• Gabby

We can't ignore the body

We all have one. I know that sounds blatantly obvious but it’s good to start here. Since we all have one, we all have an experience with one and all have business with one.

Mind in the spotlight

In my early twenties when I was completing my bachelors and masters in psychology, the world was somewhat different. Therapy and mental health was underlined with shame and taboo in Hungary, but this was also true, to a certain extent worldwide. We knew a lot about physical health and how to treat certain conditions but we were left with lots of questions when it comes to mental health and our psyche.

15 years later (it's been more than 15 years since I first started studying psychology, how crazy is that!) and we live in a world which acknowledges mental health a lot more, there are still taboos but many people are starting to understand how it's #oknottobeok and ask for help.

Therapy has developed over these years, lots of research has been completed and the NHS brought #IAPT into existence in 2008. Therapy became more accessible than ever, with everyone having access to a trained therapist through their GP. This was brilliant at the time and still is. IAPT helps so many people day to day. I am proud to say that I worked in IAPT for 7 years and this work has provided me with so much, varied experience.

Mind and body - where is the connection?

Physical health does continue to receive funding, and we live in a country where health care is free at the point of access. What a privilege this is.

There is only one small part that's bothering me: whilst therapy is accessible, and physical health care is accessible, the two are not connected. Or to be precise, they are not always connected.

IAPT opened a new branch, focusing on the mental impact of long term health conditions a few years ago, which is a step into the right direction.

But what about the physical aspects of trauma (if interested, please check out Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk's book on this -

What about the physical aspects of anxiety?

How about deactivation in depression?

And the natural anti-depressant effect of exercise when used regularly in mild and moderate levels of depression?

How come we are so quick to reach for a pill to affect chemicals in our bodies, yet we don't necessarily make the same commitment to something that would be oh so simple - taking care of our bodies.

As a therapist and yoga teacher, I firmly believe that what our mind feels, our body feels it too. And sometimes it's the other way round - our body has started a threat reaction before our mind has picked up on what's going on. This is especially noticeable in trauma responses.

Or take a few physical symptoms - you might notice you have some recurring physical issues and tests are coming back negative. How long before you ask yourself the question, what is this reaction about?

Christine Caldwell talks about how in today's society we often are not aware of what happens in our bodies - we become bodyless.

I don't mean that we wouldn't have a body of course. It's more about how, sometimes from very early on, we lose connection with our bodily functions and body image.

You might say "oh, but I do take care of my body" – my hair, my hygiene, my teeth and so on. I am not questioning this, but simply, bringing awareness to the fact that we spend lots of times working/doing things that are mind-led. And we sit more and we all know what this means – our bodies are not so much in use. We also know this can be a start of problems, yet, we don’t always do something about it.

The only conclusion here, for me, is: prevention and embodied therapy. Being mindful as much as 'bodyful'. Dealing what needs to be dealt with and learn ways that can contribute to maintain long term balance. The mind needs stillness at times and the body needs to move. Treating the mind is not enough, we have to include the body. And the time is now - don't wait until an issue becomes too engrained or painful.

More on body image and expectations next.

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