Could your physical problems be cured by improving your mental health?
In the UK, most of our healthcare professionals focus on treating physical symptoms of illness with medication or surgery. While this can work perfectly, it doesn't give much space to the notion that our physical health and our emotional and mental health being interrelated. For example, have you ever had a nervous tummy, a stress headache or shakes of anxiety?
We spoke to Nicky Clinch, a macrobiotic counsellor and transformational life coach, to understand this connection better, and discuss how tackling emotional and mental health issues can solve physical problems.
Hi Nicky! I want to start by talking about your thoughts on the connection between bodily ailments and the mind.
"Well, in Eastern medicine, everything is connected and everything affects everything else. Our emotions (both unresolved ones from the past and ones from the present) have just as much an impact on our physical health as our lifestyle, diet and the environment that we live in."
Does this mean that our feelings can actually cause us to make certain decisions?
"Yes, and it goes even deeper than this. Often our emotional stories from the past have a big impact on the lifestyle choices we end up making and the dietary choices and the cravings we have, which can all contribute to eventual physical health issues."
How might this connection affect the way we treat physical problems?
"Within Eastern practices, the symptoms are simply a sign of the inner imbalance within the body. To really heal, we need to find out what is at the root of the imbalance rather than just dealing with the symptoms."
That makes sense, but I feel like we are often led to look for health fixes in the UK.
"Yes. I see a lot of women who suffer from IBS, and they’ve often already had multiple rounds of appointments with doctors and nutritionists who focus solely on dietary changes. They get put on very restrictive diets that are very hard to stick to for the rest of their lives, but only the symptom is being dealt with – not the root cause."
That's a story I've heard many times before! So, what's the alternative to this life of restriction?
"In macrobiotics, I look at how a woman with IBS processes emotion in her body. Is she carrying a lot of internal stress, fear or anxiety? This could be causing her to contract the stomach and abdomen, which could lead to physical symptoms. I’d also look at her cravings, which could also have an impact on her digestive system."
If you find that there is a connection there, that emotional issues may be causing physical issues, what then? Do you still ask her to change what she eats?
"Changing the diet is just the surface level change. If we can help the woman heal from her held emotions, teach her how to process them in a more healthy, nourishing way, all while making dietary changes, we will begin to heal her relationship with her own body from the inside out."
What are the long-term effects of this more rounded approach to treating physical problems?
"I believe there is a difference between curing a symptom and really healing an imbalance. Healing gives the opportunity for transformation to occur, causing positive changes on all levels and eventually stopping imbalances.
"From my experience, real transformation happens in the body. We can all change our beliefs and thoughts in our mind, but past trauma, sense memory and emotional memory is held and carried in the body."
Disclaimer: Of course, there are some cases where physical health problems are purely that, and are not tied up with mental health issues. Because of this, we advise you to seek professional medical advice if you are experiencing any sort of health difficulty.
Can you relate to this at all? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section or via @YayEveryDay_