The Link Between our Emotional and Physical Health
Our emotional and physical states are linked closer than we know. The way we feel emotionally often spills into our physical state. These two entities are not exclusive of one another. Numerous studies have demonstrated that one’s emotional state, both short and long term, influences their physical state, and this can be either positively or negatively.
A study from the Stanford University School of Medicine described some advantages and disadvantages to bouts of stress. It is described that while short bouts of stress can boost the immune system and raise levels of cancer fighting molecules, longer lasting stressful states have the opposite effect of suppressing your immune system. Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system leaving you in a fight or flight state. As a result of this our bodies turn off any long-term building mechanism and focus on the immediate need, thus influencing long term repair and healing. This has a direct negative response to any healing and repairing that would be needed physically, for instance in wound healing. Exposure to chronic stress has particularly been found to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The reverse is also evident. Not only can your emotional health influence the physical health, physical health can have the same effect on your mental health. People with chronic disease, such as those with heart disease or diabetes, tend to feel more psychological distress than do healthy individuals. Health concerns tend to bring on increased distress and increased risk of depression among chronically ill persons. This emotional state can now exacerbate the physical problem by lessening the motivation needed to help overcome the chronic condition.
Regardless of which falls under the cause and which falls under the effect category, effective treatment is key. Consulting with your primary care physician is always the best place to start. From here, they could refer you to a mental health specialist as needed, and work hand in hand with them. The most important aspect to recognize though is that a relationship does exist. That stress that you’re under is not benign, slows down your physical stability and healing, thus causing you even more stress. Recognition and implementing stress reducing methods is key.