mental health

How Mental Health Affects Physical Health

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Macey L. Deslauriers, Outpatient Therapist.  When you're physically ill, no one bats an eye that you should rest, see a doctor, or get proper treatment. But when it comes to mental health, it's certainly not as commonplace to refer someone to get the care they may require. There seems to be a disconnect in society between our mind and body being separate when in reality, the two are undeniably connected. Mental health affects physical healthand vice versa.   Mental illness encompasses many aspects of mental health, including disorders that affect our behavior, mood, and thoughts. However, stress is a commonality amongst many mental health conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety. When we experience any emotional or mental distress, our mind is stressed-and that stress doesn’t stop in our mind; it manifests in our body.  

Stress in the Body

Short bursts of stress are normal and necessary to activate our fight or flight response in emergencies. Prolonged stress affects our mental and physical health the most. Long periods of stress can lead to the development of chronic stress. Chronic stress activates the immune system, causes muscles to tighten, slows digestion, and negatively impacts memory and attention. According to The MQ Foundation stress affects both physical and mental health; "Long-term stress can contribute to both physical and mental illness through effects on the heart, immune and metabolic functions, and hormones acting on the brain." Essentially, our body starts sounding off the alarm bells and starts screaming, "help!"    Related: How to Set and Achieve Your Goals 

The Power of Exercise 

Exercise can improve the connection between your mind and body. Working out releases endorphins which have been proven to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and strengthen your heart. In addition, you can also use your mind-body connection while working out to improve stamina, as explained by Macey L. Deslauriers, Outpatient Therapist.  
Have you ever been in the middle of an intense workout and realized it's really hard and you're struggling to get through it? Smile! Your brain will release “happy” hormones that will improve your confidence in getting through the workout. The mind-body connection is remarkable, use it to your advantage! 
Related: 8 Simple Ways to De-Stress

Increase Your Mind-Body Connection 

Most importantly, prioritize catching stressors to quiet the alarm bells the stress was triggering. Try these tips next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed: 
  • Take 3-5 deep breaths with your hand on your stomach. Focus on the movement of your belly or your lungs expanding and contracting. 
  • Do a body scan. Start with relaxing your face and shoulders and work your way down.
  • Pause and become aware of the present moment, observe your environment with intention and ease. 
  • Identify the cause of stress through journaling or talking with a friend. Determine how you can best tackle the stressor and minimize its impact.
Related: How Routines Benefit Your Mental Health 

A Word From Nystrom & Associates 

Many times, those who need care don’t get treatment until a crisis occurs. If you’re feeling anxiousdepressed, or simply have questions about mental health, don’t wait to reach outNystrom has over 900 qualified providers ready to assist you with whatever problems you may be having that are affecting your life.   The first step in feeling better is taking the leap. If you’re daunted by the thought of therapy, scroll through our providers and learn more about their experience and the fieldthey specialize in.  Contact us if you have any questions about mental health or the services we offer. Related: What Are Mental Health Days?  

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