When we struggle with our mental wellbeing, it can affect us in numerous ways. It can negatively impact our physiology and can cause a number of physical symptoms. Why is this the case? When we react to a situation either in the short term or over a period of time which causes stress or anxiety, or body can react in multiple ways.
Stress can send signals to the body, which causes it to react. In a way it can often be our body’s way of warning us, an alarm signal if you will. Stress hormones such as adrenaline or cortisol flood the body when we are in state of stress.
Additionally, part of the brain reacts, the primal part of the brain that encodes danger, which in itself is a safely mechanism. This is called the fight or flight response as the brain and body is preparing us for danger.
So the heart rate goes up, blood is pumped to the extremities (the hands and feet), parts of the immune system switches off as this isn’t required at this precise moment. Also, parts of the brain that aren’t needed at this time also switch off, i.e the creative and decision making part.
This is of course required for a life and death situation. It is our body’s way of reacting, and looking after us. However, if we are in a state of stress, anxiety or experience feelings of depression and low mood regularly, this can take its toll physically, emotionally and psychologically.
So what are the physical signs of mental health and what can you look out for?
I want to encourage you to be proactive, rather than reactive when it comes to your mental health. The sooner you can spot the signals when you are struggling, the quicker you can do something about it. This helps to support so many different aspects of your wellbeing.
The common signs?
This physical symptom can occur all over the body. It is your body’s way of telling you are going into the stress response. Muscle tension can also be common. Emotional issues have long been believed to cause chronic pain. Research shows us that depression can be linked to the body’s inflammatory response. It is suggested the inflammation in the body may have something to do with the neurocircuits in the brain as it is thought that inflammation may interrupt brain signals (Krishnadas and Cavanagh, 2012). This therefore may have a role in depression and how we treat it.
Fatigue and low energy
This can be commonly linked to poor mental health, exhaustion in itself is believed to be linked to stress. This can lead to irritability, low mood and lack poor concentration. Lack of sleep is also a common symptom of depression, anxiety or stress. Sleep is a restorative process, all the cells in the brain and body are restored during this time, so this can have a real negative, long term impact. Learn more about how you can improve SLEEP HERE
This can be a common sign of poor mental health, especially if you are experiencing tension headaches which are reoccurring. Headaches can be induced by stress. A short term solution is obviously over the counter medication. However if this is something that is repetitive, look at lifestyle choices and what may be impacting your stress levels or your mental health. This is where self care is key. Take time out, get plenty of fresh air and exercise, drink plenty of water, brain dump and get all your stresses of the day out onto paper, organise and prioritise. Your mental and physical health are key.
Digestive or stomach problems
Emotional response can be linked to affecting digestion. It is understood that IBS can be linked to stress and this is more likely to flair up when someone is feeling stressed. Also, when we go into a state of fight or flight, blood is restricted to the digestion system and parts of it switch off as they are not required during this time, from an evolutionary perspective when we are being kept safe from imminent danger. Research supports this, suggesting anxiety and depression is linked to gastrointestinal pain (Hosseinzadeh et al, 2011).
Pain is often the way your brain is communicating to the body.
As stated above, the sooner you can be proactive, and employ appropriate self care strategies or review your work-life balance rather than we reactive, the better. If you are unsure how to work through a better approach in this area, speak to a professional about how you can best improve this. Or team up with a friend and keep each other accountable in the work-life balance stakes. You will both be thankful you did!
Click here to check more about Tapping and how effective that is as a powerful self help tool in lowering stress and helping you feeling more in control of both your physical wellbeing and your mental health.
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Janine is the founder of Change for Success.
She is a published researcher and is a renowned leading authority in this field.
She specialises in transforming mental health and mindset working with individuals and companies and organisations by helping them improve their performance and productivity by reducing stress in the workplace.
She has a Masters’ degrees in Psychology, is a hypnotherapist, NLP and EFT practitioner.