Physical Health vs. Mental Health
It’s no secret that physical health is more widely sought after than mental health, but why is that? We all have a body and we all have a mind, so why don’t we care for them equally? We seem to attach a stigma to the pursuit of mental health, but we encourage the pursuit of physical health. It may be true that the level of scrutiny we have over either aspect of ourselves has not served us. After all, the instance of preventable physical ailments and mental pathologies like suicide and depression are on the rise. More and more research has concluded that the two are interdependent, which would support a more holistic approach to health.
Through this research, we are learning that you can’t treat one without the other. If you want to address physical health issues you have to go to the root cause. Yet, the pursuit of mental health is commonly judged, stereotyped and frowned upon. I come from an integrative care perspective where mind and body are connected and depend on each other for optimum health and function. I notice when I am feeling down, I don’t want to work out. However, if I convince myself to go for a walk or run, my mind starts to shift, and I begin to feel better. Emotions are energy in motion (e-motion), and our emotions are stored in the mind and the body.
We live in a society that is overly critical about appearance. Put simply, we want to look good so that we feel accepted. Our physical health is visible on the outside and we tend to care what people think. Our mental health is easier to hide, and we can put on a mask that says, “I’m doing great!” no matter what is really happening on the inside. Unfortunately, when we do this we suffer. It’s like only washing your car but never getting the oil changed, eventually it will break down.
It is vulnerable to admit we are struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, relationship issues, postpartum depression, finances, childhood abuse, grief, family, stress, life transitions, trauma, addiction, sexual difficulties, illness, intimacy – the list could go on. Facing our suffering and emotions is scary and it can feel easier to avoid. The good news is we are not alone. The self-conscious feeling that we are the only one going through this and we don’t want to feel judged for going to therapy is what keeps us from achieving mental health. If we all took off our masks, we would find out we are not suffering alone. When we choose to suffer in silence, we feel isolated. When we open up about our pain to a friend, loved one, therapist, coach, boss etc. we feel lighter and more at ease.
Bringing equal attention to our physical and mental health creates whole person wellness. Tending to our mind and body will boost our overall health. We go to the gym and eat well to stay healthy and prevent disease. In the same way, we can work on our mental health to prevent emotional breakdown, addiction and isolation. We are all human beings having an emotional experience. Our bodies react to what is happening in our mind. It’s no coincidence that there are links between diabetes and depression and hypertension and stress. We spend money on our gym memberships, yoga classes, Pilates, CrossFit without hesitation. Let’s show our mind some love and let go of the stigma.