11 May The body and mind are intertwined
In honour of mental health awareness week I want to write to you about the mind, and the body.
For years I ignored or suppressed feelings that arose in my body. I saw anxiety in my chest as a nuisance to be powered through, feelings of tiredness or awkwardness to be managed by an extra glass of wine, or aches and pains as something weird and unexplainable.
Fast forward several years and lots of reading, courses and self observation later, what I know now is that our physical wellbeing is dramatically impacted by what’s going on inside our brains.
When I was training for the marathon recently I experienced numerous aches and pains. The one that really stopped me in my tracks was an issue with my ‘IT band’ which caused a lot of pain in my right knee. When I went to the physio he explained that stress was partially to blame for the tightness in my leg. He put pressure on my adrenal glands (the glands that produce, amongst others, the hormones adrenaline and cortisol – the stress hormones!) which was excruciating. My body was tense and stressed and it ended up manifesting as pain in my knee.
And the cause for the stress and the tension..? My mind. My gremlins, my internal chatter.
Even though I practice numerous strategies to deal with said gremlins, they are powerful, and if I give them any sort of opening, they are in there, they take the wheel, and they are bad drivers.
So I have turned the volume up on my self-care strategies even further. I now practice yoga regularly, tapping into my breath and a sense of calmness as I move from posture to posture. I practice Tonglen, which is a form of breathing into negative feelings, and breathing out calm and peace. I am even more aware of my gremlins when they show up and I am using the blue sky metaphor as a way to tame them.
Our bodies give us signs about our mental wellbeing. Anxiety is the body’s way of saying ‘hey, you need to slow down, you need to connect with how you’re really feeling here in this moment, you need to process some emotion.’ Feeling awkward and tired is your body’s way of saying ‘now might be the time to go to bed, to chill out, not to stretch yourself thin to keep up with what you perceive is expected of you socially.’ And aches and pains, well, they could mean a whole host of things; over worked, not gremlin taming enough, stuck in a fear-based perspective about an issue, in the wrong job, living in a stressful environment, spending time with people that don’t serve you…
Self-care is about checking in with your body to learn about your mind. Your body knows. Listen to it, trust it, and take some action to support your mind-body system.
Happy mental health awareness week.
With love, Hannah
PS. If you’d like to learn more about your mental and emotional wellbeing check out our summer intensive coaching course, we still have two slots available. Click here to book in a complementary sample session to see if working together is something that you’d like to do.