The Mind Body Connection

I am exited to introduce you to my new affiliate Andy Schmalz at Awakening Heath in Burlington. Andy Schmalz is an osteopathic manual practitioner and certified athletic therapist with 15 years of clinical experience. He is extremely skilled and heart-centred. He treats each client with compassion, wisdom and respect. He synthesizes concepts in energy medicine, nutrition, and environmental influences with traditional therapeutic concepts to provide a thorough rehabilitation to fit each person’s unique needs. I would like to present him to you by sharing one of his articles.

Over the last few years, I have repeatedly written about the mind body connection and how a physical issue has messages for us in regards to our emotional and mental well-being. Some typical examples are headaches, indigestion or physical pain in different areas of our body, or even a simple cold. Andy’s article is filled with excellent examples of how treatment has to address the whole human being.

Read Andy Schmalz’ article below

and/or join us for a 30 minute podcast episode about

the interconnection of physical issues with emotional and mental ones.

 

The Mind Body Connection

BY ANDY SCHMALZ, DO(MP), CAT(C)

We are often taught that the different issues in our body are the result of physical, emotional, or mental stresses. For physical injuries we look to some sort of therapist that focuses on stretching and strengthening to bring the physical structure back into a balance. Mental and emotional issues are treated with a therapist that has been trained in talk therapy and various rehabilitation techniques to help heal the initial trauma. The compartmentalization of these conditions has created a roadblock to healing for many individuals.

Instead of thinking of physical, emotional and mental health as being separate, they should be viewed as interrelated aspects along the same continuum. This can be thought of as similar to colours on the spectrum. Red, blue, yellow, or any other colour are not individual spectrums on their own colour palate, they are part of the same spectrum that transitions through all colours. In the same way that the inclusion of all colours combined produces white light, the total combination of physical, emotional, and mental spheres is required to produce holistic health.

To introduce this concept, let’s look at a simple injury like a sprained ankle. Imagine you’re a high school athlete competing for your school’s basketball team in the playoffs. You accidentally land on someone’s foot when descending from a jump and roll your ankle. You feel a couple of pops, a lot of pain right away and know it’s not good. You later discover that you will have to miss 4-6 weeks in rehabilitation if everything goes according to plan.

This is a very mechanical issue, right? There was no emotional stress that caused you to hurt your ankle so it should be a straight forward rehabilitation – manage the inflammation, begin range of motion exercise, slowly re-build the strength and continue from there. 4-6 weeks, right on schedule. But let’s take a look a little more closely at the whole scenario.

No injury is ever purely physical or purely emotional. They are opposite ends of the same spectrum. When you rolled your ankle, what were your feeling before and after the injury? You’re one of the better players on the team and there’s likely a feeling of letting your friends down, or possibly frustration because you had prepared hard for this year and now you’re going to miss the end of a short season. Maybe your coach isn’t supportive of the situation. Instead of reacting with empathy he/she responds with frustration that they have now lost one of their starters and the team’s chances of winning the championship have taken a hit. You will be able to feel that pressure during your healing process. And these thoughts don’t even include what might be happening at home – maybe your parents have been fighting lately and it has begun to create a lot of stress in your life. Maybe you’re having relationship issues with your boyfriend/girlfriend. Maybe there’s a loved one like a grandparent whose health is deteriorating.

The point is that ALL of these different stresses and emotions come into play during your healing process. Once again, the physical and emotional domains are opposite ends of the spectrum, and it’s important to have a rough idea where this injury falls within the spectrum to determine what type of treatment is required. This is not to say that every injury you experience needs to be assessed by a trained psychotherapist. Having a rough idea where an individual is in the spectrum helps to identify any barriers to healing as well as guide treatment. In this simple example of an ankle sprain it’s likely that the injury is much closer to the physical end of the spectrum with a small emotional component:

PHYSICAL___X_________________________EMOTIONAL

But if there are significant stressors at home or school, the spectrum would adjust:

PHYSICAL______________X______________EMOTIONAL

The difference between the two spectrums dictates what needs to be addressed in treatment. The physical rehabilitation of the injury does not change – control inflammation, then increase strength and range of motion as appropriate. But it’s possible the athlete in this scenario is carrying some stress that can slow the healing of the ankle. It may still heal on its own but the process will be more complete – and the care for the injured individual much more comprehensive – if the emotional stresses are identified and addressed. While this example is hypothetical, it’s well within the realm of possibility. Let’s look at a couple examples from clinic.

Example 1

A pre-teen girl (age 11) comes into clinic complaining of neck pain and headaches. Upon assessment the typical issues leading to neck pain are present – tension in the deep muscles of the neck, a change in breathing pattern (chest breathing), increased tension in the connective tissues of the abdomen, and weakness in the muscles of the mid back. The simple formula is to reverse these findings and the headaches should alleviate. However, in conversation during treatment the patient reveals that she has been experiencing difficulty all year long with a bully on the school bus that has been progressively getting worse. Her parents are aware of the issue but have not been fully informed about the severity and the young girl has not been forthcoming about the impact it is having on her. This simple disclosure has a significant impact on the healing process. The stress of worrying about a bully on a daily basis will create the tension in the abdomen (see effects of inflammation), change breathing patterns, and likely create the tension in the muscles of the neck as well. The approach to treatment at this point needs to change. The physical symptoms will resolve with the treatment of physical restrictions, but will return if the initial root issue is not addressed. The impact of the stress on the patient needs to be brought to his parent’s attention so they can address the issue appropriately – or the time and energy spent on neck rehabilitation will likely be redundant.

Example 2

Many of us carry low-level stress on a constant basis. We have simply been doing it for so long that we do not realize that it is actually affecting us. But the physiological effects of inflammation and the blood flow changes associated with stress can take a significant toll on us that we do not realize until there is a breakdown in the physical body. In this example you are a parent working full time with a couple of kids. You try to take care of your body but your responsibilities to your children take up much of your time. You are so tired at the end of each day that you can barely make it up to bed. Instead, you pass out on the couch most nights. You do get out for walks with the kids and eat the best you can, but the busy-ness of young children consumes most of your life…soccer practices, music lessons, birthdays, family commitments, etc. Sound familiar?

Life flies by, work gets busier and responsibilities increase. The kids are older but there are some minor troubles at school that worry you. Your parents have started to experience some health difficulties and need some help at home. Each of these commitments has also placed a strain on your marriage that simply wasn’t there 10 years ago.

Then one day you pick up your daughter after a particularly bad day at work – the same way you do every day when you get home from work. She’s only 45 pounds and you have lifted her many times before. But this time your back spasms and you experience extreme pain that brings you to your knees. You immediately know you’ve “blown out your back” and are able to see your doctor the next day. You’re told it’s a muscle strain and that you didn’t lift properly and that’s why you’ve hurt your back. NO WAY!!

Let’s take a close look at what has actually happened. Years of wear and tear and progressive increase in stress have decreased the mobility of your body. The lack of flexibility has finally reached a point where your spine cannot accommodate the things you’ve always been able to do, like pick up your daughter. The bad day at work is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. Your system was at a point where it could no longer accommodate any more change. The small change in blood flow to the muscles due to the cumulative stresses combined with one more stress lead to the muscle spasms.

What does this mean for your treatment? The back will likely heal no matter where you do your rehabilitation. If it’s really bad you might need to try a couple different practitioners before you feel back to normal. Stretch the muscles of the low back, release the tight connective tissues on the abdomen, strengthen the core, and things should resolve in a typical fashion. But here’s the problem – you have done nothing to address the root causes of the back injury. You have approached your rehabilitation as a purely physical phenomenon and therefore you have not completed your rehabilitation. Unfortunately, you will likely injure your back again in time.

What else could you do to completely heal your injured back? You can’t necessarily control the events in life that cause your stress, but you can manage how you react to stress using appropriate techniques. Managing stress is a multifactorial approach (view Andy Schmalz’ article “Managing Your Stress”) that should be part of our everyday lives. If there is a significant strain on you personally because of your parent’s health or relationship you may benefit from talking to a trained psychotherapist that would compliment the physical side of your rehabilitation. Meditation, breathing techniques, regular physical exercise, yoga/flexibility work and potential modifications to your diet all come into play when trying to heal something fully instead of simply managing symptoms for another couple of years.

Example 3

It is important to remember that the physical and emotional connection is a two-way street. The first two examples showed how emotional stresses can either create an injury or slow it’s healing. But issues that seem to be purely emotional can also create a physical imprint. Anxiety is a perfect example. Anxiety is like a little breeze that can quickly turn into a tornado that takes over your brain and body. The emotion is often created by a perception based on a root fear that leads to worry and distress. And like many things in the brain, the more it is experienced the easier it seems to become to trigger an anxiety attack. But what we forget is that there is a physical imprint left in the body that seems to form a physical pattern – and once that pattern is established it feeds into the continued development of anxiety. In essence the physical imprint helps to perpetuate and lower the body’s threshold for anxiety.

When we experience anxiety, breathing patterns change – the breath becomes shorter and we no longer activate the thoracic diaphragm to breathe properly. Instead we use the upper chest muscles and neck muscles attaching to the upper ribs to lift the ribcage and create the breath. This results in increased tension in the thoracic diaphragm, neck and upper back that may affect nerve and blood supply to the head potentially creating headaches. There also seems to be a consistent pattern of tension in the centre of the upper abdomen just below the ribs that can lead to abdominal discomfort. It may be the inflammation in the body from the anxiety or some sort of other pathway but some of the stress from anxiety collects in this solar plexus area that seems to make the emotion of anxiety easier to experience.

As these physical changes culminate, they restrict proper breathing and seem to feed into the development of subsequent attacks. Releasing the physical imprints of the anxiety attacks seems to help the body manage anxiety. It is important to note that this is in no way a substitution for counseling. Instead it is approaching the body from a holistic point of view. Treating only the brain for anxiety will help to decrease the anxiety attacks one may experience, but it will not reverse the physical effects the attacks have.

As you can see in these examples, a physical injury is never just a physical injury. Conversely, an emotional issue will always have a physical imprint. To heal the body, mind and spirit a multi-faceted approach is required. It is up to you to determine the right formula for your healing, as you are the one responsible for your own health. At Awakening Health, our goal is provide you with the information and tools available to achieve the balance in life that we are all seeking.

 

For an Osteopathic appointment go to Awakening Health.

To work on the Emotional and Mental side of a physical issue contact

Belief Change and Relationship Coach Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Indigestion – Your Body Speaks Your Mind

Listen to this blog as a podcast here, or read it below!

Our body communicates to us through physical symptoms. Sometimes the message is in the symptom itself, or the effect it has, or the changes we have to make due to it. In previous articles, I have highlighted the meaning of colds and of pain, especially of headaches. Today, I would like to take a closer look at indigestion, stomach issues in particular.

Eating is not just about absorbing nutrition for our physical body. It is also about swallowing and assimilating our experiences. Digestion is about absorbing everything that is happening to us along with our feelings, and eliminating that which we do not want. Our digestive system can be a good mirror of our emotional state. When we feel safe and happy, our digestion tends to be reasonably maintenance free. If we are experiencing conflicts, stress, or emotional turmoil, that often shows up in indigestion.

Indigestion - Louise Hay 1

Often food and love are also connected, or even become interchangeable depending on what beliefs we have learned and how food was used when we grew up. Many of us have been rewarded or soothed with food. Food can become a substitute for love, attention and comfort. We might have learned to use food as a STERB (Short Term Energy Relieving Behaviour) to distract ourselves from uncomfortable emotions like sadness, anger or fear. That unconscious way of using food often increases the indigestion.

Indigestion is without doubt caused by the “wrong” foods, but also just as much by worry and stress. Feelings of “worry” and “fear” are held in our stomach. When we can’t “stomach” what is happening in our life, when the reality is too scary, bitter or sour to digest, or is proving too much to bear, indigestion and heartburn could be the result. According to Deb Shapiro, a helpful question to ask when you are experiencing acid reflux is, “What issues or feelings are you swallowing that are bitter, sour or upsetting?”

Indigestion - Louise Hay 2

For Inna Segal, acid reflux is also a sign of experiencing difficulties in regards to digesting life. Our body is letting us know that we are feeling uncomfortable with what we are seeing, feeling, hearing, and experiencing. We might feel irritated, frustrated and out of control. We are resisting life in some way.

Lise Bourbeau reminds us of letting go and allowing things to unfold instead of worrying or trying to control something. She also notes that the stomach sits in close proximity to our heart. A loving, accepting and peaceful heart has a calming influence on our stomach. On the other hand, thoughts such as “this is not fair”, “this is wrong”, “why do I have to take this”, or “this is not what I wanted” block the flow of energy. The more tolerant we can be and the more we can go with the flow, the easier life is to digest.

Indigestion - Louise Hay 3

Just as Deb Shapiro and Lise Bourbeau provide useful questions to investigate our symptoms of indigestion, Dethlefsen and Dahlke also suggest to listen to our inner feelings and to consciously come to grips with inner conflicts and incoming impressions. We need to ask ourselves what we are unable or unwilling to “swallow”, what we are feeling sour or angry about or what is eating away inside of us. The ability to digest life with ease requires openness and surrender.

Indigestion - Louise Hay 4

Meditation, affirmations and of course subconscious belief changes help to address the symptoms of indigestion. One meditation mantra I suggest is “Let It Be”. If you are interested in investigating your symptoms more, to clear out fears and to change limiting beliefs at a subconscious level, using PSYCH-K®, L.E.E.P.’s (Life Enhancing Energy Processes) or Shadow Energetics, please contact

Angelika

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!

Further RESOURCES in regards to the body-mind connection:

  • Lise Bourbeau, Your Body’s Telling You: Love Yourself!
  • Thorwald Dethlefsen & Ruediger Dahlke, The Healing Power of Illness
  • Louise Hay, Heal Your Body
  • Narayan-Singh, Messages From Your Body
  • Inna Segal, The Secret Language of Your Body
  • Deb Shapiro, Your Body Speaks Your Mind

A Cold – Your Body Speaks Your Mind

cold remedies

We are taught that colds are caused by viruses and that you will catch a cold when your immune system is not strong. The classic recommendation to boost your immune system is vitamin C. Yet, why is our immune system sometimes strong enough, other times not, despite following all the rules of getting enough sleep and maintaining healthy nutrition to keep up our immune system? Every physical issue has an emotional and mental component which has been left out of the equation in the explanation above.

It is not a coincidence when you get sick with a cold. The common cold is linked to a conflict in our life, a situation of overwhelm or stress. Your mind might literally be speaking through your body by saying “This situation stinks! I’ve had enough!” A cold can tell us that we are stressed out and need time off, or it can be connected to emotional issues.

Louise Hay points out that upper respiratory illnesses are related to “too much going on at once, mental confusion, disorder, small hurts” (L. Hay, Heal Your Body, 25). Sinus problems are an “irritation to one person, someone close” (L. Hay, Heal Your Body, 63). When I have a sinus problem I am usually annoyed with or angry at somebody else – or at myself. I need to acknowledge my anger and release it. A sore throat can be connected to “Holding in angry words, feeling unable to express the self” (L. Hay, Heal Your Body, 64).

Deb Shapiro explains that “colds, runny nose, and tears are all related—mucus and tears are both ways of releasing repressed or pent-up emotions. You may feel the same helplessness and despair, the same need for comfort. So, if you have a bad cold, you may want to see if there is some crying or grieving you are repressing, some deep feeling that has been pushed aside.” (Shapiro, Your Body Speaks Your Mind, 184) Some questions she suggests to ask yourself are: Do you need some time to yourself to adjust to something? Is this a cry for attention because everyone seems to be taking you for granted? Do you need to get ill in order to be taken care of?

Louise Bourbeau clarifies that “a cold will often manifest as a result of congestion on a mental level, especially when there’s so much going on in your head that you don’t know which way to turn.” (Bourbeau, Your Body’s Telling You: Love Yourself, 149) Our body can be quite literal. When we are “stuffed up” our emotional “stuff” is coming up. Key questions to explore the situation further are: What is this cold preventing me from doing or having? What is it allowing me to do or have? What am I experiencing and how do I feel about it?

cold - scrabble board 2b

The phase of the cold when we have the symptoms is already the healing phase. Preceding that phase in which we are sneezing and coughing is the conflict phase. This conflict can be an event in our life. Sometimes it is a major event like losing our job, the break-up of a relationship or our pet dying, sometimes an event like a fight with our partner or being stressed about a situation at work. During this conflict we are in fight or flight mode.

After the conflict is resolved, our body goes into recovery mode. The body needs to heal and the symptoms of the healing are a runny nose, a headache, a sore throat, a cough etc. If the conflict does not get resolved, we might find ourselves in phase two having the cold symptoms as well because we get so exhausted from the conflict that our body is forcing us to rest. However, if the original conflict is not resolved, the cycle repeats and we will get sick again soon. Repeating cycles of this kind can manifest in serious illnesses.

Another mental factor of getting a cold is our belief system regarding illnesses. Beliefs like “I always get a cold in February” or “I get three colds every winter” affect us as much as a positive belief like “My immune system is strong. I hardly ever get sick”.

Illnesses will never be completely extinguished, no matter how much scientific research we invest into finding cures because it is the natural way of our body to communicate with us. To be healthier, we need to listen to our mind speak through our body and respond to the messages. There is an amazing intelligence in this mind-body-system which has the purpose to keep us emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually well.

 

Are you curious to find out what your body is telling you through physical issues and how you can respond to those messages?

Book a session with

Angelika, 905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

You can buy Louise Hay’s book “Heal Your Body” from Amazon here.

Deb Shapiro’s book “Your Body Speaks Your Mind” is available from Amazon here.

Louise Bourbeau’s book “Your Body’s Telling You: Love Yourself” is available here.

If you are enjoying my articles, you can subscribe to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to enter your email address in the field on the left side of the bar. Thank you for your support!