Many of us would agree that our minds can cause us more harm than our worst enemies; the mind can bombard us with racing thoughts and make life a rollercoaster, alternatively, it can uplift us and keep us serene amidst the chaos of modern living. Anxiety is one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s that impacts my life most significantly; and so, I have had to throw myself into facing it head on. I am attempting to step off the merry-go-round of worry, palpitations, dizziness and what is often called ‘monkey-mind’.
There is no question that the mind affects our health, Parkinson’s patients often find that symptoms worsen when they are stressed and under pressure, but that symptoms improve when in a state of calm and relaxation. Holistic practitioners are fully aware of the mind and body connection, and many doctors of conventional medicine would also agree.
Our health is often a manifestation of what is going on in our minds and our thoughts govern our lives; we can drink all of the juices that we want, do yoga, eat well and get plenty of rest, but if we don’t deal with our toxic and chaotic thoughts, we will never live happy and healthy lives.
As an experiment, think about someone that you love; you may feel a rush of dopamine as you release your happy chemicals. Now, think of someone who upsets you and causes you difficulties; reflect on the physical reaction that you felt in your body. So, are your thoughts helping or harming you? Are you adding to your own suffering? Are you a prisoner of your mind? If so, then you are putting stress on your immune system and negatively impacting your health. Perhaps it’s time to retrain your mind?
It might sound easier said than done, but it can be achieved through practice. The discovery of mindfulness has been a real turning point for me, and it is used to treat many neurological conditions and other serious illnesses; it decreases stress, lowers blood pressure, and it helps to deal with depression and anxiety. Surely anything that can help you to live a more equilibrious life is worth a try? In our chronically overstimulated lives, taking a break to connect with your mind and soul should be the most important part of your day.
Looking after your mind is as important as food, water, exercise and sleep; it requires some deep inner work, but it helps you to break free from your thoughts and realise that they are not tangible or real, they are merely thoughts. Enstasy is the practice of being able to retreat for a few moments, observe your thoughts and step out of them, rather than joining in with the drama. It takes practice to not give your thoughts power, and we only give them power when we listen to them or believe them.
We are all busy and don’t have the time to spend the day in lotus pose listening to panpipes (my idea of pure bliss though), but there are ways that we can train our brains to be calm throughout the day, and meditation is one such tool. Purists might disagree with me, but I believe that meditation can happen whilst doing mundane tasks, taking a shower, as you do the dishes, cleaning your teeth, sitting in traffic, walking the dog and so on; these can be moments to become aware of our breathing and thoughts, and in doing so, detox the mind. Some sceptics may dismiss this as hippy mumbo-jumbo, but there is a vast amount of research showing the benefits of meditation to our health; it is backed up by the science.
This one small change can have a ripple effect on the rest of your day, and the more you do it, the more it will become second nature, just start by being conscious throughout the day. Meditation helps you to release anger and resentment, it makes you feel calmer and more appreciative; and it can consequently make you a much nicer person, rather than a snappy adrenaline filled maniac!
So, try to set some time aside for yourself; your anxiety is a sign that some need is not being met and must be dealt with. Prioritise yourself and take some time out to check in with your mind. Spend some time each day in meditation, even if you start with just 5 minutes. There are lots of excellent apps and resources to help you: Insight Timer is free, or try out Buddhify, Calm or Headspace.
Why not give it a go? I sincerely hope that by this time next year at least one of you might even be running your very own ashram J .
Try to MAKE time to look after your health before you are FORCED to make time for illness…