We all have to deal with the stressors of daily life, but if stress becomes overwhelming, it can wreak havoc on our physical and emotional health. There is a relationship between physical health and mental health. Everyone deals with stress differently, and a situation that is anxiety-inducing for one person may be managed calmly by another. Not all stress is negative; there is something known as “good stress.” Packing quickly to go on a last minute vacation or preparing for the birth of a baby would be examples of positive stress for most people.
When we first enter what we perceive to be a stressful situation, we evaluate our surroundings to determine if they are threatening or not. If we don’t feel that we can cope with what lies before us, adrenaline begins to course through the body and the heart beats more rapidly. As we begin to perceive the event as frightening and stressful, the body goes into fight or flight mode; we decide whether to remain in the stressful situation and fight it, or flee to a safer environment. If we remain in the stressful situation, we expend a lot of energy and eventually feel drained and anxious.
Prolonged stress begins to drastically affect mental health and physical well-being, explains mental health care provider Alfred Bergman. If you can’t resolve the source of the stress, such as changing careers to escape a dead-end job or attending family counseling to deal with a negative home environment, you will become tired, depressed and may even develop mental illness.
Some symptoms of stress include anxiety, insomnia, increase or decrease in appetite, loss of interest in activities and difficulty making decisions. Stress is considered a risk factor in alcohol and substance abuse, and can affect your immune system and leave you more susceptible to disease.
If you’re dealing with a stressful situation, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to improve your overall mental health. For some people, taking a walk each day or enjoying a hot bath may be enough to keep stressors at bay. For others, talking to a mental health professional is the answer.
The sooner you can remove or at least minimize stressors in your life, the sooner your mental health will improve. Seek solutions to your stressful situation: talk to friends and family members about issues, and seek professional counseling if necessary.
Exercise improves mental health and help battle burnout if you suffer from anxiety, stress, or depression. Start a fitness program, try some relaxation exercises or take a calming yoga class.
When you’re working on understanding and improving your mental health, never underestimate the power of positive thinking: remove phrases like “I can’t” from your vocabulary, try to slow down and take time out to relax and do the things you enjoy such as gardening or community involvement, and don’t be too hard on yourself.