You know that grief can make you depressed and anxious, but did you know it can make you more susceptible to infections? According to a study published in the Ageing and Immunity Journal, losing a loved one boosts your stress hormones and makes your immune system less effective. That’s not the only thing grief can do to your body. There are other ways in which it can prevent your body from working the way it should, but luckily there are ways to combat these effects. Here are three ways in which grief affects health, and how to deal with it.
Grief makes you feel more pain
When you experience aches and pains during the grieving period, it’s not your imagination. Research published on BBC found that grief can intensify body pains. When you grieve the loss of someone, the same area of the brain that’s involved in dealing with emotional pain is also responsible for processing physical pain. Therefore, the two can crossover, causing both emotional and physical symptoms, such as pain. Speaking to your doctor can help you get treatment for pain, as well as manage your emotional stress. This could include medication or consulting with a mental professional.
Grief disrupts your sleep
When people who’d lost their spouses took part in research published in the Psychiatric Annals journal, they were found to experience sleep disturbances from grief. This is a common reaction to loss and can be due to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. However, in another study, this time by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, when people were helped with their sleeping problems, they also managed to deal better with their grieving. Therefore, tackling the symptoms of grief can help people improve their lives and work through their insomnia. Consulting with a psychologist can help to work through issues that keep you up at night. Healthy lifestyle changes are also advised. These include sticking to a sleep schedule and ensuring the bedroom is a quiet, dark place that assists in relaxation, as these are beneficial in treating insomnia.
Grief makes health conditions worse
According to an article published by US News, researchers found that when a person loses a spouse, their chronic diseases can get worse. This has been found to be the case for diseases such as Parkinson’s and COPD. For instance, the patients might experience lapses in their disease treatment. This can be as a result of people depending on their spouses for help with treatment of their illness, even when it comes to remembering to take their medicine. Without their spouses around to take care of them, they might miss doctor’s appointments and not know how to look after themselves. Therefore, after experiencing a loss, it’s important for the person to get help with managing their illness. This could include enlisting the help of a different loved one to take over their healthcare.
How to deal with grief to maintain your health
If you’re experiencing grief, chances are you’re experiencing symptoms related to mourning such as difficulty concentrating, a lack of sleep and a loss of appetite. These are all normal responses to grief that can be dealt with in healthy ways. An example includes being around supportive people to whom you can offload your emotions. Having a support system goes a long way to enabling you to process your emotions so they don’t keep you up at night. Another lifestyle tip is to eat healthy foods that calm your stress while giving you nutrients to keep your immune system healthy. Examples include foods rich in antioxidants, such as brightly-colored fruits and vegetables. Looking after yourself with diet and lifestyle habits can assist you in working through the grief and preventing health-related problems that arise from it.
Going through grief is a difficult experience that can result in physical side-effects. By treating these side-effects and learning constructive ways to deal with feelings of grief, you can help your body stay healthy and strong.