Have you ever stopped to consider the effect of your physiology on your psychology?

When a young child is playing up, the parent first considers if the child is hungry, tired, or just bored with sitting still for too long. I believe that as adults, we are just kids in larger bodies. When we learn to work with our physiology, we are supporting our nervous system and therefore better managing our stress response and overall well-being.

In the past, psychology and physiology were thought of as two separate fields. Studies now show that the two are inextricably linked. Think of them as two sides of the same coin. As head coach at Anew Outcome, I have spent over 10 years helping my clients get clear on the lives they want and then help them build out the roadmap to get there. As you would at the start of any road trip, you need to ensure your vehicle has enough fuel to take you from where you are to where you want to be. This is where physiology or energy comes into my coaching. 

Physiology Drives Psychology – EMS-BM

Let me introduce you to my favourite acronym in this space, EMS-BM. I believe it is the key to managing the basics of physiology and it stands for eating, moving and sleeping well; breath and meaning. In this article, I will briefly touch on each point.

  1. Eating well – Nutrition and mood are closely linked because the food we eat provides the building blocks for the chemicals in our brain which in turn, affects our mood and emotions. Research has shown that diets high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can increase the risk of depression and anxiety. On the other hand, eating real food (no label required) can help regulate the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is crucial for regulating mood.
  2. Moving well – It has been proven that exercise helps to release endorphins naturally. Think of this as nature’s own anti-depressant with built-in pain relief. Moving goes beyond exercise though. Sitting in one position for hours on end not only hurts your body, but it can also have a negative effect on mood and stress. Think of your body position when you are in front of your laptop. Now, think of how you hold your body when you are stressed or feeling down. Notice how they aren’t that different… If you want to feel differently, you need to move differently (and more frequently).  
  3. Sleeping well – Did you know that sleep plays a key role in emotional regulation, memory consolidation, overall cognitive function, and physical healing? Getting 7 to 9 hours of good quality rest tonight lays the foundation for success tomorrow. 
  4. Breath – When we are stressed, we hold our breath. This is a physiological response. One of the fastest ways to release stress is to focus on extending your exhale. It signals to the brain that you are not under immediate threat. This down-regulates your sympathetic nervous system where the fight or flight response is triggered and allows the parasympathetic nervous system to take over. This is also known as the rest and digest system.
  5. Meaning – The level of stress we are experiencing in a moment affects the meaning we assign to the event. This then affects our behaviour and very often the outcome. In managing our physiology we are better equipped to choose our response rather than just react to the situation. Who hasn’t had an experience where we regret the way we behaved because we were so stressed? 

How to Apply the EMS-BM

How are you doing in your EMS-BM? The key to success here is to make it as simple as possible to implement into your daily life. Here are a few ideas:

  • Choose a day of the week when you do your grocery shopping or even order it online. Schedule it into your diary or set a reminder. Stocking your cupboards with real food means you are less likely to order takeaways.
  • Choose a day of the week when you food prep. Again, when real food is ready and available, you are less likely to grab junk food.
  • What time of day do you prefer to exercise? When do you have your most energy? What type of exercise do you enjoy? Build an exercise habit around what works for you. Consistency matters more than the time taken or type of exercise.
  • Set reminders throughout your work day to stand up, roll your shoulders back and take a breath. Your body and mind will thank you.
  • Create a sleep routine. Go to bed around the same time every evening and you will find your brain and body learn to wind down automatically around that time.
  • Switch your phone to night mode post sunset. The blue light affects melatonin production and therefore sleep quality.
  • The next time you notice you are being triggered by something, push that breath you have been holding in… out. Extend your exhale and focus on your breathing for a minute. When you feel your body calm, even just a bit, acknowledge that you did that. You calmed your physiological stress response.
  • Remember you get to choose the meaning your assign in a moment. Some statements and questions I enjoy include, “What else could this mean?”, “What if this is happening for me rather than to me?” and “Challenge accepted”!

In conclusion, physiology drives psychology because physiology and psychology are intrinsically linked. A change in one affects the other. By looking after the basics of EMS-BM, we are not only supporting our physical and mental wellbeing, we are also ensuring that there is enough fuel in the tank to chase our dreams.

Written by Olivia Millar | Head Coach at Anew Outcome | www.anewoutcome.co.za |

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