As we marked mental health awareness week, the underlying notion of viewing mental and physical health as separate entities still appears prevalent. From my experience of counselling victims of domestic abuse, coaching women seeking asylum, researching migrant South Asian women in broken family relationships, delivering workshops on emotional wellbeing, and my own experiences of feeling low, anxious and exhausted, I argue that physical, social and emotional conditions are not individually bounded categories. For example, your personal history and make-up, stress at work, a toxic relationship, a physical sickness, self-defeating thoughts, migration to a new country, or economic, legal and housing challenges all influence each other. As such, these can form and inform your physical, social and emotional condition and affect your overall health and wellbeing.
If we consider toxic work conditions; these can induce stress, leave you feeling drained and suffering from muscular tension. Negative moods have the ability to seep into and affect your personal relationships; this cycle of work stress, exhaustion and poor relationships could potentially snowball, adversely compromising your overall health and wellbeing.
In my personal life and my work, I take a systemic approach and holistically consider how the Physical, Social and Emotional conditions, that is, one’s ‘Ph-s-emo’ (fismo) condition, an expression I have coined, contributes to one’s health and wellbeing. In writing this article I hope to raise awareness, shift taboos around ‘mental’ health, as well as argue that a holistic approach to caring for your Ph-s-emo condition will foster wellbeing and quality of life.
We all have our own unique Ph-s-emo journey and we all experience times when we don’t feel great about our physical-social-emotional condition. However, in most circumstances we are able to emerge from these in a short space of time. It is only when feelings of depression, anxiety, or sadness persist for extended periods that one must try to understand why. In addition, feeling continually exhausted, losing interest in activities you once enjoyed, disturbed sleep patterns and a change in appetite are also signs that you need to stop and consider the possible underlying causes. Based on my experiences, I believe your Ph-s-emo condition requires management and care in a holistic manner.
In some cases, I find that people feel awkward talking about their symptoms because outwardly they appear in good health. In others, it is ignorance about how the physical-social-emotional condition affects feelings that leads people to believe that their low moods will just go away. Hoping things will get better or denying Ph-s-emo symptoms, I believe, can compromise one’s quality of life. There are no magical solutions to Ph-s-emo health and wellbeing but facing what is going on and finding resolutions are better for you and those around you. A possible way forward is to pay attention to yourself as a physical-social-emotional being and systematically inspect all aspects of your Ph-s-emo condition.
It is important to determine the underlying physical issues that might be contributing to the symptoms you are experiencing and consulting a medical expert is a good place to start. Another quick win is exercising; my preferred forms of exercise are yoga, going to the gym, walking in the park with friends and family or getting off one tube station earlier and walking home after work. I find exercising always makes me feel uplifted, as supported by ample research on the links between exercise and wellbeing.
It is equally important to address your social and emotional conditions. A way into this is to be listened to in confidence, with empathy and non-judgment. Most of the women I work with find talking helps them to unburden their problems and to reflect on the possible root of their challenging situation. You can seek help from a trusted family member, friend or a colleague. The ability to listen and support is extremely helpful provided those offering this care are willing and able to do so. Indeed, I believe empathy and love is a prerequisite for wellbeing; it provides us with emotional security.
Seeking professional help through creative or talking therapies can be beneficial. This provides a confidential ‘safe space’ to reflect on your feelings and life contexts in the past, present and future. Often, by talking things through, you realise that what you are experiencing is an amalgamation of several factors, including relationships, difficult life events, conflicting thoughts and personal dilemmas. It can also stem from your family, childhood, teen years, work and/or economic situations. Sensitivity to your social, political and legal contexts can play a contributing factor to poor Ph-s-emo health. In addition, connecting with, and appreciating your personality and the role it plays in your wellbeing can be a game changer.
Talking to someone can help you recalibrate and review your life purpose. The path to Ph-s-emo wellbeing can be tough but not unsurmountable. The resilience I have observed in the people I work with is awe-inspiring and I believe humans have an innate capacity to strive towards wellbeing. Proactively promoting positive Ph-s-emo health forms an integral part in remaining grounded and can be further enhanced by pursuing a hobby for personal enjoyment, practising mindfulness to keep your thoughts focused and exercising gratitude and affirmation on a daily basis. Holistically paying attention to your Ph-s-emo conditions by either confronting them head on or working proactively on your wellbeing will contribute positively to those around you and your own material and spiritual life.