Why My Mental Health Is Just As Important As My Physical Health

Without making sure my mental health is in order, my physical and other types of health slowly start to deteriorate. How do you take care of your mental health? #MIAW2016 #breakthestigma #depression

The first week in October is Mental Illness Awareness Week. I first found out about it last year when I was diagnosed with depression. It’s been a year since I’ve written about those times (!), and even though I think it’s important to talk about it WHENEVER, I wanted to use today’s thinking out loud post to highlight it during this dedicated week.

In case you’re new or missed my journey last year, here are a couple posts dealing with it specifically:

Today’s post is a little different and is one that has been sitting in my drafts for some time. It seemed appropriate to pull it up and finish it this week, so I wanted to take some time and talk about why my mental health is just as important as my physical health.

For me, I consider four types of health when I think about living a well-balanced life. There’s my emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health — all of which are important for me to take care of lest I implode and am of no good to anyone.

When people hear the word “health,” more often than not the implication is physical. In making amends for the way I treated my body in the past, I show it respect by getting regular checkups, dentist visits, etc. I eat healthy a majority of the time and make sure that I don’t deny myself delicious foods too often since that could trigger me into a pattern of disordered eating again. I exercise. All of these things are important to me and I make sure to place them high on my list of priorities.

Before all of that, however, I need to make sure my mental health is in check.

If I am depressed, I can’t make those doctors appointments.

If I am anxious, I tend to eat either larger quantities of food or less healthy foods as a way of coping with that anxiety.

If my mental health is suffering, I’ll start to think that EXERCISE WILL MAKE ME FEEL BETTER and then possibly do it to excess (with little emotional effect or an injury).

It’s tougher to focus on your mental health. There are no objective numbers to examine such as blood pressure, weight, etc. Will therapy alone help or might you need a combination of therapy and medication? If you require medication, which medication? How long will it take to tell if it’s working? Do you need more than one type?

Assessing your mental health is often a personal responsibility that requires self-awareness and introspection, two things that many people are either too busy or too afraid of. There are no “annual therapy checkups” to figure out how healthy your mental state is.

As mental illness still carries somewhat of a stigma, albeit less than in past years, we also might not readily jump to something being off in that arena. “Maybe I just need to eat better.” “Maybe it’s the change of the seasons.” “Maybe it’s that time of the month (for us ladies).” The first thought may not be “maybe I’m depressed” or “maybe my anxiety is more serious than I thought.” We try to deal. We try to push on. And that’s a tough thing to do.

SO

The first thing I do whenever I start to feel like those four types of health are out of balance is to check in with myself. What’s going on? Which one is out of balance? What steps do I need to take to get everything in line again?

I didn’t focus on my mental health for a long time, but that’s because I didn’t realize that I needed to. I didn’t understand that I needed external help and that the ways I was feeling weren’t serving me productively (I hesitate to use the word “normal”). Now that I’m aware that I suffer from depression and anxiety, I know I need to check in with myself on a regular basis. Without me being as healthy as I can in that area, every other area starts to fall apart.

I look at it as a responsibility to myself first and foremost, but also my husband, my family, my clients, my coworkers, and my readers. It’s important to take care of every part of yourself in order to find the balance and the love we all deserve.

Take a little time today to check in with yourself. See how you’re feeling. If you’ve been struggling, reach out for help. It’s not always easy, but it just might save your life. 🙂

Without making sure my mental health is in order, my physical and other types of health slowly start to deteriorate. How do you take care of your mental health? #MIAW2016 #breakthestigma #depression

Photo Credit: Alexandria Heidner

Questions:

  • How do you check in with yourself?
  • How can you do better about examining your mental health?
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25 Comments

  1. October 6, 2016 / 6:09 am

    One of the reasons I went the holistic route with my nutrition schooling was for the mind-body-spirit connection. I truly believe they are intertwined and agree with you that health goes well beyond the physical.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…Does It Give You A Better Life?My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:41 pm

      It’s so important to take care of all of it! Good for you girl 🙂

  2. October 6, 2016 / 6:42 am

    Such an awesome post, Erin! It’s definitely harder to focus on your mental health because there are “no numbers” like you said, but I think it’s a necessary challenge for anyone to tackle. When I start trying to do a million things at once and get upset at dumb little things that’s how I know I need to take a step back and breathe!
    Marina @ A Dancer’s Live-It recently posted…What They Don’t Tell You About Being a DancerMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:42 pm

      Totally. It’s taken awhile to understand those things about myself, but it’s so important!

  3. October 6, 2016 / 7:15 am

    Yep. When I neglect my mental/emotional health, my physical health definitely suffers. It’s kind of crazy that after just shy of 2 months on an SSRI, I already feel better *physically* (less tension).
    Honestly, I think mental health has benefited from bloggers and social media. So many people (like yourself) are sharing their stories and others are able to relate in a way that they simply couldn’t if they depended on just their GP’s advice. People think “hey, that sounds like me” and pay attention to their emotional health. Not saying we should just diagnose ourselves, obviously, but having the conversation is definitely beneficial!
    Catherine @ A Cup of Catherine recently posted…My Struggle With Anxiety (+ National Depression Screening Day)My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:42 pm

      Yay that’s great! Yeah, I think it at least makes people aware and then they can start those discussions!

  4. October 6, 2016 / 8:18 am

    This is a great post. I also struggle with depression and anxiety. If I don’t tend to those needs when I’m going through a rougher patch, all other aspects of my health will also suffer.
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…TOL: Learning to BreatheMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:43 pm

      Absolutely. I feel you girl 🙂

  5. October 6, 2016 / 8:44 am

    Thanks for writing so openly and honestly about mental health and checking in on yourself. This is something that I deal with all the time on the postpartum depression boards. People don’t understand the symptoms and then are so resistant to getting medication when needed for it because of the stigma on mental health.

    Every little bit helps.
    Molly recently posted…OK…the Cliches are Coming TrueMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:44 pm

      Of course! It’s so important. The more people realize the symptoms, hopefully the more they will take time to look at themselves and ask those questions!

  6. October 6, 2016 / 8:51 am

    Great post! I like how you look at those four areas and check in worth yourself on how you’re doing in each of them. I should consider doing that. It’s always been hard for me to separate it all since they seem so intertwined. How do you do it?

    Forexample, I have been thinking about the terms mental health and physical health a lot lately. I really think mental health IS physical health. The brain is the most complex organ of the body. And mental health can affect us physically. Thinking about it that way has helped me realize it’s ok to take medicine for my depression and anxiety. It also helps me get out for a walk or other exercise and eat healthier – because those things affect my mental/physical health.

    Still, I think I like your approach and will try to separate mental health for self-evaluation but then consider it part of my physical health for addressing any needs. Then I can be flexible on how I respond and pinpoint what I need, mentally and/or physically. Thanks for making me think about this!
    Adam @ Create Happy Quest recently posted…I Choose (To Fight For) HappinessMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:47 pm

      I agree that they’re closely related. The way I think about it is that my mental health is a lot of my thoughts and how those affect my behaviors. The physical for me is stuff like weight, blood pressure, and more objective measurements. My mental health is physical when I need to take medication when all else doesn’t help, but then that helps my thoughts and behaviors and things that aren’t as easily measured. Does that make sense?

  7. October 6, 2016 / 9:11 am

    Erin, this is so TRUE. Sometimes, we just focus on one element of health, but it causes the other parts of the whole person to suffer. I think we were definitely made a soul, body, and mind, and it’s SO important to evaluate that mental health before doing things that would affect us physically.

    I’m always caused to think by your posts on mental health, and I’m thankful you keep the conversation open.
    Emily recently posted…WIAW: Why Stress Kills My AppetiteMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:47 pm

      Aw thanks Emily! Always appreciate you reading!

  8. October 6, 2016 / 11:57 am

    I think we all sometimes forget that health means all four of those areas you mentioned. It’s definitely hard to know how your mental health is without the numbers. I always find I feel so much better when I’m stressed or anxious when I talk with a close friend or my husband about the situation. Thanks for sharing this!
    Patricia @Sweet and Strong recently posted…Killer Abs Circuit WorkoutMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:48 pm

      Totally. I never used to talk to anyone, but it helps so much to just open up to someone else who can help.

  9. October 6, 2016 / 12:37 pm

    It’s taken a while, but I’m pretty good at checking in mentally on a daily basis. When things are mentally good, then I can do things like keep my house clean and go to barre on a regular basis. For me, keeping my mental health in check is the most important.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Currently: October 2016My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:49 pm

      It took me a long time too. Thankfully w practice it’s gotten easier to check in!

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 9, 2016 / 7:49 pm

      Totally. Thanks for reading girl!

  10. October 22, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    Yes, yes, yes. This is so important…. nobody talks about getting an annual mental health check, but maybe somebody should get on that and make it mandatory! I mean, everybody (and I mean, EVERYBODY) would benefit from that.
    San recently posted…Currently | OctoberMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 28, 2016 / 10:00 am

      Totally! It’s sometimes the last thing we think about!

  11. October 30, 2016 / 2:24 pm

    This is such an amazing post! I’m currently pursuing my BA in psychology and I intend to earn my Ph.D. in clinical psychology. One of my many career goals is to put an end to the stigma around mental illness and raise awareness about how vital mental health is. Not to be catastrophic, but to prove my point I often point out that someone could be the most physically healthy person to ever exist, but that’s irrelevant if they have an unhealthy mind and become suicidal.
    And your last bit of advice, “If you’ve been struggling, reach out for help. It’s not always easy, but it just might save your life” hits so close to home as I just last week admitted myself to a treatment program because i realized that despite my best efforts, I needed more help. Even now, only 6 days later, I know that making that call might have saved my life.

    • erinsinsidejob
      October 31, 2016 / 11:10 am

      Hi Lauren! I’m so glad you were able to reach out and get help. That’s not an easy thing. Also lots of luck in your studies! The more people we have to help break the stigma the better!

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