Dr. Tim Martin shares his perspective on health topics from his years of experience as a primary care physician and wellness champion.
Bringing Body and Mind into Balance
Imagine being at your ideal weight, perfect blood pressure, excellent cardiac health with no chronic disease or pain. Imagine you are also feeling stressed, struggling with depression or have debilitating anxiety. You can be in the best possible shape but if your emotional and mental well-being are suffering, you aren’t living life to the fullest and your physical health will eventually suffer.
How do you bring body and mind into balance?
Just like you see your primary care physician for an annual exam or when you aren’t feeling well, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional. Checking your mental and emotional well-being on a regular or as needed basis should be a part of your overall healthy lifestyle.
Time for a Well-being Check-up?
You may want to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional when faced with circumstances or symptoms such as:
- A significant personal crisis (financial concerns or toxic work environment)
- An extended period of anxiety or depression
- A major life transition
- Complicated family dynamics
- Problems in a close personal relationship
- An addiction or substance abuse
- Having trouble regulating your emotions
- Poor performance at work at school
- Sleep disturbances or changes in eating habits
- A chronic health issue
- Grieving the loss of a loved one
- Wanting to make lifestyle changes or improve coping skills.
Benefits of Therapy
Now that you’ve identified the need for support, talk therapy can provide many benefits to you. Talking to a therapist encourages open and honest dialogue about issues that cause you distress. You can work to understand how these stressors are impacting your life, plus develop strategies to manage the symptoms. Therapy, whether it’s individual, couples or family, can help you:
- Improve communication skills
- Help you feel empowered to overcome challenges
- Develop fresh insights about your life
- Learn how to make healthier choices
- Develop coping strategies to manage distress
- Resolve conflicts
- Restore trust
- Provide help treating mental health concerns that impact the family unit (such as substance abuse, depression, or trauma)
- Strengthen collaboration and unity among couples or family members
When your mental and emotional stress is improving, and feelings of anxiety and depression decrease, these changes can have a positive impact on your physical health, including:
- Decreased blood pressure
- Less pain and muscle tension
- Lower risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke
- Stronger immune system
- Improved athletic performance
- Balanced blood sugar
Many other factors affect your physical health, but there’s no doubt that a connection between mental health physical health exists.
When Medication May Help
Sometimes, talk therapy or counseling isn’t sufficient on its own to produce significant or lasting results, and medications can play a role in healing and well-being. If so, your mental health professional should discuss these options with you.
Different kinds of problems have different treatments. Research suggests that combining therapy with the appropriate medication can be more effective than either treatment alone.
- For depression and anxiety, there are a wide variety of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. For severe substance abuse problems it may be recommended to take medications that reduce cravings or intoxication.
- For eating disorders, medical management may be necessary to maintain physical safety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy and antidepressant medications have all been shown to be helpful.
- For schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, most people will require treatment with antipsychotic or mood-stabilizing medications. Research suggests that adding cognitive-behavioral or family psychotherapy to the treatment can improve functional outcomes.
If a particular treatment doesn’t help, your mental health professional can continue to try new approaches. Therapy and medications both require that you stick with the treatment as results usually do not happen overnight. Be patient and diligent to get the desired results.
Finding the Right Path
Your primary care physician can guide you to resources to find a therapist or psychiatrist who can then work with you to develop an appropriate care plan. Also, many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs or other support programs for employees. If medication is necessary, check out the benefits available through your health insurance plan for in-network providers and drug formularies. Your church or synagogue may also be able to recommend counselors.
Caring for yourself as a whole person is as important as eating well and regular exercise for a healthy life. Don’t ignore your feelings and stressors. Identify them, address them and seek support to stay on the path to LifeLong wellness.