Why Physical Health is Mental Health

 cr: Krysta Veneruz

cr: Krysta Veneruz

With all the talk surrounding #BellLetsTalk today, as well was the demand on campus for more mental health initiatives and awareness, it’s clear that the fast-paced, demanding environment we live in takes a toll on people. At the institutional level, mental health is definitely cast aside; universities and colleges rarely take into account the stresses that come along with today’s educational standards. With increasing GPAs requirements for graduate studies or professional programs, higher tuition costs, and higher living costs (especially in Toronto), it’s inevitable that students are going to face, at minimum, feelings of anxiety during their post-secondary careers.

To familiarize you, 1 in 5 Canadians will experience some sort of mental health illness in any given year; whether that be anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, manic depression (bipolar disorder), or something else. So it’s not hard to surmise that mental illness has become more or less normal, despite the continuing stigma surrounding it. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, nearly 80% of people with mental illness could be helped if they chose to seek resources — that is an exuberantly high statistic that not enough people have been paying attention to!

In terms of mental health and self-help, I think that there is so much more to be done. Think of a time when you stayed up all night studying and the next day you were sleep-deprived, making you significantly more irritable than normal. Think of a time when your head felt like it was going to explode and you couldn’t perform your best because you hadn’t had any water that day. Or have you ever thought about how your body becomes increasingly stiff the longer you sit still? Wouldn’t all these things affect your thoughts and your self-perception?

Health is an enormous component of our lives that encompasses so many different variables — mental health is one of them, along with physical health. I’ve been really impressed by all the positivity around mental health, but I’m becoming increasingly dissatisfied at the amount of stress put on physical health by the general population — particularly post-secondary institutions. Now that mental health awareness is increasing, institutions like our schools and the government (particularly OSAP) need to take these factors into account, because living an all-around healthy lifestyle is expensive.

One easy and cost-effective step students can take is to improve their physical health, as a means of helping their mental health as well. It may seem cliché, but your body really is your temple and the way you treat it in one aspect of health will directly affect another. That’s why I think the concept of self-help needs to include physical health. We need to be nourishing our body with healthy foods, sleeping enough, and exercising enough to be able to perform well academically. So the next time you’re stressed or feeling panicked, try stretching, running, going for a walk or bike ride, or just drinking some water — you might be surprised at its effectiveness!