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Emotional Wellbeing and your Physical Health

The state of your emotional wellbeing is linked to your physical health. Research shows a link between positive thoughts and physical signs of good health.

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“Every thought you think causes a physical reaction and an emotional response.” Marisa Peer.

Emotionally healthy people are in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviours and can cope with the challenges of life. They feel good about themselves and have good relationships with others. Being emotionally healthy means that you are aware of your emotions, whether good or bad, regulating them to minimise feelings of stress, anger, and sadness in your being.

Emotional wellbeing allows you to live more productively and cope with the stresses of everyday life. You will be able to realise your full potential, connect with others and contribute positively to your community and broader society.

The state of your emotional wellbeing is linked to your physical health. Research shows a link between positive thoughts and physical signs of good health, such as lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease and healthier weight.

Stress shuts down your immune system to conserve energy for the body to use for “Fight or Flight” hormonal responses, releasing Adrenalin into your system. Too much stress results in Adrenal Failure and drastically reduced energy levels.

Trauma, including one-time, multiple, or long-lasting repetitive events, affects everyone differently. Some individuals may display criteria associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Other individuals can exhibit more resilient responses. The impact of trauma can be subtle or destructive. How an event affects an individual depends on many factors, including characteristics of the individual, the type and characteristics of the event, the meaning of the trauma, and social factors.

Early childhood trauma is a risk factor for almost everything, from adult depression to PTSD and most psychiatric disorders, as well as a host of medical problems, including cardiovascular problems such as heart attack and stroke, cancer, and obesity.

These effects likely reflect two factors:
Behavioural changes resulting from trauma. People who are suffering from traumatic memories may engage in risky behaviours such as drinking, smoking, drug use, or dietary disorders. These are often used as coping mechanisms and in turn, lead to health problems.

Physical effects related to trauma: The body undergoes biological changes in response to extreme stress. When you experience something anxiety-provoking, your stress response activates. Your body produces more adrenaline causing the heart to race and fight or flight comes in to play. These cause wear and tear on the body. Stress responses have also been demonstrated for example in people who have experienced discrimination throughout their lives or have suffered emotional neglect. 

Chronic stress can increase inflammation in the body, which can cause cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases. This constant inflammation in the body can lead to chronic illness.

Initial reactions to trauma can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, confusion, and physical arousal.

Delayed responses to trauma can include persistent fatigue, sleep disorders, nightmares, fear of recurrence, anxiety focused on flashbacks, depression, and avoidance of emotions, sensations, or activities that are associated with the trauma, even remotely

These are common reactions across domains (emotional, physical, cognitive, behavioural, social, and developmental:

Emotional
Emotional Dysregulation (inability to regulate normal emotions, feeling them too intensely for example)
Numbing (detaching emotions for thoughts and memories)

Physical
Somatization (an insistence that the problem is physical)
Biology (changes in the limbic system, changes in the production of adrenalin and cortisol)
Hyperarousal and sleep disturbances (startle easily, unable to sleep)

Cognitive:
Triggers (a stimulus that sets off a memory)
Flashbacks (commonly initiated by a trigger, causing a re-living of the event)
Cognitive errors (misinterpretation of a current situation, causing an overreaction)
Dissociation (emotional distancing)

Behaviour
Re-enactment: (re-creating past trauma in your current life)
Self-harm
Self-destructive

Barriers to getting help:
One of the most common problems with Trauma is avoidance. If you experience something traumatic, you want to avoid thinking about it and going to places that remind you of it. Going to the doctor or therapist to deal with these issues, can often trigger stress, as the person does not want to be reminded of the traumatic event. This can mean that many people do not seek medical care.

People sometimes use defence mechanisms to protect themselves. Denial is one of the common defence mechanisms used.

Taking steps to address the problem may also help others. Very often people who have experienced trauma pass problems on to others in their family through a process called observational learning. Getting help for yourself may help those around you:

Work with a therapist. A trained therapist can help you reframe what happened to you and help you move past it.

Take care of yourself. Reduce stress and anxiety by perhaps taking up yoga, tai chi or meditation, regular exercise such as walking outdoors in nature. Spending time in nature itself, particularly amongst trees, can be very cathartic.

Reach out to others. Research has shown that maintaining strong social ties with friends and family members is crucial to good mental health.

Often the first step is therapy, as those summering from the effects of emotional trauma may be frozen, unable to set any healing plans into motion, so the first “port of call” is the therapist.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, the good news is that emotional wellbeing is a skill that can be learned!

Being able to reach the root cause of your underlying beliefs, programs, patterns, and triggers is essential to having and sustaining emotional wellbeing. One of the quickest and most effective ways of understanding your emotional triggers and working systematically through emotions that may have hurt you, and to resolve them once and for all is to work with a skilled professional. 

References:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207191/
https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/past-trauma-may-haunt-your-future-health

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