Physical and Mental Health Go Hand in Hand

Health is not defined as the absence of disease, but as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. With that said, it’s evident that physical and mental health go hand in hand and should hold the same amount of importance when discussing well-being. If you are only focused on your physical health, your mental health will suffer, and the same thing happens if you only focus on your mental health. 

What is physical health?

Physical health encompasses a few categories - physical activity, nutrition and diet, medication, rest, and sleep. When discussing physical health, it’s important to look at the bigger picture instead of focusing on what is commonly defined as ‘health.’ Oftentimes, health is publically determined by the absence of any illnesses or injuries. However, just because someone seems or looks healthy, doesn’t mean they necessarily are. While there are many physical health conditions, a few closely associated with mental health include:

  • Fatigue
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Migraines
  • Poor nutrition

What is mental health?

Mental health, on the other hand, includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental state can affect how we think, feel, and act, as well as determine how we handle stressful situations and make choices. Many factors can contribute to negative mental health, such as biological factors, trauma or abuse, and a family history of mental health struggles. Mental health can be categorized as: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar
  • mood-disorders 

How does physical and mental health interact?

It benefits no one to pin either physical or mental health as more important than the other. Physical health can impact every aspect of your child’s life - social, occupational, and spiritual, and your mental health works the same way. 

You may miss a diagnosis

Someone struggling with their mental health may believe everything they're feeling can be explained by it. For example, struggling with depression can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, but so can a thyroid condition or abnormal blood sugar levels. Because this person is attributing their struggles to their depression, they may overlook signs and symptoms of physical conditions. 

The same can be true for someone struggling with their physical health. If you know you experience high blood pressure, you may not realize that the fatigue, dizziness, and difficulty breathing you sometimes experience are actually caused by undiagnosed anxiety. 

One can worsen the other

Physical and mental health do not operate on separate playing fields, so it only makes sense that one can worsen the other. Someone struggling with a chronic condition or illness may find that they have to cancel social interactions, miss days of school and that they overall do not connect and relate to their peers. This can cause depression, anxiety, and overall poor mental health. 

On the other hand, someone who is struggling with severe mental illness may find that it begins to take a toll on their physical health. It may be hard to eat or get out of bed in the mornings. Exercising can become difficult and your rest time can be consumed with thoughts. 

How can you improve mental health?

It can be difficult to improve physical health, especially if your child suffers from illness or chronic conditions. Because of this, it’s easier to focus on improving their mental health instead. If your child is struggling with their mental health, focus on these things:

  • A solid sleep schedule
  • Scheduled activities
  • Appropriate treatment

A solid sleep schedule

Mental health problems can worsen with a lack of sleep. In fact, a study from Harvard’s medical school shows that individuals with a history of insomnia are four times as likely to suffer from depression. On the other hand, those who suffer from depression or anxiety are far more likely to experience sleep problems than those who are on a solid sleep schedule. Without enough sleep, children are more susceptible to weakened immune systems, academic issues, and overall poor mental health. Setting a solid sleep schedule can be a great step towards improving mental health and can be as simple as setting a bedtime, limiting screen time before bed, and having an overall bedtime routine. 

Scheduled Activities

Having a scheduled time for activities makes someone more inclined to attend them. For example, if your child is interested in sports or activities, try to get them into structured lessons. Having something to look forward to can keep their spirits up and put a positive spin on their day. It’s also important to prioritize time outside of the house. Getting outside and experiencing nature has been proven to reduce depression symptoms, and this can be accomplished by a brisk walk around the block or a little time in the park. 

Appropriate treatment

While self-care can be a step in the right direction, more deeply rooted mental illness can only be improved by a qualified expert. If you believe your child is truly struggling, seeking the appropriate treatment can help address your child’s disorder at the root. 

How does your mental health affect your children?

We talk a lot about how important mental health is for your children, but your own mental health can affect them as well. All parents navigate challenges related to raising their children, but parents who suffer from mental illness can have a more difficult time navigating the challenges a family brings. 

Although it can be difficult, looking after yourself the best you can is the best way to tackle family life with a mental illness. It’s okay to accept help from family and friends if you aren’t feeling well. If your child is old enough, it may be beneficial to discuss your illness with them in an appropriate way so that they’re aware of your struggles. 

Children with parents who suffer from mental illness can experience feelings of isolation, disconnection, and their own depression and anxiety. If a child isn’t getting enough support from their parents, they may have to take on additional responsibilities such as chores, assisting with younger siblings, and putting their family’s needs above their own. Not all children will experience the negative effects of their parent’s mental illness, but it’s important to prioritize your mental health in order to create the best environment for your children. 

Contact Pediatrics East

If you feel that your child is experiencing mental health issues, contact pediatrics east to discuss your next steps. While we are not psychological professionals, we can evaluate your child and give suggestions as to what you can do to best help them as well as eliminate any potential physical health issues.

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Posted by Edie Miller at 11:09
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