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. Yes we can do all the ‘right things’ in terms of eating, sleeping, exercising, but if we are still living emotional lives that can have a big impact on the body.

  2. I love that at close-up we are all vibrating atoms and the space in-between, and it is only by vibration everything defines itself.

  3. Since healing past experiences in my body, i can feel much more space and lightness and am less reactive to what is going on around me.

  4. A person definitely feels different when past hurts are released from the body; there is this sense of space and freedom. So, it makes sense that as these hurts are compounded over the years that we feel dense and thoughts are reflective of that.

  5. “However, it is very important to consider how our emotional life is affecting us.” Our body is constantly trying to deal with the aftermath of our emotions, as it leaves much for the body to deal with, higher blood pressure, faster heart beat, over eating etc. Eventually our body gets overloaded and we end up with an illness or disease.

  6. “Consequently the way we react to stress in our life, whether emotional or physical, can have an impact on our health.” Nowadays the way we live and the fast pace of life means we are dealing with a lot of stress on a day to day basis, and finding ways to cope with that stress is really important I have found the Esoteric Yoga a great way to bring a greater stillness and surrender.

  7. Wow a fascinating insight into the body thank you – if the body moves blood around when we eat or if we are stressed then what else does it do to compensate when we are tired, or when we push ourselves too hard, or when we feel upset – could these things be more than just things we experience but things our body actually has to find different ways to compensate for?

    1. I imagine it is like a stream finding the most efficient way through; it carves its way and when that way is tight or blocked it either builds up tension to try to force its way through or it has to carve another less efficient way.

  8. This is great Sue, there is definitely much more to health than just the physical body, an holistic approach has certainly worked for me by combining esoteric medicine and Western Medicine. Understanding how I feel and how that impacts on my body, the stress response as you say, is very supportive. To me it’s good common sense to include the whole person in any healing, and my two doctors are so wonderfully supportive in this way helping me to become aware of issues within me and how I live that might be contributing to my conditions. I also was in awe of this line about the fact everything is energy ” It became clear to me that eventually you get to only vibrating atoms and empty spaces between atoms”, thank you Sue!

  9. It may be something that is ‘out there’ at this moment in time with most people but it has to make sense to me that every ailment the body communicates with me is a message, whether I like it or not or want to deal with or not, to support me and when I embrace my body’s communication, I offer and give myself an opportunity to heal.

  10. There are the inevitable stresses and strains in life which we cannot avoid however, what we do have a say in is how we respond or react to these stresses. I have just realised that intensity actually has the word ‘in’ within it, meaning that things only get intense if we take them in or on!

  11. Interesting approach to understand emotions and how they energetically affect our body and its chemical configuration.

  12. We do know how to live, and our body’s natural rhythms – so what gets in the way of letting go and living in that natural way? We’ve become accustomed to accepting a certain level of stress in our lives, that we consider to be ‘normal’ but is actually far from it. Time to look at what we’re prioritising over the health and natural rhythms of our bodies, and why this is: is what we think is needed really worth putting on our body on the line for?

  13. It feels like many, including myself, have used being stressed as an excuse for why we are not functioning as well as we could be but have taken very little responsibility for how we ended up in that situation and how we have the power to change our situation before it leads to illness and disease. Thank you for offering a deeper understanding of what is happening and the support that is available when we choose to access it.

  14. Really fascinating to read about the the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. I read a little sign on a wall the other day saying how being angry or stressed weakens our immune system while laughing strengthens it … yet again another sign telling us how we choose to live affects our body, health and wellbeing.

  15. I think it’s time we really recognised that what we feel actually dramatically affects our bodies, stress is an easy example because we can physiologically feel the pressure it puts inside us by speeding everything up. But could it be that everything we feel affects all our organs and internal processes?

  16. This is fascinating. I just love all the details of what happens in our body on a physiological level. It’s just incredible how these workings are put together and get replicated in each and every body of ours. It is simply unfathomable.

  17. ‘If ‘trapped’ emotions within our body are not released, the effect over time will invariably show up in our health.’ Beautifully said, if we don’t let go of old hurts, they stay in the body and slowly our body deteriorates in one way or another until we either get a wake up call, or we realise that there are still things we need to clear.

    1. I had never considered the many times I blushed or went pale was my body communicating with me, I always felt it was my body letting me down. How much more empowering is the former approach and therefore worth considering.

  18. “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.” Yet so many of us ignore what our body is telling us, overriding the symptoms and wanting a quick fix or a pill, rather than making different life-style choices.

  19. All of this makes a whole lot of sense and having a connection to the body in day to day life can help register these changes occurring. Living in the mind, the to-do list and the ‘have to’s’ keeps us blind from all of whats going on in the body.

  20. Great point that stress is a condition created from reaction to life. It is not from us by nature. And this is proven by the fact that our body does not naturally need to be driven to complete tasks just purposefull

  21. A great blog Sue Kira, bringing a deeper understanding of the detrimental way of stress in our lives. Super-stressed-out has become accepted as a normal way of living – taking responsibility for healing trapped emotions and how we are living daily can reverse this, with harmony restored to our body.

  22. “If ‘trapped’ emotions within our body are not released, the effect over time will invariably show up in our health”. When I read these words today they make so much sense but once upon a time I had very little idea that this was actually the case. Stress was just something I lived with because my life was super challenging but what I didn’t realise was, that by not knowing how to deal with the causes of the stress I was constantly adding layer upon layer of more undealt with emotions. It’s no wonder then that at times I felt as if I was ‘drowning’ under the emotional load that I was carrying and the subsequent raft of health issues.

  23. We tend to think of emotions as natural and even cathartic but what if they are just a result of our not having the wisdom to stay centred in our feeling. What if we even have a sense or awareness of something before a feeling and could let our responses come from that place?

  24. This is an important discussion to be having Sue, to consider our emotions play a role in our illness and disease is a great way to begin to heal the underlying causes and not just treating the symptoms. Too many prefer to blame the microwave, or their genetics or see themselves as the victim, but it is a powerful and responsible step when we begin to look at the way we are living and our choices that has created this dis-ease and dis-harmony to impact on the body.

  25. Your question about how long we can endure a stressful situation before it starts to affect your body has all to do with how we react on the situation or stay with ourselves but in essence we all get affected by stress the moment there is an opening and we let it into our body.

  26. Brilliant article Sue. It’s so great to be able to understand what’s happening in the body physiologically and energetically. One supports the other.

  27. We have allowed stress to become part of our normal way of living, when we know deep inside that it is not good for us, and often we choose not to do anything about it, until we are either ill, or something else stops us in our tracks and makes us realise that we can make different choices and live without the need for stress.

  28. So true – so many of us think it is normal to be stressed, that life is stressful and we can easily come up with a list of things to justify our stress, and our life is set up for us to be a perfect consumer by accepting stress as part of life, seeking fixes, buying remedies/distractions/escapes – all in anticipation of stress coming back at the end of respite. Life so doesn’t have to be that way.

  29. As I read your blog Sue I can really appreciate how much more we have yet to learn and understand about our human body and its wisdom.

  30. Our thoughts and emotions and behaviours effect our bodies so much more than we are willing to accept, for example if I have a thought that I’m not enough and I start to feel really heavy – that’s an actual energy and I’m sure if we studied our particles at a vibrational level we would see that there has been a change in vibration, and that makes sense that it would effect our physical body all our organs.

  31. What I get from this article is that we are masters of our own destination. It is up to us to realise that we are not victims of our environment and it is how we deal with stress that can have an overall effect on our health.

  32. Wow a truly fascinating and educational article. It makes sense that trapped emotions from buried past experiences and hurts will invariably begin to show up in our health, so to release these is invaluable in restoring harmony in the body and providing the foundation for true well being

  33. Thanks for your description of what happens when we eat when stressed. Perhaps this explains quite a few health problems. If you look at the way we are living and then how we are eating, it’s possible many of us are eating in stress. It’s not only what we eat that has an effect on our health but also how we eat.

  34. A great blog to read thank you Sue; there is no doubt that stress has a major impact on our health and well-being. How we respond to stress and anxiety, by healing the underlying causes, is certainly the key.

  35. Great blog Sue; yes it is very important for us to consider how our emotions and our reactions affects our physical health, for inevitably they do.

  36. Thank you for explaining the effects of stress in such a relatable way and highlighting the responsibility that we all have to address this issue before it negatively affects our physical and mental health. I have certainly benefitted from support with changing my vibrations and am now much more easily able to recognise the compression I feel when I choose to allow stress to take over and thus can recognise that I have a choice about whether to continue to let it run my day or to take a moment to come back to myself and let it go.

  37. Addressing technological devices and how they affect us is needed but if we want to get to the root problem of our ailments we have to look at, address and be willing to accept that our emotions and how they affect us have an impact on our wellbeing and our planet.

  38. Bringing energy into the health/wellbeing equation enriches our understanding of what is really going on. It brings legibility into it. It helps to make sense and to understand what is really going on.

  39. Life has become very stressful with deadlines, expectations and commitments we make, however the question for me is are we actually living in a way that supports our body, for example resting our body when we can, going to bed early, listening to our body and choosing foods that support it.

  40. Great post Sue. I find the Energetic Facial Release, as practised by Universal Medicine practitioners, to be a wonderfully simple modality that is not intrusive and very releasing of tension and held emotions.

  41. Thank you Sue for clearly showing how we have a responsibility for the vibration of the atoms in our body and how the way we live can affect the natural harmony of the rhythms of our organs.

  42. It’s funny what we do know and yet we don’t take it deeper. How could we know something or a part of something but almost neglect taking that awareness any deeper? We all know that stress is not a great thing for our bodies and yet on the whole most will just say “I need to get rid of stress and I’ll be okay” but we never take a step any further, often saying it’s just great to talk about it. It is great to talk about but also put actions in place that support what we are talking about. Whether we start a daily diary and then reflect on it weekly to see what patterns are reoccurring or we choose to go and have treatment from someone, merely talking about things like stress don’t always lead us out of them. There is an ongoing relationship here that needs to keep deepening at every point if we are going to bring true change. You can’t just wake up one day and have no stress or go on holidays and have no stress etc, it will always be there knocking on the door and it’s just the way you answer that knock that will need the dedication.

  43. Makes perfect sense, and is surprising this isn’t talked about more regularly in society. We all know it to be true, even if we do try to find reasons for why it can’t be true.

  44. I agree that trauma is physical, emotional and mental in its scarring. The years don’t diminish the impact if we haven’t learned how to heal the long term legacy of whatever we have faced.

  45. Living with stress has become normal for many, but its not natural and I can see how its affects lead to illness and disease. I like the way you talked about our atoms vibrating in a harmonious way or not depending on how we are choosing to live. This makes a lot of sense to me and its a different very tangible feeling inside when I am stressed compared to when I feel at ease and calm.

  46. I have learnt much from your sharing Sue! This I can take into my life as I learn to let stress go.

  47. Thank you Sue, I found this blog fascinating. I love the way you described the behaviour of atoms. It’s as if by delving deep into the tiniest expression you unlock the truth of the whole. This reminds me that there is no beginning or end to anything. I usually take things bigger in order to understand them ie – look to the way the universe operates or consider extremes (ie. if 500 cigarettes are harmful then one cigarette is harmful). Whether we drill ‘down’ to microscopic cells or ‘up’ to the biggest brightest star the reflection of truth is the same.

  48. It doesn’t take rocket science to know the effect stress has on our bodies. The tension we can feel is palpable and it is no surprise that if the body is consistently in such tension it can lead to other health issues. Often we can blame the external factors of life but really it is our choice to how we respond (or react) to life. Knowing it is a choice places the power and responsibility back in our own hands and is actually quite liberating.

  49. “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 deeper we go – the more space there is. This gives us a clue as to why ‘surface dwelling’ causes us so much constriction and tension. There is deeper we can go in the quest to find who we truly are. This is an inward (soulful) search that takes the body with us, not an outward (spiritual) one that leaves our body behind.

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