The trick to having a mind body connection in therapy is understanding that our mental thoughts and physical feelings are intertwined. Our emotional thoughts and emotional stressors can create an imbalance within our physical body. When we start to pay attention to what our body does when we are stressed or anxious, we can work to create a balance between the mind and body and increase our physical and mental health.
When experiencing a physical reaction to stressors, or ongoing physical ailments, it is important to look inward. Could the physical concern be connected to an emotional upset? The physical response to situations comes from the autonomic nervous system which is then broken down into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. To not get too deep into the science lesson, the sympathetic is the activation and the parasympathetic is the rest system (Soule et al., 2022). When we are in a constant state of stress, let’s say during a global pandemic, the sympathetic nervous system goes into work mode, and the longer it is going the more physical responses you will experience. For people who experience ongoing anxiety, panic attacks, nervousness, insomnia, inability to relax, not able to sit still, poor digestion, high blood pressure or cholesterol, you might have a sympathetic nervous system that is dominating over the parasympathetic. Your emotional responses, and physiological reactions, are your body’s way of telling you that it needs a break too!
How do we give our sympathetic nervous system a break? There are many ways. Therapy is a great start. Talking about what we are thinking or feeling either emotionally or physically is a great way to begin to understand your experience. While we are working on the mind and mind/body understanding, it is important to also get to know your body a bit better. Meditation is a great way to connect the body and the mind. Meditation is often misunderstood with the expectation to clear your mind completely, but it’s about being able to accept the thoughts and feelings, set them aside and just allow yourself to be in the moment. A few more tools close to the concept of meditation would be guided imagery or visualization. All of these therapeutic concepts would be worked on with your licensed therapist who can assist you in connecting the emotional responses to the physical concerns. Finally, yoga and deep breathing are wonderful tools for allowing your mind and body to come together in harmony.