How Does Mental Health Affect Your Pelvic Floor?
This Wednesday marks the 26th annual World Mental Health Day. Organised by the World Health Organisation, the campaign aims to provide an opportunity to show your support for better mental health and to start looking after your own wellbeing. This year’s theme surrounds young people and mental health in a changing world. Mental health problems affect 1 in 10 children and young people. These often include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder, and can be a direct response to what is happening in their lives.
Typically, when we think of pelvic floor disorders we imagine a middle-aged, menopausal woman who has one too many oops leaking moments. However, this isn’t always the case as 1.5 million people aged between 15-44 experience continence issues.
A pelvic floor disorder, such as incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse, is usually considered as a physical problem exclusively. Whilst, in the most part it is, the side-effects that often accompany it can impact on your emotional wellbeing and quality of life too.
Failing to maintain normal bodily functions is embarrassing. A pelvic floor disorder makes daily life difficult and unpredictable; it can disrupt our routines, relationships, and our ability to participate in activities. This, understandably, can take a toll on your emotional welfare. Over 56% of women with urge incontinence report symptoms of anxiety, and over 37% report symptoms of depression.
Tackling your pelvic floor issues to help rid you of your anxiety or depression symptoms may be harder than you think. Anxiety and depression sufferers are less likely to benefit from pelvic floor muscle training than those without mental health issues due to the stress that is already placed on the pelvic floor. This means that strengthening your pelvic floor to change your incontinence or prolapse may take more time and dedication.
How Does Mental Health Affect Your Pelvic Floor?
When we experience any form of stress, we tend to hold our muscles very tightly, including our pelvic floor muscles. Another form of holding stress that you can relate to is when we unconsciously tense our jaws. Although contracting your pelvic floor muscles is a vital part of Kegel exercises, relaxing them is even more so. If you do not relax your pelvic floor muscles it can cause them to weaken, resulting in a whole host of pelvic floor disorders likely to head your way. There is a strong association between stress levels and symptoms of urinary incontinence.
Top Tips for Keeping Calm and Relaxing
Learning how to relax is not only good for your emotional health, but for your pelvic health as well! Helping to rid your body of stress can be beneficial for reducing the symptoms of a pelvic floor disorder, as the quicker you learn to relax, the quicker you can train your pelvic floor muscles to be strong and supportive. Here are Kegel8’s top tips for relaxing your body and mind:
- Press pause – If you’re finding a situation stressful in any way, just take a break in order to regain calmness and tackle it when you’re ready.
- Work out to work it out – Gentle exercise can help you to relax, work away the stress, and help you take it easy on your pelvic floor. Even if you just go for a short walk at your own pace for a few minutes, anything is better than nothing. Try to avoid high-impact exercises such as running and gymnastics which can tighten the pelvic floor further. Instead check out physiotherapist, Amanda Savage's, video on pelvic floor exercises.
- Breathe in, breathe out – Learning how to breathe deeply and correctly can help you to minimise stress. Learn more about relaxation exercises with Mind.
- Au naturel – Spending time in nature can significantly improve both your physical and mental wellbeing. Spending a whole day in your local park is not always possible, so try to bask in nature by making a detour on your way home, or get the family involved over the weekend.
- Turn up the volume – Music is a great way to turn down the noise from the outside world. It can really help you invest in your emotions and relieve stress, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
- Surrender the screen – In our technological world, stepping away from our screens is not often a priority. But this tiny pixelated surface is often the root of stress amongst young people today; so, try swapping the screen for something serene for an hour, and use your time to focus on relaxation.
Once you’ve found a way to target your stress levels, you can begin to strengthen those weakened pelvic floor muscles. Start your journey to a full recovery using the Kegel8 Ultra 20 Electronic Pelvic Toner . The Kegel8 toners have clinically designed programmes that specifically target pelvic floor issues such as incontinence, prolapse, and pelvic pain relief.
For further information and advice on tackling mental health, visit the mental health charity, Mind, and see how you can help show your support for mental health this October.
 Allanda (2018) Some Statistics About Urinary and Faecal Incontinence [online]. Allanda [viewed 17/09/2018]. Available from https://www.allaboutincontinence.co.uk/incontinence-statistics
 Khan, Z.A., Whittal, C., Mansol, S., Osborne, L.A., Reed, P., Emery, S. (2013) Effect of Depression and Anxiety on the Success of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 33(7), pp. 710-714. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24127961
 Lai, H., Gardner, V., Vetter, J., Andriole, G.L. (2015) Correlation between Psychological Stress Levels and the Severity of Overactive Bladder Symptoms. BMC Urology. 15, p. 14.
 Mental Health Foundation (2018) Children and Young People [online]. Mental Health Foundation [viewed 17/09/2018]. Available from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/c/children-and-young-people
 Mind (2017) Relaxation [online]. Mind [viewed 10/09/2018]. Available from https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/relaxation/#.W5YjfflKjRZ
 Mind (2018) World Mental Health Day [online]. Mind [viewed 10/09/2018]. Available from https://www.mind.org.uk/get-involved/world-mental-health-day/
 Perry, S., McGrother, C.W., Turner, K. (2006) An Investigation of the Relationship between Anxiety and Depression and Urge Incontinence in Women: Development of a Psychological Model. British Journal of Health Psychology. 11(Pt 3), pp. 463-482. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16870056
 Statista (2016) Population of the United Kingdom in 2016, by age group [online]. Statista, 2018 [viewed 17/09/2018]. Available from https://www.statista.com/statistics/281174/uk-population-by-age/
 WHO (2018) World Mental Health Day 2018 [online]. World Health Organization [viewed 17/09/2018]. Available from http://www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2018/en/