🤒 Does your brain have something to do with you getting sick?
Have you noticed a pattern where you tend to get sick right after an intensely busy period at work? If you’re a teacher, do you often fall ill as soon as the semester is over? You might be wondering why you’re fine throughout the busy period, but get sick as soon as your break starts. This phenomenon could be related to the mind-body connection and how your brain manages your body’s energy resources through a process called allostasis.
Allostasis, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the process by which a state of internal, physiological equilibrium is maintained by an organism in response to actual or perceived environmental and psychological stressors.” Essentially, it’s your brain’s way of keeping your body in balance by anticipating and adapting to changes in your environment and energy needs.
🧠🏃 The Most Important Function of Your Brain: Controlling Your Body
While many might believe that thinking or remembering things is the most crucial function of our brains, Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D., argues otherwise in her book, “Seven And A Half Lessons About The Brain.”
According to Barrett, the most important function of your brain is to control your body—specifically, managing allostasis by predicting energy needs before they arise. This helps ensure that you can efficiently make worthwhile movements and survive.
💰📊 Your Brain as the Body’s Budget Officer
Just as households, companies, and governments have budgets, so does your body. In this case, your brain acts as the budget officer, keeping track of energy deposits and withdrawals.
Barrett explains, “You and I do not experience our every thought, every feeling of happiness or anger or awe, every hug we give or receive, every kindness we extend, and every insult we bear as a deposit or withdrawal in our metabolic budgets, but under the hood, that is what’s happening.”
🔮⚖️ Predicting Energy Usage and Reducing Uncertainty
Skilled budget officers aim to predict expenses in advance, avoid surprises, and ensure resources are available when needed. Your brain functions similarly, trying to balance your body’s energy budget by accurately predicting future events based on past experiences.
It strives to be energy-efficient, reducing uncertainty and managing your body’s energy resources.
😷🛑 Why Do You Get Sick When the Busy Period Ends?
During intense periods of work or stress, you might be running on a constant energy deficit, “withdrawing” from your body budget without realizing it. Once the busy period ends, you’ve used up your body’s energy reserves, leaving you susceptible to illness. It’s crucial to recognize this and take action to replenish your energy before it’s too late.
🧠😥 The Impact of Prolonged Uncertainty on Mental Health
During uncertain times, like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, your brain struggles to resolve uncertainty, leading to a heavy allostatic load. This state of chronic uncertainty can result in various mental and physical health issues. The extended duration of the pandemic has exhausted many people, increasing their allostatic load and straining their energy resources.
🔋🌟 Prioritize Energy Replenishment
To maintain your wellbeing, it’s essential to prioritize replenishing your energy. Don’t pretend you’re fine when your body’s energy is spent. Actively take care of yourself and implement strategies to keep your energy levels balanced.
🏃♀️🌱 Take Action Now
1️⃣ Pause and take 2-3 minutes to do some stretching, box/square breathing, or meditation. Your brain will score this as a “deposit” to your body energy.
2️⃣ Schedule a daily 30-minute energy replenishment period on your calendar. Having it scheduled increases your commitment to completing it!