You are important. Your health is important.
When we talk about health, we are not just referring to your physical well-being. Yes, your physical health is essential to your overall wellness, but your mental, emotional, and spiritual health all matter, too. These different aspects of our being are all interconnected.
Picture this: Life has you stressed and anxious, causing you to lose sleep at night. You wake up feeling groggy and exhausted, only to find yourself irritable and unable to focus that day. You start to feel overwhelmed and notice yourself getting sick. Now you’re moving slower and your work quality is less than expected of you, so you give more and more of yourself away to try and compensate for your not-so-stellar quality work. By putting more time and energy into your work, you find yourself spending less time in prayer, less time exercising, and less time engaging in self-care. To cope, you eat comfort food and watch Netflix as an escape. You feel like trash, but can’t seem to regain control. This leads to more stress, lack of sleep, and the cycle continues. Any part of this sound familiar?
While this may not even be close to your exact situation, I think we can all relate in some capacity or another. Feeling overwhelmed, burned out, heavy, exhausted, mentally and physically drained. It is no surprise that when one area of our life is neglected, we feel it impacting other areas as well. For me personally, I’ve noticed that if it’s been too long since I’ve had my quiet time with God, I’ll start to be more snappy and short patient with people. I also find myself more overwhelmed. I don’t notice that this is the problem in the moment, but after I finally slow my world down I’m almost always able to pinpoint that missing piece. I also noticed that when I’m stressed, my immune system is weakened and I’m more prone to getting sick. Same goes for sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, eventually our sleep debts grow and this can lead to higher levels of sadness, irritability, anxiety and a whole host of other depressive symptoms. Further, poor eating and lack of exercise cause not only physical health issues, but they can definitely interfere with our view of ourselves and can even affect our hormones.
Our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health all play a major yet different role in our overall well-being. We want to make sure we are approaching our health holistically rather giving more attention to one area while neglecting another. One area is not more important than another, and given the connections between them, I wanted to go into detail about what it means to actually take care of each area.
Physical Health This one is the most straight forward. What have you done today that your body would thank you for? Have you nourished it? Sweated out your toxins? Eliminated any waste? Did you drink a ton of water? Get enough sleep? Stand up and stretch or give yourself a rest day if you’ve been at the gym, going hard every day this week? Or have you been eating poorly, drinking juice and pop, haven’t worked out in ages, and only been getting 6 or less hours of sleep faithfully? This isn’t to shame anybody. Trust me, I am not the healthiest person out here. But really consider your habits. Our bodies need nourishment. They need to feel loved. They need to feel cared about. In years to come as we age, we’ll be grateful for the habits we built today. Many of today’s health crises come from the foods we eat, a sedentary lifestyle, and sleep deprivation (which is severely undiscussed). Make a choice today to make healthy decisions for your body.
In the past few weeks, I’ve committed to making my physical health a priority. I didn’t go get a new gym membership or pay for a nutritionist. I made some reasonable changes that work for me. I started doing short, apartment-friendly, Youtube workouts every morning, and trust me, I still drip sweat all over the place. I started adding more fruits and veggies into my diet, and eliminating things that make me feel bloated and tired. I also started teaching myself to cook new things. I made zucchini and squash the other day and I’m on the road to perfecting brown rice. Again, change doesn’t have to be huge and dramatic. Just start somewhere.
Mental Health Our mental health is central to our entire being. While our physical body is what we use to operate, it is our mind that controls everything else. Any physical changes we make begin with us making the mental decision to do so. When our minds shut down, so does everything else. With that being said, it is absolutely critical that we make our mental health a priority. I think many people tend to shy away from the phrase “mental health”, and there is definitely a stigma associated with it, but why? Why can we talk about eating healthier or going to the gym more regularly, but we push our mental health to the side as if it is not as important as our physical well-being? Is it because it’s easier to hide our mental struggles? Regardless of what the reason may be, I want to urge anyone reading this to stop pushing the battles of your mind to the side. They are real and it is important to work through them. If you brush them off, never facing them, you will be hurting yourself from the inside out. The burdens we carry can and will build up and can cause some real damage if you aren’t careful. What are you holding in, pretending it isn’t that big of a deal?
While I am a huge advocate of mental health counseling, I am not suggesting that every single person needs to go find a therapist in this moment. Some of you may want to consider it and I encourage you to do so, but others may benefit from strategies such as talking with a close friend/family member, spending some time undergoing a healing process (check out my post Healing vs. Coping), journaling, or simply prioritizing some time for self care. Whatever you decide, first) be honest with yourself, and second) don’t downplay what you are experiencing. Your experience is real, your well-being matters, and you owe it to yourself to get the support you may need. Don’t let fear, pride, anyone, or anything else stand in the way of you reaching out for help if you need it. We all need a hand at some point or another.
Emotional Health I look at emotional wellness a bit differently than mental wellness. These two are the most difficult to separate given that our emotions stem from the way we think. Nonetheless, I still wanted to emphasize how our emotions impact our overall well-being. The way we perceive and analyze the situations we face can trigger certain emotions. While changing the way we think can in turn change the way we feel and react, it is a lot easier said than done. We can try hard all day long to change how we view a situation, but changing our hearts takes a bit more time. We have to train both our brains and our emotions to react differently. Being able to regulate our emotions is a skill in itself, but it is a skill that can be shaped over time.
Do you view yourself as an angry person? An over-reacter? Impulsive? Easily agitated? Always sad? Do others view you as these things? Our feelings are valid, but eventually there comes a point where we have to take ownership of how we feel. Yes, that person may have did you wrong, and yes, you’re allowed to be hurt by it, but you do not have to let them steal your joy. You don’t have to ruminate on it, replaying it day in & day out, thinking about how you’re going to tell them off and get back at them. I understand it can be difficult to “let it go”, but we have to learn how to manage our emotions in a way that is healthy for ourselves. You may feel like not saying anything is letting them off the hook, but it’s not about them. It’s about you and your overall emotional wellness. Think about how draining it can be to always exert so much energy into people. Lashing out all the time is not helpful to you. Being easily offended is not helpful to you. Being impulsive can be self-destructive. Being constantly irritated with everyone can lead to loneliness. So on and so forth.
This is not to blame you for the hurt that others have caused you, but I say this all the time – you cannot change anyone but yourself. When people complain to me about what someone else did, I empathize, but I’m also careful not to take sides. It’s not that I don’t understand and it’s not that I don’t agree, but I don’t like to have conversations about other people. If I do, I like to play devils advocate for the sake of getting the person I’m talking to focus on things they can control. You cannot control how people treat you or view you. You can only control how you react. Learning emotion regulation, choosing battles carefully, forgiving and moving forward, and even extending grace to others will go a long way. Most of all, you save yourself a great deal of emotional grief by doing so. Also, please note that it is near impossible to avoid negative emotions entirely, but that does not mean we have to constantly let those emotions get the best of us. This section is meant to serve as an encouragement to try and manage our emotions in a way that is healthy and beneficial to our overall well-beings.
Spiritual Health Spiritual can mean many different things to many different people. For me, it refers to a deep communion with God. While this is last in my post, it is actually nearest to my heart. The same way without a healthy body, a healthy mind, and healthy emotional responses, we don’t function at our best, without a healthy relationship with God, we also don’t function at our best. Can we get by? Maybe. At our greatest potential? Not at all. Investing time and effort into having a relationship with God has been the single most best decision I could have made (and continue to make). When we seek Him first, He allows everything else to fall into place. I can say from firsthand experience that when I focus on God, I worry less, I don’t feel as overwhelmed, I have more confidence and less fear, I forgive quicker, and I just genuinely feel better.
Some practical ways to incorporate more spirituality in your life are as follows: Writing out your prayers. Going to peaceful places and expressing gratitude for His creations. Starting an answered prayers jar. Having coffee/tea in the morning while you read a bible verse or chapter. Creating a space in your home specifically for prayer. Listening to praise and worship music during your commute. Watching sermons on Youtube. Going to the bathroom and venting to God instead of telling that person off like you really wanted to. Going to church or joining a Bible study. Going to cool spiritual-based events like a camp or a poetry slam. Planning a nice “date” with God. Serving and giving back to your community. I could go on and on. The point is that when we draw near to God, He draws near to us. He’ll bring us peace, comfort, guidance, clarity, hope, love, and so much more. This is yet another essential component to our overall health and wellness.
A holistic approach to wellness is so important to our human nature. What are some of your favorite things to do to take care of your health? Physical, Mental, Emotional or Spiritual. Let me know in the comments!