Headaches? Run down? Feeling tired constantly? Why it may be time to look at your mental health and wellbeing

Are you suffering from poor physical health? Find out why your mental health could be the cause, and what you can do to help yourself.

When it comes to your physical and mental health it’s all too easy to see a brick divide between the two. After all, why would there be a link?

Viruses don’t infect us as a result of sadness, do they? Cancer isn’t caused by anxiety? No, but if your mind is suffering then all too often your body will display physical symptoms as a result; it’s not an uncommon thing and one to watch out for. It’s a clever mechanism employed by our bodies to force us to pay attention to mental problems that are not being seen, just felt.

Mental health issues come with physical symptoms surprisingly often. Our bodies and minds are not separate which is precisely why one can affect the other. For example, depression might cause fatigue, headaches and digestive problems. Anxiety can cause an upset stomach.

Other physical symptoms include restlessness, insomnia and difficulty concentrating as a result of mental stress. Recognising the early signs of declining mental health is just one of the things that mental health training can provide.

Five reasons why people with mental health problems are more likely to have poor physical health

You may not know that physical health problems can put us at significant risk of developing mental health problems, and vice versa. Almost one in three people with a long term physical health condition also have a mental health problem, and most often this is the all-encompassing depression and anxiety.

In fact, research tells us that people with a mental health problem are more likely to have a preventable physical health problem, such as diabetes or heart disease. Why so? Well, there are a number of reasons.

1) You’re less likely to receive medical help

HPC (health care professionals) might assume that your physical symptoms are just a manifestation of your mental illness and might therefore not investigate earlier. It’s sad, but true and a damning indictment of our healthcare system. You must make sure that you can advocate for yourself.

Those with mental health problems are less likely to receive the regular physical check-ups that most of us have scheduled, such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol tests that might pick up symptoms of physical problems earlier on. 

2) You may be more genetically prone

The genes that make it more likely that you will develop a mental health problem can also have a role to play in developing physical illnesses.

Talking to family members can often give you an insight as to whether this might be something that you should consider. But remember – just because the genetic likelihood is there, it doesn’t mean that it’s am inevitability. 

3) You have lower levels of motivation

Some mental health illnesses or medications can negatively affect your energy, and/or motivation to take care of yourself. Recognising this early on is an important step towards dealing with it. 

4) You may have difficulties with concentration and/or planning

If your concentration is poor then you might find it hard to arrange and/or attend medical appointments, for example. If this is something which you recognise as being an issue, then it might be helpful to ask a family member or a friend to help you cope.

5) You have less support in changing unhealthy behaviour

HCP might assume that you aren’t capable of making positive changes, like giving up smoking and drinking, so don’t offer the right support. Again, this comes under the umbrella of being able to advocate for yourself and asking for help if you can’t. 

Three ways you can help yourself

It’s important to bear in mind that having a mental health problem does not mean that it’s inevitable that you’ll become physically ill. In fact, there are lots of things you can do to give yourself the best chance of staying physically well. 

Our physical and mental health are intimately connected. Some integrative and functional medicine practices offer a variety of services to help you stay physically well. Liquid Life IV therapy can help to improve your immune system, energy levels, and overall health. It’s important to have some strategies in place for how to stay physically well, in order to keep our mental health in top condition as well. Here are three suggestions.

1) Exercise

We hear this one over and over again – because it’s so true! Exercise releases those all-important, feel good endorphins which means that it’s a great way to keep physically healthy as well as improving your mental wellbeing.

If you’re new to the world of exercise then start small, even a brisk 10 minute walk will boost your mood, energy and mental alertness.

Taking up more exercise can have a massively beneficial effect on your quality of life, whether it’s tending to your roses in the garden, running a marathon or playing squash twice a week, finding an activity that you enjoy can make you feel more focused, less stressed and give you a sense of purpose. 

2) Eating well

Eating well improves your physical wellbeing and your mood. Having a balanced diet is the best way to be, including having healthy amounts of essential fats, proteins, vitamins, complex carbs, minerals and water.

The food we consume can influence the development, management and prevention of numerous mental health conditions, including depression and dementia. 

3) Cut out the bad habits

Stopping smoking is probably the number one thing you should remove from your life because it’s very bad for both your physical and mental health.

Some people feel like that smoking alleviates physical symptoms, like anxiety, but the truth is that any relief is short term and the damage done is most definitely long term. It’s never too late to give up smoking and there is plenty of help out there to do so. 

Make an appointment with your GP

If you’re worried about something, or you’ve been invited for routine tests or screening then make an appointment to be seen – and make sure you attend. There’s rarely a problem too small to seek medical advice about, that’s why our GPs are there.

Waiting times differ with different surgeries and areas, but if you feel like you need to be seen urgently then you can ask for an emergency, on the day appointment. Most surgeries will have an online e-consult option for you to fill a form out as well as the traditional phone line.

Walking into your surgery is another way to ask to be seen. Healthcare professionals would always rather see someone who’s not sure whether they need to be seen, than not see someone with a potentially serious illness.

If your mental health is beginning to trouble you, or is getting worse, then the first port of call is your GP, who will refer you to psychiatric services if necessary. 

Photo by engin akyurt