Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 14 - How to boost your mental health

16th July 2020

The Mardyke Arena UCC have teamed up with The Echo for our new campaign ‘Keeping Cork Healthy’ series to give the Cork community weekly tips on how they can stay fit and healthy during this lock down period.

In this final edition, we share nutrition and mental health advice.

Importance of Good Digestion
Did you know that you are not what you eat “you are what you digest and absorb,” writes Nutritional Consultant, Mary Carmody.

Nutritionally, there is nothing more important to your overall health than the health of your digestive tract. Your digestion has a direct effect on your energy, your longevity, and your physical and mental health.

Our gut contains lots of bacteria that plays a vital role in how we break down nutrients from our foods and any medicines, if they need to be taken.

One of the most common intestinal irritants is wheat (biscuits, cakes, cereals, toast, pastry, pasta, bread), so try to reduce your consumption. Alternative grains include rye, corn, rice, quinoa, and oat. You could also try making your own easily digestive homemade brown bread. I love using spelt or sourdough breads as these are easier on the digestive system while not wheat free but just gentle on the digestive system.

Top tips for digestive health

  • Drink at least six glasses of water a day (circa 1.5-2litres) in between meals and not as much at mealtimes to prevent diluting the digestive juices.
  • Include herbal teas/natural fruit juices and avoid too many coffees and teas
  • Limit alcohol intake to two units twice a week ideally some red wine!#
  • Avoid refined sugars/processed foods that contain additives and preservatives.
  • Include lots of fibre rich foods in the diet as fibre consumption can be low in diets and it’s recommended to include circa 30-35g a day in our diet.
  • Eat some live natural, organic yoghurt daily or probiotic foods such as bone broths, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha or kimchi.
  • Include at least 1 tbsp. of flaxseeds/chia seeds in your daily diet which contain the good fats
    and protein.
  • Chew up your foods thoroughly and remember your teeth are in your mouth and not your gut!
  • Include lots of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables in the diet.
  • Include lots of wholegrains (pastas, rice, oats, quinoa etc.) and natural foods.
  • Sit down, relax, and eat mindfully to support and promote healthy digestion.

Managing Stress and Anxiety in Current Times
Stress is a really important feature of our everyday life as it helps us to get things done and stay motivated to achieve goals and dreams and to optimise our performance, writes Nutritional Consultant, Mary Carmody. However, stress on the other hand can paralyse our decision making, our thought pattern and cause a lot of unpleasant physical symptoms.

Keeping kids entertained and home schooling, along with work deadlines, money concerns, changing business from in person to more online and so much more has resulted in more stress and anxiety in recent times affecting a lot of people.

Good stress management helps harness the positive energy and helps us to concentrate harder and be more driven to get healthier and fitter by eating more of the good foods, taking up a simple course, maybe starting up or going back to reading again, decluttering your house, painting rooms, gardening and so much more.

Best Foods to beat stress
Berries are excellent as packed with antioxidants which will combat any free radical damage in the body from stress. Try in smoothies on their own or over your cereal, healthy pancake or on their own.

Nuts including Brazil nuts, almonds and cashew nuts contain magnesium which help stress, anxiety, insomnia, and stress
Green leafy vegetables including spinach, broccoli, and cabbage contain folate which produces dopamine, a type of neurotransmitter that helps us to feel good and happy and satisfied.

Omega’s good fats e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines, flaxseeds, chia seeds. These fats protect our brain and heart and are essential because the body cannot make itself, so they have to be ingested in the diet. Good fats are good memory and for concentration for children and adults. Put seeds in your porridge, breads, smoothies, granola, flapjacks etc.

Turkey and chicken contains tryptophan an amino acid that helps produce serotonin which is known as the ‘feel happy and good hormone’. Other foods you could include here would be nuts, seeds or fish.

Natural probiotic yoghurt contains good bacteria to promote proper digestion which will support our immune and general health.

There is a connection between the brain and gut so a healthy gut is good for us and for managing stress.

Eat good quality protein at all meals and snacks (eggs, lean meat, nuts, seeds, quinoa, beans and pulses such as butterbeans, chickpeas, lentils etc.

Check out for more healthy tips and recipes.

The Happiness Diet
When we think about healthy eating, we often focus on improving our physical health, writes Cliona Twohig, Research Dietitian at University College Cork.

Did you know that certain foods can help our mental wellbeing too? Studies show that some foods can prevent and support the treatment of conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Top 5 Mood-Boosting Foods
1. Oily fish, nuts and seeds
Given our brain cells are almost 60% fat, it’s essential that we eat the right type. Try to limit ultra-processed foods (biscuits, cakes, chips, sausages, bacon) as they contain unhealthy fats.

Try to:
• Eat fresh or tinned fish twice a week, with oily fish at least once. This includes salmon, trout, herring, tuna, sardines or mackerel.
• If possible, choose foods rather than supplements. If fish is not for you, add 1 tablespoon of flaxseeds to cereals/smoothies OR snack on a handful of walnuts daily.

2. Fermented Foods
The bacteria in our guts play a huge role in our mental well-being; they make 90% of the body’s Serotonin (a potent ‘happiness hormone’).

Fermented foods are the best way to increase the good types. Try ‘probiotic’ yoghurts, kimchi (spicy Korean cabbage) or fermented drinks like kefir or kombucha. Look for ‘live cultures’ in the ingredient list.

3. Wholegrains and Legumes
High-fibre foods fuel a healthy gut (including the good gut bacteria) and this fuels a healthier mind! Choose ONE of these at each meal:
1 cup of cooked porridge or wholegrain cereal (e.g. bran flakes, Weetabix)
2 slices wholegrain bread (soda, rye, or seeded)
1 cup or fist-sized portion of cooked brown rice or pasta
1 cup of cooked quinoa, chickpeas, beans or bulgur wheat

Mental Health Advice
Advice from Dr Margaret O’Rourke, Director of Behavioural Science and Psychological Medicine, University College Cork:

Personal Protection Real Time Resilience is an internal skill used to shut down counterproductive thinking, build motivation and ensure you focus on the present moment or the task at hand.

The way you think effects the way you feel, so today and for the next few days support RTR by being aware of your thoughts and practice healthy thinking. Healthy thinking is a skill that ANYONE can learn, it starts by being aware of your habits of thought.

Each day we have approximately 60,000 thoughts and the quality and tone of your thoughts effect the quality of your day. The way you think really does affect the way you feel. Negative thinking drains your energy and increases stress, both for you and for those around you.

Try to control your thoughts , you can do this by doing what Tony Robbins calls “standing guard at the door of your mind“ and only allow positive , helpful and compassionate thoughts.

If you become aware that you are worrying or being negative in your thinking you could try using the 3 C’s to refocus to a more positive or more realistic approach. The three C’s are: Catch it, Check it, and Change it” Notice negative thinking as quickly as possible (Catch it), It helps if you can pause and Ask yourself the question – is this a feeling or a fact? Am I being negative or unnecessarily harsh? (Check it), Swop the negative thought(s) for more helpful, compassionate and positive thoughts (Change it).

Support your mental health using three little things:
Maintain a sense of Hope: Remind yourself that you are here for a worthwhile purpose, you are important to your friends and family and what you do is important. This crisis too will pass. You have the knowledge, skills and behaviours to come through this stronger, if you decide that that is what you want. It is your choice. Decide to be optimistic and give yourself hope. Your compassion & care for yourself will give others hope also.

Maintain a sense of control: At the beginning and end of each day, take a pause, a little time to review and reflect and list the 3 wins for the day that is “what 3 small things I am going to get achieved today”. Then as the day ends list the 3 wins you have had that day.

Maintain a sense of purpose: Remind yourself the “WHY “you are working so hard /going the extra mile at the moment. This will make the HOW much easier. Having a purpose is a very important human need. It makes life easier in uncertain times if we have goals as opposed to dreams – small achievable goals. Keep it simple for yourself decide on three modest easy to do goals each day. This will help you have focus and give you a sense of purpose.

Emotions are infectious – watch what you are spreading Psychological research has discovered that emotions are infectious, and are spread within seconds in social situations. Work and home are social situations and so you have a huge opportunity to spread Positive Emotions where you live and work.

Positive emotions are a powerful resource. Today we remind you to stand guard at the door of your mind and build the discipline of healthy thinking and positive emotions WHY? Because positive emotions will build and support confidence & self-belief, creativity, flexibility, optimism, perseverance, physical and mental health productivity and energy – all things that will be helpful right now.

Be sure to comment if someone did a good job. Use positive emotions with credibility to build trust.

Credibility is a combination of expertise and dependability. Adults gain credibility when they demonstrate that they understand the risks and ramifications of a situation and nevertheless stay calm, positive and clear in their communications. At the same time, do not expect yourself (or anyone else) to know all the answers. Good parents/partners/friends admit when they don’t know the answer to a question and defer to others or other sources of information.

BOOST your energy and coping with these easy to do actions:
1. Energy Massage this helps cut down distractions, build focus and clear thinking too. Using your thumb and index finger give your external ears a strong massage from top (pinna) to bottom (lobe) three times -do one ear at a time. Use your thumb and index finger to “iron out “the wrinkles and folds of your ear. Feel the energy boost from this lovely massage.

2. Make sure that you acknowledge your accomplishments and that you learn from any mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes and this is especially so when they are under pressure or when they are fatigued. This is why recovery routines are so important.
Happiness can be found in the smallest of things: what small things, rituals or routines help you best at the end of a busy day? Go ahead write them down…….Writing things down helps us to remember it and it makes us more likely to act on it – use it when we need it most.

“Everything that happens to you is your teacher, the secret is to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it “– Mahatma Gandhi

Re-opening – Physiotherapy Clinic

The arena clinic reopening on Monday July 13

Over the past few months the Chartered Physiotherapists at the arena clinic have been giving advice and have offered free consultations as part of the Keeping Cork Healthy campaign.

The arena clinic will now reopen its doors to the public on Monday July 13th. The clinic, situated at the Mardyke Arena UCC, has also undergone a substantial transformation to ensure that all Covid guidelines have been met with the highest standard, ensuring the optimum safety of their clients, members and staff.

The arena clinic have a number of chartered physiotherapists and exercise physiologists as well as highly trained clinical reformer instructors working as part of their team. Below, you will find a list of their relevant services being provided from here on in.

These include: Physiotherapy – Hydrotherapy – Clinical Reformer Pilates – Aqua Natal Classes – Womens Health Speciality – Cardiac/ Pulmonary Rehabilitation – Health and Wellness – Group Based Classes: PD Rebels (Parkinson Disease), Falls Prevention & Get Active after Cancer.

To book an appointment in the arena clinic, please visit or call Tel: 021 4904760
Keep Your Kids Active: Summer Camps at the Mardyke Arena UCC
The Mardyke Arena UCC are delighted to launch their Summer Camps 2020 programme – Starting Monday 13th July and will run until the end of August.

Camps will run from 9am-1pm & 2pm-6pm Monday – Friday. The numbers within each camp are very limited this year, so early booking is advised.

Visit for more information & to book.

This was the last feature in our Keeping Cork Healthy series. You can view the whole series on the links below.

Catch up:
Click link to all our home work-out videos.
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 1 – Keep fit, in your home
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 2 – Strong body & mind
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 3 – Minding your mental health
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 4 – How to stay injury-free while working out at home
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 5 – Beware of common injuries
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 6 – Diet tips to help boost your health
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 7 – Mindful eating
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 8 – Fitness for all abilities
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 9 – Flexibility is your friend
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 10 – 10 top tips for fitness
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 11 – Changing your goals
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 12 – All in the movement
Click here to catch up on Keeping Cork Healthy: Week 13 – Slowly increase your training levels as we return to normality

Return to the News section Return to the News section