Mental Health and the Mind-Body Connection
What do you picture when you hear the word “health”? Chances are, you think of a balanced diet and regular exercise. You may think of other healthy habits, or you may even have an image in your mind of what a “healthy” person looks like. When you think of health, however, do you think of mental health?
Mental health is largely left out of the conversation about a healthy lifestyle. Even when it’s brought in, there is a tendency to simplify mental health to mindfulness, meditation, and mantras. While these things can certainly contribute to a positive outlook, mental health is much, much more: it’s our coping mechanisms, ability to recover from dysregulation, thought processes, and even our physical health.
Physical and mental health are deeply connected. Have you ever felt out of breath, like your heart is racing, fatigued, and nauseous, but you weren’t otherwise sick? This happens to be one of the tell-tale physical signs of anxiety. How about having insomnia, an upset stomach, and constantly catching a cold? This could be a large sign that you’re battling depression. In other words, mental health has a direct impact on your physical health. If one part of you is unwell, the others are likely to follow.
If you aren’t aware of the mind-body connection, check out these three ways mental health impacts physical health in a big way.
Mental Health Disorders are Associated with Chronic Health Concerns
Many times, chronic illness and mental health disorders go hand-in-hand. This appears to be a “chicken or the egg” scenario – sometimes the chronic illness comes first, and sometimes the mental health condition comes first. Either way, multiple mental health disorders are associated with chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Just some of these are depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Physical Symptoms are a Common Side Effect of Anxiety
Anxiety causes a slew of physical side effects nobody wants to deal with. Just some of the issues associated with anxiety are sleep disorders, gastrointestinal issues, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), weakened immune system, cardiovascular complications, and chronic pain. If you wake up feeling nauseous and like your heart is racing, this could definitely be a sign of anxiety building up in your body.
Positive Mental Health Impacts Positive Physical Health
On the flip side of the coin, having positive mental health, or mental wellness, is associated with physical wellness. Mental wellness reduces our chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. Those with positive mental health are less likely to smoke or abuse alcohol or other drugs, which have negative impacts on our physical health over time. Since up to 90% of all doctor’s visits are due to stress, keeping our mental health intact could lead to less time in the doctor’s office and less physical symptoms overall.
We hope you’ve learned a little about the impact of mental health on physical health! The biggest takeaway: mental health is physical health, even if we try to separate the two. This week, take some time to engage in a mind-body exercise: meditation, yoga, tai-chi, and Qigong are just some you can do at home for no expense to you.
If your physical and mental health is declining, talk to someone! At Straight Up Treatment, we specialize in counseling for anxiety and OCD. Reach out to us today to schedule a session. We look forward to talking with you!