Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How Does Your Body Talk?

I don't like exercise, but my body does. I exercise to keep my weight down and hopefully avoid family health problems like heart disease and diabetes, but exercise also has more immediate benefits. Exercise alters the activity of neurotransmitters, which can help our mood and make us feel less stressed even with the same stressors. It doesn't make everything all better, but I know I feel better when I have exercised regularly. And research has shown that exercise has antioxidant effects too.

Years ago I took a class at BYU called Psychoneuroimmunology and it fascinated me how linked our moods and psychological state are with the physical activity of our body. That was soon after my body showed me first hand how linked they are.
(Yes, those are my big 3 pound weights I use.)

I woke up one morning unable to move one side of my face. I figured it was Bell's Palsy and the doctor said it was and sent me to a physical therapist, who ended up kinda being my psychological therapist. He would ask me about my activity, what happened (falls, injuries...) before the palsy, stress in my life, etc. He concluded that, although "they" aren't sure what exactly causes Bell's Palsy, that in my case, it was my body's response to some big stresses in my life. At that point in my life I hadn't been exercising. Like at all, other than short walks with my two little children at the time.

The physical therapist helped me to spot some warning signs my body was giving me that I was too stressed and needed to release some of it by mental de-stressing, but also by the big ugly word----exercise. I would get migraines very often (several times a week) and a very tight neck. Those were the two big signals that I needed to pay more attention to releasing those stress hormones by exercise. And I just gotta add that eating well is a huge part too.

I was very glad when my face got better several weeks later and have been happy that I haven't had it again. Not a pretty look for me, not to mention, it is very hard to drink when you can't close half of your mouth all the way. Sorry no photos.

Since that time, I have found another signal my body gives me that I am headed for trouble. I think it is a bit unique and kinda seems strange, but I have noticed it again and again so I know it is a signal. If I am stressed (well, who isn't these days, but even more than usual) and not exercising regularly or intensely enough and eating too much sugar and fat, I tend to have bad dreams---ugly, vivid, bad dreams.

The last few weeks of summer our schedule was a little different and I wasn't doing my usual exercise routine every morning and then Elisa and I weren't running much at night like we had been. I was getting more anxious for the semester to start, along with other stresses in my life. I had a horrible, scary dream where I saw Sabrina, my 9-year old fall down a cliff, bounce at the bottom, and die.(Strangely, it was a couple of days before someone died from a fall off a cliff in Provo.) I knew as soon as I woke up that it was my body telling me to get back to work.

So, I'm back to my routine and hopefully it'll keep those awful dreams away. How does your body talk to you? Do you get headaches? Feel blue? Do you have something freaky weird like my dreams???

7 comments:

  1. That is so interesting with the connection between exercise and Bell's Palsy and also horrible dreams! I knew about the endorphins and feeling great and having and outlet, but those two things are very interesting to me. I'll have to remember that when I start having terrible dreams, like when I had one the other night, I can't even share, ack!

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  2. I get anxious,migraines and find myself stressed quite often. My mother has cancer, it has me rethinking how I don't really take care of myself the way I did when the children were little. I would get up early and exercise, green drink, and take vitamins. All things I have lapsed on in recent years. I am glad you posted about this. I know I am ready to make some changes to feel healthier again.

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  3. I love this post. Very informative and gave me some insight to a few things. Thank you!

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  4. Great inspiration and information.
    You amaze me.

    I hope you are doing well with the classes. You are my hero.

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  5. First off, are those yours calves? Very toned! You were always a faster walker than me, but I think I would really have trouble keeping up with you now!!

    Generally, my digestive tract has issues when I'm stressed. It has always been that way (at least since 1st grade when they thought I had an ulcer and ended up deciding it was just a nervous stomach). Things haven't changed...I still get really sick to my stomach when I'm nervous, scared or stressed...and hungry. I eat a lot more when my stomach is upset (stupid, huh??).

    Anyway, you are doing great with both exercise and school. I know you're worried about your O Chem class but you always worry and it always comes out well.

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  6. Exercise fixes me physically AND spiritually! Good for you!

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  7. This is soooo true! I think of myself as a person who doesn't get depressed. And yet, I have realized that my addiction to exercise is probably what makes that so. Recently I have gone through something traumatic. I completely stopped exercising - which was the worst thing I could do. But forcing myself to do it here and there has reminded me of how powerful it is in helping me with my mood and ability to cope. I am now beginning to get the desire to exercise back and have decided to be committed again - even if I don't feel like exercising; I know that when I come to the end of that exercise session I will feel a lot happier than I did when I started! :) Great post, and thanks so much for the powerful reminder!

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