“It’s very hard to motivate people once the pain has gone away,” Anna-Louise Bouvier says. She’s a physiotherapist, and she’s used to working with bad backs and wobbly bodies.
“When we’re ‘magnificent me’ we cope with stress very well, but a lot of us are more like ‘messy me’ – not exercising, not sleeping, and when stress comes, it shakes us up,” she says.
Anna-Louise says that Western medicine has separated mind and body for a long time, but understanding how they go together is the secret to understanding the relationship between mood and energy.
Most people are incredibly busy, which makes us tired. We go looking for ‘firecracker energy’, something that lifts us up, and then dumps us down. Some people use ‘sparkler energy’ – we use our adrenalin to sparkle all day, then we go home with a burnt crisp. Then our families don’t see our best sides.
“We’ve got to look for ways to get sustainable energy,” Anna-Louise says. This means looking at how much we sit, how much we move, how much we sleep, and how stressed we are. One of these will be your ‘thing’, and will be your entry point to changing your everyday habits.
Anna-Louise says that even moving a little bit more, sitting a little bit less, and sleeping a little bit more will make a big difference. Standing for three minutes, three times an hour is enough. She tells us that even something like sitting up straight in our chairs and ‘shining our light’ can make a huge difference to our mood.
A lot of people are self-medicating throughout the day. When they feel a little tired, they get a coffee. After work, they have a glass of wine or three, then sleep very well for a few hours, until they wake up at 3 A.M. and worry about work.
We are very good at ignoring stress, but our bodies try to get the message through. For some, it might be your immune system. It could be your gut, headaches, an aching back, shingles, high blood pressure, cholesterol changes, hormonal changes, dermatological problems. Your body will make you sick in order to get you to listen to your stress signals.
Anna-Louise says that the secret to dealing with this stuff is to use our bodies more. We need to move more, do more ‘huff and puff’ exercises. “Have you ever exercised so much you felt like you would die?” she asks. When you don’t die, (“and that’s the secret,” she jokes), the next time that you feel stressed, your body will remember that feeling and it won’t have such an extreme response.
She gets us up to march on the spot and sing ‘Row, row, row your boat.’ “Afterwards, your body will say, ‘Woah, this is fantastic!’” Anna-Louise tells us.
Do you know what your ‘thing’ is? Sitting, sleep, stress, or moving? Everyone is different – “choose your one and work on it. I guarantee you will feel so much better.”
Anna-Louise Bouvier, innovative mind/body expert and creator of the award-winning workplace mental health and wellbeing program Happy Body at Work presented this at Happiness & Its Causes 2016.