So, how does mental health affect your physical health?
I mean most of us think of physical health and mental health as very separate entities but the fact is they each affect the other much more than we realize.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
Mental health has a direct impact on physical health and vice versa.
Co-existing mental and physical conditions can severely diminish the quality of life leading to longer illness durations and worse health outcomes.
Learning to understand the link between mind and body is a very crucial first step in developing strategies to help reduce the incidence of co-existing conditions.
Interesting how Jon has both a mental disorder(ADHD) and a chronic physical condition(Celiac disease).
Let’s get on with it then and learn how these are linked.
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Most of us don’t realize how common mental illness really is and it covers so much more than just being depressed.
Mental illness can cover a wide range of problems, these can include anything that affects mood or something that may affect thinking or even behaviour.
Most of us have experienced mental health concerns from time to time. These don’t become an illness until they cause problems in our ability to continue to function in our daily life.
Examples of mental illness could be:
- eating disorders
- addictive behaviours
While mental illnesses can be very disruptive in our daily lives, the combination of psychotherapy and medications can effectively manage most mental illnesses.
Mental illness and diabetes
Diabetes Canada warns that living with the constant demands of living with diabetes can take a toll on your mental health. Many people experience distress, decreased mood and disabling levels of anxiety.
Mental health disorders can significantly affect your ability to cope with and treat your diabetes.
It is just as important to look after your mental health as it is your physical health.
Ask your diabetes care team about any support groups in your local area that can help you deal with the everyday pressures of living with diabetes.
I know our daughter and son-in-law have had a lot of positive experiences with the local group here. It just helps to be connected to other parents who are going through the same daily struggles having a type 1 child.
It was great for our grandson to also meet other type 1 kids and have playdates with kids that have the same struggles. It really helps him feel he isn’t so different.
Symptoms of Mental Illness
It is important to note that the signs and symptoms of mental illness can vary depending on the illness, and circumstances and that the symptoms can affect emotions, thoughts and behaviours.
The symptoms can include:
- feeling of sadness
- confusion or inability to concentrate
- excessive fears, worries or feelings of guilt
- extreme mood fluctuations (very high to very low)
- extreme tiredness, low energy and inability to sleep
- delusions, paranoia, or hallucinations
- inability to cope with daily stress or problems
- difficulty understanding or relating to people and situations
- alcohol or drug abuse
- major changes in eating habits
- sex drive changes
- excessive anger, hostility or violence
- suicidal thoughts
Sometimes symptoms of a mental health disorder can appear as a physical condition such as stomach pain, back pain, headaches or other unexplained aches and pains.
The mind-body connection
So just how are the mind and body connected?
How does mental health affect our physical health?
Well, the single biggest factor I can think of is that when we are struggling mentally, it has a significant effect on our ability to make healthy lifestyle choices.
We may choose unhealthy foods because they are convenient, we overeat or we may not eat at all.
Some people may consume alcohol or drugs or smoke in an effort to escape their mental anguish.
Exercise or sleep patterns may be interrupted.
All of these things will have a significant effect on our ability to fight off chronic illnesses.
Making poor lifestyle decisions, whether they are the result of poor mental health or not can have some rather significant effects on our physical health and can lead to more serious health challenges such as:
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- weakened immune system
- eating disorders
- premature death
Were you aware that depression alone can cause chronic fatigue, insomnia and increased sensitivity to aches & pains due to the abnormal function of neurotransmitters in the brain?
Improve mental and physical health
Since the mind and body are so closely intertwined it makes sense that making overall lifestyle improvements will improve both mental and physical health.
A healthy diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals will ensure our both our bodies and brain receive the nutrients they need for optimal health.
A healthy diet would include:
- plenty of fruits and vegetables, there is a wide variety of both starchy and non-starchy veggies
- lean proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs or legumes
- healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds
Eating foods from each of these food groups will help boost both physical and mental health.
I know from personal experience that regular exercise is a definite mood booster.
There are days that I get so frustrated sitting at the computer and I don’t know what to write about that day. Rather than let the frustration build, I simply go for a short 15 -30 minute walk.
It is amazing how that breath of fresh air combined with a bit of exercise lifts my mood and I find myself better able to face the challenges ahead. In fact, I have often been inspired with ideas for several new articles while walking.
Exercise gets the blood pumping throughout our brain and body. This carries oxygen and nutrients throughout our body supplying the necessary energy for our cells to do what they need to do.
Exercise also strengthens our body and immune system so it is better able to fight off infection or viruses.
Regular moderate exercise will also help keep those blood sugars in check.
Getting adequate sleep is so important for both mental and physical health.
Ever notice how after a late or sleepless night it is much harder to function the next day? You can’t focus on your work. Little things that normally don’t bother suddenly seem so bothersome.
We become short-tempered with family, friends and co-workers.
Our body requires adequate sleep to restore rejuvenate itself.
Getting enough sleep helps us face the day’s challenges head-on with confidence.
Aim for between 7-8 hours each night.
Tips to help get that much-needed shut-eye may include:
- go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time
- avoid caffeinated drinks within three hours of bedtime
- limit screen time several hours before bed
- try reading a paper book before bedtime
- avoid exercise within two hours of bedtime
Know when to seek help
It is important to understand that mental illness is very common and there is help available.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above please seek help immediately.
There is plenty of options for getting the help you need to deal with any mental health issues.
Your family doctor can recommend mental health practitioners or call 911 or your local emergency number in your area.
Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645 (4 pm to 12 am ET).
Kids Help Line
Call 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free) or text CONNECT to 686868.
Available 24 hours a day to Canadians aged 5 to 29 who want confidential and anonymous care from professional counsellors.
Hope for Wellness Line
Call 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free) or connect to the online Hope for Wellness chat.
Available to all Indigenous peoples across Canada who need immediate crisis intervention. Experienced and culturally sensitive helpline counsellors can help if you want to talk or are distressed.
Telephone and online counselling are available in English and French. On request, telephone counselling is also available in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counselling and mental health referrals.
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727)
Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
How Does Mental Health Affect Your Physical Health?
Mental illness is much more prevalent than we realize.
In order to protect our family and friends it is important we understand the symptoms of mental illness and know where to find help if needed.
Healthy lifestyle choices like eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and adequate can go a long way towards preventing mental illness from developing.
There is plenty of help available if you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness.
I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences. We are affiliates, this means that if you purchase something from a link or ad on this site we may receive a small commission. This in no way affects the price you pay.
Have you or someone you know been struggling with mental illness?
What strategies worked for you?