Mind, Body, Spirit by Karl Shallowhorn

written by Karl Shallowhorn

“My body and mind may fail, but God is my strength and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26

It’s the year 2020. As I write this on New Year’s Day, I cannot help but reflect on what this year may bring forth. For me, my family, my friends and for our world. This sense of unknowing can bring about a sense of anxiety. You know, the “What ifs?”

As a person in long-term recovery from bipolar disorder and addiction there is also a certain degree of uncertainty. While I’ve been extremely fortunate for the last nearly 25 years in terms of my overall mental health and wellbeing, there’s still the possibility of a relapse. This is why I consider myself to be in a perpetual state of recovery (as opposed to being “recovered”).

But this is why I need to ensure that I employ the various tools that have served to help me maintain a degree of stability that allows me to perform at a high level. For instance, I take medication for my bipolar condition. And I do other things that are holistic in nature: exercise, meditate, pray, get proper sleep. 

One thing I’m going to do is to make the effort to take better care of myself when it comes to my nutrition. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” It has been well documented through research that things like sugar, in all its forms, and processed foods can adversely affect not only the body and the mind.

Stress is another area I plan to pay particular attention to. People living with mental illness can be particularly sensitive to stress which can manifest in any number of ways.

Stress, processed foods and sugar can all increase inflammation in the body. This inflammation can have negative long-term physical, mental and emotional effects.

So where does the spirit come in? Well, my belief is that we are triune beings comprised of mind, body and spirit. If one or more areas is adversely affected then the other(s) will be too. The key is to find balance, which is an often, elusive goal for me. When I am attuned spiritually then I am more mindful of the other areas.

And then there is the Spirit of God that empowers me and gives me strength. When I’m feeling a sense of imbalance or disconnection I can utilize the tools of prayer and meditation to engage with the God of my understanding. This method has a way of helping me to re-establish my sense of what I need to be doing to address the needs of my mind and body.

It is true that tomorrow isn’t promised, not to mention the entire next year, but if I work daily to establish a pattern of healthy living then I will be better able to serve others as God would have me do.
Karl Shallowhorn is the Education Program Coordinator at the Community Health Center of Buffalo. Karl is a New York State Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor and also serves on the Board of Directors for the UCC Mental Health Network, the Mental Health Association in New York State, and the Mental Health Association of Erie County. He is also a contributing writer and blogger for BP magazine as well as for The Mighty. Karl is a 30-plus year member of Pilgrim-St. Luke’s-El Nuevo Camino UCC in Buffalo, NY.