How Does Mental Health Affect Physical Health?
If your child comes back home with a stomach ache, will you run through in your head, what she ate throughout the day? Will you consider if her hands were clean or she had dirt in her nails which she may have swallowed? Will you consider if the snack she ate at the restaurant yesterday may have caused an infection?
But will you consider possible mental health scenarios that might have impacted her physical health? That she is possibly facing a challenge at class that she can't fully find the resources to process? Or that she has recently been going through episodes of bullying that she has been finding hard to handle?
If you have a flare up of a skin condition a few days after you go through a difficult conversation with your boss, will you remember to check in with yourself about what possible emotional/mental health factors in the last few days may have caused this? And if yes, what might be something you do, to help yourself ease out of it? (apart from seeing a doctor or taking medication)
More celebrities and media personalities are now coming out openly to talk about their struggles with mental health and how they coped with it. As a culture, we are now opening up to our vulnerabilities and meeting them with empathy and understanding rather than looking down on them as something shameful, weak or undesirable.
The most important benefit of this topic becoming so open to discussion is that now more than ever, we have a chance to become authentic by allowing ourselves to navigate better through and accept what feels good to us and what doesn't.
If you're curious to find out how mental health affects physical health, here are some angles to help you find perspective and insight:
One way of looking at the connection between mental and physical health is the understanding that many of our illnesses have a psychosomatic root.
The term psychosomatic refers to real physical symptoms that arise from or are influenced by the mind and emotions rather than a specific organic cause in the body (such as an injury or infection). A psychosomatic illness originates from or is aggravated by emotional stress and manifests in the body as physical pain and other symptoms.
For example a pain in your neck may be triggered by stressful situations. It may be something that over the years has been building up and has now become a combination of mental and physical factors. And a stressful situation can become a trigger to the pain.
Think of it like this, like a pressure cooker, stress that is pent up in your body will come out one way or another. The healthiest thing you can do is to develop a controlled way to “vent” instead of letting stress find a weak point and explode.
Journaling, meditation, EFT, self-reflection and counselling are all great ways to develop healthy coping mechanisms to deal with the stressors in your every day life.
Mind Body Connection
If you go one step further, you'll find various experts that have talked about the mind body connection. Some experts believe that 99% of the physical symptoms in our bodies are a result of emotional issues. This means that our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. In other words, our minds can affect how healthy our bodies are!
It doesn't go to say that every stressful situation is going to have an adverse affect on our health, but more towards that if we have a healthy relationship with our emotions, we better cope with stressors in our life in a way that gives us a chance to be healthier physically as well.
When you are stressed, anxious, or upset, your body reacts in a way that might tell you that something isn’t right. For example, you might develop high blood pressure or a stomach ulcer after a particularly stressful event, such as the death of a loved one.
When you improve your emotional health by living a more balanced life, taking better care of yourself and finding ways to be in touch with your emotions, you automatically benefit your immune system and overall health.
Everything Is Energy
According to Donna Eden, author and teacher of Energy Medicine, 'Your body is a self-healing genius.'
Every person is born with natural self-repair mechanisms that kill the cancer cells we produce every day, slow down the aging process, and fight off infections. And good healers know that their job is to facilitate this tremendous ability to heal.
After all, casts don’t heal broken bones; casts hold the affected area in place so that the body can mend itself. Yet many of us continue to rely completely on doctors without realizing just how brilliant our self-healing powers are.
Start listening with love to your body’s messages. Even when you feel ill, or when you’re suffering from an injury, your body is not your enemy. By responding with the compassion to give yourself what you need — rest, good food, exercise — you’ll learn how to optimize your strength and joy.
When you start to make the connections between your mental (& emotional health) and your physical health, you'll find yourself increasingly becoming more aware of what works for you and doesn't. It can lead to a deeper change in your perspective towards how you approach your life!
P.S: "Be Yourself" is an adage that has been repeated hundreds of thousands of times. But at it's very core, is something interesting. If you take 'be yourself' to mean 'be authentic to yourself' it means you allow yourself to be accepting of what your truth is in that moment. And the most basic form of that truth is what your body is expressing to you. When you sync with that truth, whatever it might be, your body is able to relax and create an environment where it can heal itself. Isn't that the most basic definition of 'Being Yourself'?