You Can’t Have a Healthy Body Without a Healthy Mind: The Mind-Body Connection & Self-Care
Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “Where the mind goes, the body will follow.” Taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health and taking care of your physical health can help improve your mental health. Why? Everything in your body is interconnected and works together. Your brain chemistry and biology affect both your emotions and thoughts, which in turn affect your stress levels, mood, and physical health.
Think about how your body responds to stress. On one hand, when you’re stressed, you might be worrying about your job, school, finances, relationships, or the future. Subsequently, you might experience nausea, GI problems, headaches, muscle tension, pain, or high blood pressure. Or, vice versa, when you experience daily pain, you might feel depressed or anxious. When you are depressed, anxious, and stressed you may not have the energy or mental capacity to respond to, manage or cope with your physical ailment. On the other hand, research suggests that if you have a positive outlook on life, you are better able to handle stress and pain.
So how do we care for our bodies in a way that nurtures both body and mind? In her book, Rhythms of Grace, Kerri Weems says, “If we understand the purpose of our bodies and the high value God placed on them, a desire to use them well should naturally follow…when I value something, how do I treat it? How do I insist others treat it?” One of my top recommendations for clients struggling with any type of stress, anxiety or depression is EXERCISE as part of their self-care routine. I know, I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Hey, they say it’s cheaper than therapy, right? 😉 Seriously though, exercise has both physical and mental advantages. Exercise directly affects the brain in a positive way and raises our bodies’ natural feel-good hormones, called endorphins. Other benefits include improved self-esteem and confidence, decreased negative self-talk, improved overall mood, decreased anxiety and depression, improved social skills, and improved cognitive functioning.
One common statement I often hear is, “I just don’t feel like exercising” or “I don’t have the energy.” That is very real for some people, especially someone struggling with depression. My advice is to start small, even if it’s only a few minutes. Set realistic, attainable goals. Don’t try to do everything all at once but act as if you are in the place you want to be in life. Help yourself succeed by recording those successes in a journal. Exercise doesn’t have to be extremely vigorous, so whether it’s walking, running, yoga, or lifting just get moving and make it something you enjoy! I’m not saying that exercise is a cure all, but for a lot of people it is extremely helpful.
Other forms of self-care might include:
1. Practice breathing exercises
3. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
4. Practice grounding & mindfulness
6. Positive self-talk
7. Eating a balanced diet
8. Proper hydration
9. Get enough sleep
10. Alternative Therapies such as massage, aromatherapy, and music therapy
11. Talk to a friend
12. Seek Professional Counseling
My favorite self-care things are making sure I get at least 15 minutes of quiet time, getting plenty of sleep, eating a balanced diet, exercise (yoga, cardio, weights), and making sure I drink plenty of water. Tell me what you do for self-care!
For some encouragement, Read 1 Cor 6:19-20, 3 John 1:2, and Phil 4:13.