“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” (Albert Einstein)
We now know that the mind, body, and soul are integrally connected, and when one aspect is out of balance, everything suffers. It’s no longer in doubt that both acute (short-lived) and chronic stress have profound affects on our physical state. While a moderate amount of stress can be beneficial and motivating, an excessive amount of stress, or stress that continues for a long period of time, can wear us down and decrease the capacity of our immune system to fight disease.
It’s similar to a three-legged stool – without one leg, the entire structure collapses. So, illness or injury, be it physical, emotional, or spiritual in nature, can actually be a valuable opportunity to reexamine one’s life, one’s priorities, and one’s world view, and perhaps make meaningful changes that can lead to a life that’s more fulfilling than before the illness or trauma occurred.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can be the result of a trauma. However, there are certain people who demonstrate Post-Traumatic Growth, or resilience. Life isn’t perfect, and challenges will arise. We aren’t in control of what happens to us, but we are in control of our response. The latter is where we can focus our attention and efforts.
Given the fast-paced, multi-tasking society in which we live, it’s no wonder that many people eventually reach their breaking point. A bout with the flu takes longer to recover from than it used to. Allergic symptoms such as watery eyes, sneezing, sinus congestion, and shortness of breath increase in severity. Digestive issues such as GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, and heartburn may emerge. Headaches may become more frequent.
Or a chronic condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis, or fibromyalgia may become worse. A habit such as emotional eating, alcohol intake, or smoking may get out of hand.
In addition, our moods can take a hit. Perhaps you’ve found yourself becoming more irritable and short-tempered. Sitting in traffic can put you over the edge. That cheerful coworker, who used to brighten your day, suddenly gets on your nerves.
Or perhaps you’ve gradually been losing energy. Getting up in the morning becomes a monumental ordeal. You drag through the day. And, the cruel irony that when you tumble into bed at night, exhausted, sleep is elusive.
In addition, your relationships with your family and friends aren’t as harmonious as they once were. You may even lack the desire to be around other people at all.
The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) explores the connection between emotions, the nervous system, and the immune system, with the goal of developing effective treatments to not only bolster resilience to physical disease, but also increase overall emotional and mental well-being.
You could think of PNI (and most people do) as the mind-body-soul connection. We want to have a healthy range of emotions that we manage effectively, mental clarity, and a healthy body. Most of us need a clear sense of purpose and a strong social support system to feel fulfilled and adequately motivated to take good care of ourselves. We need a reason to get up in the morning or to enjoy life, what the Japanese call ikigai.
My role is to help you:
- identify areas in your life that may be throwing your system off-balance
- weigh the pros and cons of continuing on your current path
- identify what changes you might consider making
- consider the benefits (and challenges) of making these changes
- work on your interpersonal communication skills
- get back in touch with your priorities/dreams/passions
- incorporate these passions back into your life
- develop self-compassion for yourself (i.e., you can be both kind and firm with yourself)
We don’t have to hit bottom physically, emotionally, or spiritually to recognize that it might be a good idea to take a closer look at our emotional milieu, lifestyle habits, personal relationships, communication patterns, or behaviors. However, even if we’re currently in a crisis situation, it’s possible with help to make significant changes that can benefit us (and those around us).