Our minds and bodies are interconnected. They rely on each other to function flawlessly as one unit. This is something I have struggled with a lot over the years, leaving me placing unreasonable demands on my head to perform to perfect standards, without considering the physical impact that this has on my body.
If you feel bad physically, it will often affect your mental health as well. Vice versa, bad mental health negatively impacts our physical health. Many of the challenges we face are actually more about overcoming what we tell ourselves that we cannot do, rather than the physical challenge in front of us.
One of the greatest challenges in life is getting to know yourself and your body. The challenge of understanding the dos and don’ts for your own body makes approaching this topic so difficult. Every person is different. We all have different thresholds and triggers when it comes to knowing what and how much is too much for the body to cope with.
Part of the process of getting to know yourself is accepting that all people are different in the way that their body reacts and copes with mental health challenges. I, for one, consider myself to have quite a high threshold when it comes to important issues in day-to-day life, but on the other end have a low threshold when it comes to the more trivial problems. As backwards as this once seemed to me, it is something I am learning to deal with and adapt to, to ensure that I treat myself with enough patience and respect as I would expect from another person.
A key example of the importance of being kind to oneself is burnout. Lately, under the enormous pressures of lockdown, I have started to approach this situation differently. Before, I would see myself as a roadblock and a burden to the goals that I originally wanted to achieve, but now I choose to let my head lead my physical self, rather than the other way around. When my head tells me it is time to stop, I respect what it is telling me and react accordingly.
Understanding that I did not always need to be sprinting and could simply be having a jog with a view was a game-changer for me. I still get pangs of guilt when I decide to be kind to myself by not cramming piles and piles of work into such a short space of time. Simply adapting the way I approached work, even by allowing myself to have short breaks between hour-long study sessions has been truly revolutionary for my mental health. Fighting back against what I needed mentally only caused me more trouble physically in the long run.
Learning the importance of the connection between your physical and mental health is challenging. It takes time to establish good habits, but the reward most definitely outweighs the risk. It will enable you to live a much happier and fulfilled life. It sounds ridiculous when you put it all down on paper, but it is a skill that really has taken me many years to develop. I am not a master of this outlook on life just yet, but I feel accomplished enough having simply made the first steps, which is always a good place for any change to start.