Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Mental fitness
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
How physically fit and strong are you? Do you have an exercise regimen that includes weightlifting or aerobic activity or resistance training or endurance training? Do you try to watch what you eat and get appropriate hydration and plenty of quality sleep?
Good for you! I believe that mental and physical health are fundamentally linked and together are the recipe for retaining the best possible quality of life.
Mental strength and a sense of emotional wellness are the rewards we earn for taking good care of our emotional depths. For example, we can manage frustration and other difficulties encountered along life’s path, build healthy and fulfilling relationships with others, and allow for the appropriate expression of the emotion that is triggered in our daily lives.
But just like physical fitness, being mentally/emotionally fit requires exercise, intentional attention and consistency. Let’s take a look:
- Manage Stress! As I’ve said in this space before, stress is something that we generate and can easily “feed” without awareness. But stress that is mounting can damage both emotional and physical fitness. Stress is part of the human experience, BUT it is important to keep it contained by managing it and finding an outlet for it. Examples: a daily workout, a hobby, guided imagery and relaxation, or sometimes just the simple petting of a beloved pet.
- Seek Balance! It is a fact that we are pulled in a million different directions in one day, so “finding balance” is hard! A schedule packed with self-imposed expectations, along with the added expectations of others, can create overwhelm and despair. It also can eat away at any semblance of control, resulting in feelings of powerlessness. Simply put, it’s important to tackle your schedule before that schedule tackles you. If we don’t plan for some fun and for some down time (just as we plan our agendas filled with a list of “to-dos”), we will run out of gas completely! Take charge!
- Accept Mistakes! Mistakes are inevitable, but how we process them can derail us and result in self-inflicted condemnation, or they can merely create awareness that we then can correct and move on. It is so important to remember: I will make mistakes, but I am not a mistake!
- Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff! Yes, this has become somewhat of a cliché, which is unfortunate because then the significance of the statement gets watered down. But … if we can quickly release the power of small annoyances, they will not have a chance to stockpile in our minds and cause major undue stress, frustration and overwhelm. Stockpiling means small annoyances have been allowed to have major disruption in our self-evaluations. Simply … just don’t allow it!
- Build Relationships! The absolute best combatant against symptoms of aloneness, loneliness, isolation and despair, all of which can lead to depressed mood, is the mere existence of healthy connections in life. When one is surrounded by a healthy support system, relationships that champion you and care about your welfare, this support can shore you up against the downward spiral of depression. Easily said … nurture and cherish those intimate and reciprocal friendships in your life. They certainly will chase away the boo birds.
Just like physical fitness, mental/emotional hygiene can be accomplished more easily with hard work. Practicing the tips above will enrich the quality of your life just as chin-ups, sit-ups, weightlifting and aerobic activity can improve the quality of your physical fitness.
When both are working in tandem, however, an extremely remarkable leap occurs in health! You will begin to feel whole, fulfilled and energetic – ready to conquer what’s ahead!