How does mental stress impact health?

Mental stress and physical health are intrinsically connected. Whenever we feel mental stress, our bodies experience physiological stress which has an impact on our nutrition and ability to exercise. Subsequently, our overall health and fitness levels are affected.

Mental stress can be caused by both positive and negative thinking, and that's what we'll be discussing today. I’ve created a video on this topic which features a simple diagram to demonstrate the balance of positive and negative thinking as a seesaw. Be sure to check out the video in order to visualise this balance.

Extreme thinking and the effects on our body

When we think very negatively about a situation, we may feel fear as an example. Fear causes a range of physiological effects on the body, including an increased heart rate, increased breathing rate and a spike in blood sugar levels. It can also shut down the digestive system and reduce the body's ability to recover, which means it has an impact on our nutrition and ability to exercise, both of which are vital for maintaining good health and fitness levels.

We experience the very same physiological effects when we experience excitement, which occurs when we think positively about a situation. While it may seem intuitive to strive for positive thinking at all times, the mental and physical stress caused by extreme positive thinking is just as undesirable as extreme negative thinking.

Think objectively to maintain a healthy balance

Ultimately, we should strive for positive and negative thinking to be as balanced as possible. If we visualise positive and negative thinking as a seesaw, as demonstrated in my video, we should try to bounce only very gently from positive to negative thinking. The seesaw is unlikely to be balanced at all times, but we can try to prevent the seesaw from leaning to one extreme or the other. In other words, we should avoid extreme levels of positive thinking as well as extreme levels of negative thinking.

We can strive to maintain the balance by approaching situations objectively, rather than allowing ourselves to be influenced by subjective emotions. For example, if a situation occurs which you think about negatively, subjective emotions will make you feel fearful and will trigger mental and subsequent physiological stress. By thinking objectively about the situation, you can look for positive aspects which will balance out the negatives. This will minimise mental stress, which in turn reduces physiological stress and reduces the risk of damage to our health and fitness levels.

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