May is Mental Health Month

Mind and body. Mental and physical. Brains vs. brawn. We tend to think of our emotional and physical states as two completely separate things, especially when it comes to taking care of our health: we exercise to strengthen our muscles, or meditate to clear our heads. But did you know our minds and our bodies have an enormous impact on one another?

May is Mental Health Month, a national observance recognizing the importance of caring for our mental well-being, an essential component of our overall health. In fact, caring for our mental health can often help our physical health—and vice versa. This year, Beacon is joining Mental Health America and other supporters to spread the word about the mind-body connection, and how it can help you improve your overall wellness.

Mind Your Body

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – World Health Organization (WHO)

Physical health often gets top billing when we think about having a healthy lifestyle, and there’s no doubt that your body deserves care and attention.

But you can’t have comprehensive health without mental health—in fact, having an untreated mental health condition can actually put you at risk for developing a physical health condition, and vice versa. Known as comorbidity, it can actually make both conditions more difficult and costly to treat.

The good news is, there are lots of things you can do to boost your mental and physical well-being at the same time. Take a look at some of the key lifestyle factors that help keep your mind and body balanced:

  • Diet/Nutrition

Poor diet has long been linked to physical health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, but did you know the food you eat also has an impact on your mental state?

People who eat a diet rich in whole foods (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and unsaturated fats) are up to 35% less likely to develop depression, while a diet high in processed, fried, or sugary foods can increase the risk of developing depression by as much as 60 percent.

  • Sleep

If you’ve ever gotten less shut-eye than usual, you know sleep deprivation can take a toll on both your physical and mental state. That’s because a good night’s sleep helps restore your body and your mind.

In addition to the short-term effects of sleep loss—sluggish body, difficulty concentrating, feelings of irritability—people who regularly have trouble sleeping have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Poor sleep quality can also elevate the risk of mental health issues like anxiety and depression. In fact, sleep problems impact 50 to 80 percent of people under the care of a psychiatrist, compared to 10 to 18 percent of adults in the general U.S. population.

  • Stress

From fighting traffic to navigating personal relationships, stress is an inevitable part of life. But when stress lingers, it can become a chronic problem for the mind and the body.

In addition to damaging our emotional well-being, stress can also manifest into physical symptoms like skin breakouts, muscle tension, headaches, digestive problems, and heartburn. Chronic stress can even lead to more serious conditions like heart disease, and has also been linked with reduced ability to fight off viruses.

  • Exercise

You already know that exercise is good for the body, but it also benefits the mind. Just one hour of exercise weekly has been shown to improve mood and lower rates of anxiety and substance use disorders. People who exercise regularly are also less likely to have depression, panic disorder, and phobias.

Even in the short-term, breaking a sweat might also help you break a smile: working out releases endorphins—a chemical the body releases to reduce stress or pain—which gives us a euphoric feeling known as a “runner’s high.”

You can find these stats and more in Mental Health America’s 2018 Mental Health Month Toolkit, as well as additional healthy tips for every stage of life.

Stamp Out Stigma

Heart disease, diabetes, asthma: we probably wouldn’t think twice about how important it is to recognize and treat these conditions. But when it comes to mental health disorders, we’re often reluctant to seek help, or even talk about them. As a result—and despite the fact that mental health conditions are largely treatable—less than a third of us get the treatment we need.

A critical step to changing the perception of mental health issues is getting educated about them. You can start by visiting Stamp Out Stigma, where you’ll learn more about the prevalence of mental illness, and hear personal stories from individuals who have experienced it first-hand. You can also take the Stamp Out Stigma pledge to recognize, re-educate, and reduce the stigma of mental health and substance use disorders.

Resources

Want to spread the word about Mental Health Month?