Seems this topic of the connection between our emotional/mental and physical health keeps coming up lately, so why not write about it? I’m more and more convinced that this is an area we too often overlook. We don’t need studies to tell us that when we’re tired we feel more irritable, emotional, or forgetful. You may have heard the acronym H.A.L.T., which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. I first learned this acronym working as a family counselor for a drug and alcohol treatment center. We all knew that if a person was dealing with any of these components it caused them to be more susceptible to a relapse in their addiction. Well, the same is true for all of us, whether we’re facing substance abuse, other forms of addiction, or struggling to manage our own emotions on a daily basis.
One of the first questions I ask new clients relates to their physical health and habits: how’s your sleep? How’s your appetite? These are basic indicators to pay attention to. It’s somewhat a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of deal: am I not sleeping because I’m depressed? Or am I depressed because I’m not sleeping? It can help to talk with a trusted friend or counselor to really uncover what may be happening. There are too many variables for us to explore in a blog post. What we can do however is highlight some helpful tips in considering our physical health and emotional well-being.
If you find yourself in a season of transitions, facing physical ailments, or jet lag, or perhaps grieving a loss…be gracious toward yourself and others. Your body, whether you are aware or not, responds both physically and emotionally. They simply cannot be separated. You may be used to toughing it out, especially on the mission field where you feel the full weight of responsibility to keep up, but it can and will catch up to you.
This means you’ll actually need to take some time to really think about your own physical and emotional health. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but set aside some time to examine the quality of your sleep, nutrition, and medical needs, and consider if and how they are affecting your mental health. Write it down and talk about it with someone.
Implement a Plan
Choose one or two areas from your self-evaluation to focus on. Do you need to get a full physical check-up? Do you need to focus on better sleep habits? Do you need to eat more vegetables, less sweets, drink more water? Do you need to schedule time for rest? Do you need to be more active physically? Are you needing to spend more time with people in community?
It’s sometimes easier said than done, but paying attention to H.A.L.T., listening to our own bodies and creating a simple plan can often allow us to redirect our emotional health to the right path. Our physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual health all fits together. We’ve been given this life to live to the fullest and it’s our privilege and responsibility to manage ourselves to the best of our ability. Staying hungry, angry, lonely and tired deters us from the goodness of this life God has granted us.