August 15th is National Relaxation Day! What people might not know is that National Relaxation Day was founded by a fourth grader named Sean Moeller (Bunte). Moeller’s grandfather had created a calendar he called “Chase’s Calendar of Events.” In the summer of 1985, Moeller’s grandfather let Sean make up his own holiday and, as any kid enjoying the last few days of summer would do, he picked relaxation as his theme.

But, there’s more to the story than just a quirky history. National Relaxation Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on our mental health and wellbeing. The mind and the body are not separate; while they might be discussed as unique topics, they actually work together. If your mind is unwell, your body will follow suit. In this article, we’ll discuss common signs of mental health problems, how mental health can impact physical health, what to do if you’re having trouble, and general tips for relaxation.

Common Mental Health Issues and How to Spot Them

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental health disorders in America, and, often, the two coincide (ADAA). Anxiety symptoms vary, but the most common ones include uneasiness, fear, and panic (WebMD). While everyone feels anxious from time to time, the disorder causes more frequent and chronic episodes, resulting in problems interacting normally in everyday life (WebMD). With an anxiety disorder, the worry isn’t proportionate to the situation (WebMD) and has a negative impact on day to day life. You can also experience panic attacks, specific fears (phobias) and persistent tension (WebMD). Depression may include symptoms of unrelenting sadness, feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and feeling isolated and hopeless (WebMD, What are the Causes and Symptoms of Depression?). Depression may be accompanied by anxiety, as well.  One might even contemplate suicide (WebMD, What are the Causes and Symptoms of Depression?).

Anxiety disorders take the number-one spot in America as the most common disorder, with forty million adults (18.1% of the entire population) suffering from an actual anxiety disorder each year (ADAA). Depression, both major depressive and persistent depressive disorder, is also common. Major depressive disorder is the number-one cause of disability for people between the ages of fifteen and forty-four (ADAA). 1.5% of the population is affected by persistent depression, which lasts up to two years (ADAA). Despite these prevalent statistics, not enough people are getting the treatment they need. Both disorders are treatable, yet only 37% of anxiety sufferers and 61% of depression sufferers are being treated (ADAA)

How Mental Health Impacts Physical Health

With the above in mind and their significant symptoms, it’s no wonder that physical health is so affected by mental health. Depression, for example, has been linked to an increased risk of fatal cancer and a heightened risk of cardiovascular death  (Mental Health Foundation). On a non-fatal scale, mental health issues affect every single organ system in the body.

Depression’s physical symptoms, for example, may include achiness, chronic fatigue, decreased appetite and an inability to sleep (insomnia) (WebMD, How Depression Affects Your Body). Additionally, vaccines may be less effective in older people with depression. Depression can have a negative effect on the immune system, making one more susceptible to common illnesses (WebMD, What are the Causes and Symptoms of Depression?). Anxiety causes similar symptoms, particularly with respect to impairing immune system function (WebMD, How Depression Affects Your Body).

Even if your emotions don’t rise to the level of a disorder, they can still cause  physical health issues. With stress, some people overeat, leading to weight gain and the negative health ramifications that may consequently result. (Mental Health Foundation). You might neglect your physical health by being sedentary and not exercising which may lead to an actual depressive disorder (Mental Health Foundation). Bottom line: whatever affects the mind, also impacts our physical health in both positive and negative ways. This realization can be empowering since each of us can choose a path for improved mental and physical health if we truly value and make ourselves a priority.

General Relaxation Tips

So what can you do right now? There are tons of relaxation strategies out there, including reading a book, going to your favorite place, taking a walk, meditation, yoga, listening to music and connecting to a friend that you have been meaning to call. Pick something that interests you and allow yourself to relax, be present  and enjoy the moment and do it this National Relaxation Day. Self-care is important, and you owe it to yourself to take a step back. Don’t feel guilty about treating yourself to a relaxing, fun, lazy day.

If you are unable to do this on your own, reach out to a healthcare professional.  Mental health issues are not uncommon, and they are nothing to be ashamed of, as millions of Americans are in the same boat. Seeking help is something you should do ASAP, as there are many professionals able to ease your symptoms and get you on the road to not just mental, but physical, health. If you need a referral, please call us today and we will do our best to connect you to one.

The mind is an amazing thing. Taking care of its health is just as important as taking care of your body.