The Physical Impact of Depression or Anxiety
People can often experience aches and pains without any apparent cause, or be more susceptible to the coughs and cold bugs that always seem to be going around – particularly early on in an academic year: the notorious ‘freshers’ flu’! Physical symptoms associated with anxiety are perhaps more well-known, such as stomach disturbance, such as flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation, or frequently urinating. Additionally, being aware of our heart beating, feeling nauseous and sweaty are often reported.
Of course, and it is important to stress, that no physical symptom that lasts more than a week should be self-diagnosed or dismissed – it is always important to check out changes we notice in our physical wellbeing that are not short-term with our GP. However, assuming you have done this and there are no other explanations for your physical symptoms, some self-help strategies can be important.
It is also important to acknowledge however, that simply because there isn’t a physical explanation for a physical symptom doesn’t make it less real or important. If you feel nauseous because of anxiety, the experience of feeling nauseous is as real as if it were a gastric infection – nauseous is nauseous, whatever the cause. It is too easy to pass off physical health problems with “Oh, it is just depression”, or “it is just anxiety”. There is no ‘just’ in it: our physical health and mental health have equal importance.
Monitoring your daily routines
Daily habits to do with sleep, eating, exercise, alcohol and drug consumption, relaxation and socialising do not operate in isolation – eating and exercise can affect sleep patterns, and sleep patterns can in turn affect motivation for exercise or socialising, for example.
A very useful first step is to use a ‘daily routine diary’ to keep a record of your sleep, eating, exercise, alcohol and drug consumption, relaxation habits, and social contact over the course of a week.
Although this is a time-consuming task it can provide you with some useful (and sometimes surprising!) information about how your daily habits are affecting you. Individual worksheets are available that focus on each of the daily habits.