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3 Ways Mental Health Affects Physical Health, & What to Do About It
Health & Fitness

3 Ways Mental Health Affects Physical Health, & What to Do About It

Learn more about how your mental health affects physical health and how to deal with the effects of the latter.

Frame Therapy


3 min read

May 13, 2022

Rachel Brandwene, LCSW, is a licensed therapist based in San Francisco, California. She works with anxiety, attachment trauma, and helps individuals understand their full self-worth potential. 

Have you ever noticed the reaction your body has during a stressful situation? You’d often feel hot, your chest tightens up, it feels like you can’t breathe, and you know something doesn’t feel right. As we begin to discuss mental health more frequently, we often leave out the discussion around how it impacts us physically.

Mental health refers to your psychological and emotional well-being, but what happens if your psychological and emotional well-being feel stuck and unbalanced? Maybe you struggle with anxiety and find it difficult to concentrate throughout the day, or maybe you can’t get out of bed and have zero motivation to leave the house. Regardless of the emotion, you better believe that the physical body is also reacting to our experiences.

Here are 3 ways our mental health affects our physical health, along with skills to help you manage these sensations as they occur.

1. Increase in Heart Rate or Blood Pressure

Stress and anxiety can often contribute to increased blood pressure or heart rate.

Have you ever experienced pain in the chest and heart during an overwhelming situation? Whether we are aware of it or not, once our nervous system is triggered, the heart rate can become elevated and, over time, can lead to high blood pressure. So what can we do when life throws us an unpredictable curveball and our heart rate goes haywire?

If there is time allotted, connecting your body through movement can be extremely beneficial whether with light stretching or yoga. Also, implementing breathwork during a stressful situation can help return the heart rate back into a state of balance. For example, you can opt for square breathing, where you inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5, exhale for 5, and hold for 5; then repeat the exercise for 3 rounds.

Getting outside in nature for a hike or walk is also of utmost importance. The great thing about living in California is the unlimited amount of beauty that surrounds us. Take a trip to the ocean or get out for a hike. This practice not only helps with regulating the heart rate but also often helps you put things into perspective.

2. Sleep Disruptions and Fatigue

Anxiety has a tendency to cause fatigue.

Maybe you're feeling burnt out and overworked. If your mental health is in a state of disruption and inconsistency, you might notice difficulty falling or staying asleep, nightmares, and extreme feelings of being tired, with little to no motivation. So how do we get our sleep back to a place where we can feel more rested and energized throughout the day?

First thing’s first: create a sleep routine. Instead of watching TV right before bed, give yourself the comfort of reading a cozy book for 20-30 minutes, or maybe listen to sleep meditation sounds. Allowing yourself to engage in something that disconnects from a screen allows space for presence and can create differences in your ability to fall asleep at night. If you’re feeling worried or consumed by a situation, writing down your thoughts helps to create an outlet for your mind so that you can separate yourself from the thought itself.

3. Unstable Weight Fluctuations & Inconsistent Eating Habits

It’s important to ensure you find an activity that distracts you from either losing your appetite or binge-eating.

Have you ever completely lost your appetite after feeling hopelessness and unclarity? Or maybe the opposite, do you end up finding solace in comfort foods as a way to cope? During moments of loneliness and sadness, finding an activity to reconnect to your body can be beneficial.

You can start by signing up for an activity that gets you into a schedule. Maybe it's an exercise class or maybe it's a 5k. Having something to create structure can help you get back in balance with your appetite.

Calling a friend or social support is also a good idea to help with accountability. Maybe it's a close friend or a family member, getting in touch with someone who understands you can help you build more motivation.

Reaching out to a therapist is also important. Talking to someone who understands what you're going through and who is able to create a warm, nonjudgmental space can help you realign to what you value and build more tools for the tough moments.

Getting a better understanding of how our mental health is connected to our physical health can give us a better idea of how to make changes that support a healthy and happy psychological and emotional well-being. Oftentimes, we may experience a sensation in the body way before we are able to bring awareness to the emotion or thoughts that coincide. The more in tune we can become with our bodies, the more we can recognize how to manage and support our mental health needs as they arise.

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