So yesterday we talked about the stressors you find that impact on your body. We discovered one thing that I didn’t think would happen – there are a lot more things that put pressure and strain on our bodies than I thought there were! Who knew that the simple act of being in a warm room could put pressure on your physical system?! And that list was huge! When you really think about it, some of the things that we believe to be effortless, can have a big impact when we don’t realise it!
Following the same formula as yesterday, mental stress would be defined as anything that places a force, strain or pressure on our ability to perform mental tasks. I wonder if we’ll find the same thing that we did for physical stress?
So let’s have a look. What everyday things place pressure, strain or force on our mental abilities?
- Sleep deprivation/fatigue
- Thinking about stuff (especially overthinking)
- Worrying/dwelling on things
- Comparing yourself to others
- Rehearsing conversations/events in your mind
- Addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs
- Food and water (the types and/or amount of)
- Accidents or physical trauma
- Temperature (either too hot or too cold)
- Remembering/recalling information
- Interpreting information
- Cooking (measuring etc)
- Calculating mathematical problems
- Recalling facts and figures
- Physical tasks such as driving
- Physical exertion
I know this list isn’t as extensive as yesterday’s, but like yesterday, I’m sure there are plenty more things that belong on it. I’d love it if you would let me know of anything that impacts your mental wellbeing, so I can add it to the list.
You’ll also notice that not everything listed could be classified as a mental activity. For example, let’s look at food. Consuming processed foods often makes us feel foggy and weighed down, and not eating enough can make us feel unfocused. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to concentrate on studying on a hot day? Or if you take a knock to the head, how easy is it to remember how to spell? The common thread is that all these things place some kind of strain or pressure and ultimately impact on our ability to perform mentally.
Like with many of the physical stressors we discussed yesterday, a good portion of items on today’s list actually help support our health and wellbeing. Reading, writing, spelling, calculating, doing puzzles, studying, learning etc, all improve our capacity to perform more mental tasks. We increase our stamina, and speed. The more we use our mind the greater our ability to perform. And it helps guard against certain diseases such as dementia. Which can only be a great thing, right?
And as with our physical stressors, the greatest gains occur when we allow our minds to rest and recover. But, as with our physical selves, it can sometimes be difficult to tell when we need to make time for recovery. Performing a simple mathematical calculation probably isn’t too taxing. And for many of us, nor would writing a story. However when we combine the two and perform them one after the other, along with a series of brainstorming and problem-solving activities, it becomes a different story. And if we also add in some medications for hayfever or an infection, take a guess at how well you’d be able to perform those mental tasks.
The bottom line is this; rest and recovery are essential for mental wellness.