Abby Tingle M.S.
It is no secret that mental health influences how you feel, think and behave in daily life. But, did you know that mental health also affects your ability to cope with stress, overcome challenges and fight off illness? Mental and physical health are often regarded as separate entities, when in reality mental health can have a direct impact on physical health. With the abundance of the influenza virus within the United States, it is crucial that we make the connection between mental health and a weakened immune system. Poor mental health can affect the body’s ability to fight off infection and disease. When the body is exposed to an infection, such as influenza virus, the immune system fights back to control and eventually remove the virus from our bodies. However, mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression slow the response of the immune system making it more difficult to reject the infection. This makes the body more susceptible to becoming ill and can result in a longer period of infection... and no one wants that!
How can this be avoided? The answer is simple: practice self-care. Taking care of your mind should be a top priority when maintaining or improving overall health. Here are a few simple ways to do so:
· Exercise regularly- time to dust off those running shoes. Exercise results in the release of chemicals in the brain that can ease depression and anxiety. Pick a program or form of exercise and stick to it!
· Eat a healthy diet- put the fast food down! Foods loaded with processed and high-calorie ingredients have been linked with increased anxiety and depression. Avoid skipping meals, since this can lead to fatigue and a more vulnerable immune system.
· Maintain a normal sleep schedule- easier said than done right? But, not getting enough sleep has been linked with depression, anxiety and stress. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, check out these helpful tips on what to do when you can’t sleep.
· Get support- phone a friend... or two! Mental health may be a difficult topic to discuss with others, but social interaction is a vital aspect to preventing a decline in mental health.
· Seek professional care as soon as possible (yes we said as soon as possible, and we mean it!)- getting help earlier can prevent mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety, from developing.
Keep in mind, if you feel you are experiencing symptoms of any mental health condition, it is important to contact a medical professional to determine help that is right for you. At the Child & Family Center, we can help!