Having a stressful day? As it turns out, the way you feel in your head has a surprisingly powerful effect on your body’s ability to maintain itself and regulate its normal mechanisms.
Even worse, serious mental conditions, such as depression, can cause long-term physical harm if not dealt with.
The most basic element of any mental burden comes from change, whether good or bad. Sudden and unexpected changes, such as losing a family member, a house or a job, can be disastrous to one’s mental health. However, “good” changes, like welcoming a new child into your life, can also take its toll.
In essence, your brain’s instinct is to resist a dramatic change in what it’s used to. Your mind loves repetition, which is why people get “comfortable” with day-to-day routines, locations, friends and activities. It’s like an addiction and just like quitting a bad habit, your mind and body will cause plenty of friction when it doesn’t like what’s happening (even if it’s for the best).
Anyone who’s tried to quit smoking can tell you how hard it can be. When your brain is trained to accept a repetitive habit in your life, such as cigarettes and nicotine, it becomes accustomed to it and resists its absence. In fact, your body even comes to rely on the physical action of moving the cigarette to your mouth and taking a puff.
The symptoms of taking an addiction away, known as withdrawal, are very physical, and this is where the mind/body link comes into play. Common ailments associated with withdrawal include shaking, nervousness, sweating, terrible headaches, teeth grinding, depression, anxiety – and the list goes on.
Someone going through withdrawal is often unable to function normally and severe cases require medical intervention, known as rehabilitation to try to ease the suffering.
Even though other changes in one’s life don’t always include chemical dependencies, the symptoms of living through traumatic events can be strikingly similar. Some of these symptoms can lead to even bigger problems.
A common example is how depression causes people to lose their appetite and in turn, long-term cases of malnutrition can cause debilitating problems. Long periods of depression have also been shown to cause inflammation of the brain, which is a possible contributor to early dementia.
While everyone deals with stress differently, there are some common methods to try so you can improve your situation. Make sure you let your feelings out rather than bottle them up. This can be as simple as talking to friends and family, or can include crying, laughing or expressing your anger, all of which are perfectly normal and healthy. If you need more, professional counselors are trained to help people deal with their stress and can offer you a personalized wellness program designed to address your stress specifically.
Endocrinologists define stress as a biological occurrence that includes real physical symptoms, same as with a sickness or disease, and you can relieve stress physically by including activity into your wellness program.
Exercising and/or participating in a sport helps your body cope with stress by engaging your mind and muscles, releasing any tension. Similarly, massage is a physical mechanism that can divert your body’s focus on stress to the relaxation of your tendons and muscles.
Try some peace and quiet, as well. Sound engineers who work with headphones on all day report a condition known as “hearing fatigue,” and its symptoms include stress. Letting your eardrums relax helps heal any microscopic injuries and your mind needs a break from processing the audible information.
While you’re enjoying some silence, many praise the power of holistic methods of stress relief, like acupuncture, Reiki and meditation. A relaxing environment is the key factor in all of these methods, so they’ll combine nicely with your quiet time.