Mind, Body and Soul

Mind, Body and Soul
Mind, Body and Soul
Dr Yinka Ajayi-Obe discusses paths to wellbeing

Doctors from a bio-scientific Western medical background are familiar with the concept that the mind can influence the body and vice versa. We often think of our minds and bodies as two separate things. In fact, they work together and affect each other. Research shows that there is two-way communication between our brains and bodies. This happens because signals travel down the nerves from the brain to the body ... and back again from the body to the brain. Natural chemicals, called 'hormones', circulate in the bloodstream. Some are produced by the brain and affect the body …and some are made in the body and affect the brain and the way we feel. 

Every day, thoughts, feelings and stresses play a part in making changes in our bodies - for example: When we feel embarrassed, we blush feeling worried or frightened can cause an uncomfortable feeling of "butterflies in the stomach" when we get upset we feel our throat tighten – “a lump in the throat”. 

We also know that the way we think and feel can make us physically ill. For example: feeling low or stressed makes any pain we have feel worse, long-term stress can make us more likely to have high blood pressure or a heart attack. 

In contemporary society one of the most common ways in which the state of our mind affects our physical health is through stress. And while dealing with stress can sometimes seem like an insurmountable task, there are some fairly simple steps we can take to address it. 

Recognising that you are stressed is the first step. You may be able to make adjustments to your life or do other things to control your feelings of stress. Talk to friends or family about how you are feeling. This can be very helpful, although it can be difficult to do. 

You may find that stress affects how you get on with other people, so it's important for your family and friends to know what you are going through. They may also be able to make allowances for you or give you help and support. Break down big tasks or problems into smaller parts that are easier to deal with. This can really reduce your sense of being overwhelmed by a situation. You can: make lists of problems and what you need to do about each one; make a timetable to deal with demanding work or personal commitments; set yourself a number of small goals that you can reach, one by one. 

Look after your physical health. It's easy to forget to do this when you feel stressed. Simple things like making time to eat regular meals helps avoid low sugar levels caused by skipping meals which can affect how you feel mentally as well as physically.