Most of us tend to view our physical and emotional/mental health as very separate things. The truth is, our physical and mental health are very intimately connected. One way I find helpful in remembering this basic truth is to consider infants’ behavior. If a baby is crying, what’s wrong? Is the baby hungry, tired, sick? Every infant’s emotional distress is linked in some way to not getting a basic physical need met. Although we don’t always think about things this way, the same is true for adults! When our basic needs haven’t been met, we are much more vulnerable to emotional distress and difficulty coping with daily stressors.
One helpful device to remember is “PLEASE MASTER”, this comes from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based therapeutic treatment modality created by Marsha Linehan. If we follow the guidelines below, paying attention and attending to our basic needs, we are much more likely to cope well with challenges and feel more emotionally resilient.
Treat Physical Illness: If you aren’t feeling well, take some time to rest! If we don’t take care of ourselves when we’re sick, we’re likely to be more sad, anxious and overwhelmed.
Balance Eating: Have you ever heard the term “hangry”? This is how I (and many others) get when they haven’t had enough to eat. Not getting enough carbs, fats, protein, etc can also have an effect on our moods, and we are generally the most emotionally stable when we are well nourished.
Avoid mood altering substances: Drugs like alcohol and marijuana are called mood altering substances for a reason. If you’ve ever noticed feeling more sad or anxious after a night of drinking alcohol, it’s likely that the alcohol is having a negative impact on your mood. It is, after all, a depressant.
Balance Sleep: Many studies have shown that our brains do not function as highly when we are sleep deprived. We are also less resilient to emotional stressors that may come our way when we haven’t gotten enough sleep (ie. Bursting into tears when there’s miscommunication at work or when we lose our keys). We can also be emotionally compromised by getting too much sleep, feeling low energy, sluggish and sad. To be best prepared for the day-to-day challenges life throws at us, most of us need 8-9 hours of sleep.
Get Exercise: Getting regular exercise tends to boost our energy and keep us emotionally stable. Many studies have shown that regular moderate exercise can even have the equivalent mental health benefits of a low dose anti-depressant.
Build MASTER-y: The idea of building mastery means doing one thing every day that helps you to feel competent and in control. For me, this is cooking and having a regular yoga practice. For others it might be learning how to knit or how to play guitar. It can even be as simple as sending that email you’ve been avoiding or flossing your teeth every morning.
Written by: Caitlin Liddle. Read more about Caitlin here!