282: Mental Health IS Health
Since it is Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it would be a GREAT time to remind Grace & Grit Podcast listeners that there is NO health without mental health.
The state of your mental health permeates every decision you make, every relationship you have, every cell of your humanity, and pretty much every moment of your life.
So why is mental health NOT the very first thing we give attention to when our life is feeling off-kilter?
I think it should be:)
In this week’s podcast episode I elaborate on why we need to amplify the importance of mental health in EVERY health conversation and every strategy we use to improve our lives.
Check it out. And if it helps, please consider sharing it.
Welcome to the Grace and Grit Podcast made for women who want their healthiest years to be ahead of them, not behind them. Join your host Courtney Townley right now. As she breaks down the fairy tale health story, you have been chasing all of your life, indispensable action steps and lasting change.
Hello, my friends, and welcome to the Grace & Grit Podcast. I’m so glad you’re here.
Before I dive into today’s topic, I want to remind you that May 24 is right around the corner. And on that date, I’m teaching a new workshop, it’s 90 minutes, and it’s called Shut Out the Noise. If you cannot be there live, I’ve gotten a few emails about this, you can still register to receive the replay and all the course materials.
So this workshop is really for women who are looking for a more sensible and sustainable path to behavior change. They’ve tried all the things, they are sick and tired of spinning their wheels feeling like they’re always in a space of overwhelm and frustration.
This is for women who are ready to start trusting themselves more in their decision making so they can stop outsourcing their decision making to someone who knows their life better than they do. Because ladies, that person doesn’t exist. This workshop is also for women who resonate with the Grace & Grit Podcast message, but want more help putting what they learn into real action. Because knowledge without action is really quite meaningless.
So what we’re going to cover specifically is I am going to help you to get clarity about the next right steps for you along your journey. It’s something that you’re going to decide, but I’m going to help you uncover. I’m also going to help you to organize that commitment in a way that respects your brain and dramatically improves the likelihood that you will keep the promise you make to yourself. In other words, you will follow through with what you committed to.
I’m also going to help you to better understand the real keys to behavior change that most wellness programs fail to teach their students. And I’m also going to help you to learn some key skill sets that will allow you to realign very quickly when life throws you off kilter because life has a way of doing that.
So if that speaks to you, if it sounds like something you might be interested in, you can find out all the registration details over at graceandgrit.com/shutoutthenoise. Once again, graceandgrit.com/shutoutthenoise.
And if you read through the page and you still have questions, feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com. And I will be more than happy to answer your questions.
All right on to today’s episode. It’s mental health awareness month. So I thought it would be a great time to remind Grace & Grit Podcast listeners that there is no improving health without giving some very fierce attention to mental health, mental health pollinates every episode of this Podcast in some way, shape, or form. And I did a pretty concentrated series on modern day mental health. And I the episodes were episode 167 through 171.
So if you like what you hear today, you want a little bit more help on this topic, either come to the workshop I just told you about which would probably be the best thing. Or you can also go back and gather bits and pieces of information from those episodes. But again, those episodes were from several years ago. So a lot has changed in my approach and the way that I help my clients in this work.
So mental health is as I see it, real health, it is health, because it permeates every decision you will make about your health, about your life. It permeates every relationship that you have every cell of your humanity and pretty much every moment of your life.
So mental health is a big deal. And why is mental health not the very first thing we give attention to when our health is feeling off kilter when we are feeling off kilter? Well, I think it should be. Mental health should be a part of every conversation we have about health and it should be taken into consideration with every single strategy we consider using to help us improve our health.
Now I shared a little story on Instagram the other day about how when I was a kid it, and my parents asked me to clean my room, I would do what my 12 year old son does. Now, I would do surface level cleaning, which isn’t really cleaning at all, I would just rearrange things. And mostly I would hide things from view in closets under the bed. So the room would appear clean, I would even go so far as to toss clean clothes in the laundry hamper, because I just didn’t want to go through the effort of hanging them up.
All this to say the room, of course, was not clean. It just appeared clean, I was just really good at hiding the mess from view. And this is what I see an awful lot of women trying to do by focusing on physical health with very little to no regard for their mental health.
And that’s a huge problem. You can tidy up the outside of your body, that surface level cleaning. But that does not mean the maths that disrupted your health in the first place has actually gone away. It’s just hidden from view. It drives me absolutely crazy. That weight loss is one of the first methodologies many women consider when they’re ready to start taking better care of themselves.
And I’ve said this before, and I will say it again and again. And again. excess weight can be a symptom of a problem. But it is not the problem. I did an entire episode on that topic, I think it was episode 273. excessive stress is the real problem. So excessive weight is one of hundreds of symptoms, the body will display when we have too much stress in our life. And stress comes in a lot of forms. There’s nutritional stress, there’s physical stress, there’s there’s the stress that comes from the way we think about our life and the way we think about what happens in our life.
So the human brain doesn’t really discern between real or imagined stress. And that’s really important for you to remember. Because ladies, we can conjure up a whole lot of craziness that causes us immense suffering, that isn’t even true. So the way you think it plays a massive role in the total stress load, which is the real problem in terms of health.
Also, I think one of the real problems is our inability to make decisions that are congruent with who we want to be in the world. Right. So when we are always signing up for a program, or asking a professional to tell us exactly what to do to improve our health, a lot of what they think we should do, may not at all be congruent with who we are and the way we want to live our life. Right.
I also think one of the really big problems in the health equation is the inability to set boundaries. Right, we are trying to do everything for everyone all the time. We’re putting ourselves last on the list if we put ourselves on the list at all. And that can be a real problem in the health equation.
And then finally, I’ll say this, that the lack of emotional agility can be a real problem, when we don’t have the capacity to feel difficult emotion because we’ve always been numbing it or distracting ourselves when it shows up. Or we have a belief that we should feel good all the time. So we’re constantly eating and drinking and engaging in things that feel good momentarily, but then have a massive consequence. That is a real problem and a real threat to our health.
But every single health problem that you face in your life can be improved by addressing mental health. And I know that’s a bold claim. But I say it because taking responsibility for the health of your brain and the health of your thinking directly impacts if and how you will show up to take care of yourself even in the face of some kind of health diagnosis, right even in the face of a diagnosis of disease of some kind, how you show up in the face of that is a mental health issue. Right?
Mental health is very relevant in that scenario, in every scenario, so let’s get clear on what mental health really is defined by World Health Organization. Mental health is defined as a state of wellbeing, in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stressors of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her community.
So what to break this definition down and unpack it. So the first piece of this, to realize your potential mental health is a state of well being in which every individual realizes her own potential. In order to realize your own potential, you’re going to have to know yourself really well. You’re also going to have to know what you want to make this life about. And then get to work, organizing your life, and managing your thoughts and your emotions on the way to getting there.
You’ve probably often heard me say on this Podcast that that health, in my opinion, is really learning to like who we are, what we do, and why we do the things that we do. It’s an exercise in building integrity with ourselves. And a lot of women that I work with, are in a space of disease, because they don’t know who they are. Because they’re too busy. They’re too afraid, or feeling too unworthy of their own time to even look at who they are.
And when I say who you are, I’m really just referring to who you’re being. Who are you being right now? With without the judgment, right? Without the shame. Without the criticism, how are you showing up in your life right now, that’s a really important thing to take a look at, and is it in alignment with how you want to be showing up. And if it’s not, I bet, it’s causing you a lot of mental distress. And that mental distress is then creating a cascade of hormones, and a lot of negative consequences within your body. Because it’s a massive stressor.
So when it comes to realizing your potential, we have to be willing to expose ourselves to ourselves. Healing happens in light, the only way I could really clean my room as a kid, which, you know, I always ended up having to do right, I always ended up having to do the real work that deep clean, because my parents always found what I was doing, shoving things in all the closets and under the bed. And the only way that I could clean my room was by exposing the maths.
And I truly believe that if we want to nurture our mental health, we want to nurture any level of health. We have to be willing to expose the truth of what people don’t see from the outside the truth that only you know.
Alright, let’s talk about the second piece of this definition of mental health. Mental health is defined as a state of well being in which every individual can cope with normal stressors of life. Look, life is going to have stressors, there is absolutely no way of avoiding that. And yet, so many of us have mastered the art of massively contributing to our own suffering, when stressors show up.
So the way that we think about the stressors of our life can create a whole lot more stress than just the stressor itself. And it doesn’t need to because we have control over the meaning that we get the stressors in our life. And remember, stress is not a bad thing. Stress is a beautiful thing. Because it’s how we learn. And it’s how we grow. It’s how we evolve. Our total stress load is the problem.
So life can throw you a curveball, and you are equipped to handle that curveball. If you manage your brain in a way that doesn’t create an overflow of stress, we hugely contribute to our stress load by storytelling, making up stories about what stressors mean, making up stories about our ability to deal with stressors.
We contribute to the stress load by trying to cope with stress via numbing agents, the alcohol, the food, right, the Netflix. So we kind of just tune out from life. And ultimately, we find ourselves in a space where we don’t have a lot of capacity for feeling emotion, especially difficult emotion.
So if you want to learn how to cope, you want to become a person who can cope with the normal stresses of life in a way that actually promotes well being rather than costs well being. You’ve got to learn how to take responsibility for the role that you are playing in your own suffering, which is a lot of the storytelling that you’re wrapped up in, and a lot of the unusable thoughts that you are choosing to think.
And one of the very unusual patterns we have around thinking is we actually demonize emotion with our thinking. Fear is bad, self doubt is bad, I should never feel uncomfortable, I should never feel sad. And it doesn’t end there. We literally write like those Oscar winning scripts about why I should never feel sad, or why I should never feel insecure. And all that does is it makes us feel worse. So we have to stop telling stories when emotion comes to the table, because remember, emotions are just messengers, right? They’re just indicators, not dictators.
All right, the third part of this definition I want to unpack a little bit. Mental health is defined as a state of wellbeing, in which every individual can work productively and fruitfully. You probably have heard this before. But busy is not productive. Busy is not necessarily fruitful.
You can be taking a lot of action in your life, you can be filling up every moment of your day, with things that are not at all in alignment with who you want to be in the world. Or with things that make you feel like you’re doing something but you’re not actually taking action that matters, you’re not creating progress. You’re not moving anywhere, because your action is so safe.
So I always say that the action that changes us is action, we pre decide. We design in advance, not action of default. And that’s really speaking to the difference between reaction. Right? And being proactive, reactive versus proactive. If you never put forethought into your day, if you never put forethought into how you want to show up. You’re going to be very reactive in your life. And reactivity creates a lot of stress.
There’s a lot of consequences that come from reactivity. So if we want to work productively and fruitfully that means we have to work thoughtfully, intentionally by design. And in order to work that way. We have to feel worth spending time on right A lot of us self sabotage. Because we don’t think that we’re worthy of doing whatever it is we want to be doing with our life. So we spend a lot of time swimming through self doubt.
We also spend a lot of time swimming and distraction. And you will never create your best work. Or give your best to the things that you are here to cause contribute and inspire if you are always in a state of distraction. Right, so learning to become focused on what you want, organizing yourself in a way to go after that. And manage your brain and manage your emotions in a way that allows you to create that. That’s mental health.
I would also say that, speaking to this idea of working productively, and fruitfully we have to work consistently. And there’s a lot of barriers to working consistently, right. There’s perfectionism. Perfectionism gets in the way, which perfectionism, by the way, is really just a form of hiding. Right? If I can’t do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all. So we just hide.
We’re inconsistent, because we’re wrapped up in all or nothing thinking, I can do everything, or I can do nothing. And we’re also inconsistent, because we don’t want to get uncomfortable. Because we’re telling ourselves stories about the work like it’s always supposed to be fun. It’s never supposed to be boring, it’s never supposed to be hard.
So this last piece of this definition, mental health is defined as a state of well being in which every individual is able to make a contribution to his or her community. You cannot make a meaningful contribution. You definitely can’t make your highest contribution. When you are hiding.
A lot of women are hiding I have found in their life, they’re playing small, because they’re afraid of failing, because they’re afraid of what other people will think. Because they don’t believe they are worthy of playing bigger. And you know what happens when you hide, you get more scared. That’s what happens. It doesn’t eliminate fear, it produces more fear.
And so in order to make your greatest contributions, to your work, to your loved ones, to your community, to the world at large. You have to develop confidence. And competence is a practice, like anything. It’s simply a practice. And self trust is the fertilizer.
How do we develop self trust, we start making hard decisions, strong decisions based on the best of what we currently know about ourselves. And then we execute on those decisions. And by executing we either learn or we grow, right, we make progress or we don’t. And even when we don’t, self trust is having your own back. That it’s okay. It’s okay that this turned out the way it did. I trust myself to figure it out.
So this is why all of my my students listening to this and clients listening to this, this is why we do so much work around self awareness around organizing ourselves based on what we learned in self awareness. We do so much work around the thought management and emotional management to make sure that we will actually show up for ourselves in the way that we said we would and that we have skill sets for constantly realigning ourselves because life will distract us.
So mental health is not binary. It’s not something that we either have or we don’t have. It’s always changing. Like physical health. It’s dynamic. Because life is always changing. Our stress loads are always changing. Which means no one is immune. wound from needing to dedicate time and attention to nurturing their mental health. If you have a brain, mental health is an issue, you should dedicate some serious time and attention to if you really want to promote the health of your life.
So I would ask you to consider: Do you have tools and skills that help you to manage your mental health? Because it really is the single most powerful thing you could do to nurture the health in any area of your life. Right physical health, emotional health, relationship, health, health, even your financial health. Every category of health is impacted by mental health.
When you improve your mental health, when you dedicate a little time and attention each day to fortifying it, I bet you’ll find that you don’t hide so much. You stop fearing your life and you actually start going out and living it. Your work becomes more impactful, you serve at a higher level.
For a long time, I did not have tools and skill sets for my mental health. Because mental health was like literally I was kind of raised to think not not necessarily by my family. But just I think in our culture at large, I was raised to think that mental health was just the absence of a mental disease or disorder.
But of course, what I learned by traveling for so many years through the wellness industry, and certainly by hyper focusing on physical health alone for so long, was that mental health is really everything. Before I had the tools and skill sets to honor my mental health, I suffered on every level physically, emotionally, my relationships, my work, right my finances, like I said earlier.
So if you have tried all the things to improve your health, and you feel like you’re still spinning your wheels, maybe you’re just coming at it from the wrong angle, right. Maybe you keep focusing on trying to fix the outside before you’ve gone in and fixed the inside.
So I just want to offer again, if this speaks to you. If what we’ve talked about here today resonates and you want to learn some tools and skill sets. To honor your health, your mental health in these ways. Check out the workshop that I’m teaching on May 24, Shut Out the Noise. You can find out all the details by going to graceandgrit.com/shutoutthenoise. It’s going to be awesome. I hope you will join me!
I’ll see you again next week. Take care.
Thank you for listening to the Grace and Grit Podcast. It is time to mend the fabric of the female health story. And it starts with you taking radical responsibility for your own self care. You are worth the effort and with a little grace and grit. Anything is possible
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