The mind/body connection –Why counseling is as important as seeing your doctor

When you are sick, you go to the doctor, possibly take a medication, and hopefully do your best to follow your doctor‘s orders. It’s the same with your mental health. When you are sad, anxious, or feeling like a change is needed, it is reflected in your actions. Both are very important to take care of, as this is the only mind and body you have.  The way your mind processes things may be either causing, or making a physical condition worse.

Stress is associated with many illnesses, which indicates a mind body connection.  A 2012 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 60 to 80 percent of illnesses reported to primary care physicians may have a stress component.  Some examples this study indicated of stress being connected to the mind body connection were:  stomach issues, muscle aches and pains, joint and back problems, increased blood pressure, stomach ulcers, increased heart rate, higher cholesterol, and increased risk of heart attack.  Also, mood problems such as anger, irritability, depression, panic, anxiety, headaches, low energy, lower bone density, and loss of libido.  Another connection is a reduced immune response—which makes all illnesses, including cancer, more likely.  If you are diagnosed with cancer, the book Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich might prove helpful, with her promotion of positive thinking.  

A personal example to share here is my aging mother.  She has incurred many different medical concerns.  This has shown me, very close to home, how I learned that elderly illnesses can be highly correlated with depression. 

To become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is to have good emotional health.  Your body responds to the way you think, feel, and then act. When you are anxious, stressed, or upset in some way, your body reacts in a way that might tell you that something isn’t right. To learn healthy ways to cope with stressors and problems in your life is to feel good about yourself, and to have healthy relationships.  It is more of how you can learn to change your reaction to an event, than to the event itself.  We all interpret situations differently.  How we interpret something is influenced by our past experiences, and our interpretation of them.  Do you handle stress in a way so it does not affect your physical health?  Here are some ways you can address situations as they arise for the benefit of--you.

Recognize what you can do.  To start improving your mental or emotional health, for the benefit of your physical health, try to become mindful of your reactions to things that happen, and understand why you do react that way.  Knowledge really can be power, and the beginning of being able to combat ailments before they happen.

Become comfortable with expressing your feelings.  If feelings of sadness, stress, or anxiety are causing you physical problems, not doing something about it can only worsen things for you.  It’s okay to let others know when something is going on for you.  Yet, realize that friends and family do not always know what to do to help you cope with things. Someone outside the situation that is trained to understand the relationship between feelings and your health can appropriately help. Your doctor, a counselor, or a spiritual advisor can help you go in the direction towards improving your emotional health and well being.

Is your life,”balanced”?  The power of positive thinking can only be helpful.  What are you grateful for?  When you can focus on the positive, problems at work or home may not feel so daunting.  This takes practice, but making your health a priority can be very beneficial. Check out some tips in my New Year’s Resolution blog here for some tips to help you get started.  What do you feel you could benefit from changing?  Also, here is a blog on overcoming your fears:

Are you resilient?  To be resilient is to be able to cope with stressors in healthy ways.  You can learn to become resilient if you do not feel you are.  You can look towards developing a healthy support network of people in your life.  You can work on not only positive thinking in general, but also on having a positive view of yourself.  You can work on acceptance of things you cannot change, and on putting things into perspective—when to know the difference between what you can change, and what you cannot.  In the same respect, being able to forgive is healthier for you than holding onto anger. This does not mean that you have to allow a person back into your life, but forgiving someone for your own benefit can greatly benefit your health.  What are you holding onto that no longer serves you?

What do you do to calm yourself?  A calm mind makes for a calm body.  I personally keep myself very regimented with listening to music that keeps me calm at the beginning of my day, and have learned the art of meditation through consistently practicing yoga.  But, you have to find what works for you.  There is also Tai Chi and guided meditations that help focus your thoughts.  Getting out in nature is also something that has been personally helpful.

What else can you do?  Being a former personal trainer, I know how cardiorespiratory exercise can strengthen your heart so it does not have to work as hard, and how endorphins are released in your body when you exercise. After about ten minutes of cardiorespiratory exercise, you can feel what is known as a, “runners high”, which can be correlated with a positive and energizing outlook on life.  The saying I created underneath my picture on the gym wall said, “Laughter is good for the abs!”  I believe laughter is good medicine, and always made a point to make my clients laugh!  Working out does not have to be so serious.  After all, here we are talking about feeling good for our health.  Always seek out the assistance of a doctor before you start any exercise program. Also, do you have a regular routine for healthy meals?  Please seek out the assistance of a nutritionist if you need advisement on healthy eating. Do you get enough sleep? Do you overindulge in food, alcohol, or drugs?—which can lead to bigger problems in long term.

Know when to seek out help.  Minimal stress can be a natural part of your life, but when it becomes overwhelming, or if your negative feelings are not going away, and are affecting your quality of life, please talk with your doctor.  You may benefit from the assistance of your doctor, a counselor, or both. 

You do not have to allow your emotions to get the best of you. Taking a first step of getting the help you need, and doing things to help yourself, could be the best decisions you’ve ever made.  Choose to get your body moving, get out in our beautiful Florida sunshine, and eat healthy foods. If you find yourself feeling down, anxious, stressed, or are not sure what you can do to improve the quality of your life, please reach out for therapy.  Your mind and your body are both important to take care of. 


 1.   Recognize what you can do.

2.   Become comfortable with expressing your feelings.

3.   Is your life balanced?

4.   Are you resilient?

5.   What do you do to calm yourself?

6.   What else can you do?

7.   Know when to seek out help.