What Makes You Sick? How to Tell if It's Your Mind or Your Body.
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What Makes You Sick? How to Tell if It's Your Mind or Your Body.

You feel just like the news: rotten. Do you have the flu? A random virus going around? Some nasty infection that's likely to keep you bedded down for the week? Of, are you so down and anxious, you can't get out of bed or stop your stomach cramps.  Well, here are some easy ways to tell if you're really physically ill or if your stressed-out mind is just making you feel that way.

First, take a few steps back to see if you've been exposed to the flu or a bug by coming into contact with someone close to you - a partner or even someone in the next cubicle. If you skipped the flu vaccine this year, and you've been seriously hacked or sneezed at recently, and your colleague or partner is down for the count, chances are good that you indeed have caught a nasty bug. More signs of contagious illness : your fever reaches Mt. Everest heights, and your legs feel like they're packing 20 pound weights each. If you feel too lousy to go to bed (the couch or the floor will have to do), you are body sick. No doubt about it. Call your doctor for advice or medicine if you don't feel you can handle on your own.

On the other hand,  if you're feeling generally achy; too cold or too hot, and also lethargic and fatigued (with a slightly elevated or normal temp) you probably do not have the flu, as we know it. You may have a virus, but it's also quite possible you are suffering from anxiety and stress-induced illness. This type of sickness may be caused by the mind-body connection; a phenomenon that has been proven scientifically to be true (that's why the placebo effect works in laboratory settings). Although you  still feel dreadful, (often with stomach problems), the illness or symptoms that are plaguing you may be due more to the conditions in your life than the pathogens in your environment. One sure-fire way to tell if you have an emotionally -induced illness is to draw a straight line between any recent stress upticks in your life and the timing of your illness. If the line is unwavering, there is a good chance your worries are making you feel ill, not the latest virus or infection. Regardless, sick is sick, but mind-sick can be more easily cured, and even body-sick symptoms mitigated, If you keep your mind on positive-mode.

The following are my tried and tested remedies for using mind over matter to scare off the blues and the sick blaahs that often accompany them.

-Admit to your conscious self that you are anxious and scared. Bringing your fears to the surface will do much to release the burdens you are putting on your body. Write down your fears and anxieties on a paper, and then tear it into pieces or burn it, as one Hindu spiritual leader recommends. The act of  tearing up or burning the paper will release the fears and destroy their ability to make you sick. If worried feelings persist, keep writing and destroying the paper until you feel some relief. The power of prayer also works. You don't have to be religious to pray to the Universe for help and guidance. The act of seeking help is a strong first step towards finding it.

-Take vitamins to boost your immune system and protect yourself from the bugs that recognize your body's stressed-out vulnerability. I believe Cs,Bs,Es and fish oil are good vitamins to have on hand. But if you're really anxious, research the internet to learn what foods, minerals, herbs or essential oils work best for soothing anxieties. Some recommended herbs include Chamomile and Oatstraw and/or Valerian. There are many homeopathic remedies that also can help you recover from both mind or body illnesses.  Check them out on the internet or at your favorite natural foods store. A great book to consult is Prescription for Natural Cures by James F. Balch, MD.  No matter what the illness, remember to drink lots and lots of water or weak tea. And to call on your doctor if you feel worse.

-Exercise when you feel stronger. Walk, run or even jump rope (no gym membership necessary). Doctors and therapists believe exercise helps depression, as well as stress. And I believe so also. Those suffering from moderate chronic conditions can also benefit from a diet of exercise, because it can help mitigate the symptoms that are sometimes made worse by worry. Massage and acupuncture or acupressure can also work the tension out of your body and clear the negative energies you've built up . Massage and acupuncture/acupressure can help, but they also can be expensive, so consider the cost before booking. And if you opt for a service, book the best therapist you can find.

-Live day to day. Events are changing so rapidly, locally and globally, it's hard to know what's going to happen next month, let alone tomorrow. Begin to live only in this moment in this day, because most of us don't know what tomorrow may bring. (And while I have a good idea of what's ahead, I'll save that for another factoid). Living in the moment offers us the chance to hang out with  friends and family; to work on events and things we can change and have control over. I suggest baking bread as one of the best things you can do for yourself today. The very act of kneeding the dough works out tension and is also an important component in creating a good loaf. A fresh baked loaf of bread is a gift in more ways than one (ah - the aroma and the taste!). When you take it out of the oven, you've just created something delightful for a fraction of the cost of a grocery store loaf. Baking bread is just one example of an act you can take today that will, in its own way, make tomorrow better.

In my experience, the mind-body connection works like this: if you confront reality in your mind, fear can't bury itself into your subconscious where it can do your body harm. If you discipline your mind to stay focused on today, anxiety can't wander off into nightmares about the future. If you engage your body, (work it with discipline to show you care about it,) you can reduce stress naturally and unburden your mind at the same time. The strong link between mind and body is such that you can literally focus your mind to lower your blood pressure and to alleviate pain. (I know it works. I've done it; it just takes practice). Again, consult the internet or numerous books to learn methods for harnessing your mind to produce positive results through alpha waves, meditation and/or visualization.

As a strong proponent of mind over matter, I know a positive attitude can help us triumph over break-ups, break-downs and unexpected breaks in the action many of us are experiencing now. If you're rusty in this area, do as much mind-body work as you can fit into your daily routine. Know that keeping the mind-body connection open and flowing will help you be a peak performer at a time when nothing else will do.

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