The mind-body connection is very real. We are only beginning to understand how our emotions, stress levels and mental attitude impact our gut microbiome, hormonal balance – and vice versa.
I experience this to a higher than average degree – most illness in my case is caused by stress of one kind or another.
I wanted to share some strategies for treatment when you can’t find a viral, bacterial or toxic cause for your illness and think it may have mental/emotional/spiritual roots instead.
The idea is to create an environment where you can observe how your thoughts may impact or even create physical symptoms such as pain.
Obviously step one is to create a peaceful space. Carve out an hour by yourself somewhere you can relax. No devices or media except music if desired. You must turn off the TV, put away the laptop and mute phone notifications.
Choose elements that appeal to you from the list below. Go with your gut when choosing. In all cases choose things that are natural and nontoxic.
- Sit looking out at your favorite view
- Use a meditation light app
- Gaze at flickering flames – like a candle or fire
- Soothing music
- Meditation sound or white noise app
- If outdoors, meditate on the sounds of nature that you’re hearing
- Aromatherapy – use good essential oils or natural candles
- Massage with natural blends
- Nature smells great! Go for a walk at the beach or in a field, burn a fire
- Smell and taste can be combined by simmering some broth or mulled cider
- Wear comfortable clothes
- Massage, either self or with a partner
- Take a bath – this can combine with smell
- Heat – sunlight, a heating pad, sauna etc
- You don’t want to be chewing but you could have something like…
- Tea or juice
- Mints or candied ginger
What happens now?
Illness is upsetting. We want to feel better. So we start questioning, worrying, feeling fear or anger.
What if I can’t get Sam to soccer tomorrow. What if this is chronic. What if I have cancer.
These thoughts can spiral out of control pretty fast, and we often don’t even notice. Our inner narrative is aggravating how we feel.
So you get quiet and comfortable. Not to worry about the symptoms, but to calm the mind. Surround yourself with comforting sensations, a bubble of ahh.
Now that you are in your bubble, close your eyes. Breathing calmly, direct your attention to your symptom, or one of them.
Just look at it or consider it. Watch the thoughts and emotions that come to mind.
You will very likely judge whatever comes up. We experience psychosomatic illness because we’re ignoring our feelings or thoughts, so they manifest themselves physically to force you to listen to yourself.
So whatever comes up will probably seem stupid or irrelevant. You may be considering back pain and think, I am so tired. Or, you may feel resentment toward your husband.
Look at that.
Notice how the thought or emotion makes your physical discomfort better or worse.
Let yourself have the thought process, feel the feeling. Let out that weariness or resentment. This isn’t being “self-indulgent,” it’s being honest.
This is the equivalent of re-opening a wound that has started to close but become infected.
If you start to feel worse, just refocus on the comforting sensory things around you. Reflect on the smell, the sensation. Let it go. When you’re settled again just gently return to the pain and the emotion.
Don’t judge. Don’t censor. Don’t question. Just use the comforting bubble to hold you while you look this in the face.
Over time, things will start to shift. You’ll cry. You’ll make a decision. You’ll start stretching or moving your body. You’ll start taking to yourself. You’ll start praying.
You may not even be able to articulate what changed, because you may be processing unconsciously, but something will shift.
And when it does you will wish you had been kinder to yourself and done this before.