Monday, February 22, 2010

The physical and mental health connection

While enjoying lunch at Fresh this weekend (delicious - how can I convince the owners to open an Ottawa restaurant?) Ashley said to me, "you don't blog anymore!" How right she was. The first thing out of my mouth was "I don't have time" then realized the ridiculousness of saying this to Ashley, whose schedule makes my days look like a walk in the park. I guess the spark to write hasn't hit me lately but this weekend got me thinking about how mental health is as important as physical health, as well as the connection between the two.

I was in Toronto this weekend because my friend Kristy and I had planned a trip so that we could see Ashley perform in the musical REX. I've known Ashley since we were 12 but this was the first time I've been able to see her perform. Ashley played both Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth, and I was blown away by her stunning singing voice (you've come a long way from karaoke in Rossmore hun!) and the stage presence she brought to both characters. I also really enjoyed the show as a whole since I love musicals and am really interested in the history of the Tudor era.

The show, along with many other great experiences this weekend, was an excellent opportunity to reflect on where I am in my life right now and how it's a pretty great place to be. I feel so fortunate to have remained friends with Ashley for all these years and to get to see her shine on stage. I am also so fortunate to have a friend like Kristy in my life, with whom I always have an amazing time and who appreciates my dorkiness (by going with me to both the ROM and a dollhouse store!). It was a good weekend for mental health - a chance to take a break from work (and Ottawa weather), and an opportunity to appreciate the good things in my life.

This morning, having returned to Ottawa, I had my annual physical. On my way to the doctor's office I couldn't help thinking about last year's physical. I was not in a very good place in my life at the time. I was very stressed out by work and a lengthy bus strike and I wasn't taking care of myself - so it shouldn't have come as a shock when my doctor told me I had gained 10 pounds, but it did. 10 pounds may not seem like a big deal, but it hit me that if I kept on going the way I was, 10 would turn into 20, 30, 40 pounds very quickly. When my doctor asked me about exercise I had to admit that other than walking there had been no exercise for me for quite some time. Sitting wrapped in a paper sheet in your doctor's office is not the greatest feeling at the best of times, and that day, I couldn't imagine feeling worse.

What a difference a year makes. Today I chatted happily with my doctor and grinned when she said, "your weight is back down to normal, good for you!" We talked about the different types of exercise I've incorporated into my life, and I didn't feel guilty about some food indulgences this weekend, because I knew I'd be going home to a healthy meal and my Pilates dvd. Today's doctor's visit clearly illustrated to me that mental and physical health are so closely linked. Stress has certainly not disappeared from my life but I've learned that clean eating and exercise are healthy ways to deal with stress. I've also learned to allow myself a fun weekend without guilt, and how to get back on track once that weekend is over.

I hope to continue writing on the blog because writing has always been a great way for me to reflect and unwind, so while writing about my physical health I will also be doing my mental health a favour. I'll try to use this blog to continue being healthy in all ways!

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