From the CONCERN: EAP Resilience Library
An ancient Latin saying goes, “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” For hundreds of years, it’s been the motto for athletic clubs and sporting associations, which often use it to emphasize that physical exercise and health are essential for mental wellbeing. But, if you dig back to the original, it appears that the author was referring more to the way mental and physical wellness are equally important and inextricably connected.
Modern behavioral and health sciences have shed new light on that connection, exposing just how much our mental and physical health depend on each other. Though we’re generally aware how important it is to stay physically fit (eating well, exercising, visiting doctors, etc.), we don’t always give our mental health the same attention. But it doesn’t have to be that way: we can, and should, take the same proactive approach to mental wellness that we do to physical health. Here’s why.
Not Just All in Your Mind
Focusing on your psychological wellbeing can help you have:
- Stronger sense of contentment
- Increased ability to laugh and enjoy life
- Flexibility to learn new things
- Adaptability to change
- More fulfilling relationships
- Greater self-confidence and self-esteem
These benefits are like the ingredients that combine to form a fuller, more balanced life. Incidentally, they’re also very closely linked to the methods and mechanisms we use to cope with stress, surmount challenges, build relationships, and bounce back from life’s setbacks and hardships. If all that sounds familiar, it’s because those same methods and mechanisms are the ones we use to help build resilience!
Thinking About Mental Wellness
Before diving in too deep, it’s important to dispel a common myth about mental wellbeing: it’s not about living a life absent of bad times, disappointments, or emotional hardships. Challenges and rough patches are normal, and sometimes even helpful.
Rather, it’s about learning how to cope with sadness, anxiety, and stress, and growing stronger from the experience. Just like physically resilient people can bounce back faster from bodily injury, the mentally resilient can more readily recover from setbacks and emotional pain.
Here are some proactive ways to help elevate your mood, manage thoughts, and promote overall mental wellness.
- Trust your emotional intuition: Innately, we’re pretty good at recognizing when we’re approaching a rough emotional patch. In these times, we might be tempted to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, or other self-destructive behaviors. But there are healthier, more productive and more mindful alternatives. Of course, if these feelings persist or impact your daily life for a significant period, consider working through them with a licensed counselor or therapist.
- Reframe stressors: Not all stressors need to exert equal amounts of pressure on our mental and emotional state. By reframing your perception, you’ll be better able to see stressors as challenges, not catastrophes, and act calmly and collectedly to overcome them.
- Focus on your Circle of Influence: By taking the time and energy you’d spend trying to change things that you can’t control, and putting them into the things you can, you can accomplish more, while getting disappointed and frustrated less.
- Build social connections: It’s good to know that we’re not alone when we’re going through tough times. Research shows that close friends and strong social networks are important mentally, emotionally, and physically.
- Increase emotional intelligence (EQ): Stress can also be relationship based. The social skills associated with higher EQs can help you modify your behavior when interacting with the people in your life, to help improve and deepen personal and work relationships.
- Practice mindfulness: Moment-to-moment awareness of your thoughts and feelings, without the cloud of self-judgment, can help you recognize your stress triggers. Once aware, you’ll be able to pause those triggers before they set off inappropriate or unhelpful behavior, and instead choose alternative actions that are more productive.