As the lines blur between work and home, ANJALI HAZARIKA writes of the need to learn how to respond to our emotions
What lies between ease and disease? A host of factors, including the potent world of emotions. Research in the mindbody field tells us that just as genes, environmental pollutants, disease agents and bad diets are factors causing illness, our mind and emotions can also play a critical role in illness and in health. Psychological factors influence the immune system and can contribute to risk or recovery from disease.
The important factor in illness is not stress, per se, but how we cope with stress. This depends in large part on our personalities. Our emotions play a big role in stress management, our relationships and in maintaining a healthy body.
Emotions are rarely expressed in words. Hence, many people are at a complete loss in reading how the other person is feeling or they are confused about their own feelings. Many of us tend to repress or thrust aside painful thoughts, feelings and emotions. But do you know, what we ignore, repress or fight with, returns as a symptom, in time.
Have you noticed how our headaches reflect tension at work, our heart palpitations indicate that we are exhausted from taking on too many responsibilities and our ulcers reflect our lack of ability in accepting life changes?
The ACE Factor
Based on the research of a system psychologist Gary Schwartz, the ACE factor has shown that people who are tuned to body-mind signals of discomfort, pain, fatigue, distress, anger, sadness and pleasure, cope better psychologically, have a better immune system and a healthier cardiovascular system. Typically, these people handle stressful events with acceptance and a willingness to learn and grow. This is important now, as boundaries between work and family are getting blurred with work-from-home practices. Anger caused by a work-related issue creeps into personal space and frustrations at home can enter into work space, coming in the way of productivity.
This is where developing the ACE factor will come handy. ACE is short for Attention, Connection, Expression — paying attention to uncomfortable feelings, connecting with and assessing the intensity of feelings and expressing feelings in a regulated way.
Those of us who tend to ignore and not attend to symptoms, disconnect with sensations and feelings, and bottle up emotions, tend to suffer ongoing imbalances in our body-mind systems that lead to lack of ease. Emotions serve as a biofeedback mechanism. For instance, if a high-strung executive pays attention to his distress, he would recognise his amplified emotions, fatigue, overwork, his tension, restlessness and physical discomfort, leading to emotional outbursts. Then he might do something about the conditions that cause him dis-ease. Connecting with an emotion can bring many dividends.
Emotions move us. But when we attend, connect and express, we make the best use of our internal compass. We can then rely upon the guidance of our feedback and choose alternatives in terms of diet, exercise, and meditation. Basic mindfulness is necessary for generating balance, order and power in our immune system. So the best cure for the body is a quiet mind. ■