“It’s been really busy lately.” I’ve been hearing that a lot, and, truth be told, I’ve been feeling it myself! Busyness is a fact of life for many of us, and we spend our days rushing from one commitment to the next without a break in between. We may think we’re used to the pace, and not bothered by it. But when was the last time you stopped to check in with your body and see how it’s handling your routine? Busyness is notorious for distracting us from the wisdom of the mind-body connection. Ok, that might have come out of left field, but stick with me for a moment. Have you ever finished a super busy month, checked the last thing off your to-do list, and then gotten really sick? Or found that while you’re accomplishing everything at work, you have also developed a two Hershey bar a day habit and gained 5 pounds? That is your body trying to cope with stress. Unfortunately, it’s doing it without your mind on board.
The mind-body connection is a big topic these days, which is great because health care used to pretty much ignore it! This connection simply means that the physical body and mind communicate directly and influence one another. It also means that the body has a lot of wisdom to share about what’s going on in our minds, even unconsciously. For example, stress can lower the immune response making us more prone to colds or other illnesses. It can also cause an increase in appetite or craving for sweets, or create aches and pains that aren’t due to injuries. This is the body warning us of a stress overload. These signals can be easy to miss or blame on something else unless we actually take time out of our busy schedule to slow down and listen.
The mind-body connection is present in everyone, so you don’t have to learn anything new in order to use it to your benefit. The first step is developing awareness. Take small pauses throughout your day to take a few deep breaths. Notice the quality of your breath. Is it shallow or deep? Easeful or strained? Fast or slow? All of these are signs that point to the state of your body, and its current response to your circumstances. If your breath is showing strain, keep an eye on your thoughts. You may find worry or negative thinking that is starting to affect you physically. Take a few moments to breathe slowly into your abdomen, lengthening your exhale with each breath. This will bring you back to equilibrium. Then reframe your thoughts to address the state of your mind.
Try to pause and check how your body is feeling at different times during the day. Notice any physical sensations present when you are quiet and thinking, and if they change depending on the content of your thoughts, good or bad. Check in before going to sleep and upon waking in the morning to notice if your energy level matches the time of day. If not, examine your thoughts for worries or dread about your day that could be affecting you physically. All of this information should clue you in to any imbalances that may be present and allow you to make adjustments. It might mean adding in exercise, saying no to more activities, or going to bed earlier. Let your intuition guide you. When your body and mind are working in concert, you will know the right path to take. When things get busy, self-care is often the first thing to get shoved to the back burner, but that only slows us down in the long run. Take time to foster the mind-body connection, and let it guide your choices toward better overall health.