THE phrase ‘mind-body connection’ is something you may well have come across more and more recently, so I thought it would be a good idea to explain it to you this week.

Have you ever felt a knot in your stomach before a big presentation or a racing heart when you’re nervous? Or have you noticed a headache or body tension after a particularly stressful day? These are examples of how emotions and physical symptoms are closely intertwined.

Emotions are a natural and essential part of our human experience, but sometimes they can be overwhelming or hard to manage. They can also affect our physical health, with studies showing that chronic stress and negative emotions can increase the risk of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and chronic pain.

The mind-body connection is a complex relationship, but here are a few ways that emotions and physical symptoms are connected:

* Fight or Flight Response: When you experience a perceived threat or stressor, your body activates the fight or flight response. This is a natural survival mechanism that prepares your body to either fight the danger or run away from it. The fight or flight response triggers a cascade of physiological changes in your body, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. These physical changes are designed to help you deal with the immediate threat, but they can also lead to chronic stress and physical health problems if activated too often.

* Emotions and Pain: Emotions can also affect the way we experience physical pain. For example, anxiety and stress can make pain feel more intense or difficult to manage. On the other hand, positive emotions like joy and love can have pain-relieving effects, thanks to the release of endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in the brain.

* Gut-Brain Axis: Did you know that your gut and brain are connected by a complex network of nerves, hormones, and neurotransmitters? This is known as the gut-brain axis, and it means that your emotions can affect your digestive system and vice versa. That’s why you might experience stomach aches or digestive issues during times of stress or anxiety. It is also why hypnotherapy can be incredibly beneficial for people troubled with IBS.

* Stress : When we are under stress, our bodies release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones help us to cope with stress in the short term, but they can have negative effects on the immune system over time.

Cortisol can suppress the production of white blood cells, which are essential for fighting off infection. It can also reduce the activity of natural killer cells, which are specialised immune cells that destroy infected cells and cancer cells.

Adrenaline can divert resources away from the immune system towards other bodily functions that are needed to cope with stress, such as increased heart rate and breathing.

Chronic stress can also lead to inflammation, which is a natural immune response that helps to fight off infection and heal injuries. However, chronic inflammation can damage healthy tissues and organs, and it can also suppress the immune system.

As a result of these effects on the immune system, people who are under chronic stress are more likely to get sick and to take longer to recover from illness. They are also more likely to develop chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders.

* Emotional Suppression: It’s also worth noting that suppressing or ignoring your emotions can have negative consequences for your physical health. When you try to push away or avoid difficult emotions, it can lead to increased tension and stress in your body, which can contribute to physical symptoms like headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue. By taking care of your emotional well-being, you can also improve your physical health and overall quality of life.

As a final thought this week, remember, your mind cannot always tell the difference between imagination and reality. This is why you may jump out of your seat when watching a scary film, even though logically, you know you are perfectly safe.

The part of your mind that is designed to protect you cannot differentiate between real and imagined threats. So, it stands to sense that the more you imagine something which is stressful, such as an upcoming event that you are dreading, the more your body will react in the same way as if the threat was real, which as you can see above, is not good for us.

Please remember if you or someone you care about is in a mental health crisis, go to your GP, Visit A&E or call the Samaritans on 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258

* Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities and an Instructor Member of MHFA England. Email him at