We often think of our mental and physical health as separate units but in reality, the two are far more interlinked than we can imagine. The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us and a 2020 review published in The Lancelet mentioned that factors like isolation, separation from loved ones, loss of freedom, uncertainty, and even boredom can cause our mental health to decline. Of course, this can have multiple physical effects on our bodies including constantly feeling tired, headaches, body pain, faster heartbeat, and excessive sweating. With a rise in sedentary lifestyle due to working from home, we often hear stories of how people feel lonelier and less productive. This combined with an increased intake of food and the constant struggle to draw boundaries between work and your personal life can make things seem more overwhelming than ever.
Looking after your mental health can benefit your physical health greatly and vice versa. Working towards being ‘healthy’ and actually maintaining it can seem like a task but in reality, it is far easier than we think. Before we get into how you can better both aspects of your health, let’s understand the effects of each on the other.
The relationship between mental and physical health
When you’re not feeling good, you will have little to no motivation to take care of yourself. It gets difficult to plan or focus on one thing and even reaching out to people can seem overwhelming. According to a study carried out by a UK-based charity called the Mental Health Foundation, those living with mental health challenges like schizophrenia and depression tend to live shorter lives when compared to those who didn’t have these conditions. In fact, researchers also found that depression increases a person’s chances of dying from cancer to 50 per cent. This could be because people with mental health conditions are less likely to seek help or take preventative measures to take care of their physical health. Apart from factors like increased smoking, drug use, and lack of exercise, researchers found that a sense of optimism can also impact longevity.
That’s not all, a 2015 study by the University of Sydney showed that acute emotions like anger are bad for the heart. Intense feelings of rage can act as triggers and in the two hours following the bout of rage, a person’s risk of a heart attack becomes 8.5 times higher.
Your physical health can also impact your mental health. For example, people with skin conditions like psoriasis and acne are more likely to suffer from acute depression and anxiety when compared to people who don’t have these conditions.
What can I do to improve my mental and physical health?
Being physically active has long been linked to the release of happy hormones aka endorphins. It helps reduce the inflammation of the brain and works as a great distraction from overthinking or taking a break from stressful situations.
There are strong links between what you eat and your mood. This is why most people reach for a cup of coffee when they wake up feeling groggy and sleepy! Your brain needs a good healthy mix of nutrients to function well. Make sure your diet includes lots of different fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and plenty of water. Our best tip? Eat local, eat seasonal food.
Building good relationships is important for your overall well-being, after all, they can give us a sense of belonging, self-worth and serve as a source of emotional support. Make the most of technology to stay in touch with your loved ones and if possible, take some time out every day to spend time with your family.
Do something you’re good at
Is there a better feeling than excelling at something over and over again? It boosts our self-confidence and esteem like nothing else. Plus, enjoying yourself helps beat stress.
Don’t rely on social media for validation
How many times have you ended up scrolling on social media for hours, only to feel drained when you’re done? Remember that social media is a curated space. Don’t fall into the vicious trap of comparing your bad day to someone else’s well-documented and edited one. This isn’t to say that you should avoid social media altogether but just make sure you’re not turning to it when you need an emotional lift or just hours to kill. Just keep things balanced and you’re set.