Mind-body Connection: Emotional to Physical Pain
It is becoming more and more apparent just how important our thinking is in creating a healthy body, and how much it adds to muscular tension and how we perceive aches and pains.
How does this happen, how can thinking manifest in the physical body?
The mind and the body are inextricably linked; ask yourself how can they not be?
We know stress is a state of mind; when the mind interprets something (internal or external) as a source of danger, this in turn triggers a sympathetic nervous response to alert the body to get ready for “Flight, Fight or Freeze”. This response results in muscular tension.
Modern day stressors such as sitting at a computer staring at a screen for 8 hours a day , meeting deadlines, having to perform for a boss, breaking up with a partner etc etc may all be perceived as danger. It depends on the individual. The more chronic the stress, the quicker the body reacts.
Life is much more stressful these days, in a different way, yet our body reacts the same way physically as though we are trying to escape a sabre tooth tiger. Our primitive body has not adapted to modern day stressors. It cannot distinguish the difference between these stressors. It reacts as though being threatened by sabretooth tiger. Imagine sitting quietly in your cave; the same physical symptoms to stress occur…. muscular tension, not moving a muscle, shallow breathing , eyes wide open waiting for the tiger to pass. The body cannot distinguish between what is real and imaginary, it is just responding to those centres in the brain being activated.
In addition, we have the hormonal system. This too is influenced by our thinking, for example adrenaline is released in times of stress. Hormones also influence the inflammatory response in the body.
Our thinking: The brain is a sensory organ, much like the skin. When we experience pain in the body, that pain is interpreted by the brain. This is where it gets interesting. When we fear pain, it is accentuated. That part of our brain is stimulated more. How we perceive the pain influences how bad that pain is.
How can we reduce this physical response to stress?
We need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (ie rest and digest response”), the opposite to the above. We can do this with;
1. Regular exercise you enjoy – use that sympathetic nervous system’s energy for muscle activation in a good way. It also stimulates feel good hormones.
2. Breathing – stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, “Rest and digest
3. Yoga – has many techniques to reduce anxiety or stress ranging from specific exercises (asanas), breathing (pranayama), meditation and more. Yoga works on multiple levels physical and emotional. Relaxation will help your body feel better, but also to heal.
4. Walk in nature, Feel grateful. The quality of our thinking is important; are we feeling stressed, calm, happy, positive, fearful etc.
5. Help others – known to release feel good hormones