The Connection Between Mental Health and Physical Health
by See Change Ambassador, Aisling
For me my mental health experience has always been strongly related to my physical health. It took me a long time to establish this link as I was so in my head that I became disconnected from my body, its needs, and the effect of those on my mental health. When I first became unwell I was having a lot of physical discomfort such as nausea, dizziness, exhaustion and chest pain. I spent a lot of time visiting doctors with these ailments and could not find a solution. It was only later when I was getting help for my mental health that these symptoms began to dissipate. I was shocked how much of an affect my emotional distress could have on me physically and it really motivated me to work on improving my mental health. For me it all clicked into place when I was taught a skill for emotional regulation that focuses on how neglecting the self care of our physical body makes regulating our emotions (a lot!) more challenging. Until then I had always viewed my mental and physical health as separate but they are more connected than I ever imagined.
Looking after myself physically has been a key foundation to my mental health recovery. On a day to day level this looks like; Eating a balanced diet, making sure I am eating regularly, A regular sleep pattern, Aiming to get movement outdoors every day, even if only for a very short walk and avoiding substances. These are things I often refer to as my ‘boring self-care’ but I have come to learn they are absolutely key to managing my mood and regulating my emotions. I often think of it as, there are many things that will be challenging in my day but I am not giving myself the best chance of handling them in a healthy way if I am lacking sleep or hungry. I have also noticed these have become even more key during lockdown.
I now know that my mental and physical health are so entwined that It is a warning signal I need to prioritise my mental health when physical symptoms such as exhaustion without obvious cause, chest pain and nausea start to interfere with my day. I know this is when I need to press pause and look after myself. I focus again on consistency of all the basics I mentioned before and assess if I need to seek more support. However it is important to note that my first action is always to consult my GP to assure me there is nothing new physically that is causing these symptoms.
However it is not always easy. When I’m struggling these are often the things that are hardest to achieve and both mood related and physical symptoms can get in the way. But I am so aware of the detrimental effects that neglecting them brings that they are my non-negotiables. Even if doing these small things means I can do nothing else that day that’s okay. Looking after yourself physically is a consistent reinforcement to yourself that you matter, and you deserve to be at your best, which we all do.
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