Last week we raised the idea that health is actually part of the larger conversation about leadership. If you aren’t at an optimum level of health you aren’t performing your best. We also raised the idea that there are at least 4 dimensions of health – mental, emotional, spiritual and of course, physical. We discussed the physical dimension and this week we want to go into the mental/emotional realm. These two are often collapsed together and there is no doubt they are inextricably linked. The term “mental health” often refers to our ability to handle our reactions to the circumstances and challenges that come up in our lives. In fact, the dictionary defines it as “psychological well-being and satisfactory adjustment to society and to the ordinary demands of life.” For the purposes of this post we are going to separate the two terms and define them a bit differently. When we talk about “mental health,” what we are pointing to is “intellectual health” – meaning how healthy and fresh are your thought processes? When was the last time you challenged yourself to learn something new? How much are you reading? (And not reports and emails! Reading fiction for fun, or non-fiction topics that interest you?) Do you do puzzles – crossword or otherwise - to stimulate your cognitive abilities? We often repeat the same thought patterns and think about the same subjects day in and day out. Learning something new helps keep your brain healthy and your perspective fresh. For more information on how to keep your brain and thinking healthy visit www.drweil.com and search the database. When we talk about emotional health we are talking about how you are feeling about your life and the people and activities in it. Are you experiencing joy and satisfaction? Are you having fun? Do you relax? These days most of the people we speak with say “no.” Very few people seem to feel they have time for fun or relaxation. The thing is, if you don’t give yourself a chance to relax and unwind the constant stress is very hard on your body. There is lots of research about the effects of continuous stress on our systems. It’s important to have fun - for your health. If time keeps slipping by, try scheduling it in regularly as a mandatory on your calendar. Make sure you are actually “cutting loose” – play a musical instrument, practice martial arts, go horseback riding – something that truly turns off your typical daily thought patterns and redirects your attention to something that is refreshing.
Take some time to reflect and evaluate how well you are handling your current levels of stress. If you find that you aren’t as resilient as you would like to be and if stress and circumstances are bringing you down, get support! If you find there are painful incidents in your past that have a tight grip consider seeking some type of counseling. If you are most comfortable with a faith-based approach speak to your minister, spiritual director or trusted spiritual advisor. You may also find a certified psychological professional is best.
If you find you are having trouble finding your passion, designing a future you are excited about or reaching particular goals and dreams then hire a coach. Ask around and find someone who has an approach you are excited about pursuing. Partner with your coach so that you have the support you need to get where you want to go.
The healthier you are physically, the better you will feel mentally/emotionally and vice versa. It’s all interconnected so do yourself, your organization, your family and friends a favor and take action to insure your health is optimized!