Dr. Chad Sato
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
How you react to situations that occur in your life is determined by your interpretation of those events. In the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic affected us in varying ways. For some it might have been traumatic, especially if you lost someone close to you; others might have thrived because they were able to take a rest during the lockdown. If you were balanced in your perspective of the experience — seeing not only the challenges but the benefits as well — then you most likely felt minimal trauma.
Think of how much more confident and less fearful you would feel if you had something to reassure you. Therefore, in all my columns for the past year and a half, I emphasized the value of connecting your mind to your body.
Your body is constantly sending you feedback — positive and negative to bring awareness to the decisions and actions you are making. I’d like to challenge you to make a New Year resolution to connect your mind and body in order to navigate all the possible scenarios that may get thrown at you in regard to the new COVID-19 world that we live in.
The power that you all have is freedom of choice. The choices that you make or don’t make define who you are as a person and the life that you live. By investing in taking care of yourself mentally, emotionally, physically and chemically, you ensure your ability to traverse any problems that arise. But how do you go about this?
There are so many experts with their opinions or ways to do this. One way is through western medicine, which 90% of the population ascribe to. Another way is to be the alternative 10% that look towards more natural ways to deal with their health. Ultimately, you should do your research and choose the one that resonates most with you. Google and Yelp have become valuable sources where you get helpful information and reviews to help you choose. However, with a plethora of choices it can become overwhelming, and many end up asking trusted family and friends for advice or recommendations. This is where your body can come in handy and be the final say in how you go about taking care of your health and wellness regimen. In this column, I will share ways to build trust in your body and start to incorporate your body in all the future decisions that you make.
Your Body is Your Confidante
Think of your body as your private confidante that never steers you wrong. When pain or unusual health condition pop up, you might perceive that your body is failing you, when actually, the exact opposite is true. The body will do its best to keep up with, and support the whimsies of your mind, but it’s truly up to you to take notice and pay heed when your body is gently trying to get you to pause and reassess your current choices and actions.
The body starts subtly by creating tension, restricted breathing, fatigue, mental fog and other symptoms, but if ignored the body starts to create more attention-grabbing signals such as intense pains, digestive problems, heart issues, nausea, vertigo and even cancer. That’s why it is best to make a concerted effort to build trust and rapport with your body. The body doesn’t lie. Start by observing how your body responds to stressful situations and moments of happiness. The reason for observing and making a mental note for both is that way when you feel that particular symptom you will be able to recognize that you are either stressed to the gills or happy. Then once you have awareness then you have the choice to make the necessary adjustments.
Your Mental and Emotional Body
The next way to connect your mind with your body is to identify how emotions feel in your body. Over the years, I discovered that whenever emotions are triggered inside of us, we do three things: 1) Detach from the emotions, 2) Get overwhelmed or 3) Feel and process the emotions.
Detaching from your emotions and not responding to a charged emotional event can be a good short-term strategy where you can still function and not be immobilized. The problem with this strategy is that if it becomes a long-term strategy and the emotional experience is never processed, you end up repressing those emotions that can later result in chronic physical pains or health conditions. This strategy can also lead to depression due to fact that charged memories take lots energy to keep them buried or suppressed.
Whenever an emotional event overwhelms your mental state, it will ultimately lead to increased anxiety and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. Whereupon any time you experience a similar future emotionally charged event, it will activate your senses like the trauma happened yesterday.
The last way is to feel and process your emotions. This will lead to the release of that charged emotion and bring you back into a state of balance. One useful strategy to process your emotions is to allow yourself to feel the emotion that you are experiencing. Are you tensing up? Having restricted breathing? Feeling nauseous? By surrendering and feeling the emotions in your body, your mind will then start to flood with all these thoughts justifying the emotions. This might take some practice for you to just stay present feeling your body’s response to the emotions. If you do this, you will feel a release in your body and your mind and body will be at ease within seven to 15 minutes.
Your Physical/Chemical Body
Finally, to establish a strong mind-body connection, observe the way your body responds to certain foods that you eat. Have you ever felt yourself craving certain foods and once you ate it, felt satiated or the exact opposite? Have you ever experienced eating junk foods or something that you are allergic to and then felt either bloated, sick to your stomach or just plain bleh? By taking the time to listen to what your body wants to eat versus the craving or some diet that you are trying, can help you to refine what food or diet works for you.
Every person is unique and has different dietary needs. Besides dieting never works, because once you starve your body of food, when you get off your diet and eat regularly, your body will attempt to store more food as a precautionary measure, hence the yoyo-ing of the body when you go on and off a diet. However, eating the foods that your body wants will further establish a greater trust between your mind and body. This also pertains to the amounts of food; knowing when to stop and when you need to eat or also when you are dehydrated and need to drink more water. Tuning in to what your body wants helps you to take better care of yourself.
Even though the holiday season is upon us, this is a great time to check-in and reflect on 2021 so that you can identify what worked and didn’t work. That way, you will have greater clarity on what you want to focus more or less on as we move into 2022. By establishing a strong connection with your body, you will help prioritize what’s most important to you. With the ever-looming presence of another COVID-19 case upswing, what you do from now till the end of the year can have a positive impact on your mental, emotional and physical health in the New Year.
Dr. Chad Sato graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned the Doctor of Chiropractic degree with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in 1998. Sato founded his practice, Aloha Chiropractic (alohachiro.biz), in Mänoa valley, O’ahu, on Oct. 1, 1999. He is a sought-after educator, speaker, author and mind-body specialist who helps people reach new levels of empowerment when it comes to their health and wellness by staying present with their body signs, making appropriate life choices and utilizing stress instead of managing it.