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  • Writer's pictureAqsa Merchant

Unlocking the Mind-Body Connection: How Mental Health Impacts Your Physical Well-being

The letter ‘H’ in Health is a symbol. The two lines represent the elements of mind and body, and the horizontal line is a bridge connecting the two domains of human well-being.

If Mental Health is on one end of a see-saw, physical health is on the other, and they continue impacting and influencing each other. So, it’s no surprise that people with mental health disorders become more vulnerable to developing medical issues.

Our thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviors have a major influence on our physical health. Take, for instance, you have your solo singing performance the next day and you feel very anxious. Suddenly you find yourself having a sore throat and frequenting the washroom time and again.

Stress plays a crucial role in our well-being. If the weight of stress pressing upon us enlarges, we may tend to engage in unhealthy responses like binge-eating, binge-watching TV shows, impulsive behavior, withdrawal from social life or over-socializing, sleeping too much, drinking too much alcohol, lashing out at others, taking up smoking or smoking more than usual, taking prescription or illegal drugs to relive oneself from stress.

These choices, although some may be briefly rewarding, can begin ruining our delicate fabric of Health. Over time, these may usher issues like – obesity, tension headaches, high blood pressure, heart conditions, skin conditions, diabetes, asthma, arthritis, and gastrointestinal issues.

How Mental Health Impacts Physical Health?

  • Low Motivation

Battling mental health issues can be draining and chaotic, leading to less motivation to indulge in self-care. It can be quite demanding for people with mental health issues to take care of their physical health, get proper exercise, eat a balanced and nutritious diet, and get routine checkups.

  • Neglected Attention on Medical Issues

It is noted that a lot of healthcare professionals may assume your physical symptoms as an extension of your mental health issues and may turn a blind eye to them, which may aggravate them.

  • Physical manifestations of Psychological issues

A lot of mental health illnesses come coupled with physical distress. The most iconic one is of depression headaches, and weakness. Depression also has a speculated relationship with chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, asthma, arthritis, etc.

Anxiety comes hand in hand with stomach upsets, high blood pressure, and insomnia, and Schizophrenia may arrive with heart/respiratory diseases.

  • Sleep!

Stress, anxiety, and depression can interrupt your sleep cycles and quality of life. Insomnia and sleep apnea can again bring along decreased concentration, energy upheavals, and breathing issues.

  • Heart

When stress envelops our minds, there is a swell in the cortisol (a hormone in our system) levels. This makes our blood pressure, calcium, and pulse jump up and in the long run, may lead to heart conditions!

  • Longevity

A long-term alliance with mental health can shorten your life. Chronic mental health issues damage the body’s immune system and can sabotage the body’s natural course of healing. Schizophrenia patients are at three times more risk of dying from a respiratory disease and have twice as much a chance of dying from heart disease.

On the brighter side, good and healthy mental well-being can enrich your physical health. Positive psychological health is linked to a dip in the risk of heart attacks.

So, how to keep your mind happy?

This simple checklist can fast-track your journey towards your well-being:

  • Regular Exercise: Physical exertion releases the ‘feel-good’ hormones and Endorphins (the same hormones released while licking your favorite chocolate). Moreover, it makes you feel fresh, fit, and fab.

  • Eating Well: A vibrant variety of palates that is healthy, balanced, and nourishing can do wonders for your health – both physical and mental!

  • Maintaining A Healthy Weight: Fitting into the ranges of your BMI can eliminate the risk of several sufferings like Cholesterol, Diabetes, etc

  • Self-care: painting your nails, taking that long bath, taking a break, or treating yourself with more kindness. Subscribing to all things that make you feel happy can be a tremendous boost to mental health!

  • Fostering Enriching Relationships: A lot of support and cheer can crop up from a good talk with people you hold dear. Make sure to connect and reinforce a healthy bond with your social circle.

  • Proper Sleep cycle: A well-rested body, with 7–8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, brims with productivity and buoyancy and keeps a bunch of distressing symptoms at bay.

  • Positive Self-Talk: Rewiring your negative thoughts with positive affirmations and optimistic notions triggers a spirit of comfort and confidence.

The entwined amity between mind and body is dynamically interdependent. Like a husband stuck between his mother and his wife, we, as individuals, must keep both of them happy to ensure our holistic well-being.

To promote better overall health, we can try practicing stress management techniques, meditation, thinking positively, seeking therapy as required, and nurturing a strong support system. A happy and healthy mind leads to a happy and healthy body and vice versa. Thus, the key to a fulfilling life lies in cultivating a blooming garden in the mind as well as the body!

Written by: Aqsa Merchant (BA Psychology, SY, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda)

Proofread & edited by: Rubal Prajapati (Counseling Psychologist and Ph.D. Scholar at Bharathiar University)

Which physical symptoms have you experienced due to stress or mental health issues? (Select all that apply)

  • Headaches

  • Digestive issues e.g., stomachache, irritable bowel syndrome

  • Muscle tension or pain (e.g., neck or back pain)

  • Sleep disturbances (e.g., insomnia, nightmares)

You can vote for more than one answer.

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