Emotional Regulation: Mind-Body Wellness

WaterThe connection between a healthy mind and a healthy body is no longer in dispute. It is based on the recognition that the mind affects the body and vice versa, and that both mind and body are interrelated parts of a whole.

Talk therapy can help clients work out how to deal with negative thoughts and feelings and make positive changes; however, it often doesn’t address the body reactions to those thoughts and feelings resulting in self-sabotaging behavior.

One way to tackle this problem is using somatic therapy to learn how the nervous system works in relation to emotions, mind, and body wellness. The nervous system contains the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems and both systems work well together. When the SNS is activated we feel stressed or excited. Eventually there is a compensatory reaction from the PNS. The PNS brings the nervous system down.

The “relaxation response” otherwise known as the PNS, is in charge, when your body is ready to relax. It tells your body to slow down.  This “relaxation response” also allows for all those positive emotions: contentment, joy, laughter and peace of mind.

The parasympathetic nervous system is involved in recuperation and healing. As the PNS calms the body down, immune functioning returns. The body discharges or let’s go of excess energy and returns the nervous system to a point of balance.

When the SNS and PNS don’t work well together, we begin to experience mood swings. Either too much anger, stress, anxiety—high sympathetic arousal—or too much depression, despair, withdrawal—low sympathetic arousal, both resulting in states of confusion, fear and fatigue.

What helps to modulate these states is the regulating function of our higher cortical centers in an area of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex. Learning to work with emotional states through mind-body techniques allow clients to made deep changes in their brain, opening new pathways and ways of being.

During my work with clients I focus a lot on emotional regulation to support brain changes. Body states often overwhelm cognitive processes. I help clients recognize subtle shifts in their bodies that cue them into what is going on emotionally. This process is at times show but eventually leads to mind-body wellness.

© Maria Stella, PhD. All Rights Reserved.