Want simple tools to reduce stress today?
We now know that our mood and pain centres in our brain are closely linked. The way we feel emotionally can have huge implications on the magnitude of pain we feel, and equally, significant pain can affect our mood and stress levels. A complicated series of reactions explains the connection between emotional and physical pain. For example, the cycle of pain and mental health issues changes your stress hormones and brain chemicals, including cortisol, serotonin, and adrenalin.
As we mentioned on the 'KNOW YOUR PAIN' page, all pain comes from the brain and people who are still suffering 6 months after an injury have 'persistent pain'. The problem then is often less about tissue damage and more about the sensitivity of our nervous system and the amount of pain produced by our brains. We now know that mental stress such as fears and worries about your pain condition or previous mental health problems will contribute to the magnitude of pain we feel.
On this page we will cover the following:
1. What are the types of mental stress?
2. What happens in our brain when we're stressed?
3. What simple tools can I use to reduce stress?
Types of mental stress
COGNITIVE MENTAL STRESS - BELIEFS AND BEHAVIOURS
As we have discussed on the 'KNOW YOUR PAIN' page, pain can be worrying as we are conditioned to associate it with damage. Pain science experts now know this is not true for pain lasting more than 6 months. This idea that the amount of pain and the amount of damage is not linked is still a very difficult concept for a lot of people to feel comfortable about and it is common for people with persistent pain to suffer from the following problems:
1. Catastrophisation - thinking things will never get better.
2. Fear of movement.
3. Low self confidence
See the video above to make sense of some of these thoughts. Working on these unhelpful beliefs can help your mood and your pain levels hugely.
EMOTIONAL MENTAL STRESS
Watch the video above (What is mental Health) to gain more details on emotional mental health and how this can lead to conditions such as anxiety and depression.
In any given week in England:
Mixed anxiety and depression: 8 in 100 people
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): 6 in 100 people
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): 4 in 100 people
Depression: 3 in 100 people
Phobias: 2 in 100 people
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): 1 in 100 people
Panic disorder: fewer than 1 in 100 people.
Are mental health problems increasing?
The overall number of people reporting mental health problems has been going up in recent years.
The amount of people with common mental health problems went up by 20% between 1993 to 2014, in both men and women.
The percentage of people reporting severe mental health symptoms in any given week rose from 7% in 1993, to over 9% in 2014.
The number of young women reporting common mental health problems has been going up.
How Common is Mental Health?
FOOD AND MOOD
Knowing what foods we should and shouldn’t be eating can be really confusing, especially when it feels like the advice changes regularly. However, evidence suggests that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat may also affect the way we feel.
Improving your diet may help to:
improve your mood
give you more energy
help you think more clearly.
See the video above to find out how to manage your mood with food
Tips to help you explore the relationship between what you eat and how you feel.
The SMILE trial: A recent large, excellent quality study showed that eating healthy fresh food and reducing all processed food reduced depression.
32% of participants with extreme resistant depression went into full clinical remission by simply eating more veg, fruit and fish and 2 less processed meals per week.
EXERCISE AND MENTAL HEALTH
How can physical activity help my mental health?
There are many studies which have shown that doing physical activity can improve mental health. For example, it can help with:
better sleep – by making you feel more tired at the end of the day
happier moods – physical activity releases feel-good hormones that make you feel better in yourself and give you more energy
managing stress, anxiety or intrusive and racing thoughts – doing something physical releases cortisol which helps us manage stress. Being physically active also gives your brain something to focus on and can be a positive coping strategy for difficult times
better self-esteem – being more active can make you feel better about yourself as you improve and meet your goals
reducing the risk of depression – studies have shown that doing regular physical activity can reduce the likelihood of experiencing a period of depression
connecting with people – doing group or team activities can help you meet new and like-minded people, and make new friends.