Access your mind-body connection

DianaRaabOur special contributor Diana Raab writes this month about the mind-body connection from a knowledgeable and personal point of view. Don’t miss her life-changing and personal essay:

The mind-body connection means that your body responds to the way you think, feel, and act. For years we have known that our emotions have a strong impact on our health, but more recently studies have been popping up to prove this phenomenon. When we are stressed or anxious, our bodies warn us that things are not right. For example, we may exhibit some of the following symptoms: back pain, palpitations, and changes in appetite, sexual problems, stiff neck, diarrhea, constipation, and/or random aches and pains.
Stress and anxiety tend to contribute to poor emotional health and can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and infections – and in more extreme cases, cancer.
As a nurse, two-time cancer survivor, and author of the newly-released Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey, I must say that journaling has saved my life during many of tumultuous times, such as difficult pregnancies, deaths and cancer. This most recent book originated on the pages of my journal. Because I am a nurse and inspirational speaker, I decided to make this a self-help memoir. Each chapter ends with blank pages and journaling prompts for readers to write about their own experience. The appendices also have helpful tips on how to keep a journal.
Everyone reacts and handles stress differently. Over the years, my way has been through regular meditation and a steady journaling practice. These two modalities have helped me maintain a balance in my mind/body connection.
Earlier this year, I attended a powerful and poignant two-hour lecture by Dr. Hans Gruenn, who runs the LongevityCenter in Los Angeles. Dr. Gruenn, originally from Germany, spoke on “Advances in Integrative Medicine.” The major question he posed was to ask ourselves not ‘why we get sick?’, but ‘why we don’t heal?’ He believes patients must do their part in maintaining and resuming their health. He quoted Voltaire: “The doctor is to entertain the patient while he heals.”
I believe we must all be responsible for our own healing and play an active role in maintaining a balance between our emotional and physical health or the mind-body connection. Whatever works for you is what you should commit to doing regularly. In the meantime, ask yourself:
What have you done for your mind today?
What have you done for your body today?
Diana M. Raab, MFA, RN is the editor of Writers and Their Notebooks, a collection of essays by distinguished writers who journal, including Sue Grafton, Kim Stafford, Dorianne Laux, John DuFresne, James Brown and Michael Steinberg, to name a few. We recently read, enjoyed, and revisited it. She is also the author of the critically-acclaimed memoir Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal. Her second memoir, Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey  is a self-help book that also offers journaling exercises for other survivors. It is being published this month by Loving Healing Press. Diana’s work has also been published in numerous literary magazines and is widely anthologized. She has one poetry book, My Muse Undresses Me, and two poetry collections, Dear Anais: My Life in Poems for You, the winner of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Award for Poetry, and the newly-released The Guilt Gene.