Mental and physical health are connected

Make no mistake – your physical health is tied to your mental health, and vice-versa. Keeping yourself running like a well-oiled machine means paying attention to both.

Tip 1: Sleep is important

You need to make sure you’re getting enough rest and maintaining a steady sleep-wake cycle. Sleep allows your body to repair itself and your mind to rest, so don’t skimp on your shut-eye. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.

Tip 2: Eat nutritious food and get your exercise

A healthy body helps maintain a healthy mind. Eat your fruits and veggies and stay physically active. Exercise shouldn’t be something you dread. Choose an activity you enjoy, like dancing, yoga, yardwork or walking with a friend, so you’ll look forward to getting that heart rate up.

Tip 3: Identify and manage stress

This may be the biggest key for many when it comes to mental wellness, because stress can cause physical symptoms like trouble sleeping, increased fatigue, chest pains and aggravation of health conditions including heartburn, arthritis and migraines. “Stress causes us to release cortisol, a hormone that increases blood flow and stomach acid,” Dr. Kyle John, Mercy psychiatrist, said. “It’s very useful if you need to run away from a would-be attacker, but it’s supposed to be short-lived. When stress and its physical symptoms last for days or longer, it begins to cause problems.”

Stress can lead to emotional issues, like anxiety, irritability, a sense of hopelessness or anger. And it can interfere with our ability to think clearly or even cause us to jump to conclusions or focus on the negative.

The great news is that having some fun can help you counteract the stress in your life. “A lot of times we’ll get overwhelmed with work and think, ‘I don’t have time to have fun,’” John said. “In reality, giving yourself permission to ‘check out’ for a bit can actually make you more productive in the long run.” Meet a friend for lunch, spend time with family, read something inspiring, take a hot bath, or watch a funny movie. You could even go all out and plan a vacation or a weekend getaway. For those with a faith tradition, praying or attending church services can also help them hit the reset button.

“Be nice to yourself,” John advised. “We often tell ourselves things we would never say to someone else. So remember you don’t have to be perfect and remind yourself about all the things you’re really great at.”

Sometimes, you may just need the advice of your family physician.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of if your mental wellness has gone off-track,” John advised. “So many people don’t say anything because they fear being judged. Think of it as you would a broken arm. You’d get help for that, and your mental health is no different. Your doctor knows you best and can help you determine if a certain activity, counseling or even medication could help.”

Sonya Kullmann is the media relations and communications manager for Mercy.


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