We’ve heard for a long time about the mind-body connection. But what is it really? One way of looking at this is how your body responds to stress. For example, when you are at the end of your workday and you feel a bit stressed out, do you feel it somewhere in your body? 

Many people have certain areas that react to mental health stress. For example, when I experience cognitive/emotional stress, it often makes the back of my neck tighten up. If you’re worried about your job, finances, a relationship, or anything else, you can feel muscles in any part of your body tense up. Or you might get a headache. Some people get upset stomachs. Others get backaches. 

If it goes unchecked, you might find yourself with high blood pressure or other rather serious issues, like heart attacks, or strokes. Well, if you’re a smoker and you eat the standard American diet (i.e., the SAD), you might be eating lots or processed foods, drinking pop with sugar or even artificial sweeteners, lots of bread and pasta, and more … you’re at risk for these types of health conditions. 

For some time now, researchers have been discovering that our attitudes and feelings can also contribute to our getting heart disease and other physiological health conditions! But that should come as no surprise. 

Have you ever experienced a fight or flight response? You either confront the person or incident, or you run from it. Well, when your stress response gets triggered, you get a combination of physical and emotional reactions which give way to related thoughts and certain behaviors. 

Have you ever had to give a speech or presentation? Did you feel scared, was your heart pounding? Did you get funny feelings in your tummy or did the palms of your hands get sweaty? Do you get nervous before taking a big, important test and get similar reactions?

These physiological responses are meant to help you perform well. If the response is too large, you might underperform. Your nerves may get the better of you. (That’s why I always say a little bit of anxiety is good, but a lot may not be so good.) 

Everyday living can cause you to live with stress – maybe you had a fight with a family member, maybe traffic was particularly bad, perhaps a large bill came in that you weren’t expecting, and you don’t know how you’re going to get it paid….

If you are living in a constant state of emotional and physical stress, it’s time for an intervention! In fact, all of these mind-body reactions can be good indicators that you could use some lifestyle changes. 

You might be feeling tired, easily angered, or irritable, maybe you get frequent headaches and can’t sleep well, and perhaps you are dealing with an ever-present level of anxiety punctuated by periods of feeling a bit depressed.

Not to worry! There are so many small, wonderful things you can do to change this mind-body reaction into something positive, so you feel good again and grow stronger every day.

Let’s start with diet and supplements. Try setting out some of the junk food you consume and buy snack foods that are made with healthy ingredients and prepared in a more health-giving manner. Don’t rely so much on bread – it can be causing lots of inflammation in your body. 

Start drinking more spring or filtered water and work toward getting off sodas – they are unhealthy in every way.

Try supplementing your diet with a few vitamins (it is great to work with a competent health care professional and be careful with this if you are on meds). 

Start taking 5 minutes a day and do something for yourself. Do something mindful, like meditation, yoga, getting calm and centered. Some people like to read, others like to get into the Bible (it’s very centering for some), while others may want to take a relaxing bath, etc. You can find out what works best for you. I personally love certain types of music and that helps me to relax and get mindfully centered. 

There are yet other ways to reduce stress and help you cope better. There is music therapy, art therapy, group therapy, acupuncture, Tai Chi, talk therapy on an individual basis, and much more. 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the role of physical exercise in getting and staying healthy, both in mind and body. Exercise can help you get better sleep and invigorate your body to do the healing it is programmed to do. Like anything else, it’s important to work with trained individuals so you do enough to reap the benefits, but not too much so that you hurt yourself!

And as always, I wish you a happy, holistically healthy day!  

Dr. P

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