It is a simple question but can also be so deep. I am a self-proclaimed introvert and grew up not really being able to express my feelings. I recall a few years ago seeking help from a mental health therapist as I was feeling overwhelmed.
My type A personality could not establish a healthy work-life balance on my own and it was absolutely killing me. Work was busy and the expectations seemed to be piling up. My two sons at the time were toddlers and mom- guilt was real and in full effect.
I didn’t feel like myself both physically and emotionally, so I finally set up an appointment. I just knew that this was just me feeling overwhelmed and wanted someone to tell me how to manage it all, but the reality was, I wasn’t being kind to myself.
I learned that I was “micromanaging myself” and placing “unrealistic expectations” of myself which only made
me feel defeated when I didn’t meet them. When my therapist asked, “how are you doing?” I instinctively said, “I’m fine!” It was my go-to response for everything whether I was fine or not. It was an easy way out and my way of
coping. I would convince myself to just “buckle down and get it done” (whatever the task was) and at the end, it would be fine.
One day she called me out on it and chuckled as I said yet again, “I’m fine” “But are you?” She challenged me to pause the next time someone asked me that question and to reflect on how I was really feeling.
In May, I facilitated the first Mommination Town Hall shortly after a difficult few weeks involving mass shootings in America. Many of the moms that I associate with were deeply hurting, not only for the children and elderly involved but that it also reminded them of their own personal struggles seemingly out of their control and it was all too much.
My antennas went up and I just wanted a safe space for us to all talk as well to provide some resources on how to manage. The discussion was pure and flowed organically and I thank all of the women who attended but more importantly shared their concerns and recommendations.
As a Physical Therapist and Wellness Coach, I encourage people daily to move their body to:
● help them recover from an injury
● help them manage chronic pain
● help them restore a functional impairment such as learning how to walk again
● help them get stronger to return to work or sport
But none of those areas improve as expected or timely when my patient is also dealing with stressors that affect their mental health. “If a patient or client isn’t emotionally well and doesn’t have support in their lives, the typical ‘physical health’ piece may not be a priority in their life at this point.” Kelsey Pruss.
The best outcomes occur when care is collaborated across specialties. So, when my antennas go up with patients or clients, strategies are given but also an appropriate referral is made when needed.
As a follow up to that discussion, here are a few more details on some of the definitions that came up with additional lifestyle management tips that you can start now from a physical therapist/wellness coach perspective.
As always, this is health advice only and I do not take mental health conditions lightly so if you are experiencing intense symptoms that are not easily managed and last for a few weeks, please seek out a professional medical provider.
Mental and emotional exhaustion.
By definition, is “chronic physical and mental exhaustion due to high levels of prolonged stress”
Can result in:
● changes in mood-apathy
● difficulty concentrating
● trouble sleeping
● withdrawal from relationships
● decreased performance
● a general feeling of “i don’t care”
According to Psychology Today, Languishing is: This is the absence of mental health as defined by the American Psychology Association: It is not a health condition or a clinical illness instead it is a state of “feeling stuck” not burnt out not quite right not depressed… just meh
● Feeling disconnected or disassociated with your coworkers
● Being irritable, confused or sad
● Inability to get excited about new projects
● Cynicism about your leaders, colleagues or career.
In your personal life it can look like
● a sense of emptiness or existential crisis
● an absence of well-being although not sick
● inability to describe feelings
● engaging in risky or inflammatory behaviors to try to break the blah feeling.
● Take care of yourself – sleep, eat, exercise, develop/maintain strong interpersonal
● Take time for yourself (working – take a day(s) off)
● Have a strong WHY/purpose/just cause
● Take time to reflect on success and struggles
● Set reasonable expectations
● Set small goals
● Show gratitude, empathy and other positive emotions
● Communicate openly and often about how you are feeling
● Find ways to use your core talents and skills (may or may not be at work, do it at home, prioritize what makes you happy)
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t also give some healthy lifestyle tips to help you through this season. Here are a few tips using the Lifestyle Medicine approach to health.
● “results strongly support previous evidence on the beneficial effects of acute exercise on well-being and stress levels” (September 2019 Mental Health and Prevention)
● In patients with widespread chronic pain aerobic and strengthening exercises can reverse deconditioning, improve sleep, reduce pain and improve function. Sleep 7-9 hours recommended nightly
● lack of sleep is associated with decreased cognition
● difficulty regulating pain
● Consume whole plant foods reduce risks of depression
● Consume foods high in Polyphenols (dark chocolate, tea, red wine, berries) and Quercetin (seed, grains, kale, onions) can help improve mood
● avoid foods in high animal fat as it has a negative effect on mood
● Sit quietly for at least 5 minutes per day.
● Inhale 5 seconds in followed by exhale 5 seconds out.
● This cycle helps to regulate your vagus nerve and thus calm your autonomic nervous system.
If you do find yourself needing more to manage your mental health when these tips don’t help, please contact your medical doctor or professional and ask for treatment. As this blog is meant for advice only and not treatment.
Achieving health and wellness includes more than just exercise and eating right. It involves the steps listed above for an overall sense of well-being!
It’s time to get UNSTUCK!
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Best wishes on your journey to wellness,