Did you know that approximately 30% of individuals who suffer with long-term physical health problems also struggle with their mental health and wellbeing? Mental health exacerbates physical illness, leading to poorer outcomes and, therefore, higher costs to the individual and the NHS. The two are inextricably linked, and the best results come when the two are treated in unison.
Let’s Look At Long Covid As An Example
Most individuals who contract Covid find that their symptoms get better after a few days or weeks, and make a full recovery within 12 weeks. Long Covid describes when symptoms last much longer and does not seem to relate to how ill you were initially.
Some studies have shown that 1 in 4 people who experience long Covid develop a mental health problem. This may be due to changes in quality of life, the impact of isolation and the inability to work, which leads to financial uncertainty. As a new phenomenon, the uncertainty of how long the illness may last also increases stress levels, and there is a well established relationship between stress and poor physical health.
Stress And Physical Health
Stress occurs when the body reacts to possibly harmful stimuli, whether real or perceived. It comes with numerous symptoms, most of which you will be familiar with. These can be emotional, physical, cognitive or behavioural, and here are a few examples:
Short-term stress can be a positive thing as it can increase your performance and even give your immune system a boost! But long-term stress can be very harmful.
The Long-Term Impact Of Stress And Poor Physical Health
Experiencing stress long-term can not just impact your emotional wellbeing in the moment, but it can lead to the development of mental health problems as well, such as anxiety, depression and personality disorders. In terms of your physical health, it can be highly damaging, resulting in:
- Cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and strokes
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Menstrual problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Skin and hair problems
- Gastrointestinal problems
This shows how negative thought patterns can have a real impact upon your physical health.
How To Alleviate The Problem
There are different ways to help to improve your mental wellbeing and physical health at the same time. You can do so alone, or with a little help.
- Learn ways to relax
- Practise mindfulness and meditation
- Improve things about your lifestyle, such as your diet and sleeping pattern
- Have a daily routine
- Have healthy relationships
- Keep a mood diary
- Try complementary and alternative treatments
- Get self-help online
Exercise is proven to have a highly beneficial effect on those struggling mentally. It has been shown to:
- Improve mood
- Reduce symptoms of stress
- Reduce anger
- Alleviate anxiety
- Slow cognitive decline
It does all of this whilst simultaneously:
- Making you fitter
- Helping you to manage your weight
- Building your strength and muscle
- Keeping your joints healthy
- Making you feel good about yourself
- Helping to prevent health problems, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, strokes, and some cancers
Unfortunately, those who have mental health problems are less likely to look after their physical health, sometimes due, in part, to the side-effects of medications leaving them feeling lethargic. Until they are capable of helping themself in this way, it is a good idea to seek outside support.
Seek Support For Physical Health
Contact your GP – they can refer you to NHS talking therapy services, give you lifestyle advice, recommend groups, and offer you suitable medication. If your case is severe, they may also refer you to a specialist for further assessment and treatment.
If you are not currently registered with a GP, you can find your closest one on the NHS website.
Contact us – Dr Jan’s medical career has spanned 30 years and has included conducting scientific research, opening his own GP practice, publishing a book, and >12 years of experience as a life coach.
Get In Touch
The first step towards a happier and healthier life is to book your discovery call. This complimentary 20 minute session will allow Dr Jan to get to know you more and understand what you are struggling with. From here, he will begin to devise a strategy to help you.
This is a big step, and if you would like to get to know us a bit more before taking it, simply visit our website, Instagram, Facebook or take advantage of the advice given on Dr Jan’s YouTube channel.