Improving Emotional Wellness in 2020

By: Dr. Lauren A. Millman

It is safe to say this year has been an extremely stressful year, perhaps the most stressful year collectively for so many of us. More people are showing signs of depression, anxiety, and high levels of stress than ever before. In the past five months, I have noticed significantly greater levels of stress-related physical challenges. Tensions and worries are high and our physical body is feeling the effects. For many people, and without any warning, emotional wellness has become an overwhelming priority for their health.

It is impossible to have a conversation about health and vitality without taking into account mental and emotional wellness. Ironically enough, the relationship between the physical body and emotional well-being is rarely discussed, since many health care professionals disregard the direct connection between the two.

It is naive to believe emotional health does not impact physical well-being, and vice versa. Conversely (and to our benefit), it is often overlooked that improving your emotional well-being notably impacts your physical state. You cannot separate one from the other, particular when you’re looking at the whole person for health and healing.

There are plenty of action items you can take to improve your emotional well-being, some obvious and others perhaps not so obvious. The more you practice these suggestions, the greater your chances are for managing unexpected health challenges as a result of heightened stress or emotional distress.

A Healthy Functioning Nervous System

Many people consider chiropractic care only when they are in physical pain. Although I don’t deny that chiropractic is exceptionally beneficial for pain reduction and feeling better, I personally believe the greatest benefits of chiropractic care are improving emotional well-being and stress reduction. Ultimately physical healing is initiated when nervous system stress is decreased. The nervous system’s ability to settle and calm your body following an adjustment is what initiates feeling better, decreases physical pain, and improves movement and flexibility. The majority of people believe it’s the other way around.

A frequent response I hear from patients following a chiropractic adjustment is “I simply feel calmer and sleep better.” The calming impact of the nervous system is what sets the tone for healing to occur. I contend that when the nervous system is rebooted through spinal balance and alignment, the tension of the muscle fibers is released and reset, and the joints experience a restoration of motion. Together this creates a calming response by the brain and a decrease in a chronic stress load. Poor spinal alignment impacts the body’s ability to move properly, which affects the brain’s ability to function optimally, including the ability to process emotions and handle stress.

In addition, as it relates to emotional wellness, research has shown the results of chiropractic adjustments to include:

-Lowering blood pressure
-Increases production of positive hormones
-Helps promote restful sleep
-Encourages relaxation

In general, chiropractic care aims to establish the balance between the mind and body. This reconnection between the mind and body is what’s responsible for the calming, grounded effect. Chiropractic should be involved across the lifespan of everyone’s health, and not viewed as a natural, pain-reduction method.

Essential Oils

Many of you know that I am a huge advocate for essential oils. My family and I use them in our everyday lives. One little known benefit to quality essential oils is their direct effect on the brain and its ability to provide positive emotional support.

When essential oils are inhaled, the scent molecules travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain and especially impact the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.

The quality of essential oils on the market varies greatly, from pure essential oils to those diluted with other ingredients. Because there’s no regulation, the label may not even list everything that’s in the bottle you’re buying. This is why quality and purity are of the utmost importance when using essential oils for therapeutic purposes.

My favorite essential oils for emotional support are blends, meaning they are a combination of several different single oils. Some of my favorite oil blends are Valor, Joy, Stress Away, and Peace & Calming. Yes, the very name of the oil blend on the bottle has been shown to elicit that very emotion. Think of it as nature’s way of providing the very support we need, but in a way that enhances and supports a healthy lifestyle.

Physical Activity

In almost any article that discusses ways to enhance health, you will find physical activity as a vital component to that list. The overall effects of physical activity and its relationship to de-stressing the body is undeniable. It is perhaps the healthiest of all stress relievers, and the easiest to apply to your life, as it doesn’t require a lot of money or a fancy platform. That being said, it is often the very action that gets pushed aside during times of increased stress (myself included). It’s no surprise that we live in an overly stressed culture, yet at the same time, we know there is insurmountable evidence showing how physical activity decreases stress levels. The research has proven time and again the positive correlation between physical activity and lowered stress levels, so I’m likely not telling you anything you don’t already know. This is just a friendly reminder to get up and get moving… every day. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just get moving for 30 minutes each day. Take more walks and get the blood flowing. Enjoy nature and take deep breaths.

You get bonus points for practicing yoga. Not only is yoga great for strength training as well as cardiovascular exercise, it also is incredible for the mind. Similar to chiropractic, yoga aims to establish balance between the mind and body.

Self Care

During these stressful times check in with yourself and practice more self care. It’s okay to give yourself permission if you need more self care and self love than what you needed in the past. It’s a sign of strength to honor what your body and your mind need. Sometimes all we need is a pattern interrupt to establish new healthy habits. Often times, the hardest part is just getting started.

References

1. Robert Kessinger, DC, Trevor Qualls, DC, MD; Pulse pressure findings following upper cervical care: a practice-based observational study; , J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2019 Apr; 63(1): 51–58.

2. Gustavo Plaza-Manzano, Francisco Molina-Ortega, et. al; Changes in biochemical markers of pain perception and stress response after spinal manipulation; Ortho Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Apr;44(4):231-9. doi: 10.2519

3. JanaKingston BSc, ClaireRaggio BSc, et. al A review of the literature on chiropractic and insomnia; Journal of Chiropractic Medicine Volume 9, Issue 3, September 2010, Pages 121-126

4. Shambaugh P. Changes in electrical activity in muscles resulting from chiropractic adjustment: a pilot study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 1987 Dec;10(6):300-304.