Did you know that your mind has the power to influence some of your body’s physical responses? You have some voluntary or partially voluntary (such as breathing or blinking), but other responses (like beating your heart and blood pressure) are considered involuntary. The mind-body connection, however, can influence some of those processes. What does it mean for you? You might be able to achieve quicker healing after surgeries and treatments, and you might also be able to boost your overall health! Keep reading to learn more about the mind-body connection and why it is so important.
Benefits of Mind-Body Connection Exercises
Think about how you feel when you are under a lot of stress. Your heart might beat faster. You might feel a bit out of breath. You might hyperventilate, leading you to feel like you are not getting enough air. You might feel dizzy or sick to your stomach. Your blood pressure rises, and you might get a headache or hear your heart beating in your ears. When these symptoms of stress are short-term, you might feel yucky, but it is not harmful. When they are long-term, they can lead to health issues, including (but not limited to):
- Chronic pain
- Chronic headaches
- Dental problems (from clenching your jaw)
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
However, understanding the mind-body connection and taking advantage of it can help reduce your anxiety and stress levels. People who have harnessed the power of the mind-body connection often need less medication for pain after surgery. They might have shorter hospital stays, and they can even heal more quickly. Because this connection can boost your immune system, you might also be less likely to get sick after surgery or hospitalization. These can lead to a longer life and a higher quality life where you feel good most days.
Relaxation & Guided Imagery
Being able to relax your body through meditation, guided imagery, and other relaxation techniques can go a long way toward relieving pain, lowering your blood pressure, and making you feel better. There are many ways you can do this. If you are a newcomer just starting, listening to a recording of someone walking you through these exercises can help. If your anxiety is sky-high and you don’t have a way to listen to a guided imagery recording, you can try grounding. Rather than focusing on your pain or stress, instead:
- Focus on identifying five things you can see around you. Look at those five things and think of adjectives to describe them.
- Next, close your eyes and identify four sounds you can hear. Focus on those four sounds, one at a time.
- The next step is to find three things that you can physically feel. You might feel the chair under you and the air from a fan blowing on you, for example.
- The next sense to focus on is the smell. Can you pick out two scents?
- Finally, look for something you can taste. Taste the cold air or your warm mug of tea.
Working through this process with the above steps can be done anywhere and can relieve stress symptoms quickly. Meditation is a way that many people use to center themselves and relax. You can meditate by merely focusing on a word or sound. When other thoughts come into your mind, they will acknowledge them and gently redirect your thoughts back to your chosen term. You can also use online recordings to help you keep your thoughts focused if you have trouble on your own. Aim for one or two minutes at a time in the beginning.
Spiritual Practices & Techniques
Many people find comfort in various types of prayer or spiritual practices. Those who believe in the power of prayer might discover that they have less pain and quicker healing after surgeries. If you are a religious member, talking to your spiritual leader about your concerns before and after your procedure can help. Having a congregation praying or lighting candles for you can also help. In many hospitals, chaplains and other religious representatives from different belief systems visit with patients and pray. Ask about this when you schedule your procedure.
Different Types of Therapy
When planning for an upcoming surgical procedure, counseling can help you manage stress and anxiety. Therapy can include meeting with a counselor one-on-one, but it can also have group therapy, music therapy, art therapy, and even animal therapy. There are many options available, and all of them can reduce your pain and speed your healing by lowering your anxiety and promoting relaxation. Physical therapies, such as massage or reiki, can also help.
Depending on your health condition and the type of procedure you are having done, massage might or might not be safe for you. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor and let your massage therapist know about any restrictions. Even having a facial or getting your hair done can help you relax and tap into the mind-body connection if you are anxious or tense. The mind-body connection is strong and can differentiate between a long, drawn-out recovery process and a shorter and less painful one.
Even though you will still have pain after your surgery, knowing how to manage your stress surrounding the pain can help you cope with it better. It can also help you to remain optimistic and to push on despite any obstacles that come up with your healing or with the process of regaining your physical strength. Talk to your healthcare providers about managing your stress and anxiety and using various mind-based therapies to control your pain.