The mind and body are always talking to each other, because the connections are built right into us. We find the connection between the mind and body in direct links between the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves that extend from the spinal cord outward) and other systems of the body:
- The cardiovascular system
- The digestive system
- The immune system
- The respiratory system
- The endocrine system
- The musculoskeletal system
There’s very good reason for this.
Picture yourself as one of your long, long ago ancestors. You’re moseying along on a lovely sunny day looking for something to eat. Suddenly, something else sees you and thinks “lunch”.
You need to get away, and fast. How is your body able to fight him off or get away? The good old fight or flight response activates – the brain says “DANGER” and starts a series of events, mobilizing the body parts that need oxygen and nutrients most in an emergency.
Your brain is the commander, and the body obeys.
- Blood is directed away from your hands and feet to the large muscles, which contract to exert force.
- Your pupils dilate to let in more light.
- Your breathing becomes rapid.
- Your blood pressure and heart rate increase.
- Your hands become sweaty for better grip.
In a perfect world, once the threat has passed, the brain recognizes this and stops sending the emergency signal out. This allows things to return to normal and the physical repair process to begin.
We don’t live in a perfect world, though. Not only might we encounter genuine physical threats, but we are bombarded with social and environmental situations the brain perceives as threats too. Way back when we had to fight others for food, interactions with other people could mean danger is coming.
Under prolonged stress, the body doesn’t get a break, and provides feedback to the brain that things aren’t ok. The stress signal gets caught in a loop between the mind and body, and without a concentrated effort to interrupt it, systems of the body begin to break down and illness develops.
In modern times socially stressful encounters don’t often result in a physical altercation, but the brain can’t tell the difference. This is particularly important if you are living with an autoimmune disease like Sjogren’s Syndrome. That stress can bring on a flare.
How to Reduce Your Stress Level
For relaxation techniques for beginners, read this post right here.
To learn the basics of mindfulness meditation, this is the article for you!