10 Things This Functional Medicine Expert Does To Support His Mental Well-Being
Being wired and tired sucks. Most of us don’t realize how overwhelmed we actually are until we stop and take a good, hard look at our mental well-being and what it is doing to our physical health.
In my early years of starting my current telehealth functional medicine clinic, I saw stress and anxiety start to creep into my life. Before I knew it, I was experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue and knew I had to make a change before my mental health started affecting my physical health even further.
Since chronic stress can impact your inflammation levels, brain function, hormones, and gut health, I gave myself the same advice I give to my own patients and incorporated certain wellness practices into my daily routine. Here are just a few of the things I do to protect my mental well-being:
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1. I do breathing exercises
Stressful situations can come up no matter how proactive I am with protecting my mental health. Breathing exercises help bring me back to the present moment even when things feel like they are spiraling out of control. I like box breathing since it is a simple routine that can be done from anywhere. Just breathe in for four seconds, out for four seconds, and repeat.
2. I prioritize sleep
I am not my best self when I am tired, and that is why I prioritize getting 7+ hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night. My bedtime ritual consists of meditation, sleeping with a weighted blanket, and diffusing essential oils. Rehabbing my sleep is one of the best things I have done for my mental health and lays the foundation for a healthier, stress-free day.
3. I take supplements
Supplements are a great tool for boosting areas that need a little extra support outside of a healthy diet. Before bed I reach for magnesium (magnesium threonate, glycinate, and malate are my favorites) since it supports my GABA receptors responsible for regulating sleep. I also love h o l i ( y o u t h ) because it contains holy basil and ashwagandha, two adaptogens that help reduce anxiety and lower your body’s stress hormone, cortisol.
4. I limit my zone of influence
I don’t take criticism from someone I wouldn’t also take advice from. Because I work with the public and have a social media platform, there is no end to opinions and criticism. Instead of taking it to heart, I have surrounded myself with people who live an authentic life that I aspire to. None of us are perfect and you can’t make everyone happy, so only listen to those who are in line with who you want to be.
5. I traded FOMO for JOMO
I used to put so much stress on myself because of FOMO. This “fear of missing out” caused me to trade rest for things that didn’t give me joy or fulfill my purpose. Now, I embrace JOMO - the joy of missing out - and prioritize what I need rather than what I think I might miss.
6. I minimize screen time
With endless scrolling comes blue light exposure, internet trolls, comparison, and a bunch of other negative mental and physical side effects. I set a screen time limit for the day and charge my phone in another area of my house so I am not tempted by my incoming texts or the latest social post.
7. I spend time outside
The Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing” has been shown to lower stress and support healthy inflammation levels. And when the sun is out, being outside can help boost vitamin D levels necessary for your overall health.
Being in nature is a very meditative experience for me so I try to get outside once a day, whether that’s a lunchtime walk with my functional medicine team or sitting on my deck with my family on the weekend.
8. I set boundaries with toxic people
Hang out with people who are your future, not your history. There is a time and place for everything, including relationships. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever, and it’s ok to say goodbye to someone who is no longer in line with who you are becoming. Once I realized this, I was able to move on from people who were holding me back with negativity.
9. I take time off
I truly love my job and take pride in my work. However, I am not a robot and I can’t work 24/7 without resting. I intentionally schedule blocks of time and entire days throughout my week to rest and not touch anything on my to-do list. After starting this, I found that I was actually more productive because I was mentally refreshed enough to tackle my responsibilities with a new perspective.
10. I spend time alone
Studies have shown that close relationships are beneficial for our mental health. But we often overlook the importance of alone time and getting to know yourself without the noise of other people’s opinions - no matter how healthy and well-intentioned they are. After all, how can I enjoy the company of other people if I can’t even enjoy my own company?
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- Facts & Statistics Anxiety and Depression Association of America https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics
- Kassed CA, Herkenham M. NF-kappaB p50-deficient mice show reduced anxiety-like behaviors in tests of exploratory drive and anxiety. Behav Brain Res. 2004;154(2):577‐584. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2004.03.026
- Crippa JA, Derenusson GN, Ferrari TB, et al. Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report. J Psychopharmacol. 2011;25(1):121‐130. doi:10.1177/0269881110379283
- Bergamaschi MM, Queiroz RH, Chagas MH, et al. Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011;36(6):1219‐1226. doi:10.1038/npp.2011.6
- Hill MN, Patel S. Translational evidence for the involvement of the endocannabinoid system in stress-related psychiatric illnesses. Biol Mood Anxiety Disord. 2013;3(1):19. Published 2013 Oct 22. doi:10.1186/2045-5380-3-19
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.