It is easy to think that physical and mental health are two separate things. However, they are very much interlinked. If we have a physical health issue, it can impact on our mental health and well-being. Also, if we have a mental health issue or low well-being, it can impact on our physical health. Here is some information and some exercises to get you thinking about this link in relation to your own body.
The impact of stress on our mind and body
The FIVE AREAS model to the left shows how a situation can have an effect on our thoughts, our feelings, how we behave and on our bodies. Consider the following situation, you get an unexpected bill which is much bigger than you can afford (the Situation in the model), this makes you think “how will I ever pay this?” you feel scared and withdrawn, and you start to be snappy towards your loved ones. This makes you struggle to sleep at night and you get headaches. The model is cyclical but also works horizontally and vertically, with one area impacting on another. The cycle can become self-sustaining creating mood (sadness or agitation) or a state (anxiety, depression or stress), breaking the cycle at any point can be a step to feeling better. You can use the model image below to write down how a situation can impact on your mind and body. The idea being, if we work on one area rather than trying to manage the whole situation we can improve our responses on the others. Have a go at completing it and see what is impacting on you.
Our responses to threatening situations come from our prehistoric brain keeping us safe and alive, however modern life now invariably means that the same part of our brain that kept us safe from sabre-toothed tigers can also triggers when we check our emails on a Monday morning and have an impact on our bodies.
Here is a picture of the “shaky person”, although the image describes what it feels like at the extremes of anxiety, to have a panic attack, take some time to think about how anxiety, stress, depression or low well-being could impact on your body. What could you do to lessen the impact?
Part of taking care of ourselves is addressing these physical impacts by taking action to deal with them when we start noticing the impact on our bodies. What do you need to do?
Do you grind your teeth with stress? When was the last time you visited the dentist?
Do you get back ache? Have you thought about having a regular massage to alleviate the tension?
Do you have physical health concerns that need to be checked over by a GP?
No health concerns should go unchecked. Take the time to look after yourself.
Here is a video on the impact of stress on your body
Physical illness can also impact greatly on your emotional well-being. Do you have an existing condition that is affecting you physically? Have you dealt with the emotional or mental health implications? Getting the support, you need can improve your overall well-being. Could you think about getting support from friends or family members? Is there a support group you could engage with? Would it be useful to see a counsellor to talk through your feelings and look at strategies to deal with your condition?