Our Mind’s Role in Wellness and Health

This week I want to share two different articles about our mental and physical health. The first article is about the importance of mental health and how it affects us physically. The second article is about the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and how he dealt with his chronic pain and illness using psychological techniques. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

The true cost of ignoring mental health in the workplace 

Your mental health can play a huge role in your physical health, with stress, anxiety and depression—all common mental health issues—causing things like heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Today, mental health disorders affect 44 million Americans, but many of them aren’t aware of the benefits offered by their employer. Overall, we need employers to offer benefits, employees to be aware of these offerings, and most importantly to use them.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Good mental health should be a goal for people. It should also be a goal for employers.

  • Personal – “Excessive or chronic stress is known to be associated with higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, because stress can affect health behaviors like smoking, physical inactivity, and overeating, which are risk factors for chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.”
  • Business – “In order to have a healthy workforce, employers must look at health and wellness holistically—and that includes mental health.”

“The report recommends that employers take a comprehensive approach in supporting employees’ mental health across the spectrum from overall well-being to managing mental health disorders.” Employees being psychologically and emotionally fit are in the best interests of everybody. Whether lessened productivity and creativity comes from absenteeism, presenteeism or poor physical health, nobody wins when whole-person health is not the goal.

Marcus Aurelius, Stoicism and Pain

The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius had many health issues but was known for great endurance. He focused on psychological strategies for coping with his illness and pain. This article provides an outline of some of the key techniques he used to cope with his chronic pain that still resonate today.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Did you know that Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius lived in constant pain until almost 60? Did you know that his approach, stoic philosophy, is “the inspiration for modern cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)”? This is a very interesting article that shows how learning to live with #ChronicPain (without pills) is not unique to 2019. Here are the primary techniques:

  • Carefully distinguish what’s directly under your control from what isn’t.
  • Compare the consequences of struggling versus acceptance
  • Remember that it’s not events that upset us but our judgments about them
  • Practice letting go of the inner struggle and actively accepting painful sensations
  • Contemplate how others cope well with pain and illness and model their attitude and behavior

I especially enjoyed this example:

The Stoics compared life to a dog tied to a moving cart. If the dog tries to struggle and resist it will be pulled along roughly by the cart anyway. However, if it chooses to run behind at the same speed as the cart, things will go smoothly. If we struggle against unpleasant experiences such as pain and try to resist them or become frustrated or resentful toward them then we often just make our lives worse.

It doesn’t say give up. It says find a pace that enables you to live life. In today’s psychology discipline it’s called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)—”clients begin to accept their issues and hardships and commit to making necessary changes in their behavior, regardless of what is going on in their lives, and how they feel about it.” It’s not about giving up—it’s about going on.

To read everything on my mind this past week, please visit me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marks-musings-march-25-mark-rxprofessor-pew/.

Until next week,