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The physical impact of negative emotions

We’re now pretty familiar with the concept of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but two world wars were fought before the impact on the mental and emotional health of those who were involved even started to come to light. Psychiatry has developed and grown from the time of World War I, when shell shock (as PTSD was then known) was largely treated with Electro-Convulsive Therapy. Although PTSD is a more readily identified result of those involved in armed combat, it is now being diagnosed for those who have experienced trauma in other - more everyday - arenas.

There has always been a physical price to pay for the everyday stresses and strains of life. Most of us are familiar with shoulders knotted in pain, or those that are so high they are almost up around our ears, or the pain of stomach cramps, of crippling headaches, or repetitive strain injuries such as tennis elbow, housemaid’s knee and carpal tunnel.

And what do we do about it? Mostly, we take a pill to remove the physical symptom. We’ve become a bit of a quick fix society in the west. Whatever the problem, here’s a prescription, take a pill.

If you examine the world of alternative treatments or remedies, the route is generally different. When I have back trouble – I don’t take painkillers, I take Arnica – an age-old herbal remedy for bruising and muscular strain. I apply ice-packs hourly to reduce inflammation, instead of swallowing Ibuprofen. I also keep mobile, not increasing the minutes I allow myself to lie down until I can get up and walk without hobbling.

This recovery process is the advice of my holistically-minded chiropractor. Whilst it means I do a lot of pacing and it always involves one disturbed night, I invariably bounce back quicker than if I take myself off to bed, load up the drugs and get someone to wait on me. Of course there’s also the risks associated with high and regular usage of pain killing medication – Paracetamol and Codeine having the risk of addiction, with Ibuprofen not only affecting the stomach lining, but being contra-indicated for those with high blood pressure. But it’s that quick return to mobility that makes me follow the advice every time.

You don’t have to be delusional or flaky to realise that alternative therapies can be complementary to traditional medicine. Cancer Research UK detailed a trial on accupuncture and its potential for cancer patients, in particular its effectiveness with chemotherapy-related nausea and fatigue. Manuka honey for the treatment of MRSA and those with mouth or throat cancers being trialled at Christie Hospital in Manchester is another example of the potential for cross-over.

Patients usually turn to alternative solutions when traditional medicine can do no more for them. A nutritionist solved my severe anaemia when I was unable to stomach heavy dosage iron supplementation, and a chiropractor solved long-standing whiplash-related neck problems with a few treatments. No-one can “cure” my wonky pelvis, but a chiropractor enables me to spend more time straight than wonky, saving me from pain and discomfort … and from a regular diet of painkillers. Thinking about health holistically makes sense to me, but I would never advocate rejecting traditional medicine – it’s still my first port of call every time.

But its not always necessary to rely on doctors or therapists to solve what ails you. Self-care is a powerful tool – and one that I will write about in another post. Do what works for you to relieve those stresses and strains. Up the physical endorphins – be that walking, dancing, gardening, yoga or pilates. Find peace – listen to music, read without interruption, or sit in the garden and allow yourself to hear the bird song. Pamper yourself – have a massage, maybe a manicure or pedicure. Eat healthily and regularly, address any sleep issues by reviewing your bedtime routine.

Whilst working hard to maintain a healthy body by running or with regular gym workouts, don’t forget to give some time and attention to your mental and emotional health. Sure, they’re deserving of your time and attention themselves, but they will take their toll on your body if you keep on ignoring them.

© 2015 Caring Coaching originally posted 19th May 2015