The Mind Body Connection
Here we go, just as it’s almost time to give the presentation at work, I get that feeling in pit of my stomach. Here comes the rolling distress. My chest tightens and a wheeze comes on. Oh, no, not now… Anxiety tucks into my body and I’m absorbed into the feelings, wheezing and stressing. Can you relate?
Intricate Mind Body Connection
The mind body connection is an intricate one. At times the body speaks clearly of emotional or mental distress. People with anxiety know well the body brain connection as physical symptoms of anxiety are pretty hard to miss. The increased heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath are all common anxiety symptoms. For other mental health or emotional conditions, however, the physical symptoms are not so easily noticed. These are the times when the body uses more of a quiet nudge.
Chinese medicine is known for connecting the body and mind, believing that emotions are connected with the function of the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs. This understanding of how we humans function integrates all aspects of our experience, body, mind and spirit with what is showing up physically. Such an understanding can seem a bit ‘woo woo’ for those of us raised in an environment of Western medicine, where emotions are rarely discussed when you seek help for a physical complaint. Yet, there is wisdom here to be recognized.
Going through Job Change
A while back, when I was going through an unexpected & major restructuring in a job I’d had for a number of years, I found myself with some pain in my forearm. I hadn’t injured it, and I hadn’t worked out to stress the muscles, so I couldn’t quite explain why the soreness suddenly appeared. And being the sort raised with a stoic work ethic, I ignored the pain and carried on. Later, working with a Chinese medicine trained acupuncturist, I learned that grief, despair and anxiety are connected to the energy meridian flowing through one’s forearm. So, woo, woo or not, my forearm seemed to tell the tale of my concern over my job change, giving me a nudge to do some extra emotional self care.
So, whether or not you are someone who supports the teaching of Chinese medicine, I say it is important to recognize how emotional distress shows up physically, beyond just showing up in our mood and our behaviour. Depression has been known to cause heaviness in our bodies, change sleep patterns, and affect our appetite and libido. Grief mirrors some of the same physical symptoms. It is important to listen, pay attention to and make room for understanding our intricate and wonderfully made human bodies. To care for ourselves emotionally means also caring for ourselves physically, and vise versa. For too long, many of us raised in the last quarter of the 1900s, who are ‘middle aged’ today have ignored our physical and emotional distress signals. Those of us, who have been felt the traditionalist and baby boomer influenced society, have felt we simply needed to ‘soldier on’.
We have trained ourselves to ignore physical symptoms that speak of something emotional going on. We feel like we don’t have the time for emotional self care, it’s too pampering, and we don’t deserve it. We have too many other commitments that take priority, people are counting on us, tasks at work must get done, there’s no time for self indulgence. Well, I say it’s time to shift this mentality.
Love it or hate it, we are a complete package, body and brain, and we deserve to experience life fully, taking the time to nurture and care for our emotional selves. It’s time to listen to our body speaking, and act on what it’s telling us. Attending to our emotional needs is a priority for living a comprehensively healthy life. You deserve to feel emotional freedom and peace of mind. Your whole body will thank you for it.
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