Physical, emotional, mental health are connected

Dr Mazvita Machinga
HAVE you ever heard people who are stressed complaining of physical problems such as increased blood pressure levels, headaches or fatigue?  

Your answer may be yes if you are like me. Is there a connection between physical and mental health? Yes indeed, your physical body responds to the way you think and feel. This is the mind/body connection which everyone has.

The number of people that have poor physical health and have developed mental health problems is noticeable. On another note, poor mental health has negatively impacted the physical health of many leading to increased risk of some conditions such as heart problems, stroke and high blood pressure.

This article is reminding us of the importance of taking time to care of mind, body and soul. It is sad that sometimes when we fail to attend to physical health we experience mental health challenges and vice versa. Everything on us is connected.

My experience of working with people in my psychotherapy rooms has made me learn a lot about the connection between physical health and mental health. Remember, just as everyone has physical health everyone also has mental and emotional health. What are you doing to take care of your mental and emotional health?

When did you last process your feelings and emotions with someone who cares?  Generally, people are good at taking care of their physical health but many times we are found wanting on mental and emotional health.

A survey that was done found that 65 percent of undiagnosed, asymptomatic adults likely turn to their primary care doctor with illnesses that are a result of unattended mental health issues.

These primary care visits are driven by psychosocial factors, with 25 percent of the patients having an unattended mental health challenge, and comorbidity occurring in up to 80 percent (Van Beek, K., et.al ,2008). Of these only four percent would seek mental health professional intervention. This shows how people tend to ignore their mental health issues.

I have seen people focusing more on physical health at the expense of mental health and then they take time to recover. It is important to know that there is a link between your emotional, mental health and your physical well-being and people should learn to take time to nurture all.

When we look at how human beings function, there is a link between what the mind is thinking, how you are feeling and the parts of the brain that control bodily parts (physical). For example, when one is stressed too much, one can have physiological reactions in the form of headache, fatigue or stomach ache to mention just a few.

I have noticed that everything on us is connected. When one is in constant physical pain, there is need for interdisciplinary care because one may be suffering emotionally and may gradually develop mental disorders. Research is very clear that poor mental health can weaken your body’s immune system, making you more likely to get infections or colds during emotionally difficulty times.

An example is how grief, stress, unemployment, divorce etc. can be so overwhelming that they may affect your physical health. Too much worry has major influences upon people’s mood, and their sense of physical well-being.

Exposure to intense and chronic stressors or challenges has long-lasting neurobiological effects and puts one at increased risk of anxiety or depressive disorders which may ultimately lead to hypo-immune dysfunction, physical illnesses, structural changes in the brain, and even premature death. Just as we check our physical health, it’s a good idea to have a routine check of our mental and emotional well-being too.

So, what shall I do in order to nurture all?

A balanced work, rest and relaxing times. Stay active and involved in the community

Build and maintain fulfilling relationships with people. Phone calls and social media are great and have their place, but nothing can help you overcome stress, boost your mood than healthy quality face-to-face time with people you love.

Have quality sleep and healthy diet

Make time for appreciation and counting your blessings. Think about the things you’re grateful for. Forgive and move on with life.

Stop smoking and taking alcohol as these can affect both your mental and physical health.

Hang around positive people and socialise with other people.

Meditate, to stay connected with a spiritual practice that energises and inspires you.

Visit your medical doctor, clergy or mental health professional for care when necessary.

Remember taking care of your mental and physical health may lead to healthier individuals, families and society at larger. Including mental health service care in your primary medical care may lead to quality life and reduce medical doctor burnout.

Dr Mazvita Machinga is a qualified psychotherapist based in Mutare. Contact information 0771 754 519/ 0778 83 84 10 or mmazvi@yahoo.com.