I completely believe processing emotions can improve physical health. In our culture, we tend to view physical ailments as problems to be solved with medication. It’s becoming more popular to look at diet, but even then we’re not always getting to the root cause. I recently read an article about how diet can affect migraines, but only when somebody is under stress. Meaning that certain foods are more likely to cause a migraine when someone is stressed, but if you remove the stress, they can eat anything and not get a migraine.
I’ve always suspected that I’m particularly sensitive to emotions affecting me physically. Everyone seems to have a certain physical weakness, a way that your body tells you it’s not happy. It could be digestive, psoriasis, migraines/headaches, acne, too much/too little appetite, being susceptible to the flu, etc. For me, it’s my stomach. If I’m too lost in my thoughts or ignoring my emotions and instincts, my stomach will find a way to tell me. I can even give you a personal example that drives this point home.
While feeling depressed a few years ago, I decided to go on a high fiber diet. I read that research had shown this was very effective for controlling acid reflux, and mine had become really bad at that point (consequently, I’ve also read research that shows a high fiber diet makes it worse, so go figure!). I decided it was time to get really serious and eliminate all foods that are known to cause acid reflux, increase high fiber foods, and start keeping a food diary.
Well that didn’t work.
My acid reflux was *still* bad and there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to which foods were causing it. Everything seemed to be causing it. Even the foods that weren’t supposed to. And then I started to lose weight too, due to the strict diet and avoiding as many foods as I could that I believed were causing my symptoms. And for me, losing weight was not a good thing, since I am already thin to begin with.
And then my cousin invited me to come visit him in Florida. I really needed a vacation, but panicked at the thought of having to explain and deal with my limited food options.
Well, when I got off the plane and took in the warm spring air, blue sky, palm trees, and ocean coast line, it was immediately healing to my soul. All the symptoms I had been trying to control with my strict diet melted away. I was a little nervous about the first meal we had together at a place where the main breakfast options were the typical scrambled eggs, bacon-styled meals, but I went ahead and ordered things I normally wouldn’t eat anyway. And guess what? No acid reflux!
I felt relaxed, happy, rejuvenated, and started to wonder if my feelings had been the cause of my physical symptoms.
Now I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter what you eat, because I believe that it’s really important to eat healthy and nurture yourself with as much raw, organic, high nutrient foods as possible. But I do believe that our emotional state could be the base level for what causes physical discomfort in some cases. After all, all physical symptoms are exacerbated by stress.
Ever since I started exploring my emotional terrain and how it relates to my physical state, I have found many methods for resolving this. Not all of them work every time. I don’t believe in a cookie cutter approach. Processing emotions requires being dynamic and creative. It’s about getting fully present and reaching into your tool kit to pull out what’s going to work best for you in a unique situation.
Here are three that I have found worked best most consistently:
1) Stop What You’re Doing
I have had the most success with resolving emotions that affect me physically, when I am willing to stop whatever I am doing immediately and figure things out. This is definitely easier said than done. Sometimes it seems easier to just push through whatever you’re doing and ignore the physical symptoms. Especially if you’re working and you have a million things to do! Or maybe you already made a decision, but you keep doubting it. It seems easier to stick with a decision you already made, based on what you feel you should be doing with no further exploration necessary.
But what really works to resolve physical symptoms is stopping to pay attention to yourself. Your body is trying to tell you something, and you’re not listening if you’re keeping busy or obsessing about your symptoms rather than the underlying cause.
Stop whatever you’re doing, and decide that getting in touch with yourself is a priority. Ask yourself what emotion you’re feeling, and allow yourself to really feel it. Often there’s an emotion that you’re blocking out or stuffing down if you’re feeling physical discomfort.
Sometimes it’s the feeling of conflict. Maybe you made a decision based on logic or shoulds and you really feel like you’d rather be doing something different, but you can’t explain why. Maybe you’re resisting your current circumstances.
Stopping whatever you’re doing and focusing on you, is your way of telling your body that you are taking the message seriously. Sometimes that’s enough. Or you may need to journal and really dig at what’s going on inside. It doesn’t always happen quickly. Sometimes it takes ten minutes of writing before I can really feel whatever emotion I was avoiding. Or sometimes it can resolve quickly just by thinking of or hearing a song that strikes a chord and brings an emotion out.
Big Tip: If you’re having trouble bringing out the root emotion behind your physical symptom or sensation, try to visualize what the physical symptom/sensation looks like by imagining it’s shape and color. Then imagine that you’ve pushed it outside your body, and explore the first emotion that comes up for you.
2) Come Into Alignment
I have a theory based on my experiences that some physical illnesses and ailments come about as a result of being out of alignment with your higher self. What I mean by higher self is being aligned with your highest truth, believing in yourself, trusting your emotions and instincts, and being authentic. A lot of my physical symptoms tend to come up when I’m feeling doubt about my capabilities, disconnected from my emotions, and not trusting my instincts.
Sometimes all it takes is remembering what my purpose is here on this planet, believing in myself, and being grateful for my teachers or anything that empowers me. When I feel that I am in a state of flow and feel confident about myself, I feel healthy and have little to no physical symptoms. Studies show that flow is a state people go into when they are working on something they really enjoy and understand as second nature. There is less activity in the frontal lobes (area of the brain the judges , plans, worries, etc.), and a feeling of relaxation and joy.
It also helps to shift your story. We all have a story about who we are, why we are the way that we are, how we’ve been wronged, etc. I know I feel better physically when I tell myself that I am sacred, that I have a divine purpose, and that I have amazing people in my life who are there to support me. I believe each of us can find this story to be true for ourselves. Choosing to dwell on the story of being a victim who has been disappointed tends to bring about more physical discomfort.
Each time you feel physical discomfort, consider asking yourself this question:
In which way am I out of alignment with myself and my truth right now? How can I come back to my truth?
It is a normal reaction to stop breathing when we feel tense or any form of pain, whether it’s physical or emotional. What we’re really doing is resisting an unpleasant experience, which actually makes it worse. The tension itself feels worse, and then the fact that the feeling is trying to come up through the physical, since it isn’t being directly experienced emotionally, makes it worse.
If you’re feeling anything unpleasant physically, notice your breathing. Are you breathing fully and deeply? It can be scary to if you’re really trying to stuff down and avoid a feeling. And if you do start breathing and feeling, it can be overwhelming, like riding a roller coaster. Just keep breathing.
If you do take the risk and breathe as deeply as you can, the feeling of being completely in the moment , of being fully alive and present actually feels better. It feels immediate and raw. You find that you really do have control and can feel and process emotions as they come up, so they don’t have to linger around and cause physical symptoms.
But life gets messy when you do this. It does require stopping what you’re doing and taking time for yourself. And that might mean other important things take a back seat. Or that you might need to make a decision that is the opposite of your shoulds, and maybe that’s a little scary. It might mean making decisions that other people don’t like or feel uncomfortable with. It might mean slowing down if you’re experiencing a lot of stress. But when you can actually *feel* physical sensations change as emotions come up, the direct correlation is surprising and amazing.
Would you like to find out the best way you (and only you) can create a targeted plan to manifest your dream and remove emotional blockages that are getting in the way?
Call me for a private coaching session to find out the easiest way to get clear and take your life to the next level.
Call 610-420-3040 or email me at Christina@CoachingWithChristina.com