All Parts Make Whole Person Health

May 2, 2024

Our bodies are made up of complex systems. Not being a physician, I cannot explain the intricacies of our neurological system, respiratory system, endocrine system, digestive system and so on. I can however tell you that when I experience a stressor, I have a thought and depending on that thought my breathing may change, my stomach may gurgle, and my body may secrete a variety of hormones in response as well. Come to think of it, maybe it is the thought that generates the emotion that propels those system dominoes to react? Maybe our bodies even know it before we can consciously give language to the experience….or maybe it is all of the above. One thing we know for sure is that it is complicated.

I have had many instances of experiencing the mind-body connection in my life. They began when I was very young. One summer that stands out to me was the summer before 7th grade. I was spending the summer with my Dad as I typically did since my parents’ divorce. I loved my time with my Dad. However, this summer was the summer before middle school. I would attend a new school with new kids as our elementary school life ended. I was also aware of one of my teacher’s younger sons dying of leukemia. There were also some friendship issues—being out of touch and out of the loop of the friendship happenings that summer was probably hard for the first time as my need for peer acceptance increased in the pre-teen years (author disclosure: this was in the 1980’s so there was no FaceTime, no social media etc. When you were gone, you were out of sight and out of mind except for the handwritten snail mail letter.) Suffice it to say, this summer I found myself with my Dad at multiple doctor’s appointments. Doctors tried to figure out vague and somewhat chronic symptoms, ultimately with no clinical diagnosis. It is clear to me now, that in all likelihood what I was experiencing was mild stress and anxiety that my body was trying to bring to my attention.

Fortunately, we have seen a shift in awareness towards the connection between our mind and body. We see providers of all types tuning in to all the parts of a person’s health AND their interactions. For example, learning how anxiety can make pain worse. Or how insufficient rest can create a craving for carbohydrates, leading to frustrating weight gain, leading to depression and the cycle just continues. We are making progress as a healthcare system in truly seeing and healing the whole person. May is Mental Health Awareness month, and we want to lift up the reality that our mental health has always been and will always be intimately connected to the whole.

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