Why I Started Caring About My Mental Health and Why You Should Too
Throughout our lives, we have been exposed to a vast variety of things. That includes but is not limited to the families we are brought up in, the environment we grow up in, the different ones we experience throughout our lives, the food we intake in our bodies, and the social interactions we experience in our lifetime. Interestingly, they all tend to have an impact on us growing up; and they shape us into who were are today, and who we will be over the years. During my past three years of medical studies, I started to find a strong connection between our mind, hormones, and our surroundings. That's why endocrinology and neuroscience have become of particular interest to me. A shocking discovery personally was that in one of my psychology classes, we were told most chronic illnesses are caused by stress. Furthermore, I decided to do some research about it, and the results I found were mind-blowing. As medical research suggests, around 90% of illness and disease is stress-related! That is 9 out of 10 people will develop conditions because stress has got the better of them. As most of us know, the culprits are the stress hormones ranging from Adrenaline, the fast-acting hormone, to Cortisol, a slower acting hormone to give us sustainability until the stress is gone.
Let's flashback 100,000 years ago, our ancestors going through the thick forests scavenging for food, and all of a sudden, a leopard appears from a distance. To live another day to tell the tale, one had to immediately switch from a state of "rest and digest" to a survival state of "fight or flight.". Once the threat subsides, they would revert to a state of "rest and digest" until another threat would reappear, whether it be days, weeks, or even months. Furthermore, natural selection would take its toll and pass these successful genes to future generations.
Fast forward to today, we live in a modern society much different than the ones we evolved in. Unfortunately, unlike our ancestors who spent most of their lives in a "rest or digest" state, we constantly experience low-level stressors that switch us to the intense "fight or flight" response. Luckily, we aren't facing the threat of getting eaten by prey, but our body's response to the stress remains the same. Since we all experience stress in our daily lives, we eventually switch from a beneficial evolutionary trait to an exhaustion phase in which our body can no longer sustain the long-term stress; and that's when stress becomes your enemy.
Being in medical school for the past three years, I experienced how stress has changed people physically, socially, and especially mentally. Although it's a long way for me personally to learn how to deal with stress, I'd recommend people to try meditation as a step forward. Surprisingly, it isn't just sitting with your legs crossed and breathing, but I've learned this year that it's about awareness; To develop awareness over time, to the extent that we are not so easily caught up in, or thrown by, thoughts and emotions.
To conclude, we experience stress in our day to day lives, and unfortunately, it will be most probably the main reason for most of the illnesses we will face in our lifetime; So to everyone reading this, we live in a fast-paced world, especially due to the high workload we have, and it's okay to pause for a moment, to take a breath, and process everything that's happening.