Archive for the ‘Mental Health – Physical Health’ Category

Today’s New York Times front page featured an article about how stressed out college students are.

You can read it here.

The article inspired me to write a post for our Power of Two Blog about how families can help build resilient kids.  Here’s where to find that.

At the same time, I also work with teens and college students who are struggling to hold it all together.  Here are two conversations we almost always have.

Conversation 1: What is the worst case scenario?  What are you most anxious about?  What would make you even more stressed about this?  And then, we tackle that problem first. There’s nothing like a solid plan to relieve stress.

Conversation 2: What are you doing to build healthy, happiness-inspiring activities into your life?  Do you exercise?  Do you chat with friends?  What hobbies do you enjoy?  And then, we work together to build a life that incorporates these routines into every day.

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While feeling happy and having strong, satisfying relationships likely won’t prevent one from becoming ill, there are clear indications that both of these can be potent tools in the recovery toolbox.

Here’s the a non-physician’s summary of the emerging literature.

Finding 1:  Immune system functioning is compromised by depression. Basically, depression appears to both slow down immune responses and increase the production of proteins which increase inflammation.  Both of these make healing from a wide-variety of injuries and illnesses longer and slower.    Click here for the technical details.

Finding 2:  Marital stress and fighting is bad for health and healing. Two striking studies on this front.  The first demonstrates that women in high-tension marriages evidenced slower recovery from breast cancer and showed more symptoms of illness than those in good marriages.   Here’s a nice Washington Post summary of the study. The second study looked directly at the impact of marital conflict on healing.  Again, more conflict, less healing.   New York Times columnist Tara Parker Pope has an excellent review here.

So, while an apple-a-day may have it’s benefits, noticing marital strife and depression, especially in the context of a physical illness or ailment, and then getting help to improve the marriage or lift the depression,  can be a potent tool for enhancing recovery.

And hey, what’s the worst that can happen?  One might end up happy with a great marriage!

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