Let’s Get Real About Mental Health: My Top 3 Tips to Optimize Your Wellness
Blog by: Yelena Bregman, PT, DPT
I want to preface this Blog Post by letting anyone who is reading this know, that the following Tips and Advice are coming from my Own Personal Mental Health Journey over the last two decades.
The Professional based Tips for Physical Health are based on my professional expertise as a Doctor of Physical Therapy.
Always reach out to a Mental Health Specialist for their Expert Help, Advice and Tips. The following Experts are Mental Health Experts: Psychiatrist (M.D.), Psychologist, (Psy. D or PHD), Social Workers, Counselors, Trained and Certified Mental Health Crises Experts.
Tip # 1: The Mental Health Experts are the Leaders.
It would be wonderful to learn how to build upon the foundational skills of how to Process Thoughts and Emotions to live your best and most authentic life. If you are or ever have struggled with any anxiety, phobias, deep sadness, nervousness, or unregulated emotions, please feel Confident and Inspired to Seek An Expert in the Field. Nothing can replace having a designated Psychology Expert being the leader in your Emotional and Physical Well Being Journey.
As a Physical Therapist, I have studied and learned how Physical and Emotional Wellbeing are tied together in the intricacies of our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Many times, when I was having a flare up of my Crohn’s, it ALWAYS was at its worst when I was dealing with highly unregulated emotional responses to the daily stressors of my life. To put it in basic terms, the body needs to be relaxed to rest and digest. When I would feel very upset, tense and obsessed in my mind over what now seems like trivial things, my body would literally be unable to relax and properly digest the nutrients of the food I was eating. I was not growing properly. I was severely underweight, and I had the bone density structure of an 8 year old when I was entering puberty. I lacked energy, strength, and self-esteem. I didn’t want to play or engage in sports (one of the BEST ways to naturally boost endorphins) because mentally I was sabotaging my own body physically.
It turns out, Crohn’s Disease is highly correlated with mental health concerns. It also turns out that “The gut provides approximately 95% of total body serotonin, most of which exists in plasma. Although serotonin has intrinsic roles in the intestines and peripheral metabolism, it is capable of locally activating afferent nerve endings that are connected directly to the central nerve system, “(Appleton, 2018, The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health. )
In fact, we need to be Proactive with our Mental Health Approach. Anyone, especially a young, developing child diagnosed with any lifelong chronic condition, should be Proactively receiving Mental Health Help.
Tip # 2: Pair your Workout with an Automatic “Reward” to Rewire your Brain
Maybe you have a favorite show that you watch that brings you laughter and joy. Pair your workout while you watch it. Soon, the cue of the show coming on will automatically trigger you to grab your Yoga Mat or hop on your Peloton or Treadmill. Or maybe, there is an incredible little Smoothie Shop or Cozy Coffee Café that you love. Base your morning walk or run, especially when you are trying to build a new healthy habit, where you will pass by the shop! Pairing this reward with the new habit will help to make your workout habit more automatic. You need about 6 months of being consistent to form a new habit. Simple cues and rewards are the best way to help you get started and keep on track.
Tip # 3: Listen to Your Body, Listen to Your Gut and Objectively Make the Best Choice Each Day
There are days that those of us who are “invisible” Chronic Illness Warriors truly and physically must muster all of our energy to get out of bed and make a cup of hot tea for ourselves. Always be kind to your body and water yourself and your body with the love, compassion and devotion that you pour upon your own children. Feed yourself the nutrients of love to flourish. My point is, continue to move forward, even when you have a day, or even a few weeks where you fell off the wagon of wellness.
I will give you an example. A couple of months ago, I made a workout sheet and proudly pasted it on my fridge. I had a goal to work out for 30 days for 30 minutes every single day, no matter what. I joyously crossed out the days and I made it to Day # 11. Then, I wasn’t feeling well, and I totally fell off the Wellness Wagon. I told myself I must start at Day 1 again because of the lapse in time. I completely dismissed this massive accomplishment because I had a small setback that was out of my control.
I restarted my Consistency is True Confidence Workout and this time, even when I don’t make it to a workout every day, I continue to count! I am no longer dismissing progress. I am honoring myself on all the days that I pushed and went to the gym and did my best. Today was Day 15 of working out (I have not worked out the last 3 days). I am giving myself grace because I must teach my body and show myself LOVE, KINDNESS AND CONFIDENCE. I hope that today, you will do the same for yourself!
Integr. Med. The Gut-Brain Axis: Influence of Microbiota on Mood and Mental Health
Jeremy Appleton, ND* 2018 Aug; 17(4): 28–32.