Your mind, your body

head in handsWork related stress appears to be a constant in many people’s lives, affecting us in many different ways.

The mind-body connection is so powerful that work stressors are often the precursor to physical ailments and I have had direct experience of this, as a periodic sufferer of sciatica. Sciatica is pain which runs along the sciatic nerve when it is compressed or irritated.

In my case it took a long time to realise that the excruciating physical symptoms I was experiencing were actually rooted in the emotional stress that I was experiencing in my workplace.

Once I put two and two together, thanks to the incredible work by Dr. John Sarno (Healing Back Pain), I found myself able to reduce the length of the sciatica attacks and increase the gaps between them. This was through identifying what it was in the workplace that was more likely to trigger my illness and then putting in place strategies to deal with those stressors.

Some of those strategies required changes in my attitude at work and how I organised my tasks, my team and also how I dealt with my managers. But others were related to my day to day routine especially my mornings. I started my day with a short meditation, and committed myself to a morning walk, aiming for a 10,000 step count every day. The other area I focused on was self care and doing things that made me happy. I invested in myself. I booked a regular massage and I took up gardening. Interestingly, taking on an allotment was pivotal as I realised how important it was for my mental wellbeing to have that connection with the earth.

But I think one of the most important strategies for me was to reset my brain. This incredible organ was actually causing the physical pain as a way to protect me and distract me from the mental stresses. And it worked.

Now, for each of us, our healing journey and recovery from work-related stress will come via different routes as our struggles are all unique. But it is possible.