The Other Component of Health
I bet a lot of you reading think a lot about your physical and nutritional health, but do you ever think about your mental health? I remember when I first started doing Small Changes, Big Results by Ellie Krieger, almost four years ago now (click here to read about my journey), that wellness was my weakest area (nutrition and fitness were the other two). And this is likely a common problem, not just for me.
According to Ellie:
“The third component of the program is often overlooked by fitness-minded people. They realize it is important to eat better and move their bodies more, but they’re surprised when I tell them there is one more key factor – to examine their lives to determine the biggest stressors, and figure out ways to reduce or eliminate them. You can learn to eat a nutritious diet and exercise regularly, but if you ignore your mental health and emotional well-being, you won’t feel good.”
Oops. I know I’m guilty of this. What about you?
Stress: Pain in the Neck…Literally
I found myself rethinking my approach to healthy living when I woke up at 6:30am this past Sunday with excruciating neck pain. My neck had been sore most of the weekend, but on Sunday morning, I could barely move, and I felt sharp pain radiating from my neck even though I was just laying there. Not fun.
As I lay there, I wondered how to remedy my situation. I felt like traditional medicine would only focus on treating the symptoms with pain medicine. And though I did take some, I really wanted to think about my situation from a more holistic perspective. What was the cause of the pain? That was what I needed to fix, maybe for the present but mostly for the future. I didn’t have to think long before I came to the conclusion that I’d been working myself into the ground the past few weeks without giving de-stressing or relaxation a second thought. Heck, I couldn’t even make myself get a decent amount of sleep. Sound familiar?
Later that morning, my dad (we were visiting my parents) decided to turn to Dr. Weil for some advice, so he consulted his copy of “Spontaneous Healing.” I’d quote the book, but it’s at my parent’s house, and I just ordered it on Amazon today. Hopefully, I can share more later. But, basically, the book confirmed my suspicions. We read that neck pain, even if tied to a previous injury, is usually related to stress. Hmm…
I knew I’d been pushing myself a little (way?) too hard, but what was I doing about it to counter that stress along with other, everyday stressors? I tried to think back to the last time I’d paid any attention to relaxation and de-stressing. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d thought about either of those things. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d gotten at least 8 hours of sleep. In fact, as I tie all of this together, I’m reminded of how I didn’t pay as much attention to the wellness challenges of Small Changes, Big Results. I guess I’m stubborn like that. Always pushing rest and relaxation to the side burner. In some ways, I don’t feel like I deserve it. Like I haven’t earned it or something. Who knows.
But, I think it’s time to re-evaluate things. Healthy Living is about more than just food and fitness. And I guess I could just pop some pain medicine every time my body flips out, but I’d rather fix the cause than treat the symptoms. Stress is going to happen, but what can I do to minimize it? Additionally, what can I do to better handle it?
“While it is always worth trying to change external situations that are destructive, keep in mind that you have a choice as to how situations affect you. In time, you can learn to change your reactions to them – simply making changes to what you see as the external aspect of stress (such as getting a new job, moving, ending a relationship) does not give people tools for managing future problems any better. Therefore it is also important to learn how to relax and protect yourself from the harmful effects of stress.”
So, what does this mean for you? If you’re good at relaxing and handling your stress, then, probably not much. And I’d be surprised to see you’re still reading this, though maybe my train-wreck-workaholic-self does lend some entertainment value. Either way, I hope to be more like you one day. But if you’re stressed out like me…if you’re paying little or no mind to rest and relaxation, then I invite you to start doing so.
My Plan for Better Managing Stress
My plan is to spend more time (even if only 5 minutes a day) focusing on relaxation and learning how to better handle stress. I think I’m going to take another look at my SCBR book and maybe do just the weekly wellness challenge for the next 12 weeks. But, I’m also planning to do additional research to find more helpful info. It’s time to pay more attention to the third aspect of healthy living – wellness. Care to join me?
You can start now.
Challenge: The first challenge in SCBR is to spend 5 minutes focusing on your breath. Pay attention to how it changes. Do you feel more relaxed? I tried this last night right before bed and fell asleep. Not sure if that’s what Ellie was going for, but I did feel more relaxed, at least. I’m not going to give away all of Ellie’s challenges, but this 5 minute breather is one that is simple enough, anyone should be able to include it in their daily activities. If I can do it, you can too!
Ready for more?
- Click here to read an article by Dr. Weil with Ten Ways to Reduce Stress. Maybe I’ll create a new challenge or something. Would that be helpful?
- Click here to read one way I relax for free (I forgot about this post but just stumbled upon it! I need to do this more)
Reader questions: Do you devote time to relaxation? How do you handle stress? Do you have any recommendations for further reading on relaxation and stress-management? Please share in the comments!