High levels of stress come at a cost to the physical and mental body. Our emotions have a massive impact on all our bodily systems. Your body responds to the way you think, feel, and act. This is one type of “mind/body connection.” When you are stressed, anxious, or upset, your body reacts in a way that might tell you that something isn’t right.
Poor emotional health can weaken your body’s immune system, making you more likely to get colds and other infections during emotionally difficult times. Also, when you are feeling stressed, anxious, or upset, you may not take care of your health as well as you should. You may not feel like exercising, eating nutritious foods or taking medicine that your doctor prescribes.
Physical symptoms of stress may include;
- Back pain
- Change in appetite
- Chest pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Dry mouth
- Extreme tiredness
- General aches and pains
- High blood pressure
- Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
- Palpitations (the feeling that your heart is racing)
- Sexual problems
- Shortness of breath
- Stiff neck
- Upset stomach
- Weight gain or loss
How can I improve my emotional health?
First, try to recognize your emotions and understand why you are having them. Sorting out the causes of sadness, stress, and anxiety in your life can help you manage your emotional health. The following are some other helpful tips.
Express your feelings in appropriate ways. If feelings of stress, sadness, or anxiety are causing physical problems, keeping these feelings inside can make you feel worse. It’s OK to let your loved ones know when something is bothering you. However, keep in mind that your family and friends may not be able to help you deal with your feelings appropriately. At these times, ask someone outside the situation, such as your family doctor, a counsellor or psychologist, for advice and support.
Live a balanced life. Try not to obsess about the problems at work, school, or home that lead to negative feelings. This doesn’t mean you must pretend to be happy when you feel stressed, anxious, or upset. It’s important to deal with these negative feelings, but try to focus on the positive things in your life too. You may want to use a journal to keep track of things that make you feel happy or peaceful. Some research has shown that having a positive outlook can improve your quality of life and give your health a boost. You may also need to find ways to let go of some things in your life that make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Make time for things you enjoy.
Develop resilience. People with resilience can cope with stress in a healthy way. Resilience can be learned and strengthened with different strategies. These include having social support, keeping a positive view of yourself, accepting change, and keeping things in perspective. A counsellor or psychologist can help you achieve this goal with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Ask your doctor for a referral if you feel this is the best option for you.
Calm your mind and body. Relaxation methods, such as meditation, listening to music, listening to guided imagery, yoga, and Tai Chi are useful ways to bring your emotions into balance. Meditation for even a few minutes a day can help alleviate anxiety and chronic pain. It also can help with self-control that may be helpful for working to break bad habits, like smoking.
Spend time in nature as often as you can. This can rejuvenate our minds and improves our ability to pay attention and focus.
Take care of yourself. To have good emotional health, it’s important to take care of your body by having a regular routine for eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising to relieve pent-up tension. Such activities alter the structure and functioning of the brain which is key for improving mental health. Activities like swimming, running, cycling, walking briskly or even doing household chores at a vigorous pace can benefit the brain, in addition to keeping the body fit.
Avoid overeating and don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. Using drugs or alcohol just causes other problems, such as family and health problems.
The holiday season is a great opportunity for inner reflection and creating a healthy plan for the year ahead, including your hopes, dreams and aspirations.
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2017.