Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

By Terry Richardson, MSW LCSW

Mental Health and Relationship Counselor

PinnacleCounselingNWA.com

Feel Better Live Better- Why does the Mind/Body connection really matter?

 

Worried about being worried sick? Is laughter really the best medicine? Your body may know you’re depressed before you do and doing its best to get your attention. There is growing evidence, supported by research, indicating your mental state really influences your body’s ability to protect and heal itself! In fact, your state of mind could be the best tool you have when defending yourself against illness and maximizing treatment of cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, diabetes and aging. All of your natural defenses are compromised in response to stress (primarily mental).

Most people have at least heard the term “psychosomatic” which quite literally means “mind/body”. Unfortunately, this term was and is commonly misused when someone is thought to have imagined an illness and can then produce symptoms. In confusion, we generally label and dismiss what could be more accurately described as “hypochondria” and have overlooked the power of the psychosomatic process itself. As Woody Allen said “I’m not a hypochondriac, I’m an alarmist”. Ironically, even this rather negative misunderstanding of psychosomatic also confirms the acceptance of the ability of one’s mind to influence a physical condition. Now, scientific research is validating that possibility: we could use the power of the mind (i.e., thinking) to create optimal conditions for becoming and remaining well.

What makes the mind/body perspective worth reconsidering at this juncture? It is the transition which has been occurring, from the realm of “fuzzy logic”, “magical beliefs” and “spiritual eccentricity”, to the realm of solid measurable data. Consider the placebo and nocebo effect. What are the “placebo effect” and the “nocebo effect”? In the simplest terms, it’s the “sugar pill” effect. It’s the uncanny result that is obtained from a substance, or sometimes a behavior, when none of the “treatment” properties are present to create the desired change, and yet, benefit is derived. The nocebo effect accounts for adopting the “belief” that a substance (or change) won’t work, and it doesn’t! The placebo/nocebo effects are so powerful in fact, that all research conducted must allow for the possibility of these effects in their research data. If science is nothing else, it is the domain of measurability, and its primary mantra is “if it cannot be measured, we cannot know it exists”, therefore, thoughts, emotions, feelings, mind and spirit had been relegated into the arena of unscientific observations. Today however, we live in a world of electron microscopes, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and the previously immeasurable can now be measured, observed and replicated.

Mind/Body interaction had been observed and documented by Hans Selye in his work on stress as early as 1946 and the “General Adaptation Syndrome” became popularly known as the Fight-Flight- Freeze response. Of special note regarding mind/body relevance, the stress experience creating the cascade of measurable physiological responses could be triggered consistently, regardless of the threat being real, imagined or perceived (through a mental interpretation) of danger. The body reacts to stimulus by activating the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers believe that prolonged exposure to stress (real or imagined) results in suppression of the immune system, wear and tear of several body systems, placing the individual at higher risk of dis-ease. This was the advent of the earliest biofeedback strategies.

Pioneers in the field of mind/body research have expanded on Selye’s work. Researchers and practitioners have emerged from a broad array of disciplines, including cellular biology, neuroimmunology, psychotherapy and spirituality, representing the specific focus of their disciplines, be it mind or body. The unifying premise of these disciplines is an acknowledgement of the fallacy or artificial separation of mind/body interaction.

These individuals have united under a variety of identifying umbrella labels usually incorporating the terms “Holistic or Wholistic”, “Mind/Body” or “Complementary Alternative” Medicine.

So, with an acceptance of the inter-relatedness of the mind/body concept and the availability of sophisticated equipment, it has become possible to identify and measure methods to enhance mind/body interaction. The implications for psychotherapy are obvious and substantiate the value of “talk therapy” as a viable treatment alternative for mental and physical health. The mind/body perspective includes approaches of prevention that are proactive, health maintaining, healing, and driven by the individual. Today, rather than viewing the dis-ease “treatment” as a response, directed toward a passive recipient, we can engage the whole person on a mind/body journey toward wellness. Be well!

Dealing with Change

Changes occur all day long.  An appointment gets cancelled, you encounter a detour on the way home, you were anticipating roast beef for dinner and you got chicken.  It’s what life is and while you might get a bit frustrated, you learn to roll with it.  But what about the big changes?  Job transfers, marriage, divorce, children, medical changes and the death of someone you love.  How do you learn to adapt with the changes that will affect the rest of your life?

Whether you’re leaving the community that you’ve built strong relations with or having to bury a loved one, you will feel anger because it wasn’t your choice for this to happen to you.  Healthy coping skills result in better emotional stability.  Poor coping skills result in anger and resentment.

First, it is helpful to recognize that you are in the midst of change and that change is part of you.  Instead of thinking about all the negative issues, try making a list of all the positive benefits of this change.  Visualize all the possibilities and write them down.  Make up a “to do” list if there are things you need to accomplish before the change happens.  Call a friend and discuss your fears and ask for their advice.  If you feel that you can’t get past your fear, anger and resentment you may need to talk to a professional.  In talking with a therapist you will get an unbiased opinion and they will be able to give you some insight and the coping tools so that you can move on and embrace your changes.

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” ~ Jim Rohn

Have the Courage to be Your True Self

“Loving ourselves through the process of owning our own story is the bravest thing we will ever do.”

-Brene Brown

Vulnerability is scary.  It is so often avoided.  It means to show the parts of ourselves that we are afraid aren’t “good enough”.  But you know what?  Everyone has the same fear of not being good enough.  When we are held hostage by that fear, we miss out on our true happiness.  You live a life that you think others want you to live.

No one is perfect.  Perfectionism is a cruel joke.  Perfectionism makes us wake up every day feeling like we failed yesterday.  There is no joy in that life.  Dare to practice loving yourself for who you really are.

For more on this, watch this clip of Dr. Brene Brown on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YeulUgWNp8

or the full  TED talk:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o

Rachael Nachtigal, LPC

Helpful tips for handling the holiday “blahs”

Are you noticing your body slowing down as the holidays approach? Are you unsure of how to cope with these feelings and symptoms? Make sure there is not a physical or medical explanation for your depression. If your body isn’t feeling “right”, talk to your doctor. Treat your body the way it deserves and needs to be treated by eating healthy, getting enough rest, and regularly exercising. Taking a few moments to focus on your breathing is an easy and effective way to help your mind and body to relax, and can be done anywhere. Pull yourself into the present and take in the gifts that are around you now. Notice the sunshine, a beautiful bird, a cloud, or another gift of nature. Listen to the music or sounds that you “connect” with. A walk or change of scenery can bring newness into your surroundings. If possible, do something nice for another person, even if it is only to smile or greet them. Sometimes the simple, small steps we take make can make a big difference.

 

Erika McCaghren

Anatomy of Grief

Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and it is forced to multiply its strength. ~~ Ovid

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  But what is happening inside the body after a significant loss?  Whether it is the loss of a job you loved, a home, a beloved pet, a good friend, a child, or your partner in life you will go through the grieving process and you will feel the changes in your body.

The grief process is similar to the aging process:

  • Slowing of the metabolism
  • Shrinking of tissues
  • More contraction, less flexibility
  • Less clarity and awareness
  • Less vitality and energy
  • More stiffness, weakness and atrophy
  • Less muscle tone
  • Less appetite, difficulty with digestion
  • Dull, confused and foggy thinking
  • Slower response time in any given situation, including physical healing
  • Less deep and full breathing
  • Slower blood circulation
  • Slower lymphatic circulation

Love really does hurt according to evidence from new brain scanning technologies.  Researchers have found that the same area of the brain processes both physical and emotional pain and like physical pain, emotional pain can become chronic and move into what is known as “complex grief” causing debilitating depression.  To combat the physical changes you need to get up and move!  Join a gym, try yoga, water aerobics, or take up golf.  You’re working your body and you’re being with other people, both of which you need at this time.

Humans are survivors and we’re social, so the single most important factor in healing is having the support of other people.  Even if you’re not comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you are grieving because sharing your loss makes the burden easier to carry.  There are bereavement support groups in your community that you can be part of.  Find the one that addresses your type of loss.  Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help.  Also, seeking professional counseling is a healthy choice.

Grief can be a roller coaster.  Your emotions can be up and down, a mix of good days and bad days.  Even in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness.  With complex grief and depression, on the other hand, the feeling of emptiness and despair are constant and you need to seek professional help.

Grieving is a necessary passage and a difficult transition to finally letting go of sorrow~~it is not a permanent rest stop.  ~~ Dodinsky

Did You Know…

Did you know…that there are more than one type of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? In fact, ADHD can be predominately hyper-active impulsive, predominantly inattentive, or a combination of both. Often times, when we think of individuals with ADHD, we assume they will be hyperactive, jumping from one activity to the next. Although this behavior is common for individuals with predominately hyper-active impulsive ADHD, others with predominantly inattentive ADHD may behave quite differently.

Predominantly inattentive ADHD manifests itself in an inability to sustain attention, excessive daydreaming, and making careless mistakes. This type of ADHD is typically underdiagnosed, and appears in girls more than boys. Little boys who talk excessively, constantly fidget, and often run or climb inappropriately, are more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis. Little girls who daydream frequently and get distracted easily tend to go under the radar.

ADHD can be very debilitating for a child who receives no assistance. If unidentified and untreated, it can have drastic effects on a child’s academic and interpersonal endeavors. Because predominantly inattentive ADHD is harder to spot, many women go their whole lives without ever being diagnosed. Untreated ADHD in women typically causes anxiety and depression, as well as difficulty in school and the workplace.

If you suspect that you or your child suffer from any type of ADHD, do not hesitate to consult a medical or mental health professional about getting assessed. Play therapy and behavioral therapy can go a long way in making family, school, and work life a more manageable and pleasant experience for individuals with ADHD. At Pinnacle Counseling, we have trained professionals who can administer the assessments you need in order to receive treatment. To learn more about how we could help you, please see additional information on our website about our counselors and the services they provide.

3 Common Mental Health Myths

Myth #1:  I am the only person having mental health or emotional problems.
Mental illness affects an average of about one in four adults in the United States(1), in total that means that about 57.7 million people in our country are affected by mental illness(2). Although you may feel like you are the only person you know struggling to cope with mental health issues of some kind, it is important to know that you are not alone.

Myth #2:  Addiction, substance abuse, and/or mental health issues are all my fault and make me a bad person.
There are multiple factors that affect the complex process of addiction, substance abuse, and mental health issues. Some of the factors include stress in your personal life, a diagnosed mental illness, lifestyle changes, difficulty in your family or relationships, or even habits of the individual. None of these factors are your fault or define you as a “good” or “bad” person.

Myth #3:  Mental illness or substance abuse only affects people of low socioeconomic status or people with a “bad childhood”.
Again, there are several factors that contribute to the cause of mental illness, but the childhood you had, job you have currently, or the money you make are not directly the cause of your mental health or substance abuse troubles. Mental illness does not discriminate and is not exclusive to any stereotypical group of people.

Erika McCaghren

 

Sources:
(1) Kessler, R.C., Chiu, W.T., Demler, O. & Walters, E.E. (June 2005). Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of twelve-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), pgs. 617-627.
(2) U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates by Demographic Characteristics. (June 2005). Table 2: “Annual Estimates of the Population by Selected Age Groups and Sex for the United States”: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2004 (NC-EST2004-02)

April is Counseling Awareness Month

April is Counseling Awareness Month! Although many people know generally what counselors do, this is a time for counselors everywhere to stand together to promote the use of counseling services. We do this by reaching out to clients, readers, social media outlets, and through simple word of mouth that “We are here”. Pinnacle Counseling stands in full support of Counseling Awareness Month by showing people that we care and are here to support you. Knowing that there is a group of professionals near you, ready and willing to listen and help you through a particularly hard time or everyday struggles of life is a valuable tool. In any given situation, no matter the cause, difficulty, or time you have been dealing with the issue—we are here. Simply remember…Keep Calm and Call a Counselor!

 

Erika McCaghren

 

Sources: American Counseling Association

 

 

3 Common Therapy Myths

Myth #1:  Counselors only want to give me medication.
Due to state and federal guidelines, counselors are not able to write prescriptions for medication. Counselors operate as a profession by using a variety of techniques within the client-counselor relationship to promote and explore personal growth and development with the client.

Myth #2:  If I attend therapy, everyone will know about my problems.
The relationship between the client and the counselor is protected by legal confidentiality. Counselors seek to provide an environment of safety and calm to work through even the toughest of personal issues. At Pinnacle Counseling, we go above and beyond o ensure that our clients’ information, treatment, and medical records are kept completely private and handled with the utmost discretion.

Myth #3:  The cost of therapy is too high. I would never be able to afford it.
While the cost of therapy and treatment is an expense in itself, there are tools that you can use when deciding how to pay for the cost of your treatment. One option is insurance, depending on your insurance company and the type of coverage offered for mental health treatment. Another option could be a plan that you work out with your counselor for self-payment of therapy costs. It is vital that the lines of communication between the client and the counselor always be open and honest when discussing treatment and the same is true for therapy costs.

Whatever your concerns are, at Pinnacle Counseling we are ready to listen and help you take that first step in the process of recovery or a healthier lifestyle.

 

Erika McCaghren