In our Western society, we aren't taught or adequately understand the mind-body connection. This concept of the body being one, and including the mind in this one-ness, is more common in Eastern societies. I just began to understand the importance of healing the inner self after being physically sick for several years. I began hearing about therapies such as EMDR and other brain retraining programs, so I started learning more about this mind-body connection and the role the mind plays in chronic illness and negative emotions. I also came across the information that those who have had childhood trauma - including sexual trauma, rejection, physical or emotional neglect, etc - are far more likely to have at least one chronic illness later in life (more info here -- https://acestoohigh.com/aces-101/)
There is also a moment in my healing when my therapist asked me "Have you ever tried asking your body what it's trying to tell you?" That caught me off guard. At that point, I was in the mindset of "me vs. my body." I was caught in a battle between wanting to do things and my body not cooperating. After her comment, I began asking my body, "Ok, what are you trying to tell me?," instead of being angry at my body and seeing it as the enemy. I learned that my body was trying to tell me it needed me to slow down and replenish, and not continue to push. I began to learn to listen to my body and give it the love it required, and no longer see it as something outside of the wholeness of "me." More of my thoughts on listening to your body can be found here -- https://www.uncagedhealth.com/single-post/2017/03/05/Listen
The Fight of Flight Response
I learned that having an emotional trauma sets our bodies up to be susceptible to illness. The amygdala is the part of the brain that detects danger and triggers the "fight or flight" response. When we are dealing with a traumatic event (whether it be a one time event, or a long term stressful situation), our amygdala triggers this fight or flight response to make sure the body is chemically ready to deal with the danger at hand. The brain goes on high alert, and cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones) rise. After the danger has passed, the fight or flight response may not turn off. The mind stays on high alert, suspecting danger around every corner. The stress hormones continue to remain high, which cause chronic inflammation in the body, which then cause a catabolic response where tissues and muscle are broken down, adrenal and mineral reserves are depleted, and the immune system becomes weak.
If you ask those with a chronic illness when they became sick, the majority will note that it was after a stressor - a virus or flu, stress at work or at home, a car accident, surgery, etc. After the body has been depleting reserves after years of being stuck in fight or flight, the adrenals are struggling, becoming a bit dysfunctional, and are on the verge of what I call becoming "tanked." An acute stressor, like those listed above, is then enough to drive the body over the edge and it "crashes." It is at this time that any underlying issues, such as pathogens - infections such as Lyme bacteria or Epstein Barr virus - which have previously been held "in check" by the body's immune system, now begin to gain ground and thrive in these new conditions where the immune system is in a weakened state. What follows is a body severely out of balance and chronic illness, which causes years of issues and symptoms, such as chronic Lyme, chronic Epstein Barr virus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, various Autoimmune Diseases, POTS, etc.
Healing Emotional Trauma and Negative Patterns
When working to heal these chronic illnesses, there is no "magic bullet." It takes a whole body approach, and that includes healing the mind and emotions. Healing the mind and emotions takes a lot of time and dedication, but I believe that it is truly needed to fully heal the body from chronic illness, and turn off the fight or flight response to help the body also not be as susceptible to future stressors.
Underlying thought patterns develop in our subconscious mind that we are not aware of. These thought patterns work to drive our emotions, and our emotions affect our chemical balances -- hormones and neurotransmitters -- which then affect our physical body and symptoms.
Please note that I am not saying that chronic illnesses are "all in the mind" or that anti-depressants will resolve the issue. What I am saying is that usually those with chronic illness need to examine how they might heal or reconnect their mind with their body in order to move fully into optimal health, along with a physical healing plan that includes examining diet, mineral and nutrient replenishment, supporting weak body systems, removing environmental toxins, and treating underlying infections.
Some ways to work on healing your mind include:
-EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing - this is a therapy I have used that helps the brain reprocess traumatic memories. Often, and especially when dealing with childhood trauma, the brain cannot adequately process the traumatic memory. The memory becomes a "block," and there is a distressing emotional tie to it, even if the person acknowledges that they cannot logically understand why they are so distressed by it. EMDR allows the person to "go back" and reprocess this memory, which releases the emotional block and allows healing to continue. EMDR is also useful when there is a negative emotion attached to a certain event (anxiety when driving, for example), as the Clinician can help guide the client back to the originating memory that first attached that emotion to the event. The memory can then be reprocessed to help let go of the emotional attachment. There are also some impressive statistics regarding the use of EMDR in helping those with PTSD. For more information:
If there are no Clinicians near you, there is also a book written by the founder that teaches one to work on memories by themselves. However, I do recommend working with a Clinician when possible.
-EFT - Emotional Freedom Technique - also called "tapping," I have known many people who been helped by tapping, especially when dealing with anxiety. It is similar to acupuncture or acupressure and stimulates the flow of energy within the body. To learn more: https://www.thetappingsolution.com/tapping-101/
-Dr. Caroline Leaf - Dr. Leaf is both a Christian and scientist who has studied neuroplasticity. She has an excellent book on brain retraining, along with Christian principles, linked below (Switch On Your Brain). The premise is to train the reader to start recognizing underlying negative thoughts, gather them, then retrain the brain to begin replacing those thoughts with positive ones. Book available here:
Dr. Leaf also has an online program - 21 Day Brain Detox - for only $29/year, linked below, as well as many helpful YouTube videos. http://21daybraindetox.com/
- Gupta Amygdala Retraining - Ashok Gupta created this program (which consists of a DVD series) after healing himself from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I have heard of great success using this program from many with chronic Lyme, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), and mold sensitivity, as well. The premise is to help calm down the brain, and therefore the body, and help it to no longer be in constant danger mode. More info here:
He also has many YouTube videos published, including some helpful videos on deep breathing, which works to calm the body. https://www.youtube.com/user/GuptaProgramme
-DNRS - Dynamic Neural Retraining System - Annie Hopper created this limbic system retraining program after healing herself from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome. Just like with Gupta, I have heard of many people having great success with this program to help overcome the symptoms of CFS, chronic Lyme, MCS, and mold sensitivity. Her DVD series as well as more info on the program can be found here: https://retrainingthebrain.com/how-the-program-works/
Here is a presentation she did that also overviews the science and the program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_-nM2dHXMk
Some helpful habits:
You can also work on retraining your brain using these daily steps. It will take time, effort, and consistency. Nothing is easy about healing, but it is well worth the investment. If you have been working on your own retraining for a while, and still not getting the desired effects, I would recommend you also look into one of the programs listed above.
-Begin to be aware of your underlying negative thoughts that drive your emotions and actions. Some examples include: "I am not good enough," "I am worthless," "I do not deserve...," "I deserve to be miserable," "I cannot trust anyone," "I am not safe," "I hate my body," "I am not in control," "I am a failure," "I can't handle it," "here we go again," "what if..."
If you are having a hard time becoming aware of your negative thoughts, additional analysis may need to happen. Ask yourself, "why do I feel so angry, hurt, etc, right now?" or "why did I respond that way?" Dig in to find what negative thoughts are driving that emotion or action.
-Once you have begun to recognize your underlying thoughts, abruptly stop the negative thought, and immediately redirect it to the positive opposite affirmation. Examples include: "I am good enough," "I am deserving of __," "I trust and am trustworthy," "I love and care for my body," "I am safe," etc. Be specific and feel free to elaborate upon the affirmation.
-Proactively, read daily affirmations, out loud. I prefer to do this while sitting outside and looking at scenery. When you first begin, I highly recommend doing this at least 2 times daily. You may not "feel" the words of the positive affirmation you are reading, but that's ok. DO IT ANYWAY and don't stop until they begin to sink in (and then keep doing them for "maintenance!").
You can create a Word document with your affirmations - copy and paste from a website that lists positive affirmations, or create your own. Print your completed document 2 sided, then laminate so it will survive wear and tear. If you leave your house, take it with you. Again, be sure you read it at least 2x daily at first, then 1x daily for maintenance. It takes months to retrain your thought patterns.
Choose affirmations that target your "weak areas." For example, if you feel unhealthy, read affirmations that describe your positive health.
Christian Affirmations - these are great, and they are grouped by topic: http://www.christianaffirmations.com/
Here is another site with a good list of positive affirmations, grouped by topic: http://liveboldandbloom.com/09/quotes/positive-affirmations
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