These days, there are so many alerts and cues letting us know when something is wrong. Cars alert us when maintenance is needed, the electric company lets us know when our bill is due, and cell phones alert us when the battery is running low.
But what about our bodies, what cues are they sending us? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all came with a panel like our cars, letting us know that something wasn’t functioning right or disconnected? Unfortunately we don’t, which means we have to pay close attention for the cues that the mind and body send us. The good news is that these disconnections are not permanent. Reconnection is possible.
Who experiences mind body disconnection? Disconnection is tied to the fight, flight or freeze response, which is how we respond to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. Disconnection is a flight response so as to avoid feeling threatened or unsafe. Meaning, anyone who experiences something that triggers the fight, flight, or freeze response is susceptible – which is everyone.
Signs of Disconnection
- Inability to identify interests or strengths
- Poor hygiene
- Body dysmorphia
- Lack of self-care
- Excessive drinking
- Feelings of sadness, anger, despair
- Desire to sleep more
12 Ways to Support Mind and Body Connection
- Take time to identify your values – What do you value? I can say that most of us do not ask ourselves this question enough. It is so important to know what your values are in order to understand the need for reconnection. Our values can shift and/or change—making it that much more important to check-in and ask ourselves this question periodically. Here is a great tool to help you identify your values!
- Restorative/Gentle Yoga – I know that some of you may groan, thinking “yoga is not my thing.” But remember, there are many different types of yoga. In a restorative or gentle yoga class, you will typically find slower transitions, attention to breath work and checking in with your body, and additional care given to new students. Reasons Eating Disorder Center offers this practice as a part of the treatment experience for their patients in an effort to develop a new relationship with their bodies, and reconnect body and mind in the service of healing.
- Limit your use of technology – Yup I know, this sounds impossible. But being distracted by social media, texts and emails derails your ability to connect with yourself If you are constantly connected to your phone and/or other devices, studies have shown that our self-worth and self-esteem can take a hit. Getting a “like” has been shown to have addictive effects in the brain similar to those found in substance abuse. Set limits for yourself. Be willing to take regular breaks as an experiment.
- Make time for friends and family – Disconnection can result in disconnecting from your support system. Make an effort to spend some time with your friends and family. By reconnecting with these positive relationships, you are creating opportunities for self-reconnection.
- Experience something new – By introducing yourself to something new, such as visiting a new park or trail close to you, attending an art or music festival you’ve never explored, or volunteering at an event or fundraiser, you may begin to awaken creativity, joy and a desire for self-reconnection!
- Do something that at one time brought you joy – It is totally possible that this might still bring you joy! With the disconnection of mind and body, you may have lost the desire to partake in this activity, and forgotten how much you truly enjoy it. Look at old photos to spark memories of fun experiences and commit to return to those places.
- Prioritize self-care – I know it is hard, but you must prioritize this. Take care of yourself by setting boundaries, taking breaks and going out there and trying the examples that I have given you! If you find yourself struggling to use the magical word, “no,” ask yourself: am I speaking to myself about setting limits the way I would speak to speak to someone I love? If not, what would it be like to give yourself permission to try it – at least once in the next week?
- Get some sleep – Sleep is so important for reconnection. If you are sleep deprived, it’s going to be hard to find the energy for connection. Create a bedtime routine for yourself, which includes a set time that you go to bed. Take an inventory of your behaviors the hour before you head to bed. If there are any electronics involved, unplug. Studies have shown that exposure to blue light (found in nearly all electronics and standard lighting) is over-stimulating and disrupts restorative sleep. And say no to caffeine in any form after lunchtime. Creating a routine will help you to create a healthy sleep schedule – one your body and mind will thank you for!
- Try meditation – Okay, so meditation is not easy, but it’s worth a shot. And not just one shot, it takes practice. Set aside a few minutes every day to practice your meditation. Choose to start simple and focus your attention on one thing for as long as you can (smell, sound, focal point, etc.). When you get distracted, take a breath; acknowledge that this is the brain simply doing what it does. And go back to your focus. Starting off with restorative/gentle yoga may help you with this!
- Clean up, declutter and get organized – Having a clean and decluttered living space can help to create a calm and cozy place for your mind and body to reside, just what you need while they get reacquainted. Take time to organize your space to help decrease unnecessary stressors, i.e., losing your keys and looking for the scissors. Also, consider creating a self-care section in your home that you can fill with a few simple “tools” that help you focus in on your environment in a positive way. Things like a candle, soft blanket, and pillow are reminders that you don’t have to earn the right to a sacred space.
- Take up journaling – Putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper is a great way to clear your head, express yourself and begin to process what is going on in that beautiful mind of yours. There are a number of apps available to help prompt you to do this – even if just for a few minutes each day. Keeping a journal or even a stack of post-its next to your bed that you can use to jot down thoughts and feelings at the beginning and/or end of your day can help clear your mind.
- Seek help – Even with all of the above, a professional can help you to not only navigate reconnecting your mind and body, but also help you to identify the triggers that may have caused you to disconnect, and how to cope with them to avoid disconnection in the future.
When is the right time to reconnect? There is no time like the present, even if you are not experiencing signs of disconnection the ideas above can also help to strengthen your existing mind and body connection. Take care of your SELF!