If you have ever taken a basic psychology class, you have most likely heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. For those of you who haven’t, it is a pyramid of human needs which (from bottom to top) are physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Phil Stutz simplifies this by referring to it as “one’s life-force”; with body at the base, relationships with others in the middle, and your relationship with yourself at the top. - Netflix. (2022). Stutz. United States.
Even though I had heard of the hierarchy of needs before watching Stutz I didn’t truly understand it or its importance.
I have Turner’s Syndrome and diabetes, both of which require regular doctors’ appointments, medications, and lifestyle changes. However, I have never placed much value on going to the doctor, regularly taking medications, eating right, or exercising. Additionally, I also suffer from mental health issues. But I often wonder what’s causing my mental health issues.
The answer is simple - one must first be physically healthy to have good mental health. This is the most important step on the way to happiness.
When I started scheduling regular doctor’s appointments, tracking my carb intake, taking medication consistently, focusing on better sleep, and running every day I started feeling better than I ever had mentally. I had more energy and focus as well as pride in myself.
Seeing mental health doctors is another part of physical health. Many people do not think of the brain as an organ that can be sick, or need treatment, or medications. I was one of those people for a long time. I would take medication for body pain, flu, etc., a lot more easily than I would for my mental health. When I found a psychiatrist I really liked, I got better at taking my medication because I realised it was just as important as any other.
Seeing a neurologist and getting more help, specifically for my autism, is also something I put off for a long time. However, now I am very excited to begin seeing them in the coming months and to learn more tools and make even more progress.
For a long time, I believed Maslow’s third level of forming relationships with others meant romantically. While this is important, it is not the most important. The most important relationships are platonic, ones that no matter what won’t end. I discovered this in my sobriety when reaching out to mend relationships with those that I felt I couldn’t. Those I reached out to were happy to hear from me and didn’t make me feel as bad or guilty as I thought they would. Once again, I felt better than I ever had. Therefore, I want to continue not taking relationships for granted by mending and forming them.
Lastly, at the top, we have our relationship with ourselves. Once you are healthy and have a truly good relationship with others you can finally step up to yourself. I feel because I didn’t have a strong foundation in the first two steps, I would lose myself, primarily to a partner. I would place their needs above mine and not do anything for myself, which led to my mental health worsening. Today, I have made certain promises to myself that for my future relationships, I will always put myself first, and any partner I have will have to embrace that.
Now all this may seem like a lot to remember, because it is. Thankfully there are tools to help.
Writing things down or making a list can help keep track of what needs to be done and what already has been done. Alarms are another tool I use to remind myself of things on my to-do list and make time for them. However, the most important tool to keep on track is grace. There will be days when it takes all a person has in them just to survive. When that happens, you can’t spiral and feel bad about it, instead pick back up the next day.