As 2020 seems to worsen with many of the problems that the world is contending with, there is one issue that we tend to overlook. Mental health has been on the decline for the past few years, and this year could yield the worst impact yet on the general population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken quite a toll on all of us. Not only do we live in fear of an invisible enemy in the form of the virus, but we’re also forced to isolate ourselves from others. Gone are the days when we could freely show expressions of love and affection to our peers and partner(s), or the nights of merry-making and fraternizing with those closest to us.
The state of the world has caused some of the worst social upheaval in over a decade, and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive end in sight, even when Russia claims to have been able to develop a vaccine for the disease.
But, this article is not meant to dampen your spirits.
Rather, this article is meant to show you how to strengthen your resolve so that you may overcome this ordeal and resist falling into an emotional state that is devoid of hope for a better future. Humans, as a species, are able to withstand so much more than what we think we’re capable of. You’d be amazed at the way that the body is actually built to survive. We seem fragile, but it’s only because we perceive ourselves that way. This is why it’s important to understand the “mind-body connection” so that you can harness the full potential of your body and mind.
What Exactly Is the Mind-Body Connection?
According to researchers, the mind-body connection refers to how the body reacts to stressful events. When an event triggers stress, the stress prompts the body to react in a manner that drastically helps to increase the probability of survival. Some examples of these responses include an increase in blood pressure, accelerated heart rate, faster breathing, and increased blood flow to the muscles. A more well-known response is when the body releases adrenaline, which not only heightens our senses and reflexes, but it may even temporarily negate pain.
How Is The Mind-Body Connection Relevant to Mental Health?
While it’s true that we are all suffering from the effects of the global pandemic, we suffer in different manners because our bodies respond differently to stress. This variance in effect can be attributed to many things such as environment, educational level, individual traits, or training.
The last item is particularly important. A prime example of how training can affect your ability to handle stress is demonstrated by how soldiers are better able to remain calm during stressful events. The same also applies to emergency responders and medical professionals. Their training allows them to handle stressful situations properly, which, in turn, allows them to make quick decisions that would normally cause untrained people to freeze.
Can I Train Myself to Handle Stress?
Exercise is one of the most basic forms of training that you can undertake in order to cope with stress. Not only do you enjoy the benefits of endorphins through exercise, but your body also becomes stronger and more capable, which means that it won’t need to immediately switch to a heightened mode in a stressful situation.
Take fighters, for example, whose bodies are tuned to handle a fight. When a fight breaks out in a bar, a trained fighter is more likely to show better restraint and decision-making than those whose bodies are not accustomed to these scenarios.
Yogis are particularly adept at handling stressful situations because they are able to control the way their body responds. The calmness of the mind, their control in breathing, and the ability to maintain focus helps their bodies to relax and maintain a state of clarity.
How Exactly Can I Achieve This?
A change to your mind-body connection is not going to come to fruition overnight, but rather through a consistent effort of making changes to your habits. Some of these small changes include:
A healthy diet – A well-nourished body is less likely to enter into a “survival mode”. Food goes a long way in helping (or harming) your body, your brain, and by extension, your mental health. Make sure to consume a diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fish, as these contain the nutrients that are essential in maintaining your body’s equilibrium. It also helps your body repair itself and grow.
Exercise – Physical training shouldn’t be just a hobby, but rather a lifestyle. Whether you engage in a TRX workout program, martial arts, or something with low-intensity such as yoga, exercise helps improve your mood, digestion, and sleep, no matter your age. Just make sure to adjust your workouts to suit your age.
A good night’s sleep – Getting quality sleep is not only essential for the repair and growth of your body, but it also helps restore energy at a cellular level. Take note that a lot of sleep doesn’t always translate into good sleep. Oversleeping is just as bad as a lack of sleep. Aim to get at least 4 to 6 hours of quality sleep every day.
Nurture your relationships
Another way to improve your ability to respond to stressful situations is to nurture your relationships with the people who matter to you. This doesn’t just mean seeking a support system, but also providing support. People who stay connected to friends and family are generally less likely to suffer from illness and tend to recover quicker versus those who remain isolated.
Your mental health is important, especially during a crisis. Remember that you are not a slave to your mind or emotions. You have the ability to change the way your body reacts to certain stimuli. Take control of your body so that you can take control of your mind. Remember that a healthy mind can produce a healthy body, and vice-versa. May you find the peace you need, and may this information serve as a gentle reminder as to why yoga instructors are essential in a world harmed by crisis.