Our mental and physical health are intertwined – how we’re feeling can have a direct result on our physical wellbeing and vice versa. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines health as: ‘… a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ Mental health is clearly an integral part of this definition. Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness - it is vital to us all as individuals, families and societies. The WHO describes mental health as: ‘… a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.’ In this positive sense, mental health is the foundation for wellbeing.
If we’re feeling stressed, anxious or sad, this can manifest itself in a number of ailments such as high blood pressure, aches and pains, ulcers, upset stomach and a gain or loss in weight. Equally, if you’re not acknowledging problems with your mental wellbeing, it’s unlikely you’re looking after your physical health – maybe you’re not eating properly, not exercising or being conscious of factors such as your alcohol intake or how much you smoke. It can be a vicious circle because poor emotional health can weaken the body’s immune system leading to colds or an infection which in turn has an impact on your mental health.
Severe and clinical depression requires counselling, medication or a combination of both, but with less severe physical symptoms which are tell-tale signs you’re stressed, anxious or unhappy, it’s important to look at the root of the problem and find ways to address the issue. Perhaps speaking with your GP or talking things through with a friend will help. Sometimes when we’re caught up in something, we can’t see the wood for the trees, things can feel worse than they perhaps are, and we need to give ourselves the time and space to gain perspective.
The yin and the yang
During Lockdown, there have been those who have needed to actively create some form of control to have good mental health. Perhaps they’ve been maintaining or started a health and fitness regime – good ole #PEwithJoe, yoga, walking or running; perhaps it was being mindful of watching what they ate and drank, or maybe on a daily basis they journaled to be aware of the type of thoughts they were having about the situation, maybe meditated or reflected or gave themselves time to just ‘be’. Equally, there will be the same number of people who have felt lost, rudderless and unable to cope, and so whilst their mental health has dipped, so too has their physical health. Maybe they haven’t wanted to leave the house at all, as they’ve felt safer at home; have adopted poor eating habits, maybe their alcohol intake has increased; it’s what they feel they need to do to get through this.
I think there are a range of emotions being experienced with Lockdown easing– relief that the end is in sight, fear there may be a second wave, anxiety about a change in routine – perhaps a return to work, children being invited back to school, joy at being able to stay with friends and family, regret all wasn’t achieved during Lockdown that perhaps could have been, guilt that you’ve not been an effective home-schooler or that you’ve needed to juggle home-schooling with working from home, pride at what you have achieved during Lockdown and sadness that the simpler life will soon end. A range of so many different emotions individually felt. They can adversely or positively affect our mental health.
Check your Mindset VITALS
For all those different emotions and feelings, we do share one thing - our ability going forward to choose the way we think about the situation.
That’s why understanding the importance of mindset is crucial – to make the time to slow everything down and understand the nature of your thoughts. By spending 15 minutes a day – that’s just
1 x 96th of your entire day – you can think about the way you think and therefore the effect this has on your choices and decisions in life.
In 15 minutes, you can run through your Mindset VITALS to keep you on-track:
Spending just 15 minutes a day to consciously work on the nature of your thoughts so that they work for you, will help you to keep your mental health in check.
It starts with you
When you understand the nature of your thinking, you understand what is holding you back and what can propel you forward. The important thing is not to co-exist with issues and problems, but to find ways of consciously helping yourself, whilst also recognising that seeking help and advice may also be beneficial.
No-one but you can make the necessary changes in your life if you want to feel better about yourself, or about a situation. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Take the necessary steps to enable you to be the person you want to be, to lead the life you want to lead.
We get to choose the nature of our thoughts – no one else. So, if we want to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, it starts with us. To push myself to do #PEwithJoe, or take the dogs for a walk, or to go out on a looong bike ride, or to ensure I make some time to think about the way I’m thinking if I’m not feeling in a good place, I say my mantra: ‘Every day I feel fitter and stronger – physically, mentally and emotionally’. That intention is crucial. I can do all the #PEwithJoe classes but if I’m not connected, not intentional, then I’m not giving my all, I’m just going through the motions. Sure, by doing the workout I’ll be moving and exercising but if my Mindset VITALS are in check, I am consciously thinking about why I’m working out - that it’s to help me to feel energised physically, mentally and emotionally, and then I am capitalising and maximising that workout and the huge effect it can have on me for the rest of the day. I am consciously aware of my wellbeing.
Check your Mindset VITALS daily. It’s how you’ll get the most from you and the most out of this one and only life we have.
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