Getting sick: Is it all in your mind? Part 1
We all know someone, or you might be that person that gets sick any time there is any kind of bug going around or at the first hint of allergy season we are sneezing and stuffy. These are natural processes that happen in life and there’s nothing we can do about it right? What if I told you there are things we can do to activate our autonomic nervous system to fight off even the flu before it takes a hold on us. I know what you’re thinking. Here he goes with this woo woo shit with no scientific evidence behind it. Keep reading and you might be surprised as to what you think we are capable of and what we are actually capable of.
Everyone knows that we have 5 senses right? Wrong. We have 8 senses. Sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste are the classics and then we have 3 more that no one is telling us about. The other 3 are intuitive senses that we don’t necessarily think about.
First, we have we have the vestibular system which is our 6 sense. This is the one that lets you see dead people. Just kidding. This is the system that recognizes whether the body is standing still, moving or balanced. Based on this feedback the brain, the lizard brain to be specific, arouses us (not sexually, get your mind out of the gutter) as it relates to fight or flight. Are we safe?
Then we have proprioception which is the body’s ability to sense itself in space and time without having to look or think about it. Think about driving. We are steering and pressing pedals, indicating etc. without having to look at our hands and feet.
Last, but not least we have interoception. This is the one that senses what physiological condition the body is in. Are we thirsty, hungry, tired, heart racing, need to use the bathroom etc.
All of these senses, over time, have evolved to keep us as safe as possible. The part that causes sickness is the fact that our body doesn’t know the difference between perceived stress and real stress. Stress accounts for 90% of all doctors’ visits.
What is stress?
Stress can be physical stress, emotional stress or psychological stress. Then we have subcategories of these stress of acute (quick, blunt trauma) and chronic (over time).
Physical stress can be caused by a car accident which would be acute to daily consumption of caffeine, alcohol or other chemicals, lack of sleep which would be chronic. It essentially activates a fight or flight response from the same parts of the brain and the same glands responsible for those hormones.
Emotional stress is caused by how we perceive our circumstances. Whether we are projecting into the future about how we are going to pay the bills or deal with this relationship or preparing for retirement. Psychological stress can also be caused by looking at the past and feeling guilt about what we have done or dwelling on the what ifs. Considering our emotions are brought about by our mental attachment to a certain situation we will combine the two. Emotional stress is caused by anger, anxiety, shame, fear, perfectionism and every other “negative” emotion.
At the end of the day there is not a whole lot we can do about acute stress like traumas and surgeries etc. but we certainly have control of chronic stress on the mind and body. For me, it is all about perception of each of life situations and circumstances. A massive part of that is about awareness and acceptance.
When we think without being aware of our thoughts, our ego is in charge. When the ego is in charge, we always end up suffering physically, emotionally or psychologically. When we are aware of our thoughts we are aware of our personality characteristics and habits that cause us all these issues. If we are aware of them, we immediately give them less power, taking back control of the level of perceived stress because we start to understand that these habitual stresses are an illusion. It simply a matter of letting go.
How do we eliminate chronic stress?
Keep an eye out for part 2 tomorrow........