There’s a link between your emotional health and your physical well-being, so take time to nurture both.
To be completely healthy, you should take care not only of your physical health, but your emotional health, too. If one is neglected, the other will suffer.
What’s the Connection Between Emotional and Physical Health?
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 Exactly Does the Mind Affect the Body?
There are many ways in which the mind has a significant impact on the body. Here are a few:
- Chronic illness and depression Depression has been shown to increase the risk for chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes, according to an article published in 2013 in the Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. A review of studies on diabetes and depression, published in August 2015 in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, found that depression put people at a 41 percent higher risk for the condition. Researchers aren’t yet clear on how mental health influences physical health, but according to a study published in September 2017 in the journal Psychiatria Danubina, it may be that depression affects the immune system, and that habits associated with depression, such as poor diet or lack of physical activity, may create conditions for illness to occur.
- Depression and longevity According to a review published in June 2014 in World Psychiatry, many major mental illnesses are associated with higher rates of death. Another study, published in October 2017 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggests that those with depression may have life spans from about 7 to 18 years shorter than the general population.
- Physical symptoms of emotional health distress People who are clinically depressed often have physical symptoms, such as constipation, lack of appetite, insomnia, or lethargy, among others.
- White-coat syndrome This is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure increases the minute they step into a doctor’s office. In white-coat syndrome, anxiety is directly related to physical function — blood pressure. “If you extrapolate from that, you can say, what other kinds of anxieties are these people having that are producing jumps in blood pressure? What is the consequence of repeated stress?” asks Goodstein.
And on the other hand: “Those individuals who have achieved a level of mental health where they can manage better the inevitable conflicts of human life are more likely to prevail in certain kinds of physical illness,” says Goodstein.
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.
- Exercise. A study published in October 2017 in Reviews in the Neurosciences shows that exercise improves your mood and has comprehensive benefits for your physical health.
- See the right doctor, regularly. Going to the right doctor can make all the difference in your overall health, especially if you have a complicated condition that requires a specialist. But if your emotions are suffering, be open to seeing a mental health professional, too.
Total health depends on a healthy mind and body. Take time to nurture both.
What you eat can have a huge impact on your mental health, which many people who deal with mental health conditions have learned firsthand. I have clinical depression and general anxiety disorder, and I feel much more stable when I’m eating regularly and prioritizing fresh foods. Previous research has shown that diet can affect mental health conditions like depression, ADHD, and anxiety. But according to a new study, the foods that impact your mental health change as you age. Researchers at Binghamton University in New York say our diet affects our mental health in different ways as we get older, so millennials and baby boomers should actually eat different diets to support their mood.
Researchers surveyed people between 18 and 29 years old and people who were 30 years old and older. They asked them to fill out an anonymous questionnaire about their diet and foods that are linked to changes in mood. After analyzing the data, researchers found that young adults reported benefitting benefited from frequent meat consumption, which can improve brain function. But the story was different for older adults, who need food that increases the antioxidants in your system (antioxidants can help avoid cell damage) for optimal mental health. People over 30 also reported feeling better when they avoided coffee and skipping breakfast, according to the research. What you eat can affect mental health, but if you’re looking for resources to help improve mental health issues, it’s always best to talk to a medical professional.
Lead author Lina Begdache, who is an assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University, said in a press release that one of the study’s biggest takeaways is that diet choices will affect people differently depending on how old they are.
“One of the major findings of this paper is that diet and dietary practices differentially affect mental health in young adults versus mature adults,” Begdache said. “Young adult mood appears to be sensitive to build-up of brain chemicals. Regular consumption of meat leads to build-up of two brain chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) known to promote mood.”
The most effective way to handle mental distress is talking to a doctor or therapist who can help you figure out your options. But if you’re looking to adjust your eating habits to support your mood and you’re under 29 years old, exercise and meat consumption may be the way to go. The researchers found that people who were sedentary and ate meat less than three times a week “showed a significant mental distress.” If you’re not a meat eater, you can try foods like nuts, avocados and dark chocolate to get a dopamine release. For people over 30, antioxidants are a major key. It’s never a bad idea to consume antioxidants, but the effect is more profound as you age. As you get older, your body produces oxidants that can cause disturbances in your brain chemistry, so eating foods with antioxidant qualities can help avoid unnecessary mental distress. The next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up some grapes, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and green vegetables like kale and broccoli, which can all help improve mental health.
The study tells people over 30 to stay away from foods that trigger the sympathetic nervous system, like coffee. It can feel impossible to stay away from the sweet taste of caffeine, but it increases activity in your sympathetic nervous system, which can lead to stress. According to Begdache, “our ability to regulate stress decreases” as we age, so if you’re looking to adjust your diet for mood support, know that carbohydrates can also potentially trigger the sympathetic nervous system.
The study shows that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to diet and mental health. Your brain changes as you get older, so it makes sense that you may need to make adjustments to your diet as you age if you choose to include foods that support your mood. It’s not always realistic to eat healthy foods, especially because eating regular meals and keeping a balanced diet is a hard adjustment to make for people who are mentally healthy, let alone those who already deal with mental illness. Healthy foods can also be inaccessible to people who can’t afford them, or who live in food deserts. But if you are looking for ways to change up your food routine with an eye toward your mental health, this study is something to keep in mind. I have a few years left before I need to avoid coffee, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can.
New research has found that treating insomnia with online cognitive behavioral therapy could in turn help treat mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and paranoia.
Carried out by researchers at the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford, the team set out to try to improve sleep in a group of university students with insomnia to look at sleep’s effect on paranoia (excessive mistrust), anxiety, and depression.
The study, which involved 3,755 participants, is thought to be the largest ever randomized controlled trial of a psychological treatment for mental health and the first study large enough to determine the effects of treating insomnia on psychotic experiences.
Participants were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving online cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) for insomnia while the other group received access to standard treatments.
The six sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy included behavioral, cognitive and educational components, such as learning to associate bed with sleep, encouraging people to put time aside to reflect on their day before going to bed, and facilitating a pro-sleep environment.
The interactive program also used information from the participants’ daily sleep diaries to tailor the advice.
Participants’ mental health was also monitored through a series of online questionnaires at 0, 3, 10 and 22 weeks from the start of the treatment.
After analyzing the results the team found that participants who received the CBT sleep treatment showed large reductions in insomnia, as well as small, sustained reductions in paranoia and hallucinatory experiences.
CBT treatment also helped improve other mental health problems including depression, anxiety, nightmares, and psychological well-being, as well as daytime work and home functioning.
“Sleep problems are very common in people with mental health disorders, but for too long insomnia has been trivialized as merely a symptom, rather than a cause, of psychological difficulties. This study turns that old idea on its head, showing that insomnia may actually be a contributory cause of mental health problems,” commented the study’s lead author Daniel Freeman.
“A good night’s sleep really can make a difference to people’s psychological health. Helping people get better sleep could be an important first step in tackling many psychological and emotional problems,” he concluded.
The results can be found published online in The Lancet Psychiatry.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” – Khalil Gibran
Some argue that mental health is just as important as physical health; fair enough, but one could make a strong case that the former supersedes the latter. Without proper mental faculties, no level of physical prowess will overcome this weakness.
Our state of mental health is dynamic in the sense that it affects everything every experience. For example, when our mental health is good, our job performance, relationships, and overall quality of life are good as well. When it’s suffering, we cannot effectively navigate our daily life.
As important is mental health is, it’s quite easy to take for granted. In an externally-focused world, it is easy to succumb to social pressures that place physical attributes (e.g., appearance, body weight) over the mental. Furthermore, those that do seek consolation for any mental health problems fear being stigmatized, perceived as “weak,” or otherwise being negatively judged.
The truth is that mental health problems are not a character weakness – they are a chemical imbalance in the brain. Plain and simple. Nothing less and nothing more.
We do, whether we realize it or not, have a responsibility to maintain our mental health. This responsibility should be second-to-none.
Which brings us to the topic of this article: ways to maintain and improve your mental health.
HERE ARE 10 SUCH WAYS:
1. VALUE YOURSELF.
It’s natural to be our “own worst enemy” at times; harshly criticizing any (real or perceivable) mistake, and continually punishing ourselves psychologically.
Despite this default mechanism, make every attempt to practice some self-compassion (there are many ways of doing this, meditation among them.) Allocate time for the things that you enjoy, such as your favorite hobbies.
Put simply: do things that make you feel good about being you!
2. CARE FOR YOUR BODY.
The connection between physical and mental health is well-established. As such, it is important to take care of your body. Here are some things you can do:
– Do not smoke
– Drink a lot of water
– Get at least 30 minutes of exercise
– Sleep at least 7 to 9 hours per night
– Eat a well-balanced diet; avoiding high-fat and sweet foods and drinks
3. WATCH YOUR SOCIAL CIRCLE.
Not everyone is blessed to have solid family ties, which (unsurprisingly) helps with mental development. That said, it’s our responsibility to allow the “right kinds” of people into our life. This means supporting family members and/or friends; as well as searching for social events that can bring good people into your life.
4. GIVE WHAT YOU CAN.
You don’t need to give away half your paycheck to reap the mental health benefits of generosity. Volunteer your time and energy to help someone else; find a worthy cause you can fully support and stick with it.
5. UNDERSTAND AND PRACTICE STRESS-MANAGEMENT.
Here’s an uncomfortable truth: some of us are atrocious at managing stress. These types of people face significant disadvantages in terms of both physical and mental well-being.
Several structured stress-management systems exist, and many of them are quite effective. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is one worth mentioning. There are also plenty of simple stress-reduction techniques that can help, such as moment-to-moment mindfulness.
6. SILENCE YOUR MIND.
Our minds possess exceptional powers. Unfortunately, our minds can also be a liability. We can develop habits such as overthinking that threaten our mental states. As such, it’s important to practice techniques to counteract our “monkey mind.” Among them: mindfulness, prayer, deep breathing, relaxation techniques.
7. LOOK AT YOUR JOB
Job-related mental health problems are attributed their inherent stressful requirements. Certain professions, according to health.com, are associated with higher levels of depression (e.g. nurses, teachers, salespeople).
Should you suspect that your job is taking a dramatic toll on your mental health, it may be time to consider your options. Not many jobs are fun, but they shouldn’t be stressful as to threaten your mental stability.
8. GET RID OF ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS
Sure, booze and pills can offer some temporary stress relief. However, when this behavior becomes habitual, it manifests into some other severe problems.
The challenge lies in making people “see the light” when it comes to alcohol and drug use. More specifically, that the long-term consequences of their use are NOT worth it.
9. SHAKE THINGS UP
Monotony is an inductor of stress. When we do the same thing, day in and day out, accumulated stress can pose a (sometimes severe) threat to our mental health. Find a way to mix in something enjoyable, or find ways to “switch up” your approach to work, hobbies, and other routine activities.
10. GET SOME HELP
In the U.S., many employers offer something called an employee assistance program, or EAP. EAP is designed to help employees “with personal problems and/or work-related problems that may impact their job performance, health, mental and emotional well-being.” Other advanced countries offer something similar.
Regardless if it’s a board-certified psychiatrist or someone you look up to, find an outlet. Remember: getting help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength and courage.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN. UNIVERSITY HEALTH SERVICE. (2017). RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 02, 2017, FROM HTTPS://WWW.UHS.UMICH.EDU/TENTHINGS
WIKIPEDIA. EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM. (N.D.). RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 02, 2017, FROM HTTPS://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/EMPLOYEE_ASSISTANCE_PROGRAM
WORTH, T. (N.D.). 10 CAREERS WITH HIGH RATES OF DEPRESSION. RETRIEVED FEBRUARY 02, 2017, FROM HTTP://WWW.HEALTH.COM/HEALTH/GALLERY/0,,20428990,00.HTML/VIEW-ALL
The Best Health Advice Ever
Keeping your mind and body in tip-top shape is essential for living your best life. It’s difficult to attain success when you’re dragging yourself through the day, feeling stressed out, anxious, and generally unwell. That’s why you need to make yourself a priority. Focusing on your wellness is not selfish, it’s necessary for you to be able to give your best self to others. The Cheat Sheet spoke with six leading health experts about the best health advice they’ve ever received.
1. Let go of unforgiveness
Learn to forgive! At the heart of many chronic diseases is stress. At the heart of much stress is a lack of forgiveness. Not being able to let go of the past produces a lot of stress in our lives. This stress increases the incidence of hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and more.
My advice for men: Don’t be embarrassed to see your doctor if you ever have an episode of erectile dysfunction. After your first episode of ED you have a 25% chance of having a stroke or heart attack in the next five years. See your doctor immediately and start to change your lifestyle with diet change and exercise to reduce your risk.
Dr. Chidi Ngwaba, Director at the European Society of Lifestyle Medicine
2. Get enough sleep
Medical training can be grueling with some weeks lasting 110+ hours on the job. The lecture I had on sleep hygiene and making sure to set aside time for sleep was the best health advice I’d ever received. All-nighters or just neglecting sleep creates havoc on your health and happiness.
Dr. Jared Heathman, Psychiatrist
3. You are in control of your health
The best health advice I ever received is to recognize that I am the expert in my own health. I will meet many professionals and hear many opinions, but I am the only person who will have to live with the consequences, and I am the one who knows my body and my mind the best. So it is up to me to listen to the input and decide what will serve me best. This has allowed me to live my life with amazing freedom and to let the outside judgments roll off of me as I know that I am doing what is best for me.
Crystal Johnson, MSc, MCP, RSLP, RCC, Registered Clinical Counselor
4. Take preventative health measures
Be able to do 25 push-ups. This doesn’t sound like very profound advice, but it may have changed my life. I tried out for the wrestling team at age 13, never having thought about exercising before. At try-outs, the coach said we should all be able to do at least 25 push-ups (and a certain number of sit-ups). I tried, and found I could do about five! I started working out that day — and have worked out almost every day for the 40 years since. I can do considerably more than 25 push-ups now. I think it’s idiosyncratic that this had such an affect on me, but the clarity, the specificity, and the practicality of it really resonated. It suggests we might all benefit from specific, actionable goals related to our health and fitness.
My advice for men: Think beyond your own skin. As a son, brother, husband, and especially father — what you do about your own health will influence others. The most important reason to protect your own health may be somebody else — like a son or daughter who will emulate you. It has always been ‘guy stuff’ to defend hearth and home. These days, the wolves at the door are diabetes, obesity, and so on. We can best defend against them by walking the walk ourselves — and leading our families toward vitality. So I’m calling on my fellow sons, brothers, and dads to step up accordingly!
Dr. David L. Katz, MPH, FACPM, FACP, Director, Yale University Prevention Research Center, Griffin Hospital
5. Eat real food — and then take a walk
The best health advice I’ve gotten is eat food, but not too much — mostly plants. It comes from author Michael Pollan. I love this advice because it’s so simple and clear, yet so incredibly effective. If this is the only eating advice you follow, your diet will be fantastic!
Second, move. If you have a desk job, get up every hour and move for at least two minutes. While working out is great, our bodies are designed to move throughout the day. Sitting all day, even if you exercise, is bad for your health. Studies show that sedentary behavior can lead to death from cardiovascular issues and cancer and cause chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Ellen Albertson, PhD, RDN, CD, Psychologist, Nutritionist, Certified Wellcoach, Founder, SmashYourScale.com Twitter: @eralbertson
6. Don’t forget mental health
Stress, anxiety, episodes of sadness, and depression are very common and can have a negative impact on physical health. Healthy eating, sleep, and exercise are all crucial. [Practice] daily mindfulness or meditation — even 5 to 10 minutes a day. End each day recognizing the positive and the things that make you happy. Increase your brain’s receptiveness to positivity. I like using the idea that we go through the day collecting negativity in an imaginary “BAG.” At the end of the day you can empty the BAG and refill it with the letters BAG by answering these three questions: B — What was the Best part of the day and why? A — What did I Accomplish, why was it important to me today? And G — What am I truly Grateful for?
Cara Maksimow, licensed clinical social worker, speaker, and owner of Maximize Wellness Counseling & Coaching LLC
A new poll finds 40% of Canadians report their mental health has disrupted their lives in some way over the past year. Nearly one in five missed work or school. As Shirlee Engel reports, the costs to the Canadian economy are staggering.
Jillian Coey was your typical overachieving 22-year-old: she had a full-time course load in university, part-time work, and a handful of extra-curricular activities and volunteer work.
But what most people didn’t know that she kept a secret, too: she was battling depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.
“I was definitely feeling overwhelmed by the symptoms I was experiencing, feelings of failure and developing a sense of hopelessness. The lens you’re looking through is altered because of the mental illness – at the time, I felt that things weren’t going to improve no matter what actions I took,” Coey told Global News.
“It got to the point where it became unbearable and I attempted to take my life,” she said.
Coey ended up in hospital. She knew she wouldn’t make her shift at work the next day, or for the following week.
Her family called her employer and explained her situation. Instead of processing her resignation, her manager suggested Coey take the time to focus on her recovery and return to work when she was ready.
“I thought [quitting] was the only option that was available. My manager let us know I didn’t need to quit and they wanted to keep me at the organization and they wanted to support me,” she said.
Coey said her manager’s understanding helped pave the way to her recovery.
Forty per cent of Canadians say their mental health disrupted their lives in the past year, according to new Ipsos findings released exclusively to Global News.
Seventeen per cent of Canadians say they’ve taken time off work and school to deal with a personal mental health issue.
Another eight per cent say they’ve taken time away from their professional lives to help a family member or close friend grappling with mental illness, the pollsters revealed.
“This could be the catalyst for change in the workplace. While it’s alarming to know that this many people are [taking time off work] it also speaks to people recognizing ‘I’m not myself today and I need to take a mental health break,’” Jennifer McLeod Macey, vice-president of the polling firm’s Health Research Institute, told Global News.
“The pressures of work and life, that all takes a toll. These numbers show Canadians are saying they need to stay home, not because they’re contagious but because they need to take care of themselves,” she said.
It’s the third year the polling firm zeroed in on their Mental Health Risk Index and the report’s release marks Mental Health Week.
Based on Canadians’ levels of stress and feelings of hopelessness and depression, the report classifies a whopping 41 per cent of Canadians as being at “high risk” for mental illness. That’s a significant increase from 2016’s 35 per cent.
Aside from missing work, another 19 per cent of Canadians said they missed social gatherings or family events in the past year because of mental health.
Twenty-three per cent said they’re taking medication to help with their mental health, from stress to depression.
The numbers don’t surprise Ed Mantler, vice-president of programs and priorities at the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
|40% of Canadians report their mental health has disrupted their lives in some way over the past year|
One in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem over the course of their lifetime. Every week, half a million Canadians are missing work because of a mental health issue, he said.
“Most Canadians work and most of us spend more time at work with colleagues than we do at home with our families. It can be impactful in a positive or harmful way,” he told Global News.
Heather Stuart, a Queen’s University professor and mental health research chair, suggests the numbers may be even higher.
“Mental health issues are the leading cause of short-term and long-term disability. Those people may not be captured in the numbers,” Stuart told Global News.
“Workplaces need to take the mental health issue more seriously and do more to create positive work environments. Employees will be less uncomfortable and less fearful when they see the workplace is designed to help them,” she said.
Employees could be stressed because of factors outside of the workspace, such as finances or relationships, for example. In other cases, it could be the workplace that’s causing distress.
The repercussions vary from person to person: some people could be depressed and dragging themselves into the office, while others could be laser-focused at work. Mental health concerns could make some people unproductive or not focused, irritable or unhappy, but in other manifestations, employees could use it as a distraction.
There is absenteeism, which is when employees call in sick, and presenteeism, which is when employees show up to work but aren’t performing at the level they would normally be at.
Overall, this costs the Canadian economy $50 billion a year, Mantler said.
The good news? Mantler said that most employers are “already well on their way” in addressing mental health. Some companies make it mandatory for managers to take mental health training, while others promote their employee assistance programs.
With the help of the MHCC, Canada issued its first national standard on workplace mental health. It’s a tool unique to Canada, although many countries are already looking at its guidance to employers. It helps workplaces consider the psychological factors at play for employees, from work-life balance to civility and respect to having autonomy and influence over your work.
The Ipsos poll revealed that more Canadians than ever are getting help.
Forty-two per cent of Canadians said they talked to someone about their mental health in the past year, up seven percentage points from last year, and 11 points from two years ago.
Twenty-three per cent said they talked to a primary health-care provider, such as their family doctor, while another 16 per cent reached out to a counsellor, psychiatrist, or psychologist.
Another 10 per cent even wrote about or posted about their mental health woes online – millennials led the way with this openness with 24 per cent sharing their mental health difficulties online in the past year.
But stigma is still prevalent: while some may think taking time for treatment is a weakness, Coey said that’s a major misconception.
The last thing most people living with a mental health condition want is to let their managers, co-workers and loved ones down, she said.
“When I was experiencing mental illness, I was still very dedicated to my work and felt a sense of responsibility to my work,” she said.
She said she’s incredibly fortunate that she received support from her workplace.
“The actions of that manager changed my life. Essentially, the actions she took allowed me to continue working with the organization and go on to have progressively senior roles that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible if I had resigned,” Coey said.
Now, she works full time and volunteers as a mental health advocate. She still grapples with anxiety but has learned coping strategies through ongoing treatment.
On Saturday, Coey is one of the organizers leading the March for Mental Health on Saturday at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. The goal is to call on the federal and provincial governments to treat mental health no differently than physical health. The march’s organizers include those with lived experience of mental illness or loved ones touched by it.
The Ipsos poll was conducted in mid-April 2017. A random sample of Canadian adults were interviewed online for the survey, which was weighted to bring it in line with Canadian demographics and which has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Where to get help
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone
1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.