“Wellness, is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – World Health Organization.
Wellness is an active process. A process of becoming aware of what is good health and making choices to achieve it. For most people it’s easier to focus on physical health. Problems with physical health are more obvious than poor mental or emotional health. It’s important though that you pay just as much attention to your emotional health. The mind-body connection is a powerful one and should not be ignored. Problems with physical health often have their origin in poor emotional health.
People who are emotionally healthy are:
- Able to cope with and adjust to the recurrent stresses of everyday living in an acceptable way.
- They handle their emotions appropriately and control their behavior.
- They build strong relationships
- They have a positive outlook to life that allows them to bounce back from adversity.
This ability to recover is known as resilience.
War and disasters have a large impact on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Economic downturns and difficult life events can also affect emotional health. For much of Sub-Saharan Africa, daily life is stressful. There is a lack of the basic services, benefits and rights that the developed world takes for granted. Political instability, insecurity and economic recession worsen the situation. All these conditions cause an increase in anxiety, depression, substance abuse and community violence.
We all need to be resilient!
Good mental or emotional health allows you to cope with difficulties. You feel good about yourself and find meaning and joy in life. It helps you to remain focused, and work productively. You’re able to maintain good relationships whether times are good or bad.
Research shows some key factors for improving mental and emotional health and building resilience:
- Connect with others– “share your burden”. The best way to reduce stress is by interaction with people who care about you and are supportive. Your situation may not change but by talking about your problems, you lighten the load. Avoid social media “relationship building”. It is only a temporary distraction and is not a substitute for the real thing.
- Get active. Exercise not only boosts your mood by releasing endorphins in your brain but it has direct benefits for your physical health. It improves memory, alertness and productivity. 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily is all it takes!
- Manage stress. Deep breathing relaxation techniques are helpful; meditation; get enough sleep; spend at least 15 minutes daily on something you enjoy such as reading, playing a game, singing, playing with your children; Drop activities that waste your time and don’t improve your life in any way; make time for relaxation.
- Healthy eating. Avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary snacks and other forms of stress eating. Choose healthy stress-busting eating options instead. Green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, beans and fish are all good choices.
- Help others. Research shows that people, who help others feel enriched, have greater self-esteem and are happier. It also takes the focus off your problems for a while.
Tips on dealing with your emotions:
- Express your feelings in appropriate ways – Share them with people close to you. Before they become overwhelming and difficult to control.
- Think before you act – Take a deep breath, count to 10 or even 20; leave the room and get some fresh air; go for a walk.
- Strive for balance in your life –Make time for activities you enjoy. Everyday, write down something that you’re grateful for. Focus on the positive things in your life.