The last part of our philosophical discussion is focusing on mental/emotional health which refers to our overall psychological well-being. Most are familiar with this part of the triad but may not realize what a profound influence challenges to this area can cause.
Stress is ever present. Experiencing some short term stress is actually helpful since it is stimulating and provides an impetus for productivity. When we are under chronic mental emotional stress or chronic over stimulation, it can begin to take a toll on our overall health.
We all fall somewhere in the continuum of the emotional spectrum. During different times of life we may be more or less capable of managing emotions. It is part of life to experience mental emotional distress. The difference is, people with good emotional health have an ability to bounce
back from adversity, trauma, and stress. They remain focused, flexible, and creative in bad times as well as good. The capacity to recognize emotions and express them appropriately helps us avoid getting stuck in depression, anxiety, or other negative mood states. It is when we get stuck in an emotional state that it starts to have more of a negative effect on our health.
There are several factors that can positively or negatively influence our psychological well-being. The following are important in supporting mental emotional balance.
Having our basic needs met (food, shelter, clothing)
Feeling connected to others/ having a supportive community
Having enough time for leisure activities and fun
Having a purpose whether that is in the context of meaningful work, hobbies or relationships
- Maintaining a good level of physical health
Sometimes, there is an opportunity because of a stressful episode, for change (relationship, work environment, etc). When chronic stress can not be avoided, it is imperative to engage in managing the stress until the situation can change. This may include more rest, exercise, meditation, massage, acupuncture, naturopathic care and support from a mental health practitioner. Commonly the knee-jerk reaction is to reach for a quick fix be it alcohol or food to help manage the situation; unfortunately this is not really a solution and may lead to deteriorating health.
Don’t forget that mind and body are linked. When you improve your physical health, you may also experience improved mental and emotional well-being. For example, exercise not only strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that energize us and lift our mood.
Your outlook on life, attitude and emotional health greatly influence your quality of life. Whatever internal or external factors have shaped your mental and emotional health, it is possible to make changes that will improve your psychological well-being. Positive influences such as strong relationships, a healthy lifestyle, and coping strategies for managing stress and negative emotions can profoundly affect this part of the triad and therefore influence overall health.
Nina Paroo, ND