Fundamentally, you and I both know that there is an obvious link between physical and mental health.
If you’re physically ill, you’re most likely suffering mentally as well, and vice versa. If you struggle with mental illness, you’re probably already are aware of the enormous impact it has on your physical wellbeing.
Since I was tiny little baby, I’ve always struggled with stomach problems. More recently I was diagnosed under the umbrella of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). This means that there is quite a number of foods that I can not eat. Sometimes even smelling those foods makes me nauseas. I’ve had to cut out lactose, and all things that are tomato based, like stews, curries and pasta sauces. I can’t eat leek, radish, turnip, raw onion or parsnip, but the list goes on. One of the biggest triggers for my IBS is stress.
Seeing as I am by nature an anxious person who is easily stressed, it often becomes very overwhelming very quickly. This is mostly because sometimes I can’t pin point the exact stress factor which is causing the flare up of symptoms. So for me it’s important to eliminate stress.
Impossible, trust me, I know!
The thing is, you can’t eliminate stress entirely but you can make decisions that reduce it.
Recently I made a decision which I realised very quickly was a mistake as my physical symptoms began getting worse and thus so did my mental health. The usual things started to kick in. I started to feel panicky all the time, I became paranoid and I felt like something terrible was right around every corner. But then I realised something.
I made that choice to learn a lesson, a lesson about what I can handle and what’s right for me. No two individuals are the same. It’s nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about, in fact, acknowledgment and the conscious decision to make a positive change is something to be proud of.
At the end of the day the only person whose opinion counts is your own. If you are able to own any decision you’ve made, then those around you will see the positivity radiate out of you and that’s what matters. Because just as your mental health can negatively effect your physical health, your mental health can actively positively change your physical health for the better.
Notice, when you’re amidst an anxiety attack, you probably feel like your end is rapidly approaching.
Your heart rate staggers through the roof, you can hear it pounding in your head, you get the shakes in parts of your bodies, for me it’s always the legs. You feel icy cold from the inside out and everything feels entirely out of your control. What you realise after the attack, more often than not, is that you are able to control the physical reactions going on in your body. The best way to do this is to realise it’s a chemical reaction and you are in charge. Your fight or flight mechanisms have kicked in, so what are you going to do to actively positively change what’s physically going on?
There is no secret pill to take that will make this positive change occur, but you can make the conscious decision to focus on the one thing that continually remains with you.
Your breath is so important, it’s your life force- your prana (used in Hindu and yogic philosophy to define the life force within each individual. Animate and inanimate). By allowing the breath into the body you are allowing nourishment to reach each individual cell in your energy field.
The breathing technique I find most useful is to breathe in and count: one, two, three, four. Hold your breath: five, six and breathe out: seven, eight, nine, ten. I repeat it as many times as necessary, until I feel everything slow down. I also find it helpful to put both hands on my belly so that I am reminded to deep belly breathe as you feel it contract and expand with each breath.
Once you’re able to control your breathing, you will notice that everything else will too begin to slow down. That’s the perfect example of your mental health effecting your physical health.
If you are unable to do this for yourself, it’s important that you have a support system around you who is able to remind you to breathe when you most need it. Know that it’s okay to ask for help. Know that it’s okay to say no to things without feeling guilty and know that your physical and mental health comes above all else, no matter what.