Ever tried watching a video of a roller coaster from the front seat? Even though you’re watching remotely, your stomach “drops” as if you were actually there. In other words, a physical reaction is elicited just from the power of your mind focusing on a video.
This is a perfect example of the mind-body connection. Scientific research has shown that your mind and your emotions can affect your physical health. Conversely, a healthy body also leads to a better mood.
With cold and flu season upon us, we can use the body-mind connection to help avoid catching colds. While no one knows for sure why cold and flu season almost always arrives around this time of the year, one theory is that holiday stress and year-end deadlines leave us with weakened immune systems in January. By nurturing your body and your mind, you can stay healthy while everyone else is sick. Here are three things you can start doing to strengthen your body and your mind right now:
Get back on track.
If you’ve been putting off a doctor or dental visit, now is the time to make the appointment. If you’ve been eating a little too much junk food and have been skimping on sleep, do yourself a favor and make some changes.
De-stress with movement.
Whether you run, lift weights, or enjoy a dance class, exercise is the ultimate de-stressor. (Stress weakens your immune system, so it’s important to let it go.) As a former yoga teacher, I find yoga to be one of the best ways to work with the body-mind connection. Yoga teaches you to observe your body and notice how you feel, which facilitates good self-care. Good self-care reduces stress, boosting your immunity and therefore helping your body fight colds.
If you find yourself coming down with a cold or flu, resist the impulse to “power through.” Listen to your body. Consider taking a sick day to rest and recuperate if that’s what your body needs. A more moderate, even preventive choice would be to book a massage or other treatment that makes your body feel calm and nurtured.
Address your emotions.
It can be tempting to hole up at home and away from the cold in the winter. But lounging on the couch in sweatpants all day can also be a symptom of depression. If you notice you’re feeling low-energy, challenge yourself to pull out a journal during your time on the sofa. Write down the things that are stressing you out, and then jot down a self-care plan to give yourself some support. For example, if you write down that applying to grad school feels overwhelming, you might think of a self-care plan that involves breaking the process down into smaller parts. If you feel stuck, show the list to a counselor or trusted friend and ask for support. Problems usually feel smaller once we put them into perspective by making a plan or asking for guidance.
Indulge in simple pleasures.
Simple things that give you pleasure, like taking a brisk walk or setting aside time for reading, contribute to how your overall well-being. Prioritize your own needs and give yourself these little gifts daily.
Invest in yourself.
Most people know deep down whether they need to push themselves to become more active or give themselves permission to take a much-needed physical and mental break. If you’re not sure, consider asking your physician, a mental health counselor, a nutritionist, or other health or wellness professional — they are all connected, so start wherever feels best to you!
If you know you’d like some support but are hesitant because of the investment of time, money, or effort, consider that when you are healthy and balanced, you are more energized and actually better able to manage things like time and money. Investing in yourself is truly the most sound investment you can make.