– Bianca Rea
How do you measure emotional fitness?
Mental and emotional fitness, much like physical fitness, is measured by recovery rate. How quickly are you able to bounce back from a setback, rejection or negativity? We all experience this at some point in our lives. The quicker you are able to bounce back, then the fitter you are emotionally.
We’ve all heard about the Mind-Body Connection, the better you look after your body, the better the mind is. Physical activity increases the flow of oxygen to the brain, and boosts endorphins (feel-good chemicals) in the brain. It’s no surprise then, for this reason that people that are in good shape have a higher level of mental agility.1
While exercise is good for the brain, so is the ability to decompress and chill out. Failure to do this can result in stress, which can turn harmful if not managed.
Stress is a normal physiological reaction, which was developed in our ancient ancestors in response to danger and other threats. These days, it’s unlikely that we will face those dangers that our ancestors did, but we do face many challenges that cause our body to react in the same way. Meeting deadlines, studying, paying bills, all of these issues we face turn on the fight or flight response – boosted heart rate, increased energy, increased blood pressure etc. to enable us to deal with these problems.
Chronic stress relates to how we manage these problems. The longer our stress periods last, the more damage it does to our mind and bodies. Stress can also make our existing problems worse. Studies show that unmanaged stress can cause heart attacks, arrhythmias, and even sudden death.2
So how can we reduce or even fix stress?
It’s not an easy quick fix, but there are steps we can take that will go a long way of repairing the damage that has been inflicted on ourselves.
Identify what’s causing you stress: Being mindful of what is actually causing you to stress out will give you a strong clear pathway on how to reduce it. This also compartmentalises these issues, making it easier to plan your attack.
Reduce caffeine and sugar: The temporary “highs” caffeine and sugar enables you with, usually end in a deep crash, which results in lack of energy and mood swings. Reducing or avoiding these foods altogether keeps you better equipped to deal with situations and help you sleep better.3
Get enough sleep: Sleep is most important. Adequate sleep fuels your mind and your body. Failure to get enough quality sleep can cause you to think and act irrationally.
Be present: Focus on one behaviour with mindfulness. Whether it is showering and feeling the water hit your body, or listening to the water splash on the tiles. When you spend time in the moment, and focus on your senses, then you can feel less tense.
Be kind to yourself: Having compassion for others makes them feel better. So why not show a little compassion for yourself? Putting great pressure on yourself can only exacerbate the problems you are facing. So make sure you take some time out for yourself and let yourself get a little silly – if you feel like being completely lazy for a day and not do anything at all except watch Netflix and eat chocolate ice cream for a few hours, then let yourself. It’s this downtime that gives you an opportunity for your mind and body to rest and to avoid adrenal fatigue.
Learn how to say no: Know your limits and stick to them. Biting off more than you can chew is a surefire way to induce unnecessary stress in your life. Distinguish between the “shoulds”, “musts” and don’t be afraid to just say “no” when things get too much to handle.
Progressive muscle relaxation: This exercise shows you how to tense and relax different muscles in your body, so that you are aware of what a tensed muscle and a relaxed muscle feel like. You then become more mindful of the physical sensations. You start off by tensing the muscles in your toes and then working your way up the body till you get to your neck and head. Tense the muscle groups for five seconds and then relax for thirty seconds. Rinse and repeat. Avoid people who stress you out: If someone consistently causes stress in your life, then take steps to reduce contact with them. Limit the time you spend with them, or just end the relationship.
Ask for help: A problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance on a problem that is bothering you and causing you unease. They don’t even need to help you fix the problem; they just need to be a good listener. Asking for advice from a friend or family member also strengthens healthy relationships so you’re getting a two-for-one discount with this one.
Take control: If watching the news stresses you out, turn off the TV. If you can’t handle the crowds in the supermarket, then do your grocery shopping online. Taking control of the situation
can help you in feeling like you’re managing the problem.4
Let us know what works for you in the comments below!
Written by Bianca Rea
References (check these out for more information!):
2. Krantz, D.S., Whittaker, K.S. & Sheps, D.S. (2011). “Psychosocial risk factors for coronary artery disease: Pathophysiologic mechanisms.” In Heart and Mind: Evolution of Cardiac Psychology. Washington, DC: APA.