The other morning, I went for a run. I’m training for a half-marathon (my first one ever – please send some positive vibes my way!), so some of my runs are getting progressively longer. This run, in particular, was pretty grueling. It was longer than I had gone in a long time, and included some steep hills that seemed to come out of nowhere. Why am I telling you about this? Because after this run, I learned yet another lesson about connecting the dots between my physical health and my mental wellbeing – and it’s a lesson I always benefit from.
If I’ve said it once on this blog I’ve said it a thousand times: there is a very clear connection between our mental health and our physical health. I don’t know when this lesson started to sink in but when it did, my perspective on my physical health changed. I view these aspects of my health as a balancing scale, and try to make sure each side is being paid equal attention and care.
But let’s get back to my run. After this exhausting workout, I still had an entire day ahead of me, filled with some errands and social events. And even though I had a lot of fun and enjoyed myself throughout the day, there was a nagging voice in my head. It started when a headache set in at some point during the middle of the day. Once a little bit of pain set in, the negative thoughts soon followed. It was my fault that I had a headache. This wasn’t the right time to have a headache, and I needed to push through. Why was I being lazy?
Sometimes negative self-talk is disguised as self-doubt or a lack of confidence and while those things may contribute, it’s also force of habit. If you engage in negative self-talk for years, that mindset becomes ingrained in you. That type of thinking becomes instinctive, until you believe that it’s just the way your mind works.
Fortunately, there’s a solution to this problem. It’s not foolproof, but it has helped me on many occasions. When I don’t feel the way I’d like and I don’t understand why, I try to connect the dots. In this case, it was actually pretty simple: I had a challenging workout, didn’t stay hydrated, and didn’t have a chance to rest before my next few activities. Of course I’d feel tired – anyone else would (and does) feel that way in that situation. Why should I feel any different?
Connecting the dots is an important exercise to strengthen our mental health toolkit. It introduces logic into what’s often an illogical space, and can help rationalize and explain things that feel strange to us. When I’m able to understand the connection for why/how I feel the way I do, I feel better. The weight of anxiety is lightened just a little, and I can better handle the moments in front of me.
I hope, as you walk through your day, that you connect the dots when you can. It’s not easy work, but it is certainly worth it. The more we understand ourselves and what we need, and the better off we are on our mental health journey.
Now, over to you! Have you ever had a “connect the dots” moment with your mental health? How did you feel about it? Let me know in the comments!