Why Mind Body Connection is Key to Managing Stress

Why They're More United Than You Think

Mind body connection has been the subject of philosophical and scientific debate as far back in human history as you care to look. 

You might think of it as a ‘New Age’ topic of interest, especially if you throw the concept of 'spirit' into the mix. But that invisible connection between thinking, feeling and acting is more than crystals and wishful thinking. These elements of our existence are a lot more united than you think (or feel) and here’s why. 

The Science Behind a Connected Mind and Body 

A little over 15 years ago in the United Kingdom, the Whitehall studies were published. Scientists deep dived into the connection between low-level workers experiencing high stress levels, and the effect that had on developing Metabolic Syndrome. This condition is often the precursor to heart disease or diabetes. 

The study revealed that those working in these situations were almost twice as likely to develop this syndrome. And they were more likely to die prematurely than their colleagues who worked at a higher level. You might ask how stress was defined. It’s a good point, and in this case meant having little control over their jobs or work goals.

But you can see the application right? For many of us, that feeling of having no control or self-autonomy is one we know well. Perhaps through a stressful job, a personal relationship or in some of the circumstances life throws at us. When we find ourselves spiralling into feeling out of control, it’s natural our stress levels rise.  

And stress has a profound effect on our physical health. 

How Stress Affects the Mind and Body

Let's take a quick detour to look at the impact of stress on the human body from another point of view.

At Sensate we've taken a long, hard look at stress from a medical and holistic viewpoint. We're particularly interested in how stress symptoms affect your Autonomic Nervous System. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is a part of your body that controls those functions you don't need to think about. That includes breathing, your heart rate, digestion and so on.

It's made up of two elements, the sympathetic (SNS) and the parasympathetic (PNS) functions. In short, the SNS is like your body's go button. If you're facing a sudden threat or in danger, you can rely on it to trigger your adrenaline. It will give you the option of fight-flight-freeze until you're out of danger. Once the threat has gone, your PNS function kicks in restoring your body to calm and restoring balance.

Stress in The Modern World

But here's the problem. In our modern world those threats we talked about aren't fleeting. You're not facing danger of extinction from a tiger or from consistent difficulty in finding food. The threats come at you every day from low level anxiety about work. You worry about your health, your children, or the state of the world. That constant murmuring of worry puts your body at the ready. Your SNS function is on almost all the time, and your body is under a constant state of tension.

Your PNS function doesn't have a chance to get to work and the symptoms of stress and anxiety keep compounding.

And, it works the other way. A body under physical duress has a significant impact on the mind. A vast number of people with a long-term chronic health condition also suffer significant bouts of depression and with symptoms of anxiety. The issue comes full cycle with the fact that depression often leads to a worsening severity of the physical symptoms. 

Proof, if proof is needed, of how inextricable the mind body connection is. 

Now What? 

With this knowledge it’s possible to treat mind body wellness in a whole different light. Traditional medicine, for the most part, has the body covered. There are therapies for those suffering a wide range of mental health issues, but seeing the two as connected and treating both? That’s where the smart approach lies.

And that's where we can look at some traditional methods as well as more modern treatments. It's absolutely right to talk to a medical professional to get help if you have trouble sleeping. But what if there was more you could do to help yourself?

Circle back for a moment to when we talked about the SNS function of the ANS on permanent standby. I mentioned how the PNS is needed to bring your body back to a state of calm.

There are several ways you can help your body do this. What we're going to look at is the vagus nerve. This nerve runs from the brain stem down through the body. It carries information to most of the major organs and is part of the PNS function. Tone this nerve and you tone your body's ability to kick-start the PNS when needed.

It makes a remarkable difference to your overall feelings of calm and sense of peace. And this has a knock-on effect to your physical health.

Toning the Vagus Nerve

When it comes to toning this nerve the practice of meditation is a perfect bridge to better mind body connection. Meditation tones the nerve, triggers the PNS and reduces stress throughout the body. It takes time and practise but is always worthwhile. That feeling of mind and body wellness is worth the effort and the hours you'll put in.

I'm glad to say you can also use our Sensate device to achieve this sense of peace. However you go about it, please remember your mind and body are part of the same ecosystem. Looking after the one has a direct result on looking after the other. It's a beautiful relationship and one that deserves nurturing.

I hope this article has helped.

 

Stefan Chmilek

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