We talk a lot about the importance of taking care of your body, especially using exercise and diet as tools for achieving heart health. Those facts will never change, and the things you put in your body will always contribute to or detract from your overall health. However, it’s vital that we also mention mental health as a factor in your heart health. It’s easy to see the correlation between the fatty foods you eat and the plaque that builds up inside your arteries, but the connection isn’t as crystal clear when it comes to mental health.
Research shows an increased risk for heart disease associated with poor mental health, specifically in patients who suffer from depression, anxiety, and PTSD. When patients suffer from these conditions for long periods, they can increase blood pressure and cortisol, damaging the heart. So, you might be wondering what you can do to protect yourself from long-term damage due to your mental health struggles. The first and most important step is to speak with your doctor to ensure that your condition is monitored and you are safe. Additionally, we’ve included a list of things (some that might surprise you) that can contribute to your mental and heart health.
1. Get Consistent, Restful Sleep
Good sleep is one of the most underrated things we can do to improve all aspects of our health. The time we spend sleeping is the time that our bodies are healing and recovering from the rigor of our day-to-day lives. Studies show that sleep problems are common among patients seeking mental health care. Unfortunately, sleep doesn’t come easily to everyone. If you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep, there are some essential things you can do to improve your chances of a restful night’s sleep. The quality of your sleep environment is crucial. It should be cool, dark, and quiet. Remove excess light from your room in the form of outdoor light or lights from electronics, and limit your exposure to technology for at least an hour before you go to sleep. Managing your sleep is one of the foundational steps to improving your mental and emotional health.
2. Invest In Good Relationships
Another essential element to mental health is maintaining healthy relationships and feeling like you’re part of a community. When people are engaged and connected with like-minded friends, they experience lower rates of stress and depression. On the other hand, negative social interactions are more likely to increase a person’s risk of developing mental health complications. There are two things to consider when working to improve your relationships. First, are there relationships you need to exit? Are you in a friendship, marriage, or other relationship causing you mental distress? This can be very difficult to handle, and if you’re struggling in this way, we highly recommend you speak to a mental health professional about it. Second, how can you add new, positive relationships to your life? Often social groups form around things like faith practices, hobbies, children, and other special interests. Find a group of like-minded people in your community and join them. You’ll be amazed at how good relationships will make your life better.
3. Unplug From Media
We live in a much different world than the one we grew up in. Life is so busy, our minds psyches are filled to the brim with information, and it weighs on all of us. From concerns about politics and global health to which celebrities are getting divorced, we are not built to take in that much stress. Things are worse now than ever since we can get all the information we crave delivered directly to our cell phones. But, while we can’t control the news cycles, we can control how much of it we absorb. Remind yourself regularly of the need to unplug. Go on a walk without your phone, sit in your yard and read a book or listen to music, give yourself time to live without also having to respond to the constant flood of information coming at you.
4. Establish A Routine
When we get into a mental health rut, our routine is the first thing that goes out the window. We start sleeping in later, skipping meals, staying up too late, and we are spiraling into unhealthy territory before we know it. It only makes sense that one of the ways we can pull ourselves out of a rut is to reestablish those healthy routines slowly. Start by adding one thing a week to your day that makes you feel healthier and more in control of your day. A great place to start is with your morning and evening routines. Perhaps you begin by giving yourself a bedtime, and then add in a healthy breakfast, then week by week, add one more thing that gets you closer to feeling like yourself. These routines may not cure your mental health struggles, but they’ll put you in a better environment to conquer them when you’re ready and able.
5. Take Care of Your Body
While we mentioned that his article is about mental health, we can’t finish without mentioning the role of physical fitness in your psychological well-being. Our bodies and minds are linked, and how we treat our physical bodies will manifest itself in our mental state. Whether you overindulge and don’t exercise, undereat and over-exercise, or something in between, an unhealthy relationship you have with your body will also exist in your mind. Set the priority to put a reasonable amount of healthy food in your body and stay as active as possible. You don’t need to pick up an expensive sport or get a personal trainer. Walking a couple of miles can have a significant positive impact on your body. Your body is the temple for your mind, and if you want to feel mentally healthy, you have to treat it well.
Many things happen to us that we can’t control. We inherit certain traits like high blood pressure or a tendency toward poor mental health. But there are always small steps we can take to better care of our minds and bodies. If you have further questions about this or would like to make an appointment, contact us today.