When you hear “health,” what comes to mind? Is it whether you have physical symptoms of disease? Whether you can exercise without pain? Whether your diet makes you feel energetic or sluggish?
Those are important elements of health, but there’s another—one that underlies everything that happens with your body and can undermine the physical efforts you make toward health. Your mental health is essential for overall well-being. When you experience stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, your body reacts, as well. Your immunity lessens, and your digestion struggles, in addition to a zillion other ways your mental health influences your physical health.
In other words, the two aren’t separate. Your mental and physical health are like strands in a rope. When one goes, the strength of the whole is compromised. All this is not to stress you out (not great for health) but to encourage you to nurture your mental health. A little attention to this element of health can give you a whole lot of important benefits.
First: Get help when you need it.
Asking for help is a struggle for many people, especially for women who feel they’ve got people depending on them. But the airplane oxygen mask analogy applies, as always: Taking care of yourself first is the absolute best way to take care of others. So if you’re really struggling, and symptoms like difficulty sleeping, mood swings, or difficulty concentrating persist for more than two weeks, get professional help.
Work in happy practices daily.
Mental health isn’t achievable in a massage or a weekend hike every six months or so. It depends on doing nice things like these for yourself every day.
- Meditation gives you the most bang for your buck, offering benefits like stress reduction, more self-awareness, more gratitude in—no joke—five minutes a day.
- Spending time with friends gives you a sounding board and a happiness boost that extends long past your time together.
- Alcohol can feel like an escape from your troubles but tends to add to them instead. It’s fuel for the fires of depression and anxiety. Try cutting down or cutting it out. If nothing else, you’ll sleep better, which is A+ for mental health.
- What you eat has a huge impact on your mood. Try futzing around with your diet to see whether cutting sugar, eating more veggies, drinking plenty of water and other tweaks can help you feel calmer and happier.
- Get out among the trees. Bundle up if you have to. Grab an umbrella. Whatever it takes—the benefits of getting outside are tremendous. Bonus: Being outside tends to sharpen your brain function. You become happier and smarter.
You don’t have to have a fever to give yourself a day off. Taking time for yourself makes you a better employee, partner, parent . . . person. And you can go to a movie in the middle of the day, which is the best of life.
If you ever think you might need some expert help, the counselors at Hancock Counseling and Psychiatric Services are always available. Contact us at 317-468-6200 and find your care team.