Your unbalanced life is causing you unnecessary pain
Mere months ago, our calendars were full of events, meetings, seminars, vacations, and many other activities. In a matter of weeks, the world changed. What many considered normal suddenly ground to a sudden stop.
With these new uncertainties, there is an inherent truth regarding our physical, mental, and emotional needs. Regardless of social distancing or a quarantine, we as human beings still have specific requirements to survive. At the top of these requirements is the consideration that our bodies are designed to maintain a balance.
The human body strives to preserve equilibrium within our physiological processes through homeostasis. Blood pressure, blood sugar levels, hormones, body temperature, heart rate, and many other regulatory systems continually work to maintain balance. However, learning to slow down and to place your emotional needs in the foreground takes effort. It is ingrained in society to put others’ needs ahead of your own, to climb the ladder of success, and make every second count. While these character traits are not inherently wrong, without balance, eventually, something will give out.
Typically, what happens is the amazing human body finally lets us know that something is amiss. After pushing to the point of exhaustion and imbalance, the result is disease. The body cannot run on fumes forever. Once the gas tank becomes empty, the engine ceases to perform.
Perhaps it is time to realign your body and regain balance? If your body, or life, is in need of balance try implementing the following pattern.
Balance: Breathe. Check your attitude. Love. Learn acceptance. Nurture yourself. Remain calm. Grow your energy.
B – Breathe.
Though it may sound overly simple, strategic focus on breathing is essential. Most people continually breathe in shallow spurts throughout the day. This puts the body into a cyclical state of stress. Shallow breathing can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, respiratory problems, and can be a precursor for cardiovascular issues. Additionally, the shallow breathing pattern can create tension that causes chest, neck, back, and shoulders pain. “Shallow breathing doesn’t just make stress a response, it makes stress a habit our bodies, and therefore, our minds are locked into,” says John Luckovich, an apprentice Integrative Breathwork facilitator in Brooklyn, New York.
Deeper breathing, on the other hand, grounds the body and mind. With deeper or strategic breathing, it is possible to decrease stress, lower blood pressure, relax the muscles, reduce the heart rate, and increase energy levels.
A – Attitude.
Have you checked your mental attitude lately? Thoughts can hold you captive and have both negative or positive effects. Get into the habit of taking a quick attitude check each day. In the current climate, it is easy to become overwhelmed or bogged down by negative thoughts or emotions. This is lethal for a balanced life and mind.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who optimize their mental attitude experience many health benefits. Some of which include an increased life span, lower rates of depression and distress, greater resistance to disease, better psychological and physical well-being, and better coping skills during hardships and times of stress.
Many advocates for mental attitude balance suggest journaling out your thoughts, practicing positive self-talk, surrounding yourself with positive people, and living with a healthy lifestyle. A robust and positive attitude goes a long way for overall emotional wellness.
L – Love.
Not to be sappy, but love truly is the salve of the heart. Focusing on the people we love, the things we love, and the actions of love change not only the world but also the person who shares this love. When focusing on loving ourselves and others, it is hard to stay focused on negativity or sadness.
Love is the best antidepressant and is critical for your mental, physical, and emotional health. It just isn’t negotiable. Humans need love. Humans need to be connected. Without connection, we are at risk. However, there is a large societal misconception about love that can be as (if not more so) hurtful as not having love in one’s life at all.
Taking our cues from pop culture, the mythical belief that love just happens to a person actually poses the most detrimental mindset for our overall well being. Very little occurs from nothing, love being the least of these. Love is a choice. Love is an act of will. It must be treated as such or once experienced can be seen as disappointing. This type of disappointment can easily lead to depression and other mental health concerns. Take the time to educate yourself on the truth of love, honing your ability to love others and accept the love others give you. You might be surprised at how beneficial love is for your health. Not only does it positively impact depression, love has many other surprising health benefits that make it an absolute MUST for achieving balance in life. These benefits include overall gut health, lower blood pressure, improved sleep, and, in some cases, relief from acute or chronic pain.
A – Acceptance.
When striving to achieve balance, learning to accept our circumstances is critical. Through society, we have been conditioned to be hard on ourselves. While many are quickly able to show grace to others, self-grace proves to be much more difficult. Letting go of, or forgiving, disappointments and failures while focusing on lessons you have learned from these situations goes a long way to easing up on yourself.
Many people have low self-acceptance and consequently struggle with an unbalanced, unhappy life. To combat this ingrained perception, you must first forgive. Steve Maraboli, author of Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience, says that “unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize the situation is over, you cannot move forward”.
Johns Hopkins Medicine goes so far as to say that your health depends on forgiveness. If unaddressed, unforgiveness can lead to disappointment and hurt from which chronic anger develops. Chronic anger causes the body to go into what is called fight-or-flight mode, which produces changes in your blood pressure, heart rate, and immune response. Utilizing forgiveness and acceptance, however, regulates these systems and improves health.
N – Nurture.
Taking the time to nurture your soul is not easy. Nurturing yourself means spending the time you need to provide moments of silence, stillness, and rest. All three of which are essential to being able to adequately focus on the steps discussed above.
The definition of the word “Nurture” is: to care for and encourage the growth or development of something or someone. With this in mind, getting into the habit of nurturing yourself and your environment brings about growth. Growth that, in many cases, would otherwise be neglected.
Ways in which to nurture yourself include much of what was already discussed above. Nurture your mental and emotional state by consciously monitoring your breathing pattern. Keep track of and release your thoughts and negative attitudes through journaling or positive self-talk. Make sure to focus on the things you love in life. And strive to learn acceptance and forgiveness to allow yourself the mental ability and emotional capacity to nurture your soul.
C – Calm.
The phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On” exploded in recent years, becoming wildly popular in America and other regions. But do we know the actual history behind it?
In 1939, before World War II, the slogan originated as a poster the British government designed and intended to hang in areas being targeted by German bombers. Over 2 million of the posters were printed, but none were ever displayed. Last minute doubts about perceivement as well as questions over ideal timing eventually led to the majority of them being destroyed. However, the goal of such a campaign is worth remarking upon.
Where the British could have used slogans such as “We Will Prevail” or “Don’t Panic, Fight On”, they chose to use the word “calm”. This is not only more appealing verbiage, but it also appeals to a wider audience. And the importance of maintaining a calmness within your body is of the utmost. When the world is anything but quiet or tranquil, the one thing you can control is your inner soul. Feed this vital part of yourself by recognizing how you feel when you are stressed or anxious. Once you understand the signs of chaos, being able to bring a calmness into your well-being will quickly enable you to withstand the rigors of an unpredictable world. This will ensure a balanced life.
E – Energy.
Like a finely tuned engine, our bodies are designed to perform beautifully. When the imbalances in our lives wreak havoc on our physiological selves, our energy levels drop significantly. We must maintain the proper energy within our bodies through adequate rest, the proper nutrition, and exercise.
There are two origin points of energy that are vital to keeping our bodies from shutting down. The first, our mental energy is at the top of the list because without a strong, energized mental capacity our physical energy is useless. Daniel J. Levitin, author of the book The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, says that our brains are only able to make a certain number of decisions per day and, once we reach that limit, we can’t make any more decisions regardless of their importance. With this information, the instinctive desire to procrastinate our most important or challenging tasks and decisions is actually causing more harm than good. By waiting to tackle the most important or biggest project, odds are your mental energy is depleted and your ability to make a decision is at its lowest. However, there are ways in which to maintain or strengthen your mental energy. Rachel Baldelomar, writing for Forbes, suggests four steps in which to do this. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Work smart. Take frequent breaks.
Working in tandem with our mental energy is our physical energy. Where mental energy controls the body, physical energy fuels it.
Physical energy stems from a few key elements. Diet, sleep, and exercise. Making sure you eat a balanced diet that focuses on proteins, vegetables, whole grains, and fats is a big step toward improving your physical energy. In the same vein, keeping a quality sleep schedule helps to increase your ATP levels. ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) is the biochemical way our bodies store and use energy. It is the source of energy for our muscles and every other cell in our body. And finally, exercising is the icing on the cake. Through exercise we can boost our energy levels by raising energy-promoting neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Exercise also strengthens our muscles and bones, making them more efficient so they need less energy and conserve ATP. Truly, the benefits of exercising are endless and ultimately serve as a regulator for the systems of your body. Like any machine, without the proper fuel and maintenance your body ceases to work properly.
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Brianna Connors & Derek Archer Co-Editors