Pt 3 Emotional Cause and Effects in the Body

August 29th, 2016

 


 

 

“Get off the Medical System and onto the Self Care System”

― Nina Leavins

 

 

 

In this third instalment in this short series we will look at specific areas of the body and physical health and how they are targeted by emotional states. We cannot separate our life from ourselves. We cannot address our health issues with the attitude of “My problem is here, my life is over there. They have nothing to do with each other. Just fix the symptom.”

 

This just leads us to the bathroom flooding scenario from part one. Such a view creates a confusing, scary, random world where we are ‘attacked’ by disease and are powerless to do anything about it. Such fear sabotages our will and free choice and places us at the mercy of miracle solutions and strong interventions. In case you haven’t noticed, these ‘solutions’ can leave us in worse shape than the original problem.

 

Illness_WellnessContinuum

 

So, maybe it’s time to look a little further up the cause-effect chain. Let us start with some common situation

 

Stress, survival and the adrenal glands

 

Our adrenal glands function as a kind of emergency power supply to help us respond quickly to acute situations of danger or challenge. They govern our fight/flight reflex. This is very useful when we are being chased by a lion, trying to stay alive without food or water, or performing under pressure.

 

Where those responses are counter productive is when the stress or pressure is less well defined and immediately solvable. Stress hormones also become counter-productive the longer we call upon them. That kind of rocket fuel burns too hot to be used all the time.

 

Unfortunately our reptile brain cannot easily differentiate between being chased by a lion or trying to ‘keep the wolf from the door’ –  making economic ends meet for example. Job stress, making deadlines, paying back bank loans, being able to afford things we (at least think) we need and so on create the same injection of stress hormones as a more tangible threats to our survival.

 

Other factors like lack of sleep, not following our heart and living the life that is more true to ourselves, stressing the body with the chronic intake of poisonous foods, drugs, alcohol and medicines all play their part in breaking down our body, mind and spirit.

 

What effect do stress hormones have on the body?

 

adrenalStressors2

 

The primary stress hormones are cortisol and adrenaline. While they give us the necessary ‘get up and go’ in the short term, over time they age us. In the body this means the heart muscle in particular. Stress hormone fuelled panic attacks may only simulate a heart attack but over time they may lead to very real heart problems.

 

If that was not bad enough, chronic stress marinates our brain and central nervous system in stress hormones making it difficult to concentrate and retain information. Premature ageing and some dementia states can have their origins in years of unrelieved stress.

 

What can we do to change chronic stress states?

 

First and foremost, we need to identify two main areas:

 

  1. What our primary external stress triggers are
  2. How we create unnecessary stress through our attitude

 

The external stress part will probably be easier to spot. We need to understand what is most important to us. Sometimes we can be so caught in vague, distant goals that we fail to realise the toll it is taking from us today. It can be a regrettable mistake to put off health and happiness today in the hope of some distant reward later.

 

 

The more hidden aspect is our attitude to the ups and downs of life. It is quite possible that our attitude to something is creating more stress for us than the thing itself. This brings to mind a case many years ago of a client I was treating with severe migraines. Frankly, our sessions together didn’t appear to yield any immediate results. When I met her months later on the street she reported being symptom free. Her cure? She had simply changed her attitude to her problems.

 

Water cures for stress

 

The single biggest recommendation I give clients who have suffered the physical effects of long term stress is to reacquaint themselves with the water element. Baths, showers, jacuzzis, wet and dry saunas, salt and still water swimming and so on renew and invigorate our body. If natural salt water is not available try putting mineral salts in your bathwater and soaking for a while.

 

Cold Water Bath

 

The Water element of traditional Chinese medicine represents regeneration and renewal. The healing waters of life remind us of our time in the mineral-rich seas of the womb and engender a calming, restful state. Where possible, go for swim, wash off the day or soak for a while to ‘reset the files’ and create a separation between one part of our life and another. That way, the chances of our stress triggers infecting other parts of our life are minimised.

 

Changing the centre

 

Stress hormones create quite toxic byproducts that the body has to remove. We can help the process along and give ourselves a break from stress at the same time by shifting out of our emotions into another centre of being.

 

Employing our motor centre in physical movement like yoga, tai chi, running, walking or working out increase the free flow of energy through our body, flushes out toxins and generates endorphins.

 

Once we are calmed through physical exercise we will find it easier to calm the mind as well. This is an ideal time for meditation and relaxation techniques like working with the breath and visualisation.

 

Social contact and stress

 

 

We are a flock animal. We need the company of others to help confirm and define our existence. We do need to find a balance however. A common recurring theme for those suffering from stress is isolation. It can mean one of two extremes:

 

  1. No time for themselves so they end up ignoring inner signals
  2. Too much time alone so they lose their sense of group support and feel the weight of the world on their shoulders alone

 

Both of these are self-explanatory. I will only add that where we feel separated from our Self, whether it be in a crowd or all alone, it triggers our stress/survival reflexes and begins the dysfunctional patterns we have just observed.

 

Sadness, separation and cardio-vascular system

 

Speaking of separation, there are specific parts of the physical body that can be negatively affected by these states in addition to the stress triggers covered already. The lungs and heart in particular are targeted according to traditional Chinese medicine.

dragging heart

It is not uncommon for those suffering a separation like, abandonment, divorce or death of a loved one to experience complications of a temporarily depressed immune system. Anything from influenza, asthma or even pulmonary cancers can be the fruit from seeds of sadness, abandonment, isolation and separation planted long before.

 

The heart too, as the emotional centre of the body can be affected. The phrase ‘dying from a broken heart’ is not just poetic. In some cases it can be literal. Witness the death of a husband or wife shortly after their spouse’s passing.

 

Our heart centre is our compass for meaning and purpose in our lives. If that is affected we can lose our way and give up. Where the mind goes the body will eventually follow. So be careful with phrases like “I want to die.”, “What’s the point of living?”, “Nothing matters anyway” and the like. We might just have our wish granted by a heart sympathetic to our plight.

 

Health tips for the heart and lungs

 

They don’t call breathing in ‘inspiration’ for nothing. It literally means ‘To be filled with the spirit’. Shallow breathing, poor posture, lack of exercise and chronic, low oxygen levels contribute to a lowered spirit, negativity, pessimism and depression. Go visit a lung ward in a hospital and see for yourself. So, first and foremost: Get out and use those lungs in the fresh air.

 

Proper use of the lungs increases our metabolic rate to remove toxins that develop from sedentary living. Increased oxygenation to our cells increases positivity. By getting out and about we reconnect with nature which is healing in itself. After all, where do you think all that oxygen comes from?

 

 

 

Other ways to positively benefit the lungs:

 

  • Breathing exercises like the pranayama breathing techniques of yoga
  • Singing, particularly in groups like a choir where the joyful, social aspect takes us out of our self-imposed shell and reconnects us with our fellow human beings.
  • Group training. Don’t just read a book on exercise and try to follow it at home. Get out and experience a shared environment. The effect is usually stronger too.
  • Cry, laugh, scream, shout and generally show some emotion. We are not machines. We need the to experience and express the full colours of our emotional life.

 

 

 

 

Psycho-physical connections

 

Next week we further explore the specific, holistic relationships between the mind and body and what we can do about it. The more we understand how we work the more we can take back power over our own life and health. We do not need to go cap in hand, confused and scared in search of a miracle cure outside of ourselves.

 

 

Till another Monday gives us strength to face the challenges of the week…

 

 


 

© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com

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