It’s no surprise that having a chronic illness can make you feel down at times. Or that being diagnosed with a serious disease can lead you to feel anxious or fearful. But what does that stress do to your body?
It turns out that your mental health has important influences on your whole health. People who have a positive outlook and feel more joyful about life have a better chance of being healthy, while those who struggle with mental health may be more likely to experience health challenges. Let’s talk about why.
The Body and Mind Connection
Think about what it’s like to feel sad or depressed — you may feel like avoiding that fun social gathering or reaching for comfort food and other unhealthy things as a coping mechanism.
Challenged mental health may also lead people to avoid seeing a doctor and to miss taking their prescribed medicines, which can lead to more serious problems.
For example, ongoing stress can lead to high blood pressure. Infections are more common among people who are stressed or anxious, and depression is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
Smoking, which is far more common in people with mental health conditions, is the most common cause of lung cancer. And weight gain from an unhealthy diet can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis.
Power Up Your Whole Health
Mental health conditions can hinder your spirit, making it more difficult to prioritize self-care. If you feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have other mental concerns, talk to your doctor. He or she can recommend a counselor or licensed therapist who is experienced to meet your individual needs. There are also medications that may be recommended as a part of your treatment plan.
While your path to complete health in body, mind and spirit is unique. There are some tried and true ways to get a head start on improving your whole health. Here are a few:
- Be physically active every day
- Don’t smoke
- Eat healthy foods
- Get enough sleep
- Take time for yourself
Whole Health Takes a Whole Team
Your primary care physician (PCP) is a very important part of your wellness team and can help with support for every aspect of your health — physical, mental and spiritual. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, visit our doctor finder to select one who is right for you.