Staying healthy requires balance within three areas of your life: mind, body and spirit. Each is a very important component in and of itself, but when one of these areas gets out of balance it often causes our immune system to falter allowing us to catch whatever is going around. I want to share with you some thoughts I have about how to maintain your equilibrium within these three important elements.
Let’s start with the mind. Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling down or depressed for whatever reason you seem to be more susceptible to catching a cold? That is one of the functions of the mind-body connection. It’s often when we allow the “Brat”, that inner voice that we often have conversations with in our minds, to rear it’s ugly head and start telling us all the reasons we will never have a career, how stupid we are, how we are not worth it, etc. This often happens after a blown audition, bad performance, us not doing what was on our business plate for that week, or having spent money unwisely causing us to be stressed out. Sometimes it is an unforeseen family crisis. Or how about feeling totally burnt out from trying to make it all work with your day job and also staying focused on working your business plan so you reach your dream. It is a scientific fact that long term stress represses our immune system.
“Whatever you hold in your mind will tend to occur in your life. If you continue to believe as you have always believed, you will continue to act as you have always acted. If you continue to act as you have always acted, you will continue to get what you have always gotten. If you want different results in your life or your work, all you have to do is change your mind.”
Psychologists Suzanne Segerstrom, Ph.D., and Gregory Miller, Ph.D. found the following:
- Stress does indeed affect the immune system in powerful ways.
- Chronic, long-term stress suppresses the immune system. The longer the stress, the more the immune system shifted from they adaptive changes seen in the “fight or flight” response to more negative changes, first at the cellular level and later in broader immune function. The most chronic stressors – stress that seems beyond a person’s control or seems endless – resulted in the most global suppression of immunity. Almost all measures of immune system function dropped across the board.
“It’s bizarre that the produce manager is more important to my children’s health than the pediatrician.”
~ Meryl Streep
The second component is body. How well do you treat your body? Do you take care of it by eating healthy, exercising at least a little, and have good hygiene? That might seem like putting more stuff on your plate then you can handle with everything else you have to deal with, right? Sometimes eating healthy seems to take too much of your time, energy and money. It is easier to just grab a cheap meal at some fast food place because you are rushing from work to a lesson, coaching, or rehearsal and you are hungry and need something quick to satisfy your hunger. We all do that occasionally, but when it is the habit, maybe it’s time to rethink what kind of fuel you want to put into your body to help you stay healthy.
- I know how hard it is to include the amounts of fruits and veggies one is supposed to include in our diets each day, but it can be done if you buy yourself a really good juicer. Buying mixtures of juice at a juice bar can be very expensive, but if you have your own juicer, it becomes an inexpensive investment in your overall well being. Maybe you could ask your parents to give you one as a gift. Fresh fruits and vegetables at the store are really quite inexpensive and the combinations one can put together is part of the fun. You can juice just about anything. I alternate making fruit juice and veggie juice during the week. One of my favorite veggie juices is, beets, fresh ginger, ½ of a lemon, celery, carrots, and I throw in one apple. Wow, is that good. My favorite fruit mixture is orange, strawberries, blueberries, apples, and pineapple. Sometimes I smash a banana up and add that as well. (They don’t juice.)
“Adam and Eve ate the first vitamins, including the package.”
~ E.R. Squibb
- A good muiti-vitamin might also be something you want to consider. There are many studies out right now explaining the importance of vitamin D. It’s what we get from the sun for the most part, but in the winter we get low in this vitamin. It supports our immune system, and also helps one get over the winter blahs. Give it a try. They say one should take anywhere from 2000 to 5000 IUs so that might be something you would want to take in addition to your multi vitamin.
- Another interesting item is Turmeric, the herb. It helps keep low grade inflammation in our bodies and under control. Sugar triggers inflammation as does anything made with white flour. This helps keep bacteria and viruses from taking hold within your body.
“If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all.”
~ Joey Adams
How about exercise? You don’t have to spend money on a gym membership if you do a lot of walking to and from work, etc. Maybe take the stairs at work and your apartment at least part way up and down each day.
How much effort do you take to really notice your body when you shower or take a bath? Do you allow your mind to appreciate all parts of your body or are you busy thinking about everything else that needs to get done and don’t even notice? (To have some real appreciation for the human body, see if a show called the Human Body is available in your area. Our bodies are amazing.)
How about your teeth? How does taking care of your teeth help keep you healthy? Taking care of your teeth helps prevent plaque, which is a clear film that sticks to your teeth. The film itself might not sound so bad, but it’s very sticky, and it acts like a magnet for bacteria and sugar. Like ants at a picnic, bacteria goes crazy over the sugar on your teeth, breaking it down into acids that eat away tooth enamel, causing holes called cavities. Plaque also causes gingivitis, which is gum disease that can make your gums red, swollen, and sore. You will also want to brush your tongue every morning and evening to help keep your breath fresh.
Because often germs, viruses, etc enter our bodies through our nose, you might want to incorporate into your daily hygiene regiment use of a Netti Pot. You can buy an inexpensive one at most drug or health food stores. It looks like a very small tea pot. You put a small pinch of salt and warm water into the pot, stir, then tip your head to the left putting the pots spout into your right nostril and allow the water to simply run through and come out the left nostril into the sink. Then reverse and do the left nostril. Blow your nose immediately.
Zicam is a great product to have on had so you can start taking it at the first sign of a cold. When you feel the very first twinges of getting a cold, start using Zicam according to the directions. I have never heard of any unwanted side effects and it will help curtail the length and severity of the cold. It is zinc, something that is found in our bodies, but because of stress levels may be lacking.
Another very important part of staying healthy is to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. This is the best defense against the bacterium C. difficlile. Hand-sanitizer doesn’t kill this bacterium. I wash as long as it takes me to sing in my head, the Happy Birthday song. We touch so many objects and people during the day, it is important to practice good hygiene by keeping our hands clean.
Part of staying healthy is taking the time to be present and focused when we do the small stuff, without allowing the thinking brain to take us out of balance and into itself.
“Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.”
The third component is spirit. To me this is the watchdog of the mind-body connection. It’s the part that when engaged keeps us present so that we focus only on what we are doing right this minute and then this next minute, etc. It’s what I call the intellect, not the thinking brain. This takes some discipline and practice to learn how to access it, but is well worth the time and energy. It is even worth your money if you feel you need some help learning how to quiet the “Brat” and the thinking mind from becoming the dominate component of the trio. Being complete and healthy is the goal. Getting to the inside quiet spot without having a thought, if even done for a minute or two, leaves all stress, frustration, worry, anxiety and fear behind and allows you to just be. This then gives you the opportunity to be present and productive. Getting to this part of us is done through the senses. This gives your body a chance to take a break.
One way to accomplish this is to be out in nature. Even if you are in a city, you can go to a park, sit and focus all of your senses on the beauty around you. Feel the air, the sun, the wind; hear the birds, dogs and bugs, etc. Experience just what is going on right now. Don’t let that thinking brain or the “Brat” distract you from enjoying the experience.
Try having someone else read this exercise to you or memorize it before you try it. You will know when it is time to come out from that inner peaceful and calm space. You will probably feel rested and refreshed with a clear mind when you have finished. This is a good way to change gears between activities during each day.
- Sit up straight on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hand on your legs. Close your eyes and let your mind and body come to rest.
- Feel the feet on the floor. (pause)
- Feel the body in the chair. (pause)
- Feel the clothing against the skin. (pause)
- Feel the air on the hands and face. (pause)
- Taste, smell. (pause)
- Now let the hearing go out to include everything in the room and beyond. Don’t name any of the sounds. (pause)
- Rest here. (pause)
- When thoughts come into your head, let them float in and then out like little white, puffy clouds and return to listening. Rest here. (pause)
- You will know within yourself went it is time to come back into the physical world. Simply open your eyes and breathe normally. Give yourself some time to relish this feeling of peace and calm as you return to the room.
“So great a power is there of the soul upon the body, that whichever way the soul imagines and dreams, thither doth it lead the body.”
~ Agrippa, 1510
As you might now understand, we need all three components in balance, our minds, our bodies and our spirit to maintain the art of being healthy. Each element is an integral part of the others. They function together and it is very easy to neglect keeping balance between them until you know how important all three components are. If you start noticing that feeling of being burnt out, frustrated, anxious or fearful, stop and check in to find which component is being neglected. Then take the time to bring it back into balance with the other two allowing you to once again feel healthy overall.
Being an aspiring, young professional or full time professional singer carries a lot of interesting sacrifices one has to be willing to commit to within one’s life in order to realize your dream of success. And being successful has a plethora of diverse meanings to each of you. It’s my belief that a big component of being successful is learning the art of staying healthy by keeping your mind, body and spirit in balance. And that is a lifetime commitment and journey well worth taking, so get started now and enjoy it.