symptoms such as fatigue and tiredness. Even mild dehydration can alter a person's mood, energy level, and ability to think clearly, research by the University of Connecticut has found. Effect of dehydration on concentration, fatigue and anxiety is even more profound for women.
Cut Down on Caffeine
'Do not talk to me till I have had my morning coffee', does this internet meme sound familiar? Caffeine lovers, especially those who cannot start their days without a generous "energizing" dose of coffee or tea, are actually pushing themselves towards greater fatigue over the course of the day. Coffee might act as a temporary brain stimulant raising your energy level and focus for a short term, but can quickly result in an energy crash later. Moreover, it can build dependence and interference with the natural circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle. In all, for every cup of coffee, drink two extra cups of water.
Cheers to Alcohol, Invitation to Fatigue
A full alcohol glass might leave your energy levels half empty. Not only does it dehydrate your body and disturb sleeping and eating patterns, the alcohol raises the body's level of epinephrine, a stress hormone that increases the heart rate and generally stimulates the body, which can result in nighttime awakenings, according to Harvard Health Publishing. If you are going out or staying in every other night, reduce your alcohol intake. Do the same for smoking.
Eating processed foods, ordering in frequently, and whipping up sugar-laden recipes on the regular can reduce the nutrients going in your body, and disproportionately imbalance your meals. Take the calorie intake prescribed for your age, gender and activity level, and do not go for fad/extreme diets in the name of weight loss or spot reduction. Food is your body's fuel and tiredness is inevitable if it is not getting enough quantity and/or good quality.
A healthy diet requires physical activity, enough sleep, mental peace, and relaxation. Vital vitamins and minerals can be obtained naturally from a variety of sources, such as fruits, vegetables, and meat. The essential nutritional requirements vary from person to person due to factors including age, gender, and medical circumstances like pregnancy and lactation. In addition, conditions, lifestyle decisions, and restrictions all play a role. (Dr. Vivek Srivastava, Senior Vice President, Zeon Lifesciences)
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Sydney: Young men with a poor diet saw a significant improvement in their symptoms of depression when they switched to a healthy Mediterranean diet, a new study has shown.
Mediterranean diet, which consists of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, and grains, caused significant impact on young men's mental health.
According to researchers from the University of Technology Sydney, the study is the first randomised clinical trial to assess the impact of a Mediterranean diet on the symptoms of depression in young men aged 18-25.
The team conducted a 12-week randomised control trial, where the men were asked to switch to foods rich in colourful vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, oily fish, olive oil and raw, unsalted nuts from their regular as well as fast foods.
The findings, published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggested that doctors should recommend patients to a nutritionist or dietician as part of their treatment plan, the researchers said.
"The primary focus was on increasing diet quality with fresh wholefoods while reducing the intake of 'fast' foods, sugar and processed red meat," said researcher Jessica Bayes, a candidate in the UTS Faculty of Health.
"There are lots of reasons why scientifically we think food affects mood. For example, around 90 per cent of serotonin, a chemical that helps us feel happy, is made in our gut by our gut microbes.
"There is emerging evidence that these microbes can communicate to the brain via the vagus nerve, in what is called the gut-brain axis," Bayes said.
"The results showed that nearly all our participants stayed with the programme, and many were keen to continue the diet once the study ended, which shows how effective, tolerable and worthwhile they found the intervention," the researchers said.
The study "suggests that medical doctors and psychologists should consider referring depressed young men to a nutritionist or dietitian as an important component of treating clinical depression", she said. (Agency)
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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which accounts for 8.7 per cent of all blindness worldwide, is the most common cause of anxiety, and depression seen among people older than 60 years, health experts said on Monday.
AMD is a disease where abnormal blood vessels grow in the macula - centre part of the retina - causing damage to the central vision and making it difficult to cope.
Recent projections estimate that globally the number of individuals suffering with AMD will reach 288 million in 2040. In India, the overall prevalence of AMD currently ranges from 1.4 per cent to 3.1 per cent.
The earliest symptom of AMD is difficulty in seeing at night. At a later stage, AMD patients see blind spots and their ability to read, watch television, drive and recognise faces gets affected. It later progresses to blindness.
The impaired vision disturbs the routine of the patients, makes them dependent and also increases functional disability.
"People suffering from AMD, who have lost over 80 per cent of their central vision are more likely to have anxiety and depression. This is mainly as they have plans to retire smoothly, and find it difficult to read and perform recreational activities at this stage in life, which causes frustration and discomfort. Their life involves multiple visits to hospital accompanied with expensive treatments, which adds to deterioration in the quality of life," Dr. Indu Singh, Consultant Retinal surgeon and Director, Dr Daljit Singh Eye Hospital, Amritsar, told IANS.
A recent study by International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health also confirmed that AMD has a negative psychological impact, and it reduces the quality of life to levels comparable to severe illnesses like cancer and stroke.
While it is important to go for walks, supervise things at home, to manage depression, Dr. Vishali Gupta, Professor, Vitreoretinal and Uvea, Advanced Eye Centre, PGIMER, Chandigarh suggested the patients to engage in activities that they can do within the comfort zone of their vision.
"These patients should use magnifiers, iPads or other low vision aid devices that can help them read the script. Today there are apps that can read books to them. The idea is to keep oneself busy and feel useful," Gupta told IANS.
Another way to fight AMD related stress is to go for regular screening in order to avoid worsening of vision. Early diagnosis of AMD can help early treatment and also halt progression to vision loss.
Dr. Daraius Shroff, a retina specialist at Shroff Eye Centre in Delhi, suggested patients with AMD share with family and friends their anxieties to help relieve mental stress as well as to gain support to find solutions to alleviate depression.
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New York: You do not need to hit the gym, and lift heavy weights, but small doses of physical activity, such as brisk walking, may substantially help lower the risk of depression, suggests a study.
The study, led by a team of international researchers including from Universities of Cambridge and Sydney, showed that about 1.25 hours of brisk walking per week could yield an 18 per cent lower risk of depression compared with not exercising.
"Most benefits are realised when moving from no activity to at least some," the study authors wrote, in the paper published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
"Our findings have important new implications for health practitioners making lifestyle recommendations, especially to inactive individuals who may perceive the current recommended target (of exercise) as unrealistic," they added.
The team conducted a meta-analysis of 15 studies involving over 190,000 people to determine how much exercise was needed to reduce depression.
The findings revealed that moving up to an "activity volume equivalent to 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week was associated with 25 per cent lower risk of depression.
The findings are consistent with previous studies that found people who exercised had about 43 per cent fewer days of poor mental health.
"Even just walking just three times a week seems to give people better mental health than not exercising at all," study author Adam Chekroud, an assistant adjunct professor of psychiatry at Yale University, was quoted as saying to CNN.
Exercising in 45-minute sessions three to five times a week was the most beneficial for improving mental health, the 2018 study found. However, even doing household chores reduced poor mental health days by about 10 per cent, the study said.
Another study published in 2020 found that even light exercise helped protect children against developing depression. The 2020 study revealed that 60 minutes of simple movement each day at age 12 was linked to an average 10 per cent reduction in depression at age 18.
The types of movement included running, biking and walking, as well as activities like doing chores, painting or playing an instrument, CNN reported.
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