Embracing Holistic Wellness: A Journey to Maximize Mental and Physical Health
In a world that often compartmentalizes well-being, I’ve invited Mackenzie Triponey to help us navigate the intersection between mental and physical health. Through her profound understanding and expertise, she weaves a tapestry of insights that encourages a more comprehensive and integrated approach to wellness.
Whether you're seeking a path to stress reduction, enhanced cognitive function, or physical vitality, Mackenzie provides a roadmap to cultivate a lifestyle that nourishes every facet of your being.
Here we go...
An Introduction to the Holistic Approach
Whether you’re a competitive athlete, a seasoned fitness enthusiast, or just starting your fitness journey, it is important to understand that your overall wellness is more than how “fit” you are physically. It involves much more, especially your mental health. Viewing wellness in this way, as a multi-faceted concept, aligns with a holistic approach to health.
According to the Holistic Health Institute at Western Connecticut State University, holistic health is an approach to life that considers multidimensional aspects of wellness, namely physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social. This view of wellness is important at the individual and systemic level because it gives credit and attention to all the moving parts that contribute to our overall health, which allows us to consider a wide variety of potential concerns and solutions. Human beings are complex creatures, so it only makes sense that our approach to wellness honors and models that.
You may have heard the quote, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” We must pay attention to each aspect of our health to optimize our performance and quality in every area of life.
Mental and Physical Health
Physical health and paying attention to your physical body (i.e., exercise, nutrition, sleep, immune health) is important, but “there is no health without mental health” (World Health Organization). That means you must also consider your mental/emotional state and its connections to the body.
Here are some core truths you need to know:
Mental health is just as real as physical health. In the same way that you seek immediate medical attention when you break a bone, it is both acceptable and necessary to seek counsel when you experience emotional distress.
Mental and physical health are directly related. This means that the condition of one directly impacts the condition of the other. Poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical conditions, and chronic physical conditions are a risk factor for developing poor mental health (The Canadian Mental Health Association).
A lot of times, we find ourselves fixating on physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, drowsiness, tight muscles) and therefore searching for physical solutions (e.g., Tylenol, caffeine, stretching). But these symptoms can also be signs of chronic psychological stress that must be addressed with psychological solutions.
Applications for You
Physical exercise through a variety of movements like strength training, aerobic exercise, yoga, swimming, and stretching, to name a few, can decrease the likelihood of future mental health issues, and help improve your current mental health by regulating your hormones, decreasing stress and mental fatigue, increasing sleep quality, providing a natural energy boost, and giving you a sense of achievement (Mental Health Foundation).
Eat whole nutritious foods that support your gut and hormone health, including a variety of quality meats, fruits, vegetables, and grains, and practice an 80/20 lifestyle that allows you to enjoy your food and special treats now and then.
Find social support through family, friends, and community, and lean into those positive relationships.
Seek spiritual health by nurturing your faith through prayer, study, and encouraging relationships with those who share your beliefs.
Mental exercise through counseling with a trusted provider, mindfulness (the awareness of mind, body, and world), meditation, slow intentional movements (e.g., breathing exercises, gentle stretching, walks in nature), and finding movements that bring you joy will fortify your mental wellness, which will support you in your physical training journey and help to keep you motivated throughout trials along the way. Especially for athletes, Sports Psychology is a whole realm of research that you can dive into to help you understand your mental processes more, which will enhance your sports performance in the long run.
Whatever stage of life you are in, and wherever you are in your wellness journey, a holistic approach will help you reach your goals and maximize your performance, especially when you consider the relationship between and the importance of your mental and physical health.
Mackenzie (Barr) Triponey obtained her BA in Psychology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2021, and her MA in Human Services Counseling: Life Coaching from Liberty University in 2022. She works as an administrative assistant for Pressley Ridge, a human services nonprofit. She and her husband Joel, whom she married in 2022, host The We Tripin’ Podcast (@wetripinpod), and they spend much of their free time at the park with their dog LuLu. Mackenzie has self-published two poetry collections, Self-Esteem Engine, and Self-Loved. Mackenzie is passionate about mental health awareness and encouraging others to seek help for their own struggles, and to be a light for others in their time of need.