As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, it is as easy as it can be frustrating to (have to) illustrate the importance of mental health in relation to the physical.
It's funny; everyone willingly accepts the correlation between stress and disease, and you can even find plenty of articles on which foods to eat at night to better ensure good sleep.
However, many people -- especially pharmaceutical reps -- selectively opt out of this principle of relationship when it comes to diagnoses like “depression” or other mental disorders, which surely may contain a genetic component, but logically must also be impacted by other factors as well.
My point is, the body and mind are connected -- not only in regards to symptoms the masses have collectively agreed upon, but always and in all instances, forever, until death do them part.
Coinciding with the organs of the five elements, here are five reasons why mental health is just as important as physical.
1. Sleep (heart):
Speaking from personal experience, I have three personalities: six-hour sleep David, seven-hour sleep David and eight-hour sleep David.
The latter of which is one of the most wonderful people you'll ever meet. After eight hours, I'm cheery and optimistic, ready to attack the world and achieve all of my goals.
Six-hour sleep (or less) David, on the other hand, hates almost everyone and gets irritated by a pocketbook bumping into my leg or a phlegmy cough from the seat next to mine.
There's a negative mental continuum on replay throughout the day, spiraling my attitude into the gutter and beyond, and all other plans get unapologetically canceled.
I barely have the energy to fulfill my employment obligation. No calls or texts get returned, no exercise gets done, and I couldn't care less, as I am wholly void of passion for anything. For the meantime I am clinically depressed, which brings us to…
2. Depression (lungs):
In Chinese Medicine, we mostly view depression as either “stagnant liver qi,” i.e. a pathological lack of circulation of energy, or “yang deficiency,” i.e. an underactive sympathetic nervous system resulting in a weakness of energy.
In either case, it shouldn't be difficult for any competent mind to recognize the potential domino effects of such conditions. Any time there is pain, whether muscle discomfort, headaches or stiff neck, we can be sure circulation is to some degree impaired.
Circulation is necessary for proper digestion, operation of the five senses and our genitals in sexual performance. Whether our energy is weak or stuck, it is bound to adversely impact our bodies in a way that is quite depressing, unfortunately perpetuating this vicious cycle of sadness, nausea and bad sex.
3. Anxiety (kidneys):
Have you ever tried enjoying a good meal, the company of loved ones or pursuing your life's passion in the midst of a panic attack? No? It's close to impossible.
Now, have you ever enjoyed life during any extended interim that was void of good meals, the presence of loved ones or the pursuit of any passion? Equally difficult. It is important to be not in a perpetual state of anxiety.
4. Anger (liver):
The good news about holistic medicine is that everything is connected. The bad news about holistic medicine is that everything is connected, and none of our behaviors get to exist in the vacuum of the moment.
Chinese Medicine holds that anger makes energy rise pathologically in the body (Depression makes it sink and worry makes it deplete.), which means bad news for us rage-aholics. Temper tantrums really do harm us.
There are certain energies that are supposed to go downward, usually those that correspond with the parasympathetic function, i.e. digestion and sleep.
Anyone who's ever experienced racing thoughts while lying in bed, or heartburn when they'd surely prefer a great bowel movement, there's probably energy rising that shouldn't.
Watch that anger.
5. Worry (stomach):
As long as there are no guarantees, there is no way we're ever going to stop worrying.
Worrying can be linked to many physical ailments, including stomach ulcers, or tightness in organs, causing an unexplainable pain.
In working to close and end the stigmas that surround mental health, it's helpful to remember how many physical ties our bodies have to our spectrum of emotions. Make sure to take care of yourself inside and out, and recognize when your mind may need a break from stress and worry.