5 Ways the Mind and Body Are Connected and How to Use It to Your Advantage

The connection between your mind and body can’t be denied. The mind refers to the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and images that we experience. These things have an impact on your body’s physical state and well-being. You are physically affected (through body sensations and functioning) by what goes on in your mind. For example, your heart rate may increase when you experience feelings of anxiety when you have to make a speech in front of other people or when you do something for the first time.

How Does It Work?

How you think can directly affect how you feel physically, and how you feel physically can directly affect how you think and feel mentally. For example, if you have chronic back pain, you may be more vulnerable to feelings of irritability or frustration. In this instance, your body’s physical issues are affecting your feelings and thoughts.

Conversely, your thoughts and feelings can affect how you feel physically. For example, if you are constantly worrying and stressing about finances, your body responds through muscle aches and pains. It is helpful to think about your mind and body as being in constant communication with one another.

5 Ways the Mind and Body Are Connected

When you experience emotions, your brain sends signals to your body, and your body responds accordingly. Your body’s response to the brain’s signal is referred to as action urges. These urges can be unconscious, so you don’t necessarily think about how your body is responding. Also, when you experience problems with your physical body, your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are affected. Below are 5 ways your mind and body are connected.

  1. Stress and the fight or flight response: When you experience the emotion of stress, your body engages in the fight or flight response. This feels like your heart may beat right out of your chest, you are breathing so fast you can’t catch your breath, and it is difficult to move because of your muscle aches. This physical response helps us defend ourselves and avoid danger.
  2. Chronic pain and depression: Studies show that people who experience chronic pain are at risk for experiencing feelings of depression and sadness which can make it difficult to get out of bed, complete normal tasks, and feelings of hopelessness.
  3. Anxiety and eating (overeating and undereating): When you experience the emotion of anxiety, your urge may be to use food as a source of comfort to help reduce your feelings of anxiety, which can cause you to eat even when you are full. Conversely, anxiety can cause an upset stomach and other gastrointestinal issues that may contribute to a reduction in appetite, which can lead you to undereat.
  4. Anger and aggression: Anger is an emotion that exists to help protect you. Anger is part of your survival instincts, and it serves the purpose of protecting you when you are experiencing a threat to your safety. When you experience anger, the mind sends the body a message to prepare for fleeing or fighting by sending blood and other chemicals to your muscles. Clenching your fists and grinding your teeth are the body’s physical responses to the emotion of anger.
  5. Experiencing more positive emotions can improve physical health: Studies show that people who experience more happiness and joy have healthier blood sugar levels, healthier weight, have lower blood pressure, and have a reduced risk of heart disease compared to people who experience more negative emotions (anger, sadness, anxiety, fear).

How to Use It to Your Advantage

Having an awareness of your body’s physical response to your emotions can help you engage in the opposite action. Opposite action is when you act opposite of your physical urge. For example, when you experience anger and notice yourself clenching your fists, open your hands with your palms facing up. This interrupts the mind-body connection and can help reduce the intensity of your anger and prevent you from reacting to your anger. When you are experiencing depression, your urge may be to withdraw or isolate. In this case, the opposite action would be to gently approach the situation you are trying to withdraw from. For example, if your urge is to avoid going to the family get-together, the opposite action would be to go to the event, at least for a short time. Surrounding yourself with loved ones can help improve your mood and even reduce feelings of depression.

Talk to your doctor about any physical problems you may be experiencing. If you are experiencing mood or mental health issues, Valera Health can help on your personal journey with mind and body wellness. Valera Health offers psychiatric and therapeutic services through telemedicine.

Sources:

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/mente
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5494581/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5879019/
https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/anger-how-it-affects-people
https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2015/08/positive-emotions-your-health
https://counseling.uoregon.edu/magic-opposite-action

Understanding the Difference Between Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder

Each year, more than 3.3 million Americans experience bipolar disorder. Knowing the difference between Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder can help you gain a better understanding of this condition, especially if your loved one has bipolar disorder or you think you may have it.

Here’s a look at how these two types differ from one another and where you can find treatment for bipolar disorder today.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that causes people to experience extreme mood swings. People with bipolar disorder will experience periods of emotional highs and lows known as episodes.

Periods of emotional highs are known as “mania” and include symptoms of extreme happiness (euphoria), high energy, increased confidence, and talkativeness. Periods of emotional lows are known as depression and include symptoms of sadness, low energy, guilt, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts.

Scientists do not know the true cause of bipolar disorder but suspect it may be caused by physical changes in the brain, genetics, and the environment. Children may develop bipolar disorder if one of their parents or a sibling has it. Bipolar disorder may also be triggered by substance abuse or a major life event such as a trauma.

How Are Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder Different?

The episodes of mania in Bipolar I Disorder are often more severe than the episodes of mania in Bipolar II Disorder. People experiencing Bipolar I may engage in behaviors that are extremely harmful to their well-being, such as spending lots of money on things they don’t need or having unsafe sex with multiple partners. In comparison, the episodes of mania in Bipolar II Disorder are often less severe and less noticeable.

People with Bipolar II Disorder may not experience episodes of major depression. They may feel more sad than usual, but their sadness and other depression symptoms will not often disrupt their usual daily activities. In comparison, people with Bipolar I Disorder may experience major depressive episodes that are severe and increase the risk of hospitalization and suicide.

What Are Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Type I and type II bipolar disorder both produce symptoms of mania and depression. Ask yourself the following questions to determine whether you or a loved one may have bipolar disorder.

  • Have you ever felt so happy or hyper that other people thought you were not your normal self?
  • Do you ever find that you get much less sleep than usual, but didn’t really miss it?
  • Are there times you are much more social or outgoing than usual? For example, have you ever called your friends in the middle of the night?
  • Are there times you engage in lots of risky behaviors, such as having unsafe sex or abusing drugs and alcohol?
  • Do you ever become extremely irritable for no obvious reason, and start fights with friends and family?
  • Do you ever experience extreme fluctuations in your appetite or weight?
  • Do thoughts of suicide ever enter your mind, or have you ever attempted suicide?

If you answered yes to several of these questions, it’s important to speak to your doctor about your symptoms.

How Are Bipolar I and Bipolar II Disorder Treated?

Talk therapy and medications are common treatments for Bipolar I and Bipolar II disorder. Talk therapy can teach you how to manage your symptoms, such as how to effectively handle stress and develop a healthy sleep routine. Medications including antidepressants and antipsychotics may help reduce symptoms of depression.

If you believe you may be experiencing bipolar disorder, talk to your primary care physician and discuss whether tele-health or in-person treatment is best for you. If you have thoughts of suicide, call the national suicide crisis number at 800-273-8255. If you are considering acting on your thoughts, please call 911 or go to your local Emergency Department to get the support you may need.

Valera Health provides tele-mental health care to people with mental health disorders including bipolar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety disorders. Request a consultation with us today and get started on your personal journey to improved health and wellness.

Sources:

  1. https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/bipolar/
  2. https://mhanational.org/conditions/bipolar-disorder
  3. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/bipolar-disorder.shtml
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/what-is-hypomania

6 Warning Signs of Anxiety and When to Get Help

Anxiety is a common mental health disorder today. Maybe you have been experiencing symptoms of anxiety for years, or perhaps your anxiety emerged as a result of a global pandemic, social divide, and other environmental factors. Often our experience of anxiety is very internally disruptive but invisible to others. We may hesitate to tell others about what we are going through out of fear of being judged, thoughts that we have failed in some way, or beliefs that if we ignore the feelings of anxiety that it will just go away.

If you have noticed your anxiety increase, regardless of the reason, you are not alone. Anxiety disorders are one the most common mental health disorders today with more than 40 million adults in the United States meeting the diagnostic criteria. Anxiety and stress are normal responses to life’s stressors, and a number of factors contribute to the development of anxiety—difficult life experiences, personality traits, family history of mental health disorders, and physical health. During moments of high distress, it may seem as though the physical sensations of anxiety will never go away; however, research shows us that anxiety is treatable and the feelings we experience are temporary.

Different Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are a number of different anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The different types of anxiety disorders share some commonalities which can include symptoms such as racing heart, sweating, and racing thoughts. There are some differences in the experience of anxiety among the different anxiety disorders. People with panic disorder feel as if they are in sudden danger, feel helpless, and feel as if they are losing control even though there is no real threat or danger. A panic attack can last for several minutes and can occur at random. Generalized anxiety refers to a persistent feeling of worry. PTSD is generally a result of experiencing a traumatic event. PTSD refers to the intense and uncomfortable thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic experience. OCD refers to the unwanted thoughts and emotions that cause a person to engage in a behavior repetitively.

What Does Anxiety Look and Feel Like?

Symptoms of anxiety can be both physical and psychological. Many of us know that feeling when we are about to give a presentation in front of a group of people, take a test, or meet someone for the first time. While our triggers to anxiety symptoms may be different, it is highly likely that we have all experienced anxiety at some point in our lives. Anxiety isn’t all bad as it does serve a purpose in helping alert us to threats and helping us prepare for important moments in our lives. However, if anxiety increases in severity and duration and begins to cause problems in your life, your anxiety may be at an unhealthy level.

Here are six common warning signs of anxiety.

1.     Difficulty Sleeping

Difficulty sleeping is a warning sign that can look different for each person. You may find yourself thinking about the past or the future as you lay in bed, preventing you from falling asleep. Or perhaps, you may notice that you are waking up every 3 to 4 hours and cannot easily fall back asleep. In both situations, it is common to begin to worry about what will happen the next day if you can’t get to a restful night’s sleep.

2.     Lack of Concentration

You are having a hard time concentrating and following through with things at home, work, school, and in relationships. You may miss important deadlines, overlook key details, and fail to follow through with important obligations. It can look like slipping grades and poor performance at work.

3.     Being Easily Irritated

You notice you are on edge, restless, and are easily irritated. You often find yourself in disagreements with loved ones and co-workers over small instances such as someone’s loud chewing or that they did something differently than what you would have done.

4.     Feeling Tired

You feel tired easily and experience more fatigue with anxiety. Your energy level is low, causing you to struggle to find the motivation to complete simple tasks like getting out of bed in the morning and doing laundry. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages are no longer doing the trick and giving you the burst of energy you need. Maybe your laundry has been piling up or you have missed several days of work due to fatigue.

5.     Intense and Prolonged Worry

Anxiety may cause you to have a hard time controlling worried thoughts. Your mind can race with “what if” thoughts about the future such as “what if I fail”, “what if they don’t like me”, and “what if I’m not good enough”.

6.     Fast Heartbeat

If you are experiencing feelings of anxiety, your heart may beat really fast. You may check your pulse and notice your heartbeat increasing and your mind jumps to the worst-case scenario about your increased heart rate.

When to Get Help

Here are some questions to consider to help you determine if you should seek help for your anxiety:

  • Am I avoiding activities, people, and places that remind me of a time I experienced a panic attack?
  • Has my anxiety contributed to conflict in any of my relationships with loved ones?
  • Have I missed important family, work, and school responsibilities because of my anxiety?
  • Have I tried to control or manage my anxiety in other ways without success?

If you answered yes to any of these questions or if you want to talk to someone about your anxiety symptoms, help is available. Many people may be hesitant to get help for a number of reasons including not knowing where to turn for help, feeling shame or embarrassment about anxiety, or confusion about their insurance coverage. A good place to start can be to talk with your doctor or medical professional. If you are confused about your insurance, you can call the number on the back of your card to determine your coverage and identify treatment locations that accept your insurance provider. Anxiety can be treated by medical and mental health professionals.

Valera Health offers therapy and psychiatric services via telehealth so you can receive the mental healthcare you need from the comfort of your home. We can help you on your personal journey to get treatment for anxiety.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Anxiety-Disorders#:~:text=Anxiety%20disorders%20are%20the%20most,develop%20symptoms%20before%20age%2021.
  2. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/anxiety/what-causes-anxiety
  3. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/panic-disorder-when-fear-overwhelms/index.shtml
  4. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/living-with-anxiety-report.pdf
  5. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml

5 Signs for Recognizing Clinical Depression and When to Get Help

Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder, impacts many people across the country. In 2017, more than 17 million adults in the United States struggled with mild to severe depression. Today, we will explore common signs for recognizing depression and how to know when to get help for you or a loved one. Below are some common signs.

5 Signs of Clinical Depression

Clinical depression has the potential to cause significant distress in many aspects of your life if it’s left untreated. It is important to be able to spot the warning signs so that you can receive appropriate treatment for this disorder. Below are some of the moderate to severe warning signs that you should be aware of.

1. You Lose Interest in Pleasurable Activities

You may find that petting your cat isn’t as enjoyable as it once was, or going out to eat doesn’t bring about the same excitement as it has before. Understand that this is a common symptom and challenge yourself to do one thing every day that brings you joy, no matter how small. That can look like taking a bubble bath or watching your favorite TV show.

2. You Have Feelings of Hopelessness and Guilt

You may feel as if you will feel down and sad forever, and there is nothing you can do to change it. Remind yourself that feelings aren’t facts and that they are temporary. Developing feelings of gratitude and thanks can help combat feelings of hopelessness and guilt. Write down 5 things you are grateful for each day. These don’t have to be major things. In fact, sometimes we experience the most gratitude over the small things in life. This can include the warm cup of coffee in your hands, the rays of the sun shining through your window, and the coziness of your bed.

3. You Experience Changes in Energy, Appetite, and Sleep

You may find yourself feeling tired a lot sooner in the day. You may be sleeping past your alarm or having a hard time falling asleep at night. Maybe your appetite has gone away or you find that you are eating more than normal. Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day to stay hydrated, and keep small snacks nearby if you become hungry.

4. You Have Physical Aches and Pains

You may notice an increase in neck and shoulder pain and other physical pains in your body that didn’t exist before the onset of your depression. Moving your body once a day by stretching and walking may help to reduce physical aches and pains.

5. You Have Thoughts or Intentions of Suicide

Having thoughts about not being alive is common when you are experiencing depression. Practice some self-care activities such as journaling, taking a bath, and reading. Reach out to a friend or a loved one via phone or text so they can help distract you. Think about things that have helped you feel grounded and calm in the past.

When to Get Help

No single factor contributes to the development of clinical depression. Researchers have found that genetics, environment, social stressors, physical health issues, and substance abuse all contribute to the development of depression. If you are experiencing multiple symptoms of depression that have occurred every day for 2 weeks or longer and have tried to manage your symptoms on your own but they persist, it may be time to get help.

Fortunately, depression is treatable and common treatment approaches include therapy and medication or a combination of both. If you are thinking about getting help for your depression or any other mental illness, we at Valera Health are here. At Valera Health, we understand that it can feel intimidating to ask for help. That’s why they offer telehealth services for both therapy and psychiatric services. Mental health conditions like depression shouldn’t be left untreated. Hope and help are available on your personal journey with mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or ADHD.

How to Get Help

If you are thinking about getting help for your mental illness, a good place to start is to talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Your doctor may be able to provide you with a referral to a mental health professional. If you have insurance, you can also call the number on the back of your card to verify your mental health benefits and determine what providers are covered under your plan. You can also see what insurance Valera Health accepts by requesting a consultation.

If you need to talk to someone immediately, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at 1-800-950-6264 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml
  2. https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression

It’s Time to Normalize Mental Health Care. Here’s Why It’s a Good Idea for Everyone.

The mind and the body are connected. If the mind is unhealthy, it reflects on the body, and vice versa. Dr. Brock Chisholm, the first Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that “without mental health, there can be no true physical health.” As a society, we have seen mental health make its way into our media. Some of our favorite athletes, singers, and actors have bravely discussed their struggles with mental health, oftentimes advocating for therapy, normalizing medication, and encouraging people to seek help for their mental illness.

Impact of Mental Health on Physical Health & Quality of Life

Mental health refers to the state of our mental wellness; mental health is something we all have. Mental illness refers to a mental health disorder such as anxiety and depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five adults in the United States live with mental illness. Our mental health plays a role in our lives from our longevity, to our vulnerability to contract various diseases, our use of drugs and alcohol, and our ability to thrive in our jobs, at school, and with our families. Below are some statistics that shed light on the strong connection between mental health and our behaviors, physical health, and quality of life.

  1. Half of the people who experience mental illness will also develop a substance use disorder.
  2. People who suffer from depression and schizophrenia, if left untreated, tend to live shorter lives than those who do not suffer from a mental illness.
  3. Depression has been connected to a 50% increase in a person’s risk of dying from cancer and a 67% increase in developing heart disease.
  4. Almost all suicides are a result of mental illness and suicide happens to be the third-leading cause of death for young adults and adolescents.

The Cost of Mental Illness

Mental illness, if left untreated, can contribute to problems with relationships, lost income, suicide, and substance use. Researchers suggests that people experiencing severe mental illness are more likely to receive lower quality medical care, are more likely have chronic medical conditions, and are likely to die prematurely compared to people without mental illness.

Why It’s A Good Idea for Everyone

Consider the physical disease of obesity and how normalized it is in our society. Anywhere you look, you will see advertisements and apps with our favorite celebrities touting their workout routines, meal plans, and supplements all with the goal of helping you lose weight and beat obesity. Imagine what would happen if, as a society, we could normalize mental health in the way that we normalize obesity.

By not talking about mental illness we reinforce:

  • Discrimination.
  • Physical violence, bullying, and harassment.
  • Lack of understanding from friends and family.
  • Health insurance providers not adequately covering mental illness in their insurance plans.
  • Beliefs that people who suffer from mental illness can’t get better and there’s no hope.
  • Fewer opportunities at work and school for people with mental illness.

Many of us already have or will experience a mental illness in our lifetime. Nearly 20% of Americans will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives, but less than half will receive the treatment they need.

How To Talk About Mental Illness

It may feel intimidating or scary to talk about your mental health. Those feelings are normal. Consider starting small when opening up a conversation about mental health and communicate in ways that are comfortable to you. This can look like writing poetry, painting, dancing, sending a short email or text to a trusted friend. Set a certain amount of time aside (a half-hour, for example) to talk to someone about your mental health without distractions when you feel comfortable in doing so. It may help to look up some statistics on mental health to help you feel like you are not alone. Finally, get help by talking to a doctor or medical professional about what you are experiencing.

Get Help Today

Mental illness is treatable. If you experience mental illness, getting help and the treatment you need is key in improving your physical health, wellness, and overall quality of life. By normalizing mental health, we can send a message to anyone struggling with mental illness that they are not alone, they are supported, treatment is possible, and there is hope.

We at Valera Health understand that it can feel intimidating to ask for help. That’s why we offer telehealth services for both therapy and psychiatric services. Help is available on your personal journey with mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or ADHD.

Sources:

https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/91/1/12-115063/en/
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/common-comorbidities-substance-use-disorders/part-1-connection-between-substance-use-disorders-mental-illness
https://onlinedegrees.bradley.edu/blog/how-mental-health-affects-physical-health/
https://www.nami.org/Press-Media/Press-Releases/2002/Mental-Health-Parity-Benefits-Outweigh-Costs-and#:~:text=Untreated%20mental%20illness%20costs%20the,1%20percent%20of%20current%20premiums.
https://www.mass.gov/info-details/why-do-we-need-to-talk-about-mental-health