The Mind-Body Connection: the effect of stress on our bodies

by Sue Kira, Naturopath, Gold Coast, Australia

Stress appears to be part of our normal lives, but does it have to be this way? What is stressful to one person can often have no affect on another. Stress occurs as a result of the way we think and react to life.

If we change the way we respond to stress then it doesn’t have to affect us harmfully. And that has to be good for us because science is now validating what we have intuitively known for years: stress can have a destructive effect on our bodies.

For example, you have probably been told not to go swimming directly after eating. This is not an old wives’ tale. It has more to do with a scientific reason that relates to our nervous and vascular systems.

The body’s parasympathetic nervous system governs the digestive systems. When we eat a meal our nervous system shunts a large volume of blood via the vascular system to the organs of digestion, assimilation and elimination. If we go for a swim or run while digesting food, there is less blood supply available for the heart, lungs, arm and leg muscles. As a result we can suffer from cramps. Not so good if we are in the water, as this can lead to drowning.

A similar thing happens in reverse if we eat when we are stressed. In a state of stress, the nervous system automatically shunts a large volume of blood via the vascular system to the heart, lungs and limbs as a protective measure. This is known as the ‘flight or fight’ response, to help us to escape danger. As a result, blood vessels in other parts of the body are constricted and blood flow reduced. Not only is the digestive system affected, other problems may occur such as high blood pressure and migraine headaches because the blood vessels to the brain are constricted.

Do you see the mind body connection?

As a holistic practitioner I often help clients realise that there is more to their state of health than the obvious virus, deficiency, parasite, fungus etc. Sometimes it is necessary to dig deeper to show them what message their body is trying to convey.

Because it appears we lack a clear form of communication between the mind and the body, the body has to give us signals to help us work out what to do. It’s a bit like playing charades or looking at the symbology of dreams.

Many of us are aware that stress lowers our immune defences and know that if we are run down and stressed, that is when we are more prone to getting sick. But many still have very little understanding of the ‘why’ behind it all.

There is the scientific view that explains how there is a change of chemicals and hormones in our body stimulated by stressful situations. However, this doesn’t account for how we can get different disorders in different people, even though their stress factors may appear to be the same.

The answer is related to energy and the quality of our energy is affected by how we feel. I’ll explain…

Everything on this earth whether dead or alive, metal, wood or flesh is made up of trillions of vibrating atoms. Prior to working in naturopathy I worked in science labs using electron microscopes that could magnify thousands of times and go deeper and deeper into an object. It became clear to me that eventually you get to only vibrating atoms and empty spaces between atoms.

The rate at which atoms vibrate determines what an object actually is. Similarly, every organ and body part vibrates at different frequencies. This is the basis for energy medicine, which aims to restore harmony to the vibrations of the atoms that make up our body.

The thoughts we have can change the pattern of the vibration of our atoms. Consequently the way we react to stress in our life, whether emotional or physical, can have an impact on our health.

Many technological devices around us have the potential to affect us. It is easy to blame technology for our ailments, but the way we let emotions affect us has much more impact on our health than all of these devices.

We also blame our genes (genetics) but science has also shown through ‘epigenetics’ that we can ‘switch off’ or ‘switch on’ gene expressions depending on our emotional environment and how we look after ourselves. Identical twin studies have shown that if one twin is stressed more than the other, then the stressed twin has more health problems than the less stressed twin.

So we can change our vibrations quite easily by the way we think, feel and deal with life. Taking time to stop and be still and learning to breathe gently through our nose is something that can help us, along with eating wholesome fresh unprocessed foods, drinking clean fresh water, breathing clean air, doing regular gentle exercise and truly nurturing ourselves.

However, it is very important to consider how our emotional life is affecting us.

Have you ever seen someone turn ‘white as a sheet’ or ‘as red as a beetroot’? This is a direct result of the responsiveness of our internal system to various emotions. These emotions affect our cardiovascular system and can affect blood flow to different organs and can disrupt the harmony of the mind-body connection.

If ‘trapped’ emotions within our body are not released, the effect over time will invariably show up in our health. Consider how long you can endure a stressful situation before it starts to affect your body. Buried past experiences and hurts can be trapped in the body and sometimes we need the help of an experienced practitioner to resolve these, to help bring them to our awareness and release them.

My preferred and recommended form of energy healing is the esoteric healing modalities taught by Serge Benhayon of Universal Medicine, of which I am a perpetual student.


358 thoughts on “The Mind-Body Connection: the effect of stress on our bodies

  1. In my experience, if I allow stress to run the show, I become unable to function effectively – I can’t think straight, I feel physically shaken and very anxious, my body can’t digest food so if I eat it passes straight through me, I want to retreat and hide from the world and I feel uncommitted and given up on myself and life. This then becomes a self-perpetuating cycle so the only way to stop this is to change how I am moving by bringing conscious awareness to my movements, which supports me to change my thoughts which is where the stress is being generated from.

  2. Stress is a large problem for society, with greater demands being placed on us individually, at work and our home life too, it feels like we live in the fast lane on the motorway of life, not being able to get off, but having to cope with everything and everyone else, no one wants to wait for an answer and we are living in an instant world. Eventually something has to give and either we choose to support our body or we get a stop that gives us an opportunity to make changes, and more loving choices.

  3. Hi Sue, I love the idea that every organ in our body vibrates at a different frequency. And it has been my personal experience that ‘the thoughts we have can change the pattern of the vibration of our atoms,’ thus creating disharmony in the body. Being a physics teacher, this makes a lot of sense to me.

  4. I have definitely noticed as a health care practitioner that physical conditions and problems are linked to psychological states of being and that stress/anxiety, exhaustion and tension in the body affect physical health.

  5. Makes sense that when we are stressed there is a lack of space and it feels like everything is crowding in on you and you don’t feel like you can breathe, getting to truly know our bodies and how they are affected opens our awareness and understanding of illness and disease.

  6. We all know stress affects our health, but ‘how long you can endure a stressful situation before it starts to affect your body?’ Or is it immediately?

  7. The past can inform the present so much so that we become stressed when in the present there is no need to do so. ” Buried past experiences and hurts can be trapped in the body and sometimes we need the help of an experienced practitioner to resolve these, to help bring them to our awareness and release them.” The Universal Medicine modalities and their practitioners are invaluable in this regard.

  8. It really is obvious that stress has an enormous effect upon us… The thing is stress is endemic in our society and is truly taking an enormous toll with a consequent weighing down of our health systems… When we hear of something that truly deals with stress surely it is time to take note of what is being offered

  9. Thankyou Sue, the truth is that our stress levels can be incredibly high when the situations around us may not warrant such a high stress response. Our bodies can live the reality of extreme stress from our thoughts and emotions even though our outer environment may not truly reflect the need for such a response.

  10. “The rate at which atoms vibrate determines what an object actually is.” Thank you Sue, this sentence is a beautiful illustration of the statement ‘Everything is energy’.

  11. If we are willing to be totally honest we all actually know that stress is not normal – so we should be asking ourselves – why do we fall for this big, fat debilitating lie?

  12. The deeper we go, the more space we find. Surely this is a clue that true space exploration is found within our own bodies and not ‘out there’ in the cosmos. The philosophers of ancient Greece understood what Hermes taught: “As above, so to below,” but we as a humanity have allowed ourselves to drift from such wisdom and become seduced by the glamour of ‘life on other planets’ when we do not yet truly understand nor appreciate the life upon our own…

  13. It seems clear to me that the future of medicine will pay much more heed to the individual choices we make, the thoughts we choose to think, how we react to life and hence how we affect the vibrations in our bodies at a fundamental level. We are literally creating disharmony – or maintaining harmony – within through our reactions or responses to life. Perhaps we are starting to understand the power we have in our thought processes and what the consequences of this are.

  14. My experience has been exactly what you say here. Stress appears to be part of our normal lives, but does it have to be this way? Some days something can be stressful for me and other days the same thing will be like water of a ducks back. My response all depends on how I am with myself, when I am present with myself I am far more capable of seeing things through understanding eyes and not react to what otherwise could trigger a reaction I me.

  15. Isn’t that an incredible wisdom to be aware of – if you put your body into some form of stress and do another activity the body and its systems are now under more stress to perform; and because the mind body connection is now not clear the mind can work aimlessly without the ‘body in mind’. It makes a ‘whole’ lot of sense to be connected to your body and honour it in full and all its magnificence.

  16. The other day I reacted to something mean that was said to me. I was aware that this comment was meant to hurt and I still felt the hurt radiate through my body. As I felt this get bigger and bigger, I pondered why it had affected me and my thoughts so much. It was because I had become attached to the identification that something had brought me. I had wanted to be seen as good at something when I didn’t need to worry about that at all. As soon as I let go of this need, the feeling started to leave my body. I didn’t mind what had been said. I saw it for what it was. I was able to let go of the thoughts that surrounded this event and the stress left my body. It was an awesome example of how I can set myself up for stress and hurt when all I need to do is let some things go.

  17. As Serge Benhayon has been presenting quite simply in Universal Medicine presentations lately, changing our state is so simple. The way our body chooses to rebalance and harmonise itself both in the energy flowing through it and its physiology, is through its movement. Practicing this has helped me to understand how the most subtle movements can re align my thoughts, actions and behaviours in an instant and verifies what Sue is mentioning here about how we do have choices all the time about the quality in the particles of our bodies.

  18. Thank you Sue. I have recently been noticing the effects of stress on my body. lt feels imperative for me to incorporate energetic modalities like Esoteric Healing and Chakra Puncture to effectively address the core of these issues. My body feels so much clearer now having done this regularly. Like getting a tune up. Very necessary.

  19. Great to re-read your article Sue. “If ‘trapped’ emotions within our body are not released, the effect over time will invariably show up in our health. Consider how long you can endure a stressful situation before it starts to affect your body.” I too find the support of Esoteric Healing practitioners instrumental in releasing my old buried hurts.

  20. I will take so much away from this article and consider it as I go about my day to day and have no doubt I will be back to comment more as I digest it!

  21. This was really interesting to read. I am currently doing work with a naturopath on my gut and did not know this ‘The body’s parasympathetic nervous system governs the digestive systems.’ This reveals a lot for me. Also how many of us have reached for food when we are stressed!!!!!! When in actual fact this is harming our body more!

  22. Thank you, Sue. The following is such a great point that you make – “If ‘trapped’ emotions within our body are not released, the effect over time will invariably show up in our health. Consider how long you can endure a stressful situation before it starts to affect your body. Buried past experiences and hurts can be trapped in the body and sometimes we need the help of an experienced practitioner to resolve these, to help bring them to our awareness and release them.” Conventional medicine still has a tendency to underestimate the effects of emotions despite the evidence that shows how harming they are to our wellbeing.

  23. It is almost as if stress was a set-up designed perfectly to keep us so in motion that we cannot find the stillness even if we want to… But why would that be? Stress certainly seems to be endemic… It is everywhere, taking its toll in trillions of dollars… But it seems unfathomable that the key to unraveling stress is simply within, and always has been.

  24. Sue thank you for your wonderful blog – it helped me to get a deeper understanding what is really going on energetically in my body. I love that my organs are vibrating all differently. It made me more aware of HOW I do things as this keeps my organs vibrating in a harmonious way and so I can support my health. I am wondering why this is not something we learn at school. I am sure we would reduce the cost in our health care system.

  25. Sue this is such a practical article in that it offers the reader not only food for thought but examples of ways we can support ourselves through the choices we make daily. I love how you broke down each of the elements of the ways we live and revealed the true effect that our emotions and stress can have not only on the choices we do make but also the quality of the life we lead.

  26. Thank you Sue for a great article, it has made me more aware of when there is stress in my body and what state my emotions are in during my day and especially before I sit down to eat, as these, I am sure, are factors to look into for any digestive problems that arise.

  27. Trapped emotions within our body need to be released, if not the impact over time can be extremely debilitating and greatly affect our vitality and energy. I enjoyed reading about this in your blog Sue, thank you for highlighting the consequences of holding on to emotions and for suggesting some strategies to release them.

  28. Yes it does feel like most people think that stress IS a part of life, and yet it is most definitely not… but to realize this, to make this not a theory but a real living way of life, is something that the presentations of Universal Medicine excel in.

  29. It’s so true Leigh, those things we don’t want to feel never just go away. We have to deal with them. It is so empowering to know that we can and by being honest and really feeling them, we are giving the body a chance to release them.

  30. There are so many points that stood out to me while reading this once again. Stress to me is when I go into reaction towards what my body is communicating, this takes the form of focusing on the painful area, not wanting to feel underneath it, going into emotions, dramas and distractions are all ways of temporarily not feeling the communication (but is a big fat lie as the feeling actually never goes away and I am becoming more aware that it never goes away). When the body does call out, it’s calling for the vibration found in the inner-heart, which is accessed through how we live. This is what I have found works for me in lowering stress, anxiety and allowing me to heal quicker and stronger than I ever have in the past, hand on heart, palms together and feeling the warmth are just two ways I can do this, when things get stressful I am learning to go to my inner-heart and the warmth within that can be felt there rather then clenching my jaw to not feel. Thank you Sue.

  31. In this blog Sue you gave a very clear, concise, simple and factual account of how our quality of energy effects our state of health; it was really interesting and I valued your insight and wisdom, thank you.

  32. I didn’t ever study biology and never really had much of an interest in the details of how the body functioned (I mostly focussed on its physical function on an external basis and what I could ‘do’ with it but without stopping to consider how I ‘was’ with it or how I cared for it), but I found this fascinating, fascinating because it makes sense and clearly shows the body is not just physical but is also energetic…. I too am a student of Universal Medicine and through this have come to appreciate the absolute importance of approaching any healing both physically ‘and’ energetically which in my experience is the only true form of healing.

    1. I absolutely agree Angela it makes no sense to only address one aspect of ourselves when we are so much more than just the physical. this obviously has to be addressed but I have also found true healing in addressing the energetic side to our lives as well as my lifestyle choices.

    2. Yes Angela I’m realising the depth we need to take our level of commitment for our well being and livingness, this entails every minuscule detail as nothing is in isolation… Everything is a result of everything! How we have come this far down the track in life without linking it all is in utter denial of the whole body.

    3. It is interesting indeed to explore the fact why I have ignored my body and its physiology for that long as it indicates that I have lived in denial of my body for a long time and just used it as a means to aim for the goals I had set in life. And only when I became a student of Universal Medicine I was introduced and became aware of the delicateness of the body and of the energetic part of it. This has changed my relation with my body completely as my body is now number one, as to me it is my connection to my soul and the guide to a way of being that I belong to and have left long time ago. A way of being, knowing that I am an energetic part of the whole.

  33. So many things can cause us stress over which we may not have much control. However the trapping of emotions within the body is something we can all prevent once we are aware of its devastating consequences. Thank you Sue.

  34. This is so logical Sue. It is surprising that this is not something everyone is aware of. The clear connection between what we think, how we react and run ourselves and how our bodies respond and then the effects of how we treat our bodies and how that affects our thoughts seems obvious. Anyone can experiment with this and feel how this works in their bodies.

  35. Love the clarity with which you share the truth behind why stress occurs Sue, it makes it tangible and so accessible for us all. It is now up to us each to look a little deeper at why we might be choosing to hold these emotions in our bodies.

  36. Thank you for the clear and concise statement that “stress occurs as a result of the way we think and react to life”. Putting it how it is makes it clear that we have a choice in the matter and are not just the victims here. As long as we are prepared and willing to examine our motives and behaviours, we can change what is happening.

  37. Thank you for such a great explanation about what is happening in the body on an atomic level. It takes it back to basics really. When we are without connection and left feeling like we are out there on our own, dealing with all we are being bombarded with, then it is only natural that the body feels stressed. All those atomic particles are connected and operating in the one field, so it makes sense if we don’t feel connected the body panics, because it is being forced into an unnatural way of being … And no amount of alcohol and drugs can fix that!

  38. What an interesting blog Sue – thank you! It’s great that the science field of ‘epigenetics’ is opening up a whole new conversation around what factors may be influencing our health so that people come to understand that genetics is not the total explanation for what is going on. With a more holistic understanding of stress and other health conditions people come to realise that they do have a big say in the state of their health.

  39. I am again reminded that, although I take much care with my physical health as far as food choices, sleep etc. I feel I can take much more self-responsibility when it comes to not indulging in emotions, which, as you have simply shown can be equally (or even more) harmful to our Wellbeing.

  40. A great blog Sue – this ultimatley places the responsibility of dis-ease and illness back on the individual. We all have our part to play in our health and well-being, and stopping to ask ‘why’ is a great place to start true healing.

  41. Thank you Sue, for a very clear article of how our thoughts affect our health. I know when thoughts and reactions have their sway within me I can feel the hardness in my body, great to explain how deep this way of living affects our whole bodies.

  42. It is very clear from reading how intimately linked emotions are to the body and confirms to me, how dealing with our reactions, and giving ourselves the space to ask ourselves questions ‘why did I react like that?’ is an important part of self care, and taking responsibility for our health and wellbeing.

    1. Yes Johanne when we notice a reaction in the body, that’s our signal to stop and ask the question of our body… It knows the answers and is there to guide us back to equilibrium in our body, healthy and well being. Bringing an understanding between emotions and wellbeing to humanity is the key, I’m wondering if Sue has published this as the correlation is clear.

  43. Reading this, I realize how important it is to be present with our bodies. If I am present with my body, then I can influence its vibration. If my mind is elsewhere and I do things in auto-pilot-mode, I expose my body to everything and anything outside of me to influence its vibration.

    1. Yes it is important to be very present in our bodies, I too know that if I get stuck in my head, I am not able to connect to what my body truly needs in that moment.

    2. So true Felix and Felicity the more we live from our head, the more we become disconnected from our body and this opens up the floodgates for us to be affected by everything. I notice the more I bring presence into my day the less exhausted I feel and the less affected I am by things that happen through the day. With presence I am with myself and others more and it feels like a much more supportive way to live.

  44. Thank you for this thorough illustration of the impacts of our thoughts Sue. How do we ensure then we live free from these levels of stress? When I live feeling my body I don’t really get thoughts so much. Reading your words confirms for me the greatest way to live stress free to is live in connection to me.

    1. Great point Joseph, the more we live in connection to self, it feels to me like there isn’t the space for these kind of thoughts to come in. I also found it interesting to consider the fact that essentially everything is made up of vibrating atoms and that the quality with which we choose to live effects these vibrations either negatively or positively therefore contributing to our state of health. Definitely brings a much higher level of responsibility on the way we choose to live, think and respond to life.

  45. This was truly fascinating to read and I love the concept of playing charades with our bodies. It is so interesting that thoughts can change the pattern of the vibration of our atoms and can therefore affect our health. It takes responsibility to a whole new level when true well-being is not only about what we put in our bodies but the thoughts and emotions we allow as well.

  46. It’s fascinating that our thoughts can change the vibration of our bodies, I wonder if it’s possible therefore that our bodies can change our thoughts? If we learn to connect in a more loving caring way to our bodies, would our thoughts then become more loving and clear?

    1. Thomas our body posture can certainly change our thoughts in my experience. If I slump into a defeated ‘it’s all too much’ posture my thoughts are very different than if I sit up with chest open. In the latter pose I feel spacious and alert and positive, wheras in the slumped pose everything feels compacted and dense. I try this exercise with students and they are surprised by the immediate difference it makes to their mood.

  47. Thank you Sue for explaining how the effects of stress physically work and affect our bodies,
    it makes so much sense. The relationship between stress and our digestive system was very interesting, often we spend a lot of care and love in preparing nutritional food, then eat in a rush, which defeats the purpose of all the love we put into preparing the meal.

    1. Great point Thomas, this is something I know I can definitely relate to and need to bring more focus and awareness to with my eating patterns.

  48. This is fascinating Sue and to feel my countless vibrating atoms and their spaciousness! Thank you for sharing and making the science of it all so accessible. It’s delightful to read.

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