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Women Living Well: Mind/Body Connection - 2002
Student Papers
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The Mind Body Connection and its Current Expression at Bryn Mawr

Rachel Wright

What I appreciated most about the class was not that it was the first time that I have ever heard or thought that my mind and body were in connnection, but that it is the first time that I have heard that at Bryn Mawr-- at least in this way. Oh sure, in my higher level English classes we sometimes talk about the way that the mind and body are connected, but always the mind takes precidence over the body and in Women Living Well, I think that the relationship between the two was far more balanced. I learned that, in its own way, the body has agency; it can intervene to disrupt the life of the mind if it goes abused for too long.

I am most struck by this idea of agency with regard to sleep deprivation. It seems to me that when one is chronically or acutely sleep deprived, the very sense that you cannot stay awake (in class, on the road, while you sit and watch television) is your body taking control of the situation. At Bryn Mawr, we place a premium on the life of the mind and we tax it with many tasks that encroach later and later into our bedtimes and cause the alarm clocks to go off earlier and earlier. At some point, the body says enough. Yes, I want to be able to accomplish all the tasks set before me, gaining good grades and recognition along the way, but I am frankly frightened by the side effects that the sleep deprivation therapist described-- inability to efficiently learn or remember new information, inability to judge one's own level of impaired reasoning, changes in mood and behavior-- because they seem very much like the early symptoms of addiction.

What concerns me about that parallel is that I think sleep deprivation and the exhaustion and depression that accompany it, often lead people at Bryn Mawr to substance abuse. I am not sure that I want to claim that there are a serious number of addicts on campus, but I know that there are many students who have turned to alchohol/tobacco/marijuana to escape both the work they had to do and the terrible feelings that accompany both sleep deprivation and the depression that comes with realizing that you cannot accomplish the tasks in the way that you want. In terms of the body needing something that the mind probably knows is dangerous, addiction seems the worst way in which the body intervenes against the express thoughts of the mind and eventually, the chemical changes in the brain that addiction cause actually make the mind as dependent as the body tricks it into feeling from the beginning. I think that we run the risk at Bryn Mawr of putting so much trust in the mind's capacity to reason and choose, that we put ourselves at risk for great harm when the body intervenes because of stress and pressure.

To avoid addiction on this campus, as well as to decrease the depression, sleep deprivation, and anxiety that are epidemic in my opinion, this idea of the mind/body connection must be talked about outside of the hour long blocks that it has been given by the P.E. department. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate that time, but even in its set up, I was there every week, even when I needed the time for work/rest/lunch (in short to fulfill the basic requirements for my own body) I continued to come so that I would get credit for the class. In other words, my academic life which includes a need for P.E. credit still intervened (one could argue positively or negatively) to force my participation in this valuable pannel. Instead, I hope that we will begin to talk about this connection in other classrooms, in the dorms, with our friends, and basically wherever two or three Mawrtyrs gather, because we already talk about the mind when we're together. Perhaps then, when the mind/body connection is not just allocated its one hour a week for exploration, but takes center stage as a way of understanding all of our behaviors on and off campus, we will be able to make consistant healthy decisions about both the mind and the body. I look forward to that day as a Bryn Mawr student with an active mind and as a woman with a body I want and need to take care of.

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