When we think of poor mental or emotional health, we often refer to symptoms such as feeling down, extreme reactions, constant states of anxiousness, hopelessness or the feeling of worthlessness. These are just a few of the many emotional and mental symptoms of Depression and General Anxiety Disorder.
However, there are many physical symptoms that can be directly linked to poor mental or emotional health. Digestive issues, poor sleep or muscular pains all have the potential to be overlooked as being strictly physical. However, when our health is not looked at from a whole-person or holistic perspective, it is easy to write such ailments off and pop a painkiller.
So, what would we notice if we did stop or pause and take heed of our whole health? We would see patterns and correlations between our mental, physical and emotional health. Many of us - whether diagnosed with anxiety or not - are aware of the sensations of 'butterflies in our stomach' when we feel anxious. Under stress, our adrenaline and cortisol levels are effected, with some experiencing elevated blood pressure levels or feel tension in muscles such as the jaw, neck or shoulders. Nervousness can be met with a loss of appetite, depression with an altered libido.
However. the most concerning fact is that these are just the tip of the iceberg and the consequences can be severe. Take my story as an example -
Following a long period of massive stresses - a house move, two job changes in a year, a strained marriage and experiencing the early onset of my child's future ADHD diagnosis - I finally went to the doctor after two days of severe headaches that I chose to work through, chewing pain-killers as if they were jellybeans. Thirty-six hours (and one work shift) after this GP appointment, I sat in front of an ophthalmologist who rushed me to hospital where I stayed for ELEVEN days. In my case, stress had manifested into Optic Neuritis - an inflammation of the nerve endings which have suffered permanent damage as a result. The lack of self care and need to 'push through' had me days away from losing most of my sight.
While for many, this may seem an extreme case, it still took me some time to truly recover. While very slowly working toward changing the factors of my life that lead to this, each time stress manifested, it would knock me about through migraines, excessive tiredness, no libido, bronchitis and my first ever UTI. My immunity was so poor, most aspects of my life were negatively effected.
These symptoms - while lesser in severity compared to optic neuritis - are common symptoms of all aspects of health being in a poor, unaligned state. They are the culmination of using ineffective responses such as avoidant behaviours to handle mental health challenges.
These symptoms are all preventable. As cliched as it is, the old adage rings very true!
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
All is not lost! By taking just five minutes of your day - in the shower, on the work commute, before you go to bed - take time to pause and complete a body scan. Body scans are a great way to gain awareness of your whole self, identifying where and how you physically experience your life, feelings, thoughts, etc.
Sensations to look for include, but are not limited to -
Muscle Tension (e.g. - neck and shoulders)
Specific Pain points (e.g. - eye, neck, spine)
Skin Irritations (e.g. - hives, breakouts)
Nausea/ Digestive issues
Once you have identified these, take note of the following -
What triggers instigate these feelings?
How do you emotionally and physically respond to these triggers?
When do they subside?
By recognising the hows and whys, you will gain a better understanding of the state of your health. For more specific information on how to align your physical, mental and emotional health into a state of well being, or how to complete a body scan and incorporate this into your every day routine, please feel free to call/email me or join our Mindful Mums Facebook group, which will be up and running later this week.