The world is currently subjecting us to a wide range of conditions that we are not used to and that are effecting our mental and physical health in a number of ways. Today I wanted to write briefly about how your mental health directly impacts your physical well-being.
“Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
Health is not merely the absence of disease; it is a state of wellbeing on a number of levels – physical, mental, social and more besides. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
Keeping this definition in mind one should focus on holistic wellness to stay healthy which includes physical, mental as well as spiritual health, however you interpret that. These are interconnected and contribute to a solid foundation. If we eat a balanced diet, sleep well, and exercise regularly it benefits both physical as well as mental health. Yet such seemingly simple aspects of life can evade us while we are coping with conditions of life during times of pandemic.
We are subjected to a variety of different stressors currently. Chronic stress creates biochemical changes in the body that contribute to the biochemical imbalance that is often associated with depression. In addition, the lack of good stress management and emotion regulation skills causes chronic stress.
If you don’t take proper care of your mental health, it can in turn negatively affect your physical health. Here’s how mental health can be detrimental to physical health:
Depression and the Immune System
Depression, which is one of the most common mental disorders in the United Kingdom and the United States, doesn’t just impact mood and motivation. It can directly affect the immune system by suppressing T cell responses to viruses and bacteria, making it easier to get sick and stay sick for longer. A weakened immune system can also lead to a jump in the severity of allergies or asthma.
A 2012 Harvard University meta-analysis covering 200 articles contained some that even suggested that it can be the other way around, and the immune system may actually cause depression on occasion. Stress — especially the chronic type — triggers an immune response within the brain itself. That inflammatory response may be a contributor to depression experienced by some.
A strong immune system is a hallmark of physical health, but the addition of stress increases the chances of depression. In turn, depression may further weaken the immune system, resulting in a discouraging cycle.
Mental Illness and Fatigue
Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders often result in persistent feelings of tiredness and exhaustion. Some inappropriately suggest that “it’s all in your head,” but research shows this is not the case. Being mentally tired leads to physical tiredness.
Mental illness is closely linked with fatigue, and that persistent tiredness can easily lead to declines in physical health. When someone is chronically depressed or anxious, they are less likely to engage in exercise and to quit early when they do.
Anger, Anxiety and Heart Health
Angry outbursts and the stress of anxiety are bad for the heart. An Australian study set out to see if acute emotions can cause heart attacks like you see in movies — and unfortunately, the trope is true.
While youths are generally a long way away from having to worry about heart attacks, anger and anxiety involved in impulse control disorders can negatively affect their growing hearts. Other studies included in the meta-analysis suggest depression has been linked to a 50 percent increase in a person’s risk of dying from cancer and a 67 percent increase from heart disease. These conditions have a significant impact on life expectancies.
“Taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as any career move or responsibility.” – Mireille Guiliano
There are many ways to help one get the state of both wellness. A few lifestyle changes can impact a great deal on your mind and body. Here are a few ways to maintain physically and mentally healthy.
Be kind to yourself
It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. We all have our share of ups and downs in life but that shouldn’t stop you from reaching your goals. Take your time. Relax. Breathe. Let it go and stand up tall again.
Maintain a sleep hygiene
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life. The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can effect you detrimentally over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.
When you have depression or anxiety, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get into it, exercise can make a big difference. Exercise helps prevent and improve several health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis. Research on depression, anxiety, and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety.
Regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by:
- Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids), and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being
- Taking your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety
Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:
- Gain confidence
- Get more interaction that is social
- Cope in a healthy way
Maintain a balanced diet
Food choices are tough both during coping with anxiety and with physical training. Most people tend to either skip meals or overeat when dealing with depression. You can always take advice from your dietician and include food you love in the diet. All in a healthy and balanced way.
If we are mentally unhealthy, it affects both our physical health as well as our spiritual health. Hence, if you want to stay healthy, you need to look at both physical and mental wellbeing together and not as two different kinds of health.
It’s so tough right now, but applying some of the basics in order to bolster our mental and physical health is incredibly worthwhile.
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