The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being” and also states that “there is no health without mental health”.
The relationship between mental health and physical well being is not fully understood but mental stress has negative effects on the body. These manifest differently in different people. Some people gain weight when stressed while others lose, some may pick up habits like biting their nails or pulling their hair, sleeping too much or too little and others may see the response in their GI system via diarrhea or constipation.
It’s very important and helpful to recognize what happens to your body in times of stress whether they be mental or physical. Knowing how your body will react will help you counter that reaction. For example – my bowels are crazy affected by stress. If I have too much going on, or we’re traveling, or my recent knee surgery; I know I will likely get constipated. When I plan ahead, I’m so much better equipped at handling it than when I’m “surprised” by it.
Stress can create a cycle of stress that we get pulled into. So it’s very helpful to have a plan.
Think about times where your stress levels were high either physically or mentally and write down how your body reacted. Everybody has times in their lives where their stress levels were high, zone in on one of them and jot down what you remember. Next think of how to be better prepared for next time. For example, I keep a stool softener on hand and may start taking it preemptively to prevent the added stress of bathroom problems. If you stop eating then have ideas of foods you enjoy or food that is easily accessible for those times.