Stresses going on in our mind often come out in our body. More and more health care professionals are recognizing how connected our body and mind really are. In many cases in order to address any illness, whether it is mental or physical, the whole person needs to be assessed and treated. When it comes to mental health, whether it be a clinical disorder or an accumulation of stresses, our body often gives us clues that we need to slow down and take care of ourselves before our mind recognizes we have pushed too far. Sometimes we are aware of these clues and sometimes they completely go over our head. So how do we start paying attention to what our body is telling us?
Finding your baseline is a starting point for listening to your body. Pay attention to your body, its movements and functions so you are clear on what is normal for you. For example, some people are naturally really stiff and inflexible so tight muscles may not be an indicator that they are carrying stresses. The more in tune you are with what is normal for you, the more likely you are to realize when your body is doing something different.
Love him or hate him, Dr. Phil stands by the idea that “the best predictor of future behavior is past relevant behavior.” While this idea might not hold true for all situations, I think it definitely fits here. If you went through a bout of clinical depression, or were struggling with a lot of stresses, take some time to look at how you were feeling and what was going on with your body before you hit the tough times. You might notice that there were changes in your digestion or bodily functions, maybe you had lost some weight because you had lost your appetite, or maybe you were eating everything in sight or maybe you had headaches due to muscle tightness. Any change that differs from your normal is a clue that your body is trying to tell you something.
While being in tune with our body doesn’t necessarily prevent us from experiencing a mental health issue, it may help us address and treat it sooner. It can also help us cope and manage with both everyday stresses and out of the ordinary stresses in a healthier manner. As a life-long nail biter (gross, I know) when my nails are looking particularly rough, that is my cue to pay attention to my stress levels and find alternative outlets to lower them. So I would encourage you to tune in and pay attention to what your body has to say, I’m sure your mind will thank you.