Mental and Emotional Balance

Back at the beginning of this year, in my Minimalistic Health, Our Step One blog post I mentioned that mental and emotional well-being/balance one is often omitted to make the “7 Healers”. After this months blog, I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say I actually think that this Nature’s Healer definitely needs to be included in the list!

Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that many PHYSICAL factors, such as good food, water, sunshine and exercise are so important to our health. However, if we don’t look after our mental health and emotional well-being and find a balance in life, we are setting ourselves up for some serious burnout.

As you may have read before, I have been working as a Naturopath for almost 20 years. Whilst Sports Nutrition and working with athletes is my passion, I have seen a whole myriad of health conditions walk through the door over the years. One thing I am finding in clinic these days is the impact our busy lives and ‘busy-ness’ is having on our health.

As we spend less time working on our mental health and emotional well- being, it starts to impact and affect our physical health; poor immune health, fatigue, digestive complaints, and decreased physical performance in sports. Being stressed can even affect our ability to lose weight or keep lean. It never ceases to amaze me the impact that our mental health and well being has on our physical bodies.

Though I am a firm believer in treating every new client as an individual, and not running my case taking from a script, there are two questions almost every new client will be asked at some point;

“How stressed do you feel?” and, “What do you do for relaxation and to unwind?”.

Question one is usually answered with either an awkward laugh or a sigh, followed by something along the lines of, “as stressed as everyone else.”.

Question two is usually, after a long pause, “I USED to read/meditate/do yoga/walk, but I haven’t done that for ages.”

As we’ve been progressing over the months, I’ve been setting up challenges for all of us to try and improve our health, and now it’s your turn..

Firstly, I ask you to take a moment and think what your answers would be. How stressed, on a scale of 1 to 10, do you feel? Are you more chilled than the cucumber in a cucumber and mint margarita? Or are you running from a tiger, being chased by a T-Rex, whilst you finish you taxes and make dinner all at the same time? I really ask you to be honest with yourself. No judgement, no expectations, how stressed do you feel?

Secondly, I ask you to take a moment and reflect on when was the last time you did something POSITIVE for your mental health and emotional well being? It might have been colouring in, knitting, cooking for pleasure, reading, or meditation. When did you last do something that’s sole purpose was to help you unwind and feel good. For some of us, that ‘something’ might be getting a massage, a shampoo and blow dry at the salon, or a bush walk. For others it might have been a yin yoga class or a Cork and Canvas session with some girlfriends. And here’s a hint…. if you have to pull out your phone to go looking for a date in your calendar, or you are grasping at straws, then it’s been too long!

So, now that we’ve acknowledge the elephant in the room (stress, poor mental health and well-being), what can we do to address it?

This month I challenge you to do one thing daily to work on your mental health and well-being. It can be as big or as small as you’d like, but I encourage you to do at least ONE thing EVERYDAY.

Here is a short list of things you can try to get you started:

Journal/gratitude journal
Walking, running, cycling, swimming – for pleasure
Bush walk
Take a bath
Yoga, Tai chi, meditation, breathing techniques
Aromatherapy, oil burners, candles
Get a massage, or give yourself a foot rub
Listen to music
Dance
Gardening
Read a good book
Go out for a coffee with a friend or family member
Positive thinking, self talk (so important!)
Affirmations
Video or movies, theatre
Play games, or do a puzzles
Take a picnic
Take up an art or craft
Spend time with your pets
Talk; about life, yourself, your stresses – this could be with a friend, family member, or counsellor.

Now, I know doing one thing everyday may actually be stress-inducing to many of us! We already have our lives mapped out, schedules planned, and our days are full! I want you to think of your mental health and emotional well-being in the same way you think of going to the gym, training, and eating healthy; it takes time to change your habits. Just like going to the gym, start small; the first week you may find 5 minutes of meditation or journalling to be hard work, but by the end of the month you’ll be able to smash out an hour session!

My last tip for this months challenge is if you don’t make it a priority, it’s not going to change. Like every other aspect in our busy lives, you have to schedule time for your mental health and emotional well-being. Pop a reminder in your phone, block out a chunk of time in your planner, make a ‘do not disturb” sign for your bedroom door. If you find obstacles that prevent your from creating the time and space to relax, be creative and problem solve! Journal in the car whilst your kids are at their sports practice, instead of scrolling social media colour in for ten minutes. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and there is now time better than the present to start improving on your mental health and emotional well-being.