How many times have we seen this phrase used in marketing for gym memberships, weight loss programs, or beauty treatments? But here, in the House of Health, I will use it to discuss a much more important part of ourselves, the “You” that lives inside our brains. Maybe you can relate-throughout my years in acting school, beginning with my time at NYU, teachers would tell me I was my own worst enemy. It was so frustrating. I was working so hard on my craft and it was such an intangible concept for me to grasp-“get out of your own way”. What? A decade later the theme has stuck by me but I now understand what my teachers meant-the person that lives in my head who is filled with self-doubt, insecurity, perhaps jealousy-is the person that was getting in the way of my art and the rest of my life. However, I knew that it was that same girl who fed my work whether I was doing a scene playing a tortured girl or an alcoholic; and therefore, I refused to let her go. I call this part of me “Anal” (Thanks, little sis, for the nickname).  We all have an Anal in our lives to some degree-She (or he!) is the one telling us we can’t do something, we did something wrong, or we need something that we don’t have. She is the one that is constantly judging our selves, and the rest of the world around us; finding our flaws. And let me tell you, there have been times in my life where she has been a really serious pain in the A$$! She has kept me from getting acting jobs, following through with an idea or dream, or some days she is what pushes me too hard at the gym. Ok, you get it.

But the reason I bring Anal up here is because last year one of my New Year’s Resolutions (I make a list every year that I actually write down so I know I will have a better chance of following through-stay tuned for that) was to quiet Anal down and get her to leave me alone. And I had to make a conscious effort to fight her, which was (and still is!) an ongoing battle-sometimes she would disappear for weeks but mostly her voice was just turned down a dial from the year before.

As a Pilates instructor I am constantly coming in contact with people who are working to improve their health; mostly they want to work on their bodies but it has been amazing to see how much people put everything before themselves. They feel guilty about it.  The Anal that lives in their head tells them they shouldn’t be spending money on taking care of their body or mind because perhaps they don’t deserve it. I definitely have had that conversation with Anal, and then I realize she is being ridiculous because I am the only person I will spend my entire life with, every second of every day. Your mental health is just as important, if not more, than the rest of your health. As mentioned in my post FIND YOUR GOLF, stress is one of the most detrimental things for our health, and stress most often begins in our brains, in how we handle situations. Here are a few articles you can read about how our thoughts affect our health:

How Negative Thoughts Affect Our Body

Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health

Understanding Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Effects

Some examples of the effects of stress include a weakened immune system, sleep deprivation, digestive problems, injuries from tight muscles, diseases…and so much more! It is so obvious that stress can cause us all kinds of aches and pains, and yet, we live in a society where seeing someone for our mental health-whether a therapist, Buddhist monk, priest, etc…is something that is done only when the aches and pains are already there; when the problem already exists! There is this stupid idea that we are weak if we go to a professional to work on our inner selves-like we are not strong enough to figure out our problems, anxieties, whatever, without help. Some people see it as a luxury that they don’t need. Doesn’t it make sense to have guidance from someone who has devoted his or her career to working on the inner self? It drives me nuts! Or that it is too expensive-guess what? Nothing is more important than how we feel so if that money needs to come out of the budget of a new bag or your next meal out, it is the best way you can spend it. I love it when people come to see me and complain about the cost of working with me in the same hour that they are showing off their new Louis Vuitton bag they just bought at Saks. Hello???

We all make choices on how we spend our money and I highly encourage you to budget in the time and if necessary, the money, to take care of your inner self in 2011. There are so many ways you can do it. Practice yoga on a weekly basis (commit to going regularly and in some cities there is donation based yoga so money really can’t be an excuse!). Set up weekly or monthly visits with a mental health professional or life coach. How about some bodywork such as a monthly massage? Visit your priest or pray more if that is what gives you peace of mind. The point is to do something consistently that will quiet down any of the negative chatter going on in your brain. In the new year, I have vowed to take a meditation class to learn how to meditate (I am sure you will be hearing about that and now you have to hold me to it!) to help cope with the everyday stresses of life and that damn inner girl, Anal. I know it is easier for some people to find the time and/or money but MAKE THE TIME. You will be a better parent/sibling/lover/relative/professional/coworker/friend/self because of it!