eNewsletter - December 2019

Behavioral Health Partners



Connecting Emotional Health to Overall Wellness 
By Dylan Panuska, Psy.D. CADC

As behavioral health providers, we’re intimately familiar with the benefits of inpatient and outpatient services for individuals dealing with behavioral and mental illness diagnoses. We also understand the critical impact these services can have on overall health, oftentimes effectively decreasing the instance or severity of illness or disease.

As the behavioral health care model evolves from coordinated care, to collaborative care to integrated care, our work has the potential to affect the overall medical health and wellness of our patients.

The correlation between emotional and physical wellness. Research continues to demonstrate links between behavioral and emotional health and overall wellness.

In a recent study, people with the highest levels of self-rated distress were 32 percent more likely to have died from cancer. Depression has long been associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Studies have also found increased instances of diminished pain tolerance in individuals who are depressed. People with high stress even appear to contract more cold viruses than their less-stressed counterparts.

 The connections between emotional and physical wellness are strong, so how can we encourage others to prioritize daily emotional hygiene?

Interventions. Until the time comes when we’re fully integrated with our medical colleagues on improving recovery from physical illness, we can promote our patients’ overall health and wellness in many other ways. Here are some examples of common behavioral health interventions which can positively impact overall health and wellness:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Incorporate CBT into your daily practice. CBT is the most extensively studied therapy in terms of effectiveness in reducing chronic pain, such as low back pain. Effectiveness studies of CBT used to treat stress and anxiety related to certain conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome or infertility, also showed promising results in those conditions where therapy may not always be prescribed.
  • Experiencing, not avoiding, emotions. Encouraging patients to experience not avoid emotions is a cornerstone of behavioral health treatment, but it also has wellness benefits. Feeling and working through emotions allows people to reduce stress and the frequency of an illness.
  • Journaling. Putting pen to paper can impact your health. Studies show that journaling or discussing a traumatic event can lead to a stronger immune system, decreased utilization of healthcare and a greater sense of well-being.
  • Mindfulness and meditation. Encourage patients to set aside time each day for brief mindfulness and meditation exercises. When dealing with health challenges such as cancer, the mind-body focus has been shown to radically improve one’s ability to deal with related mood disturbances, such as anxiety, insomnia and feeling overwhelmed.
  • Exercise. While the existence of a connection between exercise and mental health is clear, studies remain underway to fully understand it. To date, regular exercise has been shown to be a successful component in treating depression and relapse of the condition, as well as the prevention and treatment of anxiety. It should be considered an important component of any patient’s treatment plan.

Need more resources? If you feel additional help is needed for a patient in your care, consider consultation with a behavioral health specialist. Connect with a Linden Oaks certified therapist by calling the Linden Oaks Help Line 24 hours a day at 630-305-5027. One of our assessment professionals will be happy to assist.