We naively assume that the brain and body are two different, independently functioning organs. In reality, the mind and body are intricately synchronized and work in cohesion to maintain physical and mental well-being.
Physical illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and cancer, come with mental health risk factors like anxiety, stress, and depression. Similarly, mental health illnesses compromise physical well-being, manifesting themselves through psychosomatic rashes, tremors, jitters, nausea, and respiratory complications. There’s much confusion over what comes first while investigating the root causes behind overlapping mental and physical illnesses.
For instance, stress, a mental condition, increases the production of cortisol – a damaging hormone that compromises immunity and increases health risks. In some situations, physical illnesses and treatments, such as chemotherapy, can cause mental illnesses. The bottom line is physical illnesses set the stage for mental health complications and vice versa.
Keep reading to investigate the connection between mental and physical health in more detail.
The Connection Between the Mind & Body
Have you noticed how the brain is the first to intercept pain and dispatch nerve cells to the afflicted organs? The body experiences pain sensations when it receives nerve signals from the brain, alerting it to the painful areas. The body wouldn’t experience pain if the mind didn’t intercept it! This theory explains how some people use mindfulness, breathing exercises and yoga to train their minds to control and regulate pain.
Psychologists propose various paradigms and approaches to understand the connections between the mind and body. Research reveals that patients diagnosed with mental health illnesses will likely develop preventable physical ailments. For instance, Schizophrenia encourages the risk factors of heart condition, and patients are advised to start preventive care regimes.
Professionals interested in treating overlapping physical and mental illnesses can pursue a masters mental health counseling online to build advanced skills. Seasoned and skilled counselors help their clients manage the symptoms of psychological and physical conditions to maintain life quality and independence. Counselors must complete their master’s degree, obtain state licensure, complete mandatory internship hours and pursue additional certifications to enjoy professional esteem.
It’s crucial to note that people diagnosed with mental illnesses are less likely to consult healthcare practitioners for routine check-ups. Counselors working with such patients must detect signs of physical health deterioration and refer their clients to medical practitioners. In some severe cases, counselors collaborate with family members and caregivers to stage interventions for patients unable to look after themselves.
Mental & Physical Illnesses: Which Comes First?
Research reveals that genetic causes are a significant reason behind vulnerabilities that lead to preventable physical and mental health illnesses. Family history and genes can make you more vulnerable to developing type 2 diabetes or bipolar disorder. However, people with mental illnesses without a family history or genetic causes are also vulnerable to physical risk factors.
Experts explain that mentally ill patients are often incapacitated to attend to their physical needs. They cannot schedule appointments for a routine check-ups with their physician or nurse practitioner. They cannot adhere to healthy diets and mindful lifestyle changes or comply with medications and treatments. Mental health complications make patients more susceptible to bodily illnesses.
There’s another explanation for how mental health illnesses set the stage for physical health concerns: lowering motivation and energy levels. For instance, medications prescribed to treat clinical depression or mood disorders often reduce brain and body activity. They relax the mind and central nervous system, putting the entire body in relaxation mode. Perpetual relaxation eventually leads to a lack of energy and motivation, resulting in a sedentary lifestyle.
Patients adhering to psychiatric medications cannot engage in physical activity, setting the stage for obesity and physical health risks. It’s crucial to note that most people diagnosed with lifelong chronic illnesses suffer from mental risk factors and vice versa. For instance, type 2 diabetes accompanies stress and anxiety, compromising sleep quality and setting the stage for depression.
Likewise, depression comes with numerous physical manifestations, such as digestive troubles, overwhelming fatigue and splitting headaches. Most people recognize anxiety by the twisting and turning knots they experience in their stomachs. Luckily, there are ways to simultaneously restore your mental and physical well-being and enjoy superior life quality.
Healing the Mind & Body
Much like their functioning is synced, the mind and body restore and heal together. So, a heart-healthy diet will help alleviate stress, depression and anxiety and facilitate physical and mental wellness. Likewise, a preventive care regime for depression will encourage healthy weight management and regular exercise.
How can you heal the mind and body simultaneously?
It’s wise to consult a psychological expert or a medical care specialist to initiate treatment immediately. Aside from adhering to your treatment, you must work towards preventive care and mindful lifestyle changes. First and foremost, a well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet is crucial to nourish the mind and body.
The human brain and body need a consistent and plentiful supply of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Your daily diet must supply a hefty concentration of healthy fats, fibers, proteins, antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Maintaining a healthy diet and limiting your consumption of processed foods will reduce your risk for mental and physical illnesses. For instance, the Mediterranean Diet fights the risk factors of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and anxiety.
Mental and physical nourishment also demands a regular exercise regime, as our mind and body thrive during physical activity. The body enjoys muscular development, agility and respiratory health while the mind experiences a surge of feel-good hormones. Did you know that exercise stimulates the production of serotonin, dopamine and endorphins? These brain neurotransmitters are associated with feelings of contentment, adrenalin-rush, happiness and euphoria.
According to a popular saying, exercise is king and nutrition is queen, and both combine to form a kingdom of well-being. It’s also wise to limit unhealthy habits that undermine your health, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and substance use. Most people try to cope with emotional issues by smoking to relieve stress and feel less anxious. Instead, try a healthier coping strategy, such as meditation, yoga, art therapy or laughter therapy.
All you need to get started with meditation, is a meditation pillow and the willingness to change your life.
Everything that harms the body adversely impacts the mind and vice versa. Mental and physical illnesses run deeper than their apparent symptoms, causing more damage than we realize. Understanding the connections between the mind and body is crucial to building a wholesome, wellness-focused lifestyle. It takes a nutritious and well-balanced diet and regular physical activity to regulate mental and physical health. It’s also wise to eliminate stressors that make you anxious and surround yourself with healthy vibes and positive energy.