Friday, April 22, 2011

Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health

The health or well being of the body can no longer ignore the impact of the mind, the emotions or the spirit in the process.

As we continue to pour stress into our lives we have to understand the impact that can have on us from a physical and emotional standpoint. Our bodies produce adrenaline in response to our stress as part of our fight or flight response. However, those were times that were supposed to be few and far between. Throughout our busy days we have multiple instances where our adrenaline continues to respond to that stress. This constant flow can take a toll on our physical health. Over a prolonged amount of time, it can wear down the immune system and cause you to frequently become ill.

Let’s look at three stages of pain. The first is the pain that is bad enough to grab your attention. The second is the pain that takes hold of you and the third stage of pain finally compels you to do something. And how do we respond? Many of us reach for some type of over the counter pill, maybe alcohol, or pain medication. Of course the source of the pain remains the same; we just cover up the symptoms that our body is giving us. Here is an example that might make the picture clearer for us.

Let’s say that your smoke detector went off in your home. The first time it would catch your attention. If it went off a second time, it would most likely take hold of your attention. But if it went off a third time it would compel you to do something. Now the question is “Would you take the batteries out so you wouldn’t hear it anymore? Of course not!

Symptoms are your body’s attempt to alert you that something is going on. So, what steps should we take to get our bodies back in balance? There are four steps to regaining that balance.

1) Recognize and Understand the Sources of Stress
2) Identify Opportunities
3) Choose Your Action
4) Review Progress and Make Adjustments.

Look for next week’s blog on step number one!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What is Your Body Trying to Tell You?

"The body says what words cannot." Martha Graham

About this time last year my daughter, Katelyn, was in the hospital for two nights. She got hold of whatever virus was going around Maryville College Campus, and it wouldn’t let go of her. Her wonderful roommates got her to the ER and stayed with her, even after I got there. This turned out to be a learning experience for me about connecting emotional components to physical symptoms (mine, not Katelyn’s). Because it turns out that even though I managed to avoid the gastrointestinal distress that she suffered, once she was feeling better and back at school, my body started talking to me about the experience.

You might call this divine intervention since I had recently restructured my practice to help people look at their health from a holistic perspective that considers mind, body, and spirit to be a unified entity. (Or you might call it God having a good laugh by making me look at my own life first). Whatever we call it, I thought you might be interested in some of the insights I’ve had thrown into my lap by taking this holistic look at myself.

The symptoms I experienced after Katelyn’s hospital stay include dizziness, sadness, and a little bit of muddled thinking (or a lot, depending on whom you listen to). These symptoms make sense in a holistic sense when you consider where I was in my life. I’d been taking care of Katelyn while she healed and really enjoyed having her home. A big part of my identity is as a mother to two of the most wonderful kids on earth. But within a few months of this experience, John would be graduating from high school and leaving for UTC and Katelyn would begin her ‘real’ life as an adult in veterinarian school. Where did that leave me? Dizzy, sad, and muddled.

It would definitely be a time for new beginnings, which can leave us off-balance, shaky, lightheaded, in other words, dizzy. And you want to talk about sad? That one’s a no-brainer. Despite being excited and proud about the new stages of my kids’ lives, knowing that the old stage of dependence was finally ending definitely left me feeling a little poignant. Sadly, the muddled thinking may just be a sign of the stage of life that I’m in myself, not a reflection of where the kids are!

What to do with these holistic connections? Well, obviously they are great real life examples for my clients to learn from. But they also point me to a better understanding of where I am right now in the present, which is all we really have. I’m in the midst of a wonderful transition that leaves me dizzy, sad, and muddled, but also provides new opportunities for me to express myself and my calling in the world. Amen to that!

Contributed by Dr. Annie Wills