Do you often feel like it’s impossible to keep up with the ongoing demands of modern daily life?
Do you struggle to feel truly connected…to yourself, others, and your sense of creative flow?
Many of my clients come to me in a state of overwhelm as they try to do all that’s expected of them. Tired of waking up feeling ‘less than’ and exhausted by growing expectations of themselves and others, they’re ready to give up on the everyday routine. They’ve had enough! Sick of being trapped in their own lives and bodies, they desperately want relief that allows them to sleep at night, enjoy being awake, and derive satisfaction from their work and loved ones.
Perhaps you can relate? I know I can.
I’ve journeyed down such a path and have my own story of recovery. Now, it’s an honor to support my clients on their path to wholeness and healing mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
From panic and anxiety to depression and a myriad of health issues that accompany stress, trauma, and emotional discord, it can be a struggle to maintain routines that allow a sense of ease and feelings of safety within the body. Such stress leads to a breakdown of the immune system and a host of chronic health conditions.
You need an integrated approach that addresses the mind-body connection in order to fully heal.
Diagnosed with everything from the standard anxiety and depression to bipolar and complex post traumatic stress, I took countless medications off and on for nearly two decades. Combined with the standard American diet, I struggled with GI issues that were eventually diagnosed as an autoimmune condition. Western-trained physicians prescribed medications I was expected to take for my whole life while suggesting that my diet had little to do with a successful prognosis. Wow! Were they wrong…
I decided to take control of my own health and watch how my habits influenced my health.
Flare-ups weren’t random. They cropped up when I reverted to old habits and indulged in the foods that irritated my belly. They invariably appeared when I pushed myself too hard…when I hustled to keep up with the world around me instead of staying true to my own pace. My physical health always suffered when I packed my schedule and avoided my feelings.
When I learned to allow my feelings and consciously reduce the stress in my body, I began to understand how to free my body of chronic pain and inflammation.
These experiences reinforced my passion for integrative health and functional medicine. Rather than simply prescribing another medication to mask the pain, these “alternative” approaches focus on uncovering the root cause of misalignment and dis-ease. Granted, standard Western medicine is phenomenal for acute injury and can be life saving, but long term health is achieved through a life of balance and creative flow, not through lifelong dependence on pharmaceuticals.
You need to be your own advocate. Following your own body’s wisdom is the most loving act you can offer yourself.
How you nourish yourself in every aspect of your life directly affects your mood, health, and overall well-being.
Your body is a navigation system designed to guide you toward wholeness.
Overall well-being and a sense of wholeness depend on reducing unnecessary stress within the body and creating alignment throughout your life. To do that, you need to get comfortable with recognizing and accepting your feelings. Tuning into your own emotions becomes a form of “self-care” that goes beyond popular pampering suggestions and takes you into true nourishment. (See my last blog post for tips to nourish your whole self).
When you start to get curious about your feelings and really listen to what they’re telling you, you begin to gather essential information, but it can be hard to tap into your own internal resources at first – especially when you’re trying to live with unrelenting stress. Though it may be hard to tune into how you really feel, emotionally and physically, it’s still essential. When you’re cut off from your own senses, you’re cut off from the wisdom of nature and that leads to a life of isolation and persistent dis-ease.
Your body offers a wealth of information designed to help you achieve integration, healing, and wholeness.
Day-by-day, I continue to learn to care for my body on a deeper level by making choices truly aligned with my fundamental values. I used to apply band-aid self care strategies like mani-pedis, massages, vacations, and esteem-driven exercise programs to relieve stress and imbalance. Don’t get me wrong…I love a good pedicure, hot stone massage, and the occasional facial, but if you’re constantly relying on a series of temporary distractions to help you get through, it’s important to pause and ask yourself about the root cause of all this stress.
This is when you turn to your internal GPS. Tune in and allow yourself to feel all your feelings, including the discomfort. Getting real with yourself about what’s really going on within is the ultimate self care.
I thank my auto-immune condition today for waking me to the reality that there’s always more to learn, about nutrition and the body’s innate intelligence. Though I’d been studying these ideas for years, I still had a ways to go to integrate the moving pieces and better learn how to care for my mind, body, and spirit with gentle compassion.
Our Three Brains as GPS: Head, Heart, & Gut
Ancient wisdom and philosophy have shown us that there is great power in aligning our mind, body, and spirit. You might also think of this as paying attention to the head, heart, and gut. Luckily, science now supports this connection: we know there are lines of communication between the enteric brain in our gut, the bundle of nerves in our heart known as our cardiac brain, and the cranial or cephalic brain in the head.
Never Underestimate the Power of the Gut
Gut health is often ignored – at our peril. When you heal the gut, it’s often possible to eradicate the need for psychotropic medications. I’ve watched many clients – as well as myself – let go of mood stabilizers, antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and pain medications when they get support from naturopathic physicians and other holistic practitioners who can help transform and stabilize the gut environment. And, I’ve often seen digestive symptoms calm down on their own when people release emotional baggage and begin to heal the mind and heart.
In both cases, it then becomes a matter of maintaining a nutrient-rich diet that helps maintain steady moods and energy. It’s important to learn to read the entire mind-body system’s reactions to nutrition. For example, you want to prevent low blood sugar, which can be confused with anxiety symptoms (shakiness, sweatiness, light-headed). You must avoid “carb crashes” that increase inflammation and may feel like depression (sluggish, foggy headed, unmotivated).
Paying attention to the gut is important as it is also responsible for alerting us to possible danger. Not as sophisticated as our head brain, though, it can mislabel situations as life or death. Sometimes, simply the possibility that something could go wrong is interpreted as an emergency, especially if past trauma has created a sense of hypervigilance. While tuning into your gut is important, you need to establish a sense of internal safety to avoid overreactions and to learn how to get the three brains to work together so you’re filtering information appropriately.
Listen to the Heart, and…
I’m sure you have heard the old adage, “Follow your heart.” This is precisely the goal, but you need to call on the gut and the head to be certain you’re going in the right direction. Your gut is there to ensure your heart’s desires are actually safe enough to proceed. Your head is there to help you create a plan for moving toward the object of desire.
So often, when you don’t feel comfortable in your own body and you don’t feel able to experience your own feelings, you can’t really check in with you gut. And, in turn, that means you’re unable to follow your heart.
Once you are able to experience such emotion and recognize you are still safe, your courage muscle expands and the world seems full of possibility rather than overwhelm. Fully in touch with your body and feeling clear in your mind, you can take steps that make your heart dance and create plans that allow you to discover a greater sense of joy.
Ready to give it a try? Check out the exercise below to guide you in mindfully exploring your feelings and sensations as guides for your heart.
Test Your GPS System
You can begin in an area of nature that you find inviting. Ask this little corner of the planet if you have permission to proceed. While it may feel strange, humans and other animals have the ability to communicate with each other and the environment beyond words. For example, trees and plants communicate through their root system. Some birds can predict when a storm will hit days before it happens. You too are a creature of the natural world and it’s important you feel safe for this activity.
- Consider an area of your life that needs attention and ask this body of land, water, or other natural resource what it wants you to know about your situation. Ask your heart what it most wants. Listen and be willing to hear the answer, knowing you are supported by this natural setting. You may find a natural object to help anchor yourself into your question “what does my heart want?” or simply hold the desire within.
- Now imagine what action might be required to move at least a step in the direction of your heart’s desire. You may feel the urge to move or stay where you are. Either choice is fine as there is no right or wrong way to be in nature. Notice how you are breathing when you move from your heart and into your head. It’s undoubtedly connected to how your gut feels about this endeavor. When you consider something new or something that expands your current way of being, your automatic fight/flight response often gets triggered. Your body is confusing novelty with danger, so use your breath to calm yourself and remember that you’re perfectly safe.
- When your head offers at least one possible step forward in response to your heart’s desire, ask your gut: “Are you willing?” This is the courage muscle I mentioned above. It is a vital component of your highest self. Creativity, compassion, and courage are the qualities and necessary ingredients of living as the best, most authentic version of who you are. Notice your response without harsh judgment. Perhaps you are willing, but not at this very moment. If your gut gives you a “not yet” answer, simply say, “ok, then when?”
You may feel inspired to collect one or more natural materials and/or create a representation of this experience. Follow your natural impulse here and journal about the three biggest lessons that came through this activity. Did it teach you anything? Did it enhance your sense of innate wisdom and inner knowing? If not, notice what prevents you from trusting that small, still voice that wants to guide you.
Need support in learning to trust your natural wisdom and inner guide?
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