A mind body approach to your health
Inflammation, your digestive track and your nervous system provides many answers to modern day illnesses.
My research interest in the root cause of Chronic Illness, formally began 16 years ago, with my doctoral theses on Chronic Illness. Read more on CFS
My interest in this area arose from my own diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome twenty years ago.
Twenty years ago, as a patient myself, I knew that focusing on the symptoms was not going to help.
Recovery is based in understanding the root cause, not treating the symptoms.
When I started my own research, looking for answers in terms of how my nervous system worked, was not so popular!
Now fast forward to the present day, and the emergence of Functional Medicine, Behavioural Medicine, and of course, Health Psychology has brought, the search for the root cause of disease into the limelight.
Autoimmune diseases share an important characteristic: Inflammation relating to problems associated with how your immune system is working for you.
Where does the inflammation come from?
Stress is the enemy of your immune system. Chronic Stress suppresses your immune system, which leads to cells not being able to cope, and results in too much inflammation.
Your body’s stress response involves practically all of your body; your digestive system, your nervous system, immune system, your heart and your lungs.
Just think of the last time you got a fright. Your breathing changed and your heart pounded. Stress changes your body.
If you experience stress long term, it puts too much strain on your body, and how it works for you. It makes sense then, you start by fixing the stress.
The problem is not with stress in your daily life, as it will always be there, the problem lies with how you manage your daily life.
How you live your life every day either helps your immune system protect you, or hinders how your immune system works
Ongoing stress can be quite subtle, staying in a difficult relationship, living with illness, having a difficult time at work.
What about diet, vitamins and minerals to support my immune system?
In understanding the root cause, vitamins,minerals, and life style choices all play an important role, but in my approach there was a fundamental problem with this. As human beings we find it difficult to change!
Think about this, we all know that we need to drink more water, but most of us don’t do it. It’s not a hard thing to do, in theory, it requires pouring water into a glass and lifting it to our mouths, easy!
Not really, as most of us can’t manage that! In order to make changes, you need to know how to get a new pattern into your brain! You need to understand the habitual processes that work in your mind.
This was a perfect area for me as a psychologist to work with, as personally speaking, it helped me to make my own changes to take charge of my own health. I focused my attention on habits.
Practically everything you do each day, is down to the working of automatic processes in your brain – habits.
Going to work is an automatic habit, you don’t need reminding not to appear in the office in your pyjamas, you get dressed.
Your diet is a habit – think how hard it is to go against habits, if you want to drink more water, or cut out sugar!
Changes in lifestyle, to be managed successfully require more than willpower alone, these changes require an understanding of how your brain works.
Taking charge of your own health
Personally speaking, adopting a mind body approach means looking at the impact of your brain in terms of
your lifestyle choices
managing stress – how you habitually react to day to day events
lowering stress levels
and working with acceptance
You get into difficulty (and increase stress) when you want things to be different from what they actually are. Maybe you don’t accept that you have an illness.
It doesn’t sit comfortably with most people when I talk about acceptance, but bear with me.
Some things we cannot change. And we have two choices.
Let me give you an example. I will sound like a walking health disaster 🙂 I have an eye disease, in both eyes, which could cause blindness. I have two choices.
1. Worry about it every day – I could live the rest of my life with perfect eyesight, but that won’t matter, as each day will be destroyed with fear, resentment and worry that I could go blind.
2. Accept it and carry on with my life. Of course I take care of it, and meet with my opthamologist, but then I let it go. It does not define my every waking moment.
I choose option 2!
If you are interested in working with me, you are welcome to make an appointment to see me in Dublin, but I recommend starting with my self help course; Your mind is your most powerful drug.