I am not going to tell you how to lose X amount of pounds. I am not going to tell you about “the latest, amazing diet product” that will make you burn fat and poop rainbows. I am going to tell you how to start your health journey today and stick to it for good. To do that, you must start creating a healthy mind first. Then, you will start to see real physical changes. I know it sounds cliché and something only the kale chewing hippies spout, but they are actually on to something guys. It is true that to get a healthy body, you need a healthy mind. The two are so intertwined you wouldn’t believe it- Not only does poor mental health negatively impact physical health, but poor physical health can directly influence mental health itself…
The Mind-Body Connection- How Mental Illness Impacts This.
When you are under mental/physical stress, your body releases elevated levels of cortisol. It is so important to understand what cortisol is, because it is playing a huge part in your life. Cortisol is a steroid hormone which regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body including metabolism and the immune response. It also has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress. When you have a mental illness such as Depression or Anxiety (These are the two I have experienced and am most familiar with), your cortisol levels can sky-rocket. This can cause-
- Rapid weight gain mainly in the face, chest and abdomen contrasted with slender arms and legs
- A flushed and round face
- High blood pressure
- Skin changes (ie, bruises and purple stretch marks)
- Muscle weakness
- Mood swings which show as anxiety, depression or irritability
- Increased thirst and frequency of urination.
It Is Not Your Fault…
Depression and Anxiety are genuine physical and mental illnesses and it is important to understand that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You are not to blame. I believe there is so much stigma surrounding mental health because people do not realise that it is an actual illness where the chemical structure of your brain actually changes. Not everyone will develop a mental illness, but we are all so different and some of us have factors that make us more prone such as genetic pre-disposition, PTSD, Loss, Grief, changes in hormones and life changes such as moving, going to university, leaving university, a loss of a partner/friend… there are so many things that cause stress from being normal stress to a full blown illness and of course there is the added factor of coping, because we all cope differently. Just because one person seems to be coping more than you, does not mean you are failing or not good enough. It took me a long time to recover from my mental Illness and I really believe that putting my health first and seeking help was the biggest stepping stone ever.
… But You Can Do More To Help Yourself.
In some instances, medication is required/recommended in order to help recover or cope. I have been in the position before where my doctor said that I maybe needed to try medication to help control the symptoms I was suffering from. I went home with anti-depressants that day for Depression/Anxiety and OCD, but I decided to never take the pills. I do agree that medication can help, but for me and this is my own personal opinion, whilst the pills could soften the intense feelings I was experiencing, it would never cure me. I wanted how I felt to be gone for good, not softened. Always take your doctors advice, but understand there are other things you can do also.
Eating Well And Exercising Was My Stepping Stone To Good Mental Health.
The main thing I believe really helped me deal with stress initially was eating healthy whole foods, becoming a vegetarian overnight, cutting back on sugar and exercising regularly. Eating a healthy balanced diet and being active works wonders on the brain and of course on your physical health. These benefits include but are not limited to:
- Stimulates brain cells and strengthens communication between brain cells
- Sleeping well, which helps grow and repair brain cells
- Improved Alertness
- Feelings of Happiness
- Increased releases of feel-good endorphin’s
- Lower Stress Levels
- Overall finding it easier to cope
- Increased Confidence
- Clearer skin and more energy
Just feeling better physically and having clearer thoughts made it not only easier for me to cope with my mental illness, but it made me realise my worth. I knew I deserved happiness and health and changing my physical health gave me the stepping stone I needed to work on my mental health. Was it easy? No, not at all.
You have to work on this day in and day out. Even when you do not feel motivated to exercise, just do it anyway, even if it is a walk. I forced myself to wake up early every morning and go for a walk. Sometimes I would run. It didn’t matter, I made myself go outside and this normally set me up for a good day and improved my mood. At University, despite my anxiety and shyness, I forced myself to join a cheerleading team. At the time, I didn’t know I had underlying health problems (see my surgery experience video), but this did help me massively, even if I did not attend some weeks. Despite having underlying health issues, exercise made me feel really, really good about myself. I felt accomplished and looking back, I am even more proud of myself because I had no idea at the time how much stress my body was under.
How To Start Working On Your Mental Health
- Get a journal or planner- I am serious. It works wonders. Keep track of your moods, what you are eating at what time all of this occurs. Note down when you are feeling sad, good, depressed, anxious and then try and figure out what caused it. Become mindful of how you are feeling as there could be an underlying cause that could be something as simple as an allergy or even environment.
- Set realistic goals- Setting goals that are unrealistically high not only induce stress but when they are not achieved, it makes you feel like a failure. Set small achievable goals in realistic time frames.
- Value Yourself- Stop critising yourself, insulting yourself and just be kind to yourself. Tell yourself every day that you are beautiful and worthy- even if you dont believe it and it makes you cringe when you say it. Just do it. You will start to believe it. We believe the things we always tell ourselves so if you are feeding yourself horrible words, that is what you will believe.
- Value Others And Be Grateful– Surround yourself with positive kind people and remove all toxic influences from your life, you have no use for them. Write a list of all the things you are grateful for. Keep going until that list fills up the page. Stick it to your wall and read it every day. You are blessed in so many ways. Focus on the good in your life, not the negative.
- Know when to ask for help- Sometimes we can not do everything on our own and that is okay. Know when you need some extra help. Seeing a counselor and a doctor was such a big jump for me and I really did not want to do it, but it forced me to accept that something needed to change and it encouraged me to start my own personal health journey.
That is the end of this post today. I could talk about this forever so if you want some help and advice, you can get in touch through my contact page or you can send me an email @ email@example.com – It will obviously be fully confidential and I will do my best to help. I love you all- for more content, please do not forget to follow my blog and give this post a like. You can find me on Instagram @elizabethshannonn (with two N’s) on Youtube at Elizabeth Reilly and on FB at Miss Elizabeth Shannon. See you next time