We see articles about the mind-body connection all the time. Cancer patients more optimistic about their recovery have significantly higher response to medication. Patients with more optimism about their recovery have less pain on average. Children with less stress have better memory than peer matched children under stress in school. Our mind is not separate from our body, and we know that. We just sometimes like to forget!
The reality is the mind is more or less the control mechanism for a surprising amount of our functions. This is not to say that disease process, injury, gut health, and weight are not major contributors to a variety of conditions, but more to reinforce that our own internal stressors can greatly impact our responses to these other issues. Just as a healthy mindset and outlook can optimize our recovery, we can also impact our recovery negatively if our mind goes in the opposite direction. The more we research this phenomenon, the more profound we discover this impact actually is. We have even noted a finding of a “nocebo” effect recently.
You may have heard of the placebo effect, when a patient will get better with a treatment that has no biological or mechanical effect normally, but their body can use the positive mindset of receiving a treatment to accelerate its own healing. We have found this can also happen in reverse. Being told something negative about our body or a treatment method can make our symptoms and pain worse. This is due to our stress response mechanisms!
This has a lot of implications on the medical field. First and foremost, it reinforces the importance of providing a thorough and correct diagnosis so that we do not give erroneous “impairments” to people with a very good recovery prognosis. It also means that we need to be better, not just medical professionals but human beings, at understanding that our stress really matters to recovery. There is an entire profession devoted to mental health. We need to be utilizing them and their tools more effectively to enhance our recovery!
So, are you going through a recovery process right now? If so, take a thorough internal look at yourself. Do you find your stress being managed well, or managed poorly? Do you need any help? If so, reach out to your current practitioner. Odds are we have someone we trust who is very good at exactly this!