It’s essential to not only focus on physical health (which we talk about what to do to improve health in the Body Reboot book) but emotional health as well to stay healthy. If one is forgotten, the other will suffer. So what can we do to stop this from taking place? Make sure that both align and if they don’t, work on ways to improve both. Unfortunately, there are many effects of struggling with health, which we outline in this article. We also discuss some ways to cope with mental health, which in turn will help transform physical health.
Everyday Health covers how physical and mental health are intertwined. Instead of ignoring mental health symptoms, a doctor should look both at physical and mental concerns. To get back on track there are some things you can do to improve your mental health, such as eating better and finding a balance between work and play.
There's a physical connection between what the mind is thinking and those parts of the brain that control bodily functions. According to Charles Goodstein, MD, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University's Langone School of Medicine in New York City, the brain is intimately connected to our endocrine system, which secretes hormones that can have a powerful influence on your emotional health. “Thoughts and feelings as they are generated within the mind [can influence] the outpouring of hormones from the endocrine system, which in effect control much of what goes on within the body,” says Dr. Goodstein.
“As a matter of fact, it’s very probable that many patients who go to their physician’s office with physical complaints have underlying depression,” he says. People who visit their doctors reporting symptoms of headache, lethargy, weakness, or vague abdominal symptoms often end up being diagnosed with depression, even though they do not report feelings of depression to their doctors, says Goodstein.
While unhappy or stressed-out thoughts may not directly cause poor physical health, they may be a contributing factor and may explain why one person is suffering physically while someone else is not, Goodstein adds.
How Should You Care for Your Emotional and Physical Well-Being?
It's hard to do, but slowing down and simplifying routines can go a long way to strengthening your mental and physical health.
Eat right. A healthy, regular diet is good for the body and mind.
Go to bed on time. Losing sleep is hard on your heart, may increase weight, and definitely cranks up the crankiness meter.
If you fall down, get back up. Resilience in the face of adversity is a gift that will keep on giving both mentally and physically.
Go out and play. Strike a balance between work and play. Yes, work is a good thing: It pays the bills. However, taking time out for relaxation and socializing is good for your emotional health and your physical health.
Unfortunately, the side effects of struggling with your mental health such as going through depression or anxiety (or both) can lead to challenging health conditions. A few health conditions are cancer and heart disease. Mental Health and Quality of Life discusses why this is the case.
Severe mental illness and heart disease
A recent study by King’s College London showed the link between severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression and cardiovascular disease. The biggest study of its kind, researchers analysed data from 3.2 million people living with severe mental illness – finding they were at a 53% higher risk for having cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t have mental illness. The risk of dying from the disease was also 85% higher than people of a similar age in the general population.
Depression, anxiety and cancer mortality rates
A study that hit the headlines earlier this year discovered that there was a link between high levels of mental distress and an increased risk of dying from cancer. Researchers from University College London, Edinburgh University and the University of Sydney looked at data from 16 population-based studies. They measured the mental health of people through questionnaires, indicating levels of depression and anxiety, who had not been diagnosed with cancer. They then followed those people up over a 10-year average period and tracked whether they died from cancer – drawing data from which type of cancer. The researchers took into account potential factors that could distort the data like age, sex, body mass index, education, smoking and alcohol consumption.
The study — was referring to discussing how mental illness can lead to cancer. If that’s pretty hard to believe, see what the study from The BMJ has to say regarding the topic.
Exploring the role of reverse causality
It is plausible that the associations we found between distress and cancer reflect both the effects of cancer—diagnosed and undiagnosed—on mood, the effects of distress on cancer progression, or a combination. As described, it is well documented that a diagnosis of cancer can give rise to distress,70 and we dealt with this potential source of reverse causality by using the standard practice of excluding members with self reported malignancy at study entry. Having done so, when we explored the risk between distress and total cancer according to study, those with longer follow-up generally showed weaker associations. As duration of follow-up increases, the proportion of surviving people who had entered the study with unknown cancer diminishes relative to the total number of deaths from cancer; the influence of cancer on distress should likewise wane over time. Moreover, in analyses of the Scottish studies, the associations were somewhat weaker for cancer incidence than for cancer mortality, though these analyses were not well powered because of the lower number of new cancer cases. Taking these observations together, there was a suggestion that subclinical malignancy might have had an impact on mood. Thus, to explore the impact of occult cancer, we excluded study members who died in the first five years of follow-up. This practice is based on the assumption that people with occult cancers of the more lethal variety will have died during this period. In these analyses, the gradients between distress and cancer were, however, still seen.
In conclusion, our findings add to the growing evidence of an association between psychological distress and physical conditions by characterizing new relations with death from selected cancer presentations. The extent to which these associations could be causal requires further testing with alternative study designs.
NCBI adds to the research above by reminding us just how important it is to focus on mental health because as we have been reiterating, it has everything to do with your physical health and your willingness to implement change. They discuss what has changed through the years and how continued efforts can help people learn how to manage their depression.
Health Care Reform and Integration of Mental Health and Primary Care
The Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 28, 2012, by 5 to 4 votes. The Affordable Care Act provides for a viable opportunity to improve the integration of primary and mental health care.71 Section 2703 of the Affordable Care Act allows states to establish person-centered health homes through their Medicaid programs. Section 2703 establishes and awards primary and mental health care integration grants nationwide via the SAMHSA—Health Resources Service Administration Center for Integrated Health Solutions.71 At the time of this publication, SAMHSA has awarded such grants to 64 community-based health agencies. Funded primarily by the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, these pilot programs are aimed to build partnerships and infrastructure needed to initiate or expand the integration of primary care services for people in treatment for serious mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use disorders.
In summary, the magnitude of the impact of depression on public health deserves to be identified as a systemic challenge of our time. It is time for the US public health system to not just recognize the importance of mental health and primary care integration but to continue efforts toward the functional transformation of the fragmented mental/somatic health model into fully unified systems of care.
Now that we’ve established just how much emotions can affect your health, here are additional ways from FamilyDoctor.org on how to improve your health. A few examples, which they cover in more depth below includes having a life balance and developing resilience.
How can my emotions affect my health?
Your body responds to the way you think, feel, and act. This is one type of “mind/body connection.” 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.
Path to improved health
There are ways that you can improve your emotional health. First, try to recognize your emotions and understand why you are having them. Sorting out the causes of sadness, stress, and anxiety in your life can help you manage your emotional health. Following are some other helpful tips.
Live a balanced life
Focus on the things that you are grateful for in your life. Try not to obsess about the problems at work, school, or home that lead to negative feelings. This doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be happy when you feel stressed, anxious, or upset. It’s important to deal with these negative feelings, but try to focus on the positive things in your life, too. You may want to use a journal to keep track of things that make you feel happy or peaceful. Some research has shown that having a positive outlook can improve your quality of life and give your health a boost. You may also need to find ways to let go of some things in your life that make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Make time for things you enjoy.
People with resilience are able to cope with stress in a healthy way. Resilience can be learned and strengthened with different strategies. These include having social support, keeping a positive view of yourself, accepting change, and keeping things in perspective. A counselor or therapist can help you achieve this goal with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Ask your doctor if this is a good idea for you.
Mental health is essential, and so is physical health. Do your best to improve both so you can start taking steps to improve your health. We know you can do it! Want a free copy of the Body Reboot book?! Simply cover the cost of shipping and get a free book! Check out this page and find out whether we still have some copies of our book left for you to receive and read.
Sources: BMJ 2017, Mental Health and Quality of Life, FamilyDoctor.org, Everyday Health, NCBI: Voinov, B., Richie, W. D., & Bailey, R. K. (2013). Depression and chronic diseases: it is time for a synergistic mental health and primary care approach.
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