The phrase“ get out of your head” is intended to remind us not to overthink things – but the truth is we live in our heads constantly. Everything we see, touch, hear, taste and do triggers thoughts, emotions and memories. How we mentally interpret experiences can even initiate dramatic physical responses, such as the fight-or-flight response, and release a flood of the body’s hormones and chemicals, like cortisol and endorphins.
It’s no wonder, then, that our mental health can play such a huge role in our physical wellbeing every moment of every day. In fact, the state of a person’s mental health and the presence of psychological disorders have been shown to be linked to a number of physical health concerns and chronic diseases.
When you’re under a lot of stress, your body releases excess stress hormone, cortisol, which can raise blood pressure and heart rate. If left unchecked, these high cortisol levels can lead to chronic disease of the heart and vascular system.
Psychological disorders can actually change how the digestive system functions, leading to increased pain and other poor digestive health symptoms.
Poor mental health can cause people to neglect their own physical needs. This can lead to poor eating habits that cause obesity – or poor sleep habits that can trigger the development of sleep problems such as insomnia or sleep apnea. Those who suffer from poor mental health are also more likely to smoke, which can cause a number of health issues. In general, poor self-care can make it difficult to prevent and manage chronic disease, such as diabetes and hypertension – and lead to early death.
Mental health disorders such as depression and schizophrenia have been linked to a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and others. For this reason, if you suffer from a mental health disorder, it’s important to have regular screenings and checkups so that your physician can provide you with a diagnosis and early intervention, if needed.
How Physical Health Affects Mental Health
As much as our mental health affects our physical health, the reverse is true as well, with our physical health affecting our mood, concentration and much more. People with physical health issues such as psoriasis, cancer and cardiac events, for example, are more likely to receive a diagnosis of depression or anxiety.
How to Care for Your Mental Health and Physical Health
Healthcare is important not just for your physical wellbeing, but also for your mental health. Even if your access to mental care is limited, you can do more to increase your longevity and boost your mental health and physical health by incorporating the following into your daily routine:
· Exercise. Strength training or any kind of cardio can help your body release endorphins to feel better, boost strength and maintain a healthy weight.
· Eat a healthy diet. Eat more vegetables and fruits and reduce your intake of fatty or processed foods and sugar.
· Limit alcohol and stop smoking. Both of these can take a toll on your health over time.
· Reduce stress. Try meditation, yoga, journaling and other relaxation strategies. Engaging in hobbies you enjoy can also help.
· Sleep right. Aim for seven to nine hours each night, and be sure your sleep environment is dark, cool and calm.
· Seek support. When you’re feeling stressed, talking to others can help. Seek advice and support from friends, family and mental healthcare professionals when you need it.
If you haven’t received a diagnosis of a mental health disorder but are experiencing symptoms such as lack of interest in things you used to enjoy, decreased appetite, self-harming thoughts, irritability, trouble concentrating, sleep problems, ongoing feelings sadness or seeing or hearing things that aren’t there, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider right away. And if you feel like you are having a mental healthcare emergency, know that the emergency physicians at Laredo Emergency Room are here for you 24/7/365.
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