How the Mind-Body Connection Can Affect Wellness in the Workplace

More and more employees are being granted short or long-term disabilities due to mental or/and physical illness. Understanding ways to effectively return from, or ultimately prevent, these absences can start with understanding the mind-body connection known as PNI.

Most people are not aware that chronic pain or illness involves the psychological and emotional systems, too.  When stress hormones are constantly flooding the body, it creates chronic inflammation, which can affect the organs, immune system and eventually the entire body can move into a state of disharmony and ‘dis-ease’.

Where are the stress hormones coming from?  In the physical body, they are generated from the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands.  Psychologically and emotionally, these hormones are produced from big and small life stressors.

A dysfunctional mind-body connection can perpetuate illness and pain in an ongoing cycle.  The term for this mind-body connection is psychoneuroimmunology or PNI.  

PNI is the study of the interactions between psychological factors, the central nervous system, and immune function as modulated by the neuroendocrine system.

Research studies repeatedly indicate that when illness and pain treatments include resolving stress and emotional issues, the body has a significantly higher chance of healing.  

Some research studies have examined how specific emotions can be a precursor to a specific illness. For example, chronic pain is highly related to a constant state of stress, anxiety, or fear; and heart disease is most often diagnosed in those who carry unresolved anger.  Individuals with arthritis are shown to hold feelings of resentment and feeling stuck; while cancer is highly correlated with the tendency to experience generational guilt.

Often the physical illness or pain syndrome is treated solely from a physical perspective, either through surgery, medications, physiotherapy, etc.  However, we are now learning how the mind-body connection - the psychological and emotional aspects of an individual - can also help heal illness and pain.

Ideally, it is best for employees to address their emotional issues early, before it progresses to physical illness.  

How do we help employees do this? Using mind-body connection strategies — and the support of a corporate integrative health coach — can play an important role in helping an employee make a healthy adjustment back to work.  In addition, there are therapists who specialize in mind-body healing, plus a variety of online programs and books.

For example, employees that experience chronic pain can be taught mindfulness techniques to help decrease or release the fear-based thoughts that create muscular tension and fatigue in the body.  Progressive muscle relaxation combined with affirmations that reflect peace and safety help to retrain the body and mind to be in a state of calm and homeostasis.

There’s so much more to learn about healing and preventing illness. As your organization increases its focus on employee wellness, a shared understanding of how PNI works can improve the effectiveness of your wellness program.

Download our free Mind-Body Coaching Infographic.

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Article written by:

Dr. Nickerson's professional experience as a psychologist and personal passion for developing the mind-body-spirit connection have fueled her success and devotion to training individuals and organizations to foster whole wellness.