My chiropractor (hey Dr. Larry!) said to me not too long ago, that when you don’t sleep well, are doing too much, and feel run-down, your immune system is less effective and you can easily catch a cold. Ok, I guess in theory I knew that, but it got me thinking………what happens when we’re emotionally run-down? What do we catch then?
How the Brain Stays Fit
Interestingly, some of the same things that help our body stay healthy, help our mind stay healthy too. For instance, sleep deprivation can lead to depression symptoms, and excercising regularly decreases anxiety. Certain foods, such as those rich in Omega-3’s, can help improve mood. But the brain is complex and powerful, and actually pretty needy. In addition to sleep, excercise, and good nutrition, the brain needs another type of fuel: positive people and positive messages.
Just like a cold, attitude is contagious. If you surround yourself with negative people, their negativity will infect you. But if you seek out positive people who are generally happy with themselves and their lives, it will help shift the way your brain experiences the world. Similarly, the negative messages we often give ourselves actually burn up mental energy, whereas feeding our brain positive messages makes us feel more optimistic and energized.
Catching a “Mental” Cold
What happens when we don’t take care of our mind and our body on a regular basis? Not only might we get sick physically, but we often also get sick emotionally. This means we fall back into unhealthy patterns of feeling and behaving: more anxiety, more worry, more depression, more irritability, more stress eating, etc. Then, we’re not as nice to other people (or we isolate ourselves) which creates more drama and loneliness in our lives, and traps us in a negative cycle.
We all have a tendency to this! The trick is becoming more aware of it, and finding ways to fill our emotional gas tank. Just like the red light on your car dashboard tells you there’s only about 25 miles left before you run out of gas, when you start to feel tired and irritable, it’s time to refocus on self-care.
3 ways to Fill your Emotional Gas Tank
1) Spend time in nature. I don’t care what you do: read a book in the park, or go surfing. Do something outdoors near nature. There’s seems to be something in our brain that responds to that. It’s almost as if our DNA knows that nature is who we are, and it replinishes our inner peace somehow.
2) Read or listen to positive things. Read inspirirational books, listen to motivating podcasts, or go to a seminar. On a regular basis, feed your mind postitive messages – it will reward you for it!
3) Take time to rest. Everything in life has a rythm of alternating periods of activity with periods of non-activity. Our heart is a great example. The space between beats is called the “period”. It’s interesting that the same word marks also refers to what marks the end of a sentence. There is a pause before the next sentence begins. Athletes rotate between training and rest. TV shows go on “hiatus”. Rest – doing not much of anything – is an essential component of healthy living and of productivity.
“People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.”
Dr. Chantal Marie Gagnon, Ph.D., LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist in Plantation, Florida. She offers her clients a variety of services including: marriage counseling, relationship coaching, life coaching, mental health and personality testing, and individual counseling. She is experienced in treating a variety of issues and concerns such as anxiety, depression, trauma, post-partum depression, grief and loss, life transitions and adjustment, marital problems, premarital counseling, anger management, substance abuse, work stress, as well as personal growth goals. She can be reached at www.LifeCounselor.net