Why hydration can help your mental health at Christmas

protecting your mental health

A link has been found between hydration and anxiety

Hydration and Mental Health at Christmas

For all the fun and excitement that comes at Christmas, it can be an overwhelming time – even for those who’s mental health tends to be very stable. Whether it raises concerns about money or family, anxiety about the new year or insecurities about making sure everything is perfect – Christmas can be a minefield. Although the best thing to do in any of these situations is talking to someone (be it a friend, family member or professional), there are small things you can do to be kind to yourself and your mind, one of which is staying hydrated. Christmas also throws up lots of opportunities for drinking, which in turn causes dehydration and can negatively impact your brain function. Although the ’emotional support water bottle’ has become a social media trend, the science seems to agree that having a bottle close at hand might actually benefit your mental wellbeing.

We thought now was the perfect time to share this blog about hydration and mental health, from guest blogger Ashley Harris:

Reasons to Hydrate for Better Mental Health

We all know that drinking plenty of water is a key component of feeling good. Your body gives you plenty of signs that tell you to drink, most of which make us uncomfortable if you don’t listen to them.

Drinking enough water to sustain yourself helps you to move better, allows your body to absorb the nutrients from your food better and improves the process of removing toxins from your body through sweat and excretion. 

In fact, there is a huge list of advantages to remaining hydrated; but one of the things that surprise people the most is the connection between hydration and mental wellness.

Let’s take a look at the effect water has on your brain, and how that can significantly impact things like your mood and mental state.  

The Effects of Water on the Brain

Your brain relies heavily on water, like the rest of your body, but to an even greater extent. 75% of your brain tissue is actually made up of water, so the lack of water reaching your brain can have some truly surprising effects. 

Dehydration Inhibits Your Brain’s Production of Serotonin

That’s right, your brain actually struggles to create serotonin when it’s suffering the effects of dehydration.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has massive impacts on your mood, so dehydration can actually lead to irritability and poor moods.

Your Brains Energy Production Will Decrease

Your brain needs to feed itself with energy in order to properly operate, and as the production process is impeded the functions of your brain can reduce significantly. 

People can start to suffer from a lack of focus, difficulty with cognition and even your ability to create memories. 

Is there a Link Between Mental Health & Hydration?

Many of the effects listed above are linked directly to the symptoms that lead to depression and anxiety, so aside from simply affecting your mood, dehydration can actually worsen the effects of certain mental illnesses. 

Lowering Your Risk of Anxiety & Depression

Research has shown that anxiety was much higher in those who drank less water than their counterparts and that when their consumption of water increased anxiety decreased across the board.  

The study also showed that the link between dehydration and depression was even stronger than that of its link with anxiety. 

The fact that dehydration inhibits serotonin production in the brain directly aligns it with one of the key factors in depression; so maintaining a good level of hydration will, at the very least, allow your brain to start producing the correct levels of a key neurotransmitter to stabilise your mood. 

Increasing Your Body’s Stress Levels

“It is normal to experience anxiety in times of stress, like moving house, going through a crisis at work or having relationship problems, but in most cases, this disappears when the situation has been resolved,” says Centres for Health and Healing. “However, studies show that brain chemistry changes occur in people who experience a severe or prolonged period of stress and that this can contribute to anxiety disorders developing.”

Stress is one of the most prominent contributing factors to depression and anxiety, and your inability to cope with stressors is directly impacted by your hydration levels.

Dehydration can actually cause a vicious and self-perpetuating cycle to start within your body. 

When you are stressed your adrenal glands will actually secrete extra cortisol, the stress hormone. Your adrenal glands will eventually become exhausted, resulting in significantly lower electrolyte levels- thus dehydrating you. And we already know dehydration can increase stress inducing states in the body. 

Panic Attacks

Panic attacks are a common result of high levels of anxiety. Many people suffer from these attacks, and they generally have some kind of physical trigger. 

It is thought that direct links between dehydration and the feelings of anxiety you experience mean that dehydration itself can be a trigger for a panic attack. It can bring on feelings of unease, stress and even self doubt.   

The Bottom Line

So keeping hydrated is incredibly important for many reasons – your physical bodily functions and day to day routine will be heavily impacted by your hydration levels.

It is really important to remember that drinking water is not a sure fire cure to mental health issues. There is much more to it than just hydration, but it is clear that hydration is a key component in beginning to manage mental health.

We now also have a much greater understanding of the connection between hydration levels and mental wellbeing. There are undeniable links between the two, with dehydration clearly having a negative impact on brain health and stress levels- but there is still research to be done.

Remember to stay hydrated, and if you’ve been struggling with any of the issues discussed here then seek the help of mental health professionals- you are not alone.

 

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