Hospital News

UPMC Western Maryland May 2020 Population Health Focus: Mind-Body Connections/Resilience


The UPMC Western Maryland Population Health Focus for May is Mind-Body Connections/Resilience.

One of the great things about our physiology is that it is, by definition, holistic.  Claude Bernard described it as “the body’s capacity to maintain homeostasis – or stable internal environment – in the midst of a continually changing external world.”  Fifty years later, Walter Cannon observed and named what most of us have felt in times of stress.… fight or flight.  Today we’ve added a term freeze.

The autonomic nervous system originates in the cranial and sacral regions of the spinal cord.  It’s two main branches, the parasympathetic (PNS) and the sympathetic nervous systems (SNS) work synergistically. The two usually function outside our conscious control. The SNS kicks in when we are under stress or feel threatened.  During these times, it releases adrenaline and our bodies react by going into flight, fight or freeze mode.  When the stress/threat is reduced the PNS functions to slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and help relax our bodies.

In the last 50 years we’ve come to learn that the autonomic nervous system can come under conscious control. So, what does this have to do with mind-body medicine?  The ability to exert conscious control over the autonomic nervous system is central to mind-body medicine work. The tools used, including various breathing techniques, are designed to bring conscious control to the autonomic nervous system.  This is important because many times humans are stuck in the “fight/flight/freeze” mode which increases cortisol and is related to increased blood sugar, decreased immune functioning, anxiety and depression, weight gain, and more. These can lead to chronic illnesses. Being able to use self- regulating techniques in situations helps reduce cortisol and can bring a calm and peace.

UPMC Western Maryland Community Wellness is offering a Mind-Body Skills Group beginning May 7 and lasting until June 25. The sessions will be two hours each and held online. Contact Pam Jan, Health & Resource Coach, at 240-964-8417 to register.

Additional resources are available:

Dr. Aviva Romm,

  • Romm is a women’s physician who is trained in mind-body medicine and has a great webinar on Burnout.  Everything she shares applies to men also.

A healing the healer webinar can be found at