Emotional Wellbeing

Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Why We Can’t Talk About Mental Health Without Talking About Physical Health

There has been a lot of talk about mental health in the past few years. It’s becoming a growing problem in today’s society. A lot of younger women suffer from mental health issues and solutions are far and few in-between. Medication is often unreliable in the long run and people are looking for different types of treatment. New research shows that improving your physical health could do wonders for certain issues. Here are some arguments for it.  

The physical and mental are intertwined 

People often talk about physical and mental health under the assumption that they are somehow separate and different. This is a very common misconception. They are arguably two sides of the same coin.  

Most medical literature combines these two aspects of the human body whenever health and disease are talked about. When you want to improve one, you immediately have to take into account the other. There are lots of ways our mental and physical states are intertwined, which is why medicine has started to cooperate with other sciences like nutrition and fitness in order to better understand how to help people.  

You are what you eat 

What we eat on a daily basis can affect our mental state significantly. You might not think food has all that much of an effect on your mind, but you would be surprised. Both our physical and mental health depend on how we look at our nutrition. There are both direct and indirect effects of improper eating.  

For one, there are certain vitamins and minerals that are essential for various functions of our brains. B vitamins are the best examples. Vitamins B3, B6, and B9 need to be present in adequate amounts in our nervous systems in order for proper nerve development. They also assist in the creation of neurotransmitters, the chemical signals that our neurons use to communicate with each other. Lower amounts of any of these three vitamins lead to depression and anxiety. Nerves end up with fewer neurotransmitters and signals end up mixed up. If the deficiency lasts long enough, eventually you end up with neurological symptoms and more severe issues.  

What you eat isn’t the only issue that is worth discussing. There’s also the factor when and how often you eat. Doctors often stress the importance of having regular meals throughout the day. This isn’t without reason. Not only will it allow your digestive system to work more efficiently, but it will also affect your mind and its wakefulness. Humans are habitual creatures and eating healthy meals at certain intervals have significant effects on our minds.  


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The nervous system doesn’t discriminate 

There’s really no difference between physical and mental stress, at least if you ask our nervous system. For example, there are a bunch of different ways you can get a rush of adrenaline. You might be stressed out right before a huge exam and your heart rate shoots up to very high numbers. On the other hand, running from danger has the exact same effect. All your body knows is that there’s something wrong and it’s time to look for solutions. As far as your body is concerned, stress is stress. The steps you take to solve it are the only thing that matters.  

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems bridge the gap between our mind and our body. What you’re thinking can directly impact how quickly your heart and lungs are working. Your mind isn’t at all separated from your body when you think about it. Because of this, it’s possible to get positive feedback from one when you influence the other.  

Your body wants you to know when you’re ill 

Everyone has experienced having the flu at least once or twice. It’s an unpleasant experience that passes relatively quickly, but it can feel like forever. You have a runny nose, high temperature, and absolutely everything aches. Any movement you make is sluggish and you find that even the most basic tasks are draining both physically and mentally.  

When you feel the effects of the flu, your mind isn’t in the greatest state. You might be slightly anxious or depressed. Who wouldn’t be? It’s like wasting a week or so of your time for absolutely no reason other than random chance. Not to mention, you can’t possibly enjoy the effects on your body.  

However, did you know that only part of the effects you feel is caused by the flu virus? The fatigue and aches that happen during the flu are mostly a result of your own body sabotaging you. It wants you to heal quicker which is why it’s sapping all of your physical and mental energy and using it to repair the damage. Otherwise, it might lead to a longer period of recuperation. 

With acute infections, this isn’t much of an issue. You have a period where you feel drained and depressed, but it passes and you’re back to normal. Chronic infections and issues can severely hamper someone’s mental health for long periods of times. The body never leaves its panic mode, even when the chronic condition isn’t currently presenting any kind of threat. Those who suffer from certain chronic conditions can be left feeling slow and unmotivated for long stretches of time. At some point, it becomes part of their life and personality.  


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Mental health issues are less obvious and often disregarded 

It’s no secret that issues regarding mental health are often seen as less important than physical issues. They are much more difficult to notice and their severity is underestimated. Because of this, it’s not at all uncommon for mental health issues to go under the radar and end up being ignored.  

Worst of all, these hidden mental issues can lead to physical ailments and problems down the road. People who suffer from depression find that it’s a lot easier for them to get sick. The state of their mind significantly affects the state of their body.  

Some women find that longer periods of diminished mental health can even affect their menstrual cycles. This happens because several hormones get out of sync during the depression. They can even affect ovulation and lead to decreased fertility. 

Physical improvements lead to mental improvements 

The big question on everyone’s mind is: How do we help ailments in the mental sphere? A lot of research has shown that exercise significantly affects a person’s mental health. In fact, you will find that a lot of doctors would recommend increased physical activity as a great alternative to medication when mental health is on the decline.  

The way exercise can help improve your mood and state of mind is two-fold. Your body wants to experience an adequate amount of physical activity, which is why it will release certain hormones during this time. These hormones make you feel better and tell you that you should repeat this activity. 

 On the other hand, making improvements in fitness directly tells your body that you’re making some sort of progress when it comes to health. Exercise burns calories and builds muscle fibres, which also stimulates the appetite. A healthy appetite from exercise is essential if you want to build muscles and obtain a toned body. However, you have to combine it with nutrition in order to see optimal results. People often recommend whey protein for women for making progress in their fitness regimes.  


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Balance is key 

It’s hard to talk about mental health without mentioning physical health because they are part of the same whole. Your body requires balance in all things in order to function properly. Only being healthy in one aspect isn’t going to make for a functional system. Those who disregard any part of their body and mind will notice that it’s not something that you can get away with. There’s no way to escape health issues and taking care of everything is crucial. 

Finding the right balance isn’t easy. Some people find that certain health issues can stop them from treating others. It’s not uncommon for those who are depressed to neglect their body. It’s hard to make improvements in physical health if mental health is dragging you down. If so, how is one to improve their mental state if it prevents them from making progress? 

Making improvements in mental health is a tough job. You have to accept that it requires help from all sides. You have to exhaust every possible option in order to start making progress. Consulting a mental health professional would be the first logical step. Medication and proper nutrition are going to make way for improvements in other spheres of life.  


Our minds and our bodies aren’t in any way separated. They’re part of the same whole and improving the state of one often improves the state of the other. Medicine has made great strides in the field of mental health and using physical health as a treatment option is proving itself to be one more useful tool in this battle.  


For further reading on mental health and postpartum depression click here.


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