The pandemic has renewed focus on mental health, with mental health checkups as important as physicals and key to developing healthy mental health habits.
You notice the check engine light comes on and visit a mechanic. You notice you are having flu-like symptoms and visit the doctor. What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? When your interest in doing things dwindles? When you find yourself tired or sleeping less?
Perhaps chronic headaches, shoulder pain, nausea, chest tightness, or difficulties breathing have less to do with our physical health and more with our mental health. It is common to simply plow through these sensations thinking, “I have a deadline… Work has been too stressful… I’ve been sick…” And this may be true.
The Mind-Body Connection
However, it’s not good to ignore these physical and emotional sensations, particularly after they’ve been around for a while. They can negatively affect the connection between physical and mental health. Symptoms such as anxiety or depression can affect physical health, leading to obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure, to name a few. The cycle is vicious.
Staying in touch with one’s emotions, thinking, and behavior boosts resilience, can lower anxiety or depression, improve symptom management and lead to better outcomes.
How to Develop a Healthy Mental Health Habits
A good self-help strategy and an excellent habit is to set aside five to 10 minutes per day to check-in. You can do this at the beginning of the day or at the end of the day, or both. During a self-check-in, simply start with a head-to-toe body scan and identify how your body feels. Tense? Rested?
Then move to understand any emotions or thinking associated with how your body feels. You may learn that your rapid heart rate is related to a sense of anxiety about a work-related project. During self-reflection, simply consider how the day went. There is no need to judge or try to change anything. Simply notice what you could have done differently, or better yet, what you want to do again that brought you joy.
This increased awareness of our physical and mental feelings will enhance our sense of resiliency over things we might not otherwise be able to change or control and become healthy mental health habits.
It’s OK to Get Help
The connection between physical and mental health is a vital one and often underestimated or poorly understood. You do not need to wait to feel depressed or anxious, or have chronic pain, or insomnia, to seek help. It is incredibly reassuring to seek help from a mental health professional. One could learn that a set of symptoms or feelings are quite “normal” under or that is time to receive help, and more importantly, that help is available.
Recently, my social media savvy teenage niece wisely posted, “Focus on yourself and don’t feel bad about it, it’s needed sometimes.” Life’s demands often prevent us from self-care, taking priority over taking care of ourselves: the pandemic, unemployment, divorces, deaths, political uproar and many other things. To best be able to handle these demands, it’s so important to take time to take care of you.
Healthcare Network’s mental and behavioral health team is offering up to three free visits with mental health providers through March. To make an appointment, call 239-658-3185. Appointments are available via telehealth or at Healthcare Network’s Nichols Community Health Center in Golden Gate. Learn more at healthcarenetwork.org/behavioral-health.
By Diana J. Chavez, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist with Healthcare Network
Oct 01, 2020 | Integrated Behavioral Health