The Mind-Body Connection & Reducing Stress
The Mind & Body
Ever feel out of balance or wondering what affects your mood changes? Like many people, I know how it feels to be stressed. We all do don't we? Stress affects so many areas of our lives and it's something that can be hard to control and reduce if you don't know how. In this article, I'm going to share with you ways you can minimize your stress and learn what triggers your stress.
Many people think that good health is related to nutrition and exercise as a daily activity. Although these are important factors that affect your health, there are many other things that affect it. Your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, attitudes, and values all affect it. Our mind affects our health and well-being because our body and mind are parts of a unified whole. Our mind and body communicates by means of nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. When we have joy and creativity, it leads to a state of mind and body harmony. When we experience fear, anxiety, stress, or sadness, it contributes to disharmony in the body. That can increase certain illnesses and interrupt healing. There are ways to promote health and healing by focusing the mind.
Do you remember a time in high school having to give speech in front of the class? Maybe you experienced a nervous stomach or sweaty palms and that was a reaction from your autonomic nervous system. Thoughts and feelings can affect this system and even having to many things at once can lead to physiologic arousal. This means you could have things like sleep disturbances, muscle tension, GI problems, and more. Many people live hectic lives full of time pressures and stress. Even other things around us in our life each day like: cell phones, internet, TV, computers, and other things compete for our attention. Life is much more distracting and interrupted then it used to be. This is where we need to have more quiet time in our lives. That can look like many different things to each person. We will mention ways a bit later in this article, but to start somewhere, try taking 20-30 minutes of quiet time in your life each day. Where you can reflect, journal, read, take a bath, meditate, and realize it's okay to take a break!
How Your Mind Can Affect Your Hormones
Besides your autonomic nervous system, your endocrine (hormone) system can be affected by stress.
As you may or may not know, your hormones are chemicals that are produced by organs and tissues in your body and they regulate specific functions. Hormones are like an alert system. They notify your body of changes outside and inside your body that need to be responded to, to maintain wellness. Hormones respond to changes from your thoughts and emotions. If your mind interprets something to be threatening whether it is real or imagined, centers in your brain that are responsible to emotions let organs and other brain areas know that they need to release hormones. Adrenaline and cortisol are released into the blood stream and circulate the body to make it alert and ready to deal with the threat.
Here's what happens when you have high levels released. For example, when cortisol is high, it increases stress and alertness but impairs memory processing and decreases your sensitivity to pain. Makes sense right? If you have ever been in a scary or threatening, or even nervous situation you probably felt stressed and alert but also couldn't listen or think clearly. You were focused on the response your body made. Different hormones affect different reactions and what your body does in response to something. When you come into a stressful situation whether physical, mental, or emotional, take a deep breath. You will slow down negative reactions and decrease inflammation when you calm your mind. This also will help healing from injury begin right away.
The Mind Can Create Illness
You have the power to influence your health for ill or for well-being. That is pretty powerful.
When you have an improvement in your health, it could be a combination of your faith and the efficacy of the protocol or treatment. You can't do anything without faith. Whether you are a person of faith or not. You may have an illness and have faith in the doctors or the treatment that it will help you get better. Or maybe you are a person of faith, like myself and you believe and have faith that God can heal you. Faith is believing something that is true, and trusting that. It's being sure of things hoped for and knowing something is real even if we don't see it happening. Even in the Bible, many times people expressed their faith when they were healed. Here is an example from the Bible. Mark 5:34 says, And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your diseases." Having faith gives you hope. Many pray to help them cope with illnesses or for their health in general. This is one thing myself and my family does. It gives support and strength to cope with an illness or stressor. When you think about how powerful the mind is, you can see how the mind can create illness. Things like stress, anxiety, and depression can produce unhealthy physiological changes. This means a psychosomatic change because the thoughts and feelings are at the root cause of the symptoms for illness or the unhealthy state. Depression, stress, or anger can cause back pain, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and more. This is when you have lost mind-body harmony to a serious degree.
The Mind Can Create Wellness
Health can be restored when you have knowledge of how your mind and body interact and having methods that give you insight to a certain issue, help even more. So your mind can create wellness! When you have positive emotions it can help change your health. When you can be positive and joyful, your stress hormones and heart rate will decrease. Humor is even a wonderful tool. We have always heard that "laughter is the best medicine". It enlightens your soul which in turn is going to have a positive impact on your health. Laughter even has a positive affect on the immune system by increasing cells in your body used to kill off infections. Laughter also of course, helps reduce stress and anxiety as well. Laughter isn't the cure all but it plays a role in your mental and emotional health, which in return, helps your overall health.
What About Stress?
Stress as we know, disrupts our balance and sense of harmony in our body. When we can't regain psychological and physical balance from stress, then it can be prolonged or even get severe when our body gets sick. Stress can contribute to so many issues like: gastrointestinal disorders, metabolic disorders like being overweight, colds & flus, skin disorders, menstrual problems, and more.
So how does stress happen? Well, any potentially stressful environmental or life event that happens has mental, emotional, and physical responses that affect the level of stress. Events like a natural disaster, death of a family member, demanding job, anxiety, illness, and etc automatically make you mentally and emotionally respond which then in turn affects physical changes. Physical changes could be increased heart rate and blood pressure, sleep changes, and immune function. Maybe you have day to day hassles or problems that block accomplishment of daily life tasks, job problems, or major life changes. It becomes an obstacle to achieving desired life goals. There will always be some kind of stress in your life, but it matters if it's good or bad. It could be challenging situations that can be a positive stress for growth and gain, or it could be negative situations like threats, injury, or loss of loved one. You may have warning signs of stress. Maybe you can't fall asleep and wake up tired. Maybe it's recurring colds and sicknesses. Maybe it's muscle aches or irritability. Whatever it is, you have to begin to assess your health and know if you are stressed.
How Does Your Body Get Stressed?
Do you believe things are going to improve? Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Optimists experience less stress because they believe things are going to improve and don't have the worry attached. When you can have emotional support from people about your experiences or stress, it helps to lower your stress response in the future.
You probably have heard of the fight our flight response before and how our body can get stressed. Our fight or flight response happens when we have challenges that are interpreted as either frightening or threatening. Adrenaline is released from your adrenal glands and and elevates your blood pressure and heart rate as well as other changes in the body. Cortisol is also released in the blood and makes tissues in your body respond to whatever the stressor is by confrontation (fight) or avoidance (flight). When chronic responses have been happening due to stressors, it leads to more health and body changes like diabetes, suppressed immune system, weakens bones, and other health issues. This fight or flight response is designed for short term stressful situations. When you think differently and change your perception of something being threatening, then your body can come back to balance. If nothing changes though, the stress response continues and you will feel anxious, irritable, fatigued, or ill. Stress can physically change you when you don't control it and can change your immune system. Bad habits can start like poor diet and then lead to weakening the body more. When your soul is oppressed, so is your body. It couldn't be anymore true. Stress can essentially alter functions in your body, but there is healing that can happen. There is hope!
Recognizing Your Stressors
You are probably thinking, how do I know what is stressing me out? Or how to I figure out what is causing my body stress? Stress comes from 1 of 3 things. Physical, chemical, or mental stressors.
Either traumas & physical problems, toxins & chemicals, or thoughts & mental issues. Physical stress can be from many things like either bad posture or something more extreme like an injury. Removing stressors by chiropractic or physical therapy for injuries will help with removing physical stress.
Maybe you have stress from toxins instead like, using chemical cleaners and sprays, pesticides, or food allergies. Some of these can be removed by taking a food allergy test and eliminating those foods. Others can be eliminated by replacing harmful cleaning products with natural ones. If you have already changed those and you still have stress, it might be from mental stressors. It could be having to wait in line for a long time or the loss of someone in your life. Maybe it's putting to much pressure on yourself. Learn to say no when you have to many things on your plate. You need to realize the thoughts you have going through your head. Replace them with positive thoughts and right down your priorities to help your thoughts to not over take you. Learn to see what your biggest stressor is and start there. You will be one step closer to reducing your stress!
Ways To Manage Your Stress
The best ways to manage your stress is replacing stressful ways of living with beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that produce peace and joy. This creates mind and body harmony! You won't be able to remove all tension and sources of conflict, but you will be able to think and handle situations that come your way much better! Here are some ways to help.
1. Saying "no". Sometimes you might have to eliminate interaction with a stressor. Saying "no" to unreasonable requests will set you up for better emotional, physical, and mental health. Maybe you have to change your job, your major, or switch places to live. Try to ask yourself if you are seeing a situation realistically or if it's really threatening. This will help you make better decisions.
2. Focus on personal strengths, values, and qualities. Have confidence in yourself to lessen stress. Do something you enjoy or are good at. Focus your attention on things that you value.
3. Have social support. Have a group of people that share positive support. Talk to a friend, family member, counselor, or anyone who can understand and offer sound advice. If you are interested in counseling but don't want to physically go somewhere you can check out the app Faith Counseling. It gives you the opportunity to talk to a counselor via message, phone call, or video. It can be very helpful if you need a different perspective from someone else.
4. Reduce physical tension. Take a walk, ride a bike, go for a hike, do some yoga, or get a massage. Even try using a foam roller to help with tense muscles, or any physical activity to release tension. Find something that works for you and that you enjoy. I love getting a massage, doing some yoga, or going for a hike. It's freeing. Find something that frees you.
If you need to release tension and the other ways are not helping, the best way to reduce physical stress is to get adjusted by a chiropractor! This way, physical stressors are removed and you can better figure out the source of stress.
5. Get some laughs! Laughter and joy are beneficial to your soul and immune system. Go to a comedy show, watch a funny movie, hangout with some friends, or go do a fun activity.
6. Let go of stress with sensory experiences. Do some things to engage your senses. Listen to some of your favorite music or relaxing music while you take a bath, take a walk in the woods, or cook some of your favorite foods. Even enjoy some time with animals or your pet. Animals can have a comforting and relaxing affect on us. Who doesn't enjoy cuddles with their dog?
7. Ease and quiet your mind. Try meditating on some scripture verses and think about what they mean for you. Find some that relate to what you are going through. You can even simply quiet your mind for 5-10 minutes, clearing your thoughts and focusing on how you feel at the moment and take deep breaths to relax. Slow down and find the joy in the little things in life. Think positively about your stress or situation. Relax your muscles and notice how relaxed your body can be. You may even want to try image visualization. Don't worry this is nothing weird. It's simply being quiet and day dreaming a wonderful scenario to give you mental images to promote healing or behavior change. You could be imagining you are by the ocean side with your feet in the sand with the sun shining down on you. You can look more info up about image visualization if it's something you want to try.
8. Manage your time. Start by preparing. Prepare yourself for a stressful test or interview coming up. Prepare your day by writing down in a planner what you have for the week. Add in times to your schedule to relax. Get a good nights sleep and control interruptions like texts on your phone, emails, or TV. While controlling interruptions, resist multitasking. This can create urgency which can produce anxiety and stress. Focus on one thing at a time and make a list.
9. Kick out sugar and eat super foods for stress! Try some spinach or dark leafy greens which have folate, to help your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Add some fermented foods to your diet to help with immune and gut health. Have some blueberries for a fruit choice. The antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine, a chemical that is critical to coordination, memory function, and your mood. Try having some real dark chocolate for dessert because it has chemicals that help block feelings of pain and depression. Make sure its a high quality, sugar-free chocolate!
Also make sure to get enough vitamin D to help stabilize your mood! You also may want to even try CBD oil to help reduce stress and anxiety for your mood. Lastly, reduce your caffeine intake because it's stimulant. Try having some relaxing chamomile tea instead, other relaxing herbal teas.
10. Remove Toxins. Try replacing your body and skin products with more natural ones to reduce toxins in your body. Try not to use harmful chemicals around your house or where you live so you aren't breathing in constant, harmful chemicals. Then you can eliminate these types of stressors.
11. Essential oils can help! Try using some essential oils to help with you mood and stress. There are many essential oils that can help with muscle stress and emotional/mental stress. For muscle & emotional tension or stress try these oils to help relax. You can also use them for massaging certain areas of the body. Make sure to have high quality, therapeutic grade essential oils. Young Living is a company that sells therapeutic grade essential oils. These are the ones I recommend and use. There are other companies that have great quality oils, just do your research first.
*Wintergreen & Peppermint- Mix together as a blend with a carrier oil like almond or coconut oil and put onto muscles that are tense or sore. Using a warm compress will help get the oils in faster.
*Lavender & Peppermint- Mix these together for relieving a stress headache and apply to temples and neck. Also diffuse them so you can smell them to relax your mind.
* Stress Away- This is a blend from Young Living that can be diffused, applied to the neck, or really anywhere to help with stress. It has a pleasant citrus vanilla scent.
* Relieve It- This is a blend from Young Living that is helpful for muscle tension and soreness. Apply to the area whether its neck, back, or legs. Using a warm compress on top helps get the oils in faster.
*Lavender & Chamomile- Provide a calming & relaxing combination that can be diffused when you sleep or need to relax. Even add to a bath or to your wrists to smell throughout the day.
* Orange & Bergamot-These citrus oils are uplifting and helps anxiety and mood. Diffusing and inhaling is the best method. Try inhaling with a couple drops in your hand and take a few deep breaths. Even apply onto a diffuser bracelet or necklace.
*Frankincense- This oil is amazing for many things but pertaining to stress, it can help ease the mind and enhance intuition. This is a great oil to inhale or diffuse while journaling, getting a massage, or meditating.
Time For Reducing Stress!
Now it's time to take action, to start a routine to reduce your stress. To give you back joy and peace in life. To let you live life to the fullest. We weren't meant to be stressed, but there will always be things that will come against us to try and create stress. It's how you handle and reduce that stress, that is going to make your life more enjoyable and impactful. Remember to always stay positive in the ups and downs in life. Only you can control your attitude and how you react. I hope all this information helps you on your journey to wellness. There is hope, and you can regain emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual wellness!