The United States Department of Health and Human Services has created many national programs to improve the health and wellness of employees and has designated August as Emotional Wellbeing Month. Feeling a sense of contentment, having a purpose, and being able to laugh and have fun are all characteristics of emotional wellbeing.
Being emotionally healthy is more than the lack of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. The ability to work through life’s challenges and adapt are key components of feeling emotionally healthy and balanced. Our bodies and brains are connected, and our emotional and mental health has a strong impact on physical health.
Stress can take a toll on our health, and being diagnosed with a medical disorder can bring new stressors into our lives. When stress lasts for an extended period, it begins a process of wear and tear on the body and can even become dangerous. Stress can make existing problems worse or may even cause disease.
Learning how stress impacts our health and what steps we can take to stay emotionally balanced can begin the pathway to wellness. There are several health conditions that are related to level of stress. They include high blood pressure and heart conditions.
Stress has been shown to worsen asthma, and children of stressed-out parents are more likely to develop asthma. There is a tendency for people experiencing high levels of stress to store their fat around the belly, increasing the potential for obesity and weight-related health conditions. Stress can impact diabetes in two ways: It increases the potential for unhealthy lifestyles, and for those with Type 2 diabetes, glucose levels may rise.
Unhealthy ways of coping with stress include overeating, smoking, use of alcohol or drugs and isolationism. Stress has been found to be a common trigger for both tension headaches and migraines.
Chronic stress is strongly related to the development of depression and anxiety. People in demanding, high-stress jobs are 80 percent more likely to experience depression when compared with those in low-stress positions. Stress doesn’t cause ulcers but can make them worse and contribute to the development of other gastrointestinal conditions.
Stress management techniques can have a significant impact on health and wellness. The following signs and symptoms may indicate medical and emotional problems and warrant consultation with your primary care provider: change in appetite, chest pain, digestive issues, dry mouth, headaches, lightheadedness, palpitations, sexual problems, sleep issues, sweating, and weight change.
Emotional wellness involves the awareness, understanding and acceptance of our feelings and is a key element in maintaining a healthy balance in our lives and our relationships. We are constantly changing and growing throughout the life span, and while it’s true that you might not be able to remove all the stressful things from your life, you can change how you respond to them.
It is the content of our thoughts that determines our sense of wellness. If we are chronically engaged in negative self-talk, it can degrade the quality of our life and health. Are you only focused on “what’s wrong with your life and others’” in your conversations and thoughts? Do you only watch TV shows and movies about trauma and tragedy? What songs are we listening to on a daily basis? I often find that clients who are depressed are looking at very sad movies full of hurt and loss. What is your emotional wellness?
Take this “Emotional Wellness Quiz” by choosing statements that describe you:
I take a direct approach to problem solving.
I do not judge or criticize others based on my expectations.
I am able to cope with change.
I have a positive self-concept.
I have a strong positive support system.
I usually speak up for myself.
I do not hold onto grudges or resentments.
I am able to have fun and sometimes laugh at myself.
I expect positive outcomes in my life.
I can express both my positive and negative emotions.
Total number of items______
If your score is less than eight, there are areas that need improvement.
Ways to combat stress in your life include getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, increasing physical activities, and reaching out to supportive family or friends. Music, dancing and laughter can all help you cope with stress.
Become mindful of your thoughts and feelings. If you have questions about stress or emotional wellness, reach out to your primary care physician or mental health professional.
Deirdre Annice Golden, Ph.D., LP, is director of Behavioral Health for NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center Behavioral Health Clinic, 1313 Penn Ave. N. She welcomes reader responses to Deirdre.Golden@co.hennepin.mn.us, or call 612-543-2705.