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Health and Wellness, Health Alert, Women's Health, Kids' Health, Men's Health

How your mental health can improve your physical health

Maybe this question has been on your mind: Can my mental state affect my physical health?

Doctors have suspected for centuries there is a powerful tie between mind and body. Modern medical studies prove them right. Researchers now know unhealthy levels of stress, depression and anxiety can wreak havoc with your hormones, immune system, heart health and blood pressure.

Back pain, chest pain, headaches, extreme fatigue, diarrhea, a stiff neck or a racing heart are just a few of the physical symptoms that can appear when your emotional health is off-kilter, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Tending to your emotional health can improve your quality of life. Better mental health also may help your body fight infections, recover from an illness and prevent chronic disease.

What helps the mind-body balance grow strong? Thankfully, research has answered that question too. These top the list:

  • Getting a move on: “Exercise changes how the body responds to stress. It improves mood too.
    It really can't be understated how dedicating even 15 to 30 minutes of your day to move and stretch your body or quiet your mind and soul can shift how you experience anxiety or depression symptoms,” says Kaysey Crump, a licensed therapist who works in Adventist Health Portland’s primary care clinics.
  • Finding healthy ways to relax: Some people use music, art, prayer, woodworking, reading or even 10-minute walks to lower stress in their life.
  • Expressing yourself: Negative feelings and fears that are bottled up may flow out as aches, pains and problems. A trusted friend, partner or religious adviser may be able to help you focus on positives and work through challenges. Some people keep a gratitude journal or write down goals and accomplishments. Professional counseling is advised if you are stuck or feeling overwhelmed.

Finally, remember these words of wisdom: Be honest with your primary care provider about the stresses and challenges you face. “Obviously, there are times when exercise and mindfulness alone are not enough to treat mental health symptoms and seeking counseling and/or medical support is a brave and important step to take,” Crump explains. “If you are nervous to seek mental health services, know that we are dedicated to providing you services that are safe and respectful of who you are and responsive to your individual needs."

Individual counseling services are provided in many of our primary care clinics on Portland’s east side and in Vancouver. To schedule an initial appointment, call 503-261-6929. Our team will match you with the clinic location and counselor that works best for you.