The whole mind-body thing is really amazing. If you think that your body is not affected by your thoughts and mood, you may be surprised.
Your body is directly connected to how you think and feel. It is also connected to physical reactions. There is a physiological response when you feel anxious, sad, excited, or relaxed. You may notice your palms get sweaty and your heart rate goes up when adrenaline kicks in with strong emotions such as excitement, anger, or anxiety. On the other hand, you may notice that your heart rate slows down, your breathing is in sync, and you feel calm, confident, secure, and focused.
Our bodies do a great job at managing stress on a daily basis. But when the stress level is too high or when we are constantly on edge, the body cannot keep up. It is important to get quality sleep to help your body repair. When you sleep, your brain also physically washes away toxic waste that can cause cognitive impairment if there is too much plaque build up. Consequently, over the course of long term stress, the body breaks down. The mind becomes tired. Day in and day out, if stress is not managed properly, the mind and body can develop conditions that are detrimental to your health. Over time, the constant cycle of mind-body stress can weaken your immune system and increase the chances of developing unwanted changes in health, unhealthy habits, and chronic health conditions.
Signs and Symptoms of Mind-Body Stress
A few signs of how poor emotional and mental health can manifest as physical ailments include:
- Chronic headaches
- Neck and back pain
- Changes in appetite
- Digestive issues
- Chest pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Unwanted weight gain or weight loss
- High blood pressure
- Respiratory issues
- Skin conditions
On the other hand, physical health conditions can affect your mood and mental health. For example, anxiety and depression are common mental health issues that can be linked to:
- Hormonal imbalance
- Chemical imbalance in the brain
- Physical trauma and injury
- Nerve damage
- High and low blood sugar
- Overactive and underactive thyroid
- Vitamin deficiency
- Tumors and cancer
- Sleep conditions (such as sleep apnea, sleep disruption, insomnia)
- Autoimmune diseases
What are some ways to destress your mind and body? Start with the basics.
Nutrition and Sleep
Good nutrition is essential in managing stress. If you treat your body well, it will treat you well in return and in the long run. Our bodies are amazingly resilient and can bounce back from many things. From daily wear and tear to recovering from a cold to healing after major trauma such as injury or surgery, the body (and mind) is capable of adjusting, learning, repairing, and rebuilding.
Stress takes a grave toll on long term health. Poor diet and poor sleep have been directly linked by research to overall poor health. When we are stressed, the body requires more oxygen, more energy, and more nutrients to stay healthy. Sometimes, we turn to bad habits such as relying on caffeine, craving sugary foods, eating highly processed and high calorie junk foods, eating empty carbs that have little nutritional value, and even resorting to alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Stress disrupts sleep. Poor sleep quality worsens an already worn out mind and body. High caffeine food further causes more sleep issues and can even affect concentration and mood swings.
Acute stress eventually becomes chronic stress which raises cortisol levels that cause a number of serious health conditions. For example, high levels of cortisol cause hyperglycemia and can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Other health issues associated with constantly elevated cortisol include high blood pressure, digestive issues, immune deficiencies, anxiety, and heart disease.
So what’s the best thing you can do for your health? Nourish your body and make time for sleep to avoid the endless cycle of chronic stress.