Physical health and mental health are strongly interdependent and can influence each other. Remember the last time you were low and upset and also felt very lethargic and tired or when you were stressed and working hard for a deadline and fell sick.
Stress can affect our body physiological systems in a variety of ways. Recent research have shown that stress can adversely impact chemical mediators and hormonal systems contributing to physical diseases.
- Stress is known to have a direct effect on increasing levels of stress hormone – cortisol in blood. The function of this hormone is to increase production of glucose in body to prepare it to face stressful situations which it assumes to be a physical stress. Unfortunately our sedentary life style and mental stress does not allow us to burn up that glucose leaving us more vulnerable to diseases like diabetes.
- Stress can influence chemicals (interleukins, cytokines) involved in immunity lowering your immune threshold and making you vulnerable to infections and disease.
Conversely physical diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancers, thyroid disturbances, skin conditions, strokes, heart conditions etc can also be a source of stress and lead to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
- Stress has an adverse impact on neurotransmitters in your brain and certain chemicals called neurotrophic factors (BDNF – brain derived neurotrophic factors) important for brain growth and functioning specially of the hippocampus; the part of brain responsible for memory. This can lead to mood changes such as depression and problems with memory and concentration.