We love our minds and the development thereof. Our jobs require less hard labour and has mostly become office bound. We are expected to use our minds intelligently to get the job done. This often leads us to neglect our bodies and emotions. We forget that our emotions are also housed in our brains. And that our brain and body are connected. We can only function optimally if all aspects of ourselves are in equilibrium. Therefore we need to start listening to the messages that our emotions send us through our bodies.
Our emotions are housed in our reptilian and mammalian brain. When we have an emotion a chemical is released in order to give our body a message whether it be hunger, pain, fear. This message is vital in our bodies’ ability to act. When our predecessors were staring into the eyes of a dangerous predator, they would feel fear. “Fear” releases the chemical substance called norepinephrine or adrenaline which aids the body in preparation of running away. This emotion assured our survival because without the emotion of fear our forefathers would have been unable to move and would have become lunch. As soon as the action has occurred, and you have indeed run away, there is a catharsis meaning the emotion is released and the chemical is used up.
Our emotions are healthy signals that give off a chemical flow of energy that make us able to function. Our emotions are normal and our bodies’ response to our emotions are normal.
That is how we were designed. But we are not in the wild any more. Today we deal with different stressors where it is not necessary for us to fight or run.
As we have evolutionized we gained a newer brain, namely the neocortex that allows us to judge the situation for itself. Now you can look at your boss and see that yes, she might be scary but she is probably not going to eat you alive and there is no reason to run away screaming. So you do nothing. However, while you are standing in front of your still ranting boss, your brain experiences fear and stress on the level of “this is going to kill me”. And seeing as you did not run away or act, there was no release for your emotions.
Often we are not even aware of the emotions we are experiencing and keep on going as if nothing had happened. Then it tends to go and sit somewhere in our subconscious keeping us rolling around in our sleep at night.
You might forget about the incident, but your body doesn’t and this emotion becomes part of your cellular memory. And sometimes, in particularly stressful unprocessed situations, can then show up as symptoms in your body.
Do you remember the time after completing a really hectic deadline when you got sick with flu and were in bed for more than a week? Do you always get a throbbing headache after certain meetings with certain colleagues? Or since you’ve been starting to see a specific girl, you are constantly suffering from stomach cramps? This is our bodies’ magnificent way to heal itself and release the emotions in order to return back to homeostasis.
It is its way to tell us: “Wow! Something is up! Listen here and pay attention!” It is important not to ignore these signals but to listen to them.
Understand that it is not about becoming a hypochondriac believing that every small symptom is a sign of an incurable disease having you anxiously scanning through health websites every second of the day. No. It is about tuning into your body, being aware, being connected. Eating and sleeping when you need to. It is like asking for the weather forecast now and then, and checking in with what you need.
How many times have you kept on working while you were sick or ignored a physical message? Try paying attention:
- Pore yourself a bath. Start from your toes and work your way up to your forehead. Notice any sensations in your body without judgement. Just notice.
- Nurture your body by applying some cream, doing regular exercise, eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Spoil yourself!
- Never ever, no matter how busy, ignore symptoms for long periods of time
[Main image credit: Royalty free stock photos 123RF/Andrew Norris]