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Mental Health

Using Physical Wellbeing Techniques to Boost your Mental Health

The Value of Self Care

Dr. Robby Cooper, a Human Development Department professor at WSU, gives you tools to use to manage your stress and be successful in college in the Global Campus webinar, The Value of Self Care.

  • How poor sleep habits can raise your blood pressure and how to correct them.
  • What gets in the way of your self care?
  • Avoiding procrastination
  • struggles of finding healthy meals
  • dealing with financial stress
  • and more

Physical Activity Interactions with Stress Management, Anxiety, and Depression

Learn more about how exercise boosts your brain from Dr. Ratey in Spark. 


  • Exercise produces serotonin, making more available for your brain. SSRIs, a common medication for depression, also does this. So you can boost your mood with exercise too!
  • Frequent physical activity increases your energy throughout the day (events that used to zap your energy eventually won't anymore), reducing the feeling of fatigue that is associated with depression.
  • Exercise acts as miracle grow for your brain. Another symptom of depression is shrinking certain areas of the brain. Therefore, working out creates new nerve cells to counteract that shrinkage and help you experience less brain fog.
  • High-intensity workouts tend to reduce depression better than lighter activity, but exercise in any dose can reduce depression.

Stress Management

Your body doesn't recognize a difference between the energy it takes to get out of a chair versus losing your job, even if your emotions do. Both scenarios active parts of the same pathways in your brain. The difference is in how you respond.

  • Chronic stress occurs when your brain gets locked into the same pattern of feeling pessimistic or fearful. Active coping shifts your emotions to break the cycle.
  • Allowing yourself to be challenged (but with a positive mindset) often actually inoculates your brain to handle more stress before you percieve it as negative.
  • Physical activity causes your body to produce neurotransmitters and hormones, many of which also occur in the stress response. Therefore, regular exercise also inoculates your brain to stress while producing chemicals that also improve mood.
  • Exercise mechanically eases stress by relaxing resting tension of muscle spindles. If your muscles don't feel tense your brain will relax also.
  • Cardio exercise lowers blood pressure, in turn causing the heart to produce more ANP that slows down the stress response in the HPA axis.


Anxiety is a part of the stress response in which the sympathetic nervous system and HPA axis "shift into high gear." This is a normal feeling. The context that you feel anxious is the defining factor for how anxiety affects wellbeing. 

  • Rigorous exercise tends to be more effective for reducing anxiety sensitivity, but any type of physical activity works! Be sure to pick something you already enjoy.
  • Rapid, shallow breathing triggers feelings of panic by lowering the pH of your blood. Instead, make sure to take deep breaths at all times, whether exercising or working.
  • Exercise provides distraction from whatever you're thinking about that is making you feel anxious.
  • Exercise teaches your brain to associate the physical symptoms of anxiety with something positive and even rewires your brain.

Fuel Your Body, Brain, and Mood

Check out this ted talk (below) that goes into deeper detail of the strong relationship between food and our mental health.

Feed Your Mental Health

High-quality foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants protect the brain from oxidation stress, aka the waste produced when the body uses oxygen. In excess, this waste can damage cells. This is where the term "antioxidant" food comes from. How else does nutrition influence mental health?

  • Serotonin is mostly manufactured in your gut. Supporting a healthy intestinal microbiome with good bacteria is essential for promoting proper sleep, appetite signaling, response to pain, and overall mood.
  • Foods that cause you to feel inflamed could inhibit the intestine's ability to absorb nutrients from food and manufacture serotonin.
  • See the nutrition section of this site to learn more about how to eat healthy.

Sleep and Mental Health

Check out this quick video, from Psych Hub, about how sleep interacts with our mental health.

from Harvard Health

  • The cycles that your brain goes through during sleep that lower body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing are important for proper immune function. Being sick has negative affects on mental health, especially if it gets in the way of your ability to exercise, sleep well, and eat healthy.
  • REM sleep, where your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and breathing are similar to when you are awake, enhances memory, learning, and emotional regulation.
  • Stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine, can make falling asleep difficult.
  • Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but using it as a sleep aid is not effective because you will wake up when the effects wear off.
  • Check out the sleep section of physical wellbeing to learn more about facilitating healthy sleep habits.