Personal Growth

Up in the Gym, Just Working on my Mental Fitness

We’ve all seen those memes going around that show us that self care isn’t always just bath bombs, getting our nails done and going on a shopping spree, right? I mean, I love a good T.J.Maxx or Home Goods run just as much as the next person BUT, does it solve our problems? Yes. You like my hair? Gee thanks, just bought it. Kidding- Not all of them and certainly not long term. Truthfully, on another end of the spectrum, eating well and going to the gym doesn’t always solve all of our problems either. So Janice, who spends her free time going to TJMaxx to buy new workout clothes, snubs her nose up at all the “out of shape” people at the gym, goes to get her Strawberry Banana Greek Yogurt Grass Fed Organic smoothie on the way home, just to ignore all of the issues she has with her spouse and friends because she pretends everyone else is the problem, right? I have some news for you Janice. Emotional Health is just as important as physical.

Now I’m sure some of you are wondering why I was judging poor Janice on her smoothie choice or buying some new workout clothes. That wasn’t the point of my extremely short, maybe farfetched way to describe a stereotype, story of Janice. I love a good protein shake just as much as the next person, but you wont see me giving somebody the eyes for not drinking one. The truth is, we all know a Janice don’t we? It takes every ounce of our being to be nice to Janice at work because she’s always gossiping. The “judgey Janice” at the gym who is laughing at the overweight guy who decided he was going to step in to a gym to better his lifestyle. The “backstabbing Regina George Janice,” who is still in the 90’s high school mean girl phase. The “jealous friend Janice,” who doesn’t want to see you prosper because they don’t want to put in the work. The “family member Janice,” who is stuck in their archaic ways, passing down lessons on what your life “should” look like. The “narcissistic Janice,” that has nothing to talk about other than themselves. There is a Janice on every corner and in every aspect of our daily lives. Why is that? Because we, as a culture, do not put as much of an emphasis as we should on mental fitness. Yes, mental fitness. A term that we coined (or at least have used as a major tagline of ours), to describe strengthening our emotional intelligence. It all starts with being aware, and wanting to be aware, of how you are as person, outside of how your physical body presents itself.

Something I have come to notice recently and have become quite concerned with, is what we consider a “healthy” person. Working in retail management has led me to meet hundreds of people a day. Most recently, working in a retail environment that happens to sell things such as food, alcohol, and tobacco. These are some things that we could consider “healthy” or “unhealthy,” and this environment has led me to being able to hear some quite interesting things from the general population. I’ve overheard customers complain about an unhealthy donut but throw a 24 pack of Budweiser on the counter. The same people will complain about a cheeseburger but throw a huge soda down on the counter or ask for a pack of cigarettes or a can of chew. There are also people you know who are so strict on their diet, don’t smoke, don’t drink, but geez, they’re assholes.  It is engrained in our society what is “acceptably” healthy and what is not. We worry and judge people so much on what they’re eating or drinking or what they weigh or how they look, that little do we realize, this world wouldn’t be as rough of a place if we started judging more people on how they treated others, what kind of conversations you could have with them or what kind of peace and growth they offer you when you are around them.

I think that the common misconception is that if you haven’t been “diagnosed” with a mental health disorder, then you must be emotionally well or fit. According to Rachel O’ Neill,  a licensed professional clinical counselor, that’s a dangerous misconception. “An individual can certainly experience periods of stress, discomfort, sadness, or anxiety without necessarily meeting criteria for a mental health disorder,” she said. “Mental wellness is a process, and just like physical health, it’s an ongoing process to maintain mental and emotional wellness.” There are also many people who go untreated who do have mental health issues, because they are either too proud or too scared to seek help, or they have people around them who continue to enable them, which is how we get our good friend Janice. 

That leads us to a condensed and simplified list of things that we can do to improve our mental fitness. This isn’t a one size fits all list, but it is an, I promise it will have a positive impact in some way, shape or form in your life, list.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.

– Brené Brown

Be vulnerable. Yes, I am pulling out the Brene Brown card again. Expect it every time, we love her. In Brene Browns TED Talk, the power of vulnerability, she gives us 5 powerful lessons. Don’t bottle up your emotions and become self aware– get in touch with how you’re really feeling and thinking. Explore your emotions a d find a method for coxing these feelings out which works best for you, i.e writing, meditating or talking with a friend. Courage is the root of vulnerability. Pivotal research shows, despite modern culture erring on the side of suppressing feelings in order to show strength, that true strength is to allow yourself to be vulnerable. This allows us to become directly in touch with our most authentic self in order to lead a more fulfilling and happy life. Show up, face fear and move forward. Fear and criticism are always there to greet us but show up anyway. Flex on that courage. Seek excellence, not perfection. Brown says perfectionism is, “the belief that if we live perfectly, look perfectly and act perfectly, we can avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.” Perfectionism isn’t rooted in growth or improvement, its about fear and avoidance. Focus on producing the best version of yourself, despite your flaws. (can I get an Amen for that and a Hallelu-yer, for the people in the back.) Dare to be yourself. Whatever the cost. Face your fears, insecurities and doubts, use these to build your strengths and skillset.

“It’s time. All of this pretending and performing- these coping mechanisms you have developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt-has to go.” – Queen Brene Brown

It is time to heal those traumas, address those bad habits, hold yourself accountable and to no longer seek validation from others. Growth is messy and painful and it is not linear, just like healing. It is not fun sometimes. You know what else is not fun? Being a Janice or being around a Janice.

Make Mental Health Great Again.

Should I Get that made on hats?

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