Good health is almost always associated with physical health, with very little significance being given to mental and emotional fitness. The truth is that mental health is just as important as physical health. Also, physical health and mental health are entwined with each other.
What Is Meant by Physical and Mental Health?
The definition of physical health would include the nutrition that is being consumed by the body and the amount of physical activity and exercise the body is getting. The importance of physical fitness / exercise and its benefits to a person’s health are talked about often and in detail. There is also a rising awareness about the need for good nutrition in a person’s diet.
However, there is not much awareness or knowledge about the importance of good mental health. The emotional, psychological and social wellness of a person constitutes his / her mental health. A person’s mental health plays a significant role in the way they behave, how they process information, their ability to make decisions, and how they handle their relationships. Lack of mental disorders is not good mental health just like lack of physical ailments is not good physical health.
Does Physical Health Impact Mental Wellness?
When a person undergoes a physical condition that they do not want to reveal to the world (like a condition affecting their looks or their skin) or have a severe ailment which causes them physical pain and distress (like cancer or a stroke), it can also have an impact on the person’s mental wellness. Persons with serious medical conditions could have symptoms of depression like mood swings, sleep issues, losing interest in social activities and being unable to function on a daily basis.
Persistent fatigue and tiredness due to exertion or illness could also cause a person to feel mentally upset or even be depressed for long periods of time. Similarly, those who have depression, anxiety or mood disorders are also likely to feel physical fatigue and exhaustion.
How Does Mental Health Affect Physical Wellbeing?
When a person is in a positive frame of mind, he / she is more likely to pay attention to physical health and utilize the benefits of physical fitness / exercise and a good diet. Studies have also shown that mental wellbeing reduces the risks of heart attacks and strokes and prevents serious health conditions.
Poor mental health has been known to aggravate existing illnesses like diabetes, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and arthritis. It has also been shown to increase the mortality rate from diseases like cancer and heart diseases. Persons with poor mental health are also likely to suffer from sleep disruptions or sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnoea.
Mental health conditions like depression or bipolar disorder make it difficult to fall asleep or to sleep continuously for long durations which in turn lead to worsening of the existing mental health conditions. Depression and its related stress are also known to affect the immune system by suppressing T cell responses to viruses and bacteria.* The weakened immune system makes them prone to other illnesses and allergies.
Substance abuse is also seen among persons who are affected by mental health issues. Substance addiction triggers cravings and this further aggravates the mental state of the person.
How Can You Look After Both Physical and Mental Health?
In order to keep yourself healthy, it is important to pay equal importance to physical and mental health. A good balance between the mind and the body ensures that you are able to function to the best of your ability and intentions.
Start with setting healthy boundaries on what you want to achieve with your mind and body. The importance of physical activity and mental relaxation in your life cannot be stressed enough, so set aside time from your schedule for both.
Ensure that you have a balanced and nutritious diet, eating in adequate quantities and at regular intervals.
Get regular exercise in durations and at times of the day that you are comfortable with. While it is great to have a stringent exercise regimen, what matters more is whether you do exercise regularly, even if it is just a 20 minute walk.
Practise going to bed on time. Insufficient sleep can lead to weight gain, irritability, and puts pressure on your heart and other body organs.
Avoid smoking and the use of alcohol or drugs. If you have an addiction, seek help from medical professionals for physical and mental health (psychologist or psychiatrist)
Meditate or practise relaxation techniques under the guidance of a professional or a mental health therapist. Focus on positives emotions and events and try to not dwell on the negatives.
Anger can make the mind lose control and be a trigger for many physical ailments as well. Take anger management sessions with a psychologist or therapist to bring your emotions under control.
Build a social circle that is aware of your physical and mental issues so that they can help you feel less stressed. Spending time with friends and family can also be relaxing and help you feel happier.