The year 2016 is right around the corner which means it’s time for resolutions. When it comes to healthy goals for the New Year; many people tend to focus on physical health but mental well-being is just as important.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” according to the World Health Organization.
The number one New Year’s resolution is usually to lose weight but people should look at what’s underneath that goal, said Christine Ellis, director of Creative Health Services clinical wellness recovery program. The program helps adults become healthier physically and mentally.
“There’s a reason you want to lose weight,” she said.
Mercury Mile participant pose for a photo after attending an afternoon yoga session.
Ellis said it’s usually about quality of life and the goal ties back into mental health. She said people tend to focus only on the physical aspects of health without realizing emotions affect the body. Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, weight gain and cardiovascular diseases. Some people even mistake a panic attack for a heart attack. Anxiety can lead to physical symptoms such as sweating, dizziness and a rapid heartbeat, according to the American Psychological Association.
“People go to the emergency room and they’re convinced they’re having a heart attack. The symptoms are very similar and they’re very real,” Ellis said.
She said a lot of people can relate to having symptoms of anxiety and depression. It could be nervousness before an interview, mood swings or just feeling down. Depression is when a person feels sad, hopeless or discouraged, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S. and affects 40 million adults, according to the association.
“Depression and anxiety; we call those the commons colds of the mental health world,” Ellis said.
She said it’s important to find time to relax since there are so many everyday stressors. The activity could be as simple as spending time with friends or going out to dinner. Ellis said exercise not only helps with stress but also has a positive effect on the brain. Creative outlets, meditation and yoga are also activities great for mental health, she said.
“It helps our bodies and our brains counteract the effects of stress,” Ellis said.
Yoga offers a lot of relaxation in a short amount of time, said Barbara Kosciewicz of High Street Yoga and Wellness Center in Pottstown. She said it’s as easy as sitting quietly in a yoga pose then breathing in and out.
Another outlet that helps strengthen the mind is art. ArtFusion19464 in Pottstown has a Healing Arts program for people who have been affected by cancer. Pottery teacher Kristen VonHohen said art is an outlet that can help get frustration out.
“It’s a way for me to process things in my head while physically doing something,” she said.
Michilea Patterson – Digital First Media Kathy Deeb creates a clay pot during an art workshop in Pottstown. Deep is currently undergoing cancer treatments and said the pot she created represented hope.
Kathy Deeb, who is currently being treated for cancer, attended a clay pottery workshop at ArtFusion. She said art helps give her something to focus on. Deeb said the clay pot she created represented her process since being diagnosed with cancer.
“There’s hope in it,” she said.
Susan O’Hanlon, a volunteer at the workshop, said art helps her to be present in the moment.
“Art is like exercise. It relieves stress,” she said.
Ellis said people should participate in activities that relax the mind because emotions and stressors can affect everyday life. She said stress can impact relationships and accomplishing goals like New Year’s resolutions. Treat anxiety and stress while it’s small before it reaches a point of big concern, Ellis said.
“It’s easier to believe something’s a physical health problem than to believe that maybe it’s your brain, maybe it’s a mental health issue going on,” she said. “I think most of us could benefit from just attending to how we’re feeling.”