How Do Physical And Mental Health Affect Each Other?
February 27, 2018 | Forbes.com
Self-care is important in all areas.
Mind and body are clearly connected. Think about what happens if you get the flu. This is a very serious illness, there is a fever usually, we are “down for the count” for several days if not a week and we are so tired that we can barely move or think, we need to sleep for days and nights prior to feeling better.
Self-care for the flu would be rest, fluids, try to eat what you can tolerate like chicken broth and tea. Our body repairs itself when it sleeps, so when we are very sick or we have done too much physical exertion, our bodies will need “extra rest,” (*note, you can’t bank rest, sorry, I wish you could).
Now, what happens if you try to work, go to school, or even mow a lawn while you are this ill? Besides possibly pass out; you could have many unintended consequences—you could pass the germs to another person, which could be fatal. You could get yourself so sick that your attempt to go to work and be productive puts you in a hospital for extended care; which has the impact of now taking you out of work for even longer than if you had stayed home in the first place. Notice how if you had done the self-care necessary in the beginning, you would have avoided all those unintended consequences.
This is a similar issue when we have mental health concerns. If you are clinically depressed, your self-care would not be to lay in bed and withdrawal and do nothing (though that is what your brain will tell you to do; don’t listen, it’s lying to you). Self-care would be to take your medication as prescribed (if you have it); attend your therapy appointments with a licensed clinician, and follow the treatment plan that you agree on. It would require you to get up and do chores a little each day, even though it physically might feel painful to do so initially. The benefit of it would be that your depressive episode would likely be less severe or last as long. However, if you don’t take care of yourself, you might become so depressed you no longer go to work, school, or participate with your family. It could worsen to the point that you stop eating and you require psychiatric hospitalization to recover.
Since we don’t live life in a vacuum, we can have several stressors going on at the same time as physical issues. To create a balanced life is to be able to be effective in one’s goals and activities. Good quality sleep, taking care of your physical ails or other needs (e.g. taking needed medications or taking care of a wound so it doesn’t get infected), exercise, eating healthy and getting all of the important vitamins and minerals are ways to take care of your body. Practicing “mindfulness” is a way to take care of your psychological well being, it is the intentional act of paying attention essentially (e.g. your physical needs, your emotional needs, noticing urges, practicing making decisions based in a balance of reason and emotion, etc.) All of these things will help you to stay healthy both physically and emotionally so that when life stressors come up (and they will always come up), you have the “mental fortitude” to face them as well as the physical. If you only worked out one muscle, you’d only have one strong muscle, it’s best to work out all of your muscles so you can be strong everywhere.
These opinions are my own and I answered this question out of enjoyment of teaching. I am a PhD level behavioral scientist with a focus in neuroscience. These statements are not intended to replace medical care by a licensed professional and are only for informational purposes. I am not offering advice or treatment for any mental or physical condition, but as a human being with empathy, I state frankly that if you are suffering, it might behoove you to seek guidance and to contact a therapist in your community or your primary care provider.