This month, I’m taking a break from the regular podcast content to bring episodes focused on bringing awareness to all the tools that support our mental health. Contrary to what the media may tell you, you can change your brain. You can heal from mental illness. You can access resources beyond medication and more sleep, and many of those resources are free, like these episodes.
In Episode 135, I share my story of overcoming PTSD, depression, and bipolar disorder in a way I haven’t shared before.
The growing epidemic of mental health issues in teens
The root causes to my own mental health issues and how I struggled to find treatment that supported my mental well-being
The medication weaning process and how I was able to get off medication I had been on for 18 years
The tools I used to support healing and how I continue to prioritize my mental health to prevent recurring issues
Sponsors: Proven quality sleep is life-changing sleep. Go to sleepnumber.com/wholeness. Save 10% and get free shipping on Magnesium Breakthrough at magbreakthrough.com/spark.
Rachel S. Heslin has been immersed in the study of psychology for over 40 years. Her father, a clinical psychologist, taught his children his craft such that Rachel was first introduced to Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) concepts when she was 9 years old.
Rachel is currently the author of two books: Navigating Life: 8 Different Strategies to Guide Your Way, and Rituals of Release: How to Make Room for Your New Life. Her work through her company, The Fullness of Your Power, helps people embrace all parts of their true selves so they can live happier, more successful, and more deeply fulfilling lives.
Download this episode here or find wherever you get podcasts!
They say this is the most wonderful time of the year, but for those of us who struggle with seasonal mood fluctuations, it often isn’t. I always try to make an effort to enter this season on the offense, instead of playing defense.
Here are five things that could be triggering anxiety and mood instability over the holiday season. The beauty of these things is that each one of them impact the other, because so many of these important processes are connected.
Poor sleep – Sleep deprivation leads to heightened activity in the amygdala (your fear brain) and decreases the function of the prefrontal cortex. With lack of restful sleep we become reactionary and it makes it difficult to make good decisions. Listen to your circadian rhythm this season, and choose to go to bed an hour earlier. That can make all the difference in the world for your brain. Cut the electronics an hour before bed or at least wear blue light blocking glasses, because blue light blocks melatonin, which we need for restful sleep.
“Self-regulation depends on having a friendly relationship with your body.”
– Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score.
You can work with your body or against it. You can force it into eating patterns that don’t work for you and your natural hunger cues, or you can ignore your body’s core needs completely and have a food free-for-all, contributing to poor sleep, mood issues, and blood sugar roller coasters.
Whether you are deep into restriction and diet culture or on the “screw-it-all, I don’t care” train, your body is still fighting for you, looking for balance.
Your body needs to feel safe in order to keep functioning in a healthy way. Chronic stress, intense exercise, yo-yo dieting, busy schedules, constant phone alerts, and an inability to deal with unpleasant emotions will take a toll on your physical well-being. The fear center in your brain, primed for your survival, doesn’t know if you’re running from an invading army in 1406, or if you’re just living the typical overstressed lifestyle of the 21st century.
When you befriend your body and learn healthy emotional regulation, and you will see your mental health improve as well. It’s allll connected.
Here are some of my favorite ways to befriend your body:
Lay off the intense exercise. I know, I know. Cardio is addictive and also feels productive. Getting your heart rate up so high you can barely hear yourself think is comforting for many of us wanting to escape real life anxiety. BUT. It is still a stressor, on top of dozens of other stressors. Depending on what kinds of signals your body is sending you, it may be time to re-evaluate your chronic cardio habits.
Do a body scan and check in with yourself. This is the opposite of cardio, and I promise, it’s way harder than running 6 miles. Lay in a quiet place and close your eyes. Breathe deeply, flooding your body with oxygen. Start scanning down your body, checking in with various body parts as you go. Where are you feeling tension? Where are you feeling pain or discomfort? Breathe into it, and lean into the stillness, connecting with your body. This isn’t easy, and it may be helpful to download a meditation app or try restorative yoga if you need assistance with this.
Schedule intentional down time. Whether you’re taking yourself out to lunch or dinner (without being on your phone), or you’re planning a morning to be lazy and lay around the house, plan it ahead of time, proactively. I like to set aside one day on the weekend for reading time, and by reading time, I’m talking about fiction, not the usual health/educational books I devour during the week. Taking time to remove yourself from the constant GOING will help you find balance in your nervous system.
Stay off social media. This really causes a flare-up of those “I’m not good enough” thoughts. It’s hard to be present and at home in your own body and life, when you’re constantly surrounded by what everyone else’s lives (and bodies) look like. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I feel so much more anxiety when I’m regularly scrolling on Facebook or Instagram. It inspires the opposite of gratitude in me, and causes me to feel unsettled and annoyed, which flows into every aspect of my relationship with myself and others I care about.
Make a nourishing meal at home – and eat it slowly. Food tells your body you’re safe. Period. Rushing through the drive through or mealtime may be a survival necessity at times, but it’s sending powerful messaging to your body. Eating nutrient-poor and quickly consumed foods tells our body we are stressed and that our body isn’t safe. Depriving ourselves of calories (energy) via dieting also sends unsafe messages to the body. Planning for a meal rich with nutrients and colors, food that may take a bit of chopping and prepping, prepares your body for digestion from the moment you start. I’ve found that while I often dread getting those first veggies chopped, once I’m doing it, I find it can take on almost a meditative state for me. Signing up for a meal kit delivery is a great way to provide intentional nourishment. (Note: Green Chef is one of my favorites, and by going here and using the code spark100 you can get $100 off and enjoy free shipping.)
Start re-training your brain to take the negative thoughts captive. Your negative thoughts are toxic, and they send powerful chemical messages through every cell of your body. When you talk negatively to yourself about your life situation, your body, your food choices, the state of the world, etc – you are sending a cascade of stressful messages to your body. Unfortunately, negative thoughts are addictive because they are so familiar to our brains. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome of the mind. It’s important to find tools to break away from those habitual thoughts. Having a regular practice of gratitude, journaling often, practicing mindfulness and meditation, developing mantras or reminding yourself of verses or Scriptural truths are all ways to start retraining your brain away from the the negative. My recent podcast episode with Dr. Caroline Leaf also provides some helpful tools.
Taking time to slow down and be present, in the body you’re in, with whatever state of mind you have, will make a huge impact on your body’s intuitive need to regain homeostasis. It’s okay if you have built up coping mechanisms of constant activity and commitment. Those behaviors were probably really helpful at one point. But over time, your body will likely get worn down and need some new tools for long-term support… tools that will make you more resilient to stressors in the long run.
Your body sends you signals every day. Are you listening?
I have multiple opportunities for one-on-one coaching, as well as group sessions. Message me if you’re struggling. I’m here to listen and support you on your journey to wholeness!
The inner dialogue you engage matters for the health of your whole body. We have so much science to support that what you think affects the health of your entire body. Dr. Caroline Leaf is a pioneer in neuroscience research and she is changing the way we think about brain health.
In this episode, we explore her recent research and dig into neuroplasticity and why you aren’t stuck with the brain you have. Download here or download wherever you get podcasts.
Jim Poole is the Founder of of NuCalm, the world’s only patented neuroscience technology clinically proven to resolve stress and improve sleep quality without drugs.
In this episode, we break down the history of NuCalm and the software built by a quantum physicist, and how NuCalm is unlike any other tool out there. Download here or listen wherever you get podcasts!
Background on the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system in regulating the brain
What our fear brain does to our logic brain – How the brain and body communicate
The method behind NuCalm
Types of brain waves
How brain cells affect mitochondria
What time of day to use NuCalm
How 20 minutes of NuCalm is equivalent to two hours of restorative sleep
The music used and the way it improves the vibration and stress response
How to get started with NuCalm
This interview is jam-packed with good information!
To learn more about how to access NuCalm for yourself, head to nucalm.com.
This episode is sponsored by Sleep Number. Introducing the new Sleep Number 360 p5 smart bed. Queen now only $1,799. Only at Sleep Number stores or sleepnumber.com/wholeness
30 years ago, I stood at the bay window behind my left shoulder, and I watched my grandpa die on our front lawn. This was a pivotal moment for me.
This is the reason that I freeze up when there’s an emergency – even a mild one, like when my child gets a nosebleed. This is the reason that I space out from time to time. This is the reason I can’t have a proper reaction to sudden loss and I dissociate (as if there even is such a thing as a proper reaction to loss).
I spent a good 25 of these last 30 years kind of thinking that watching someone die at a young age is normal, that it’s my life’s burden, and I should just get over it and power through.
But my body knows better. Spring carries an undercurrent of sadness within the blooming beauty. When I smell honeysuckles, I experience fear, betrayal, abandonment, and sadness all over again. Every year since 1991, I typically find myself teary at some point in the middle of the month of April. The tears come without warning. And then I remember what month it is.
I don’t share this simply to bleed vulnerability all over the internet and incite sympathy. I say this because I know many of you have also experienced trauma, something that makes you feel alone at times, or different, or a shell of who you are.
Just like with mental health and nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all to trauma. You may not be even be able to acknowledge it consciously. It may be showing up in ways you don’t expect; it may manifest as a chronic mental health issue or a physical ailment.
While 100% healing may never be a guarantee on this earth, a path to healing IS possible. Part of my path is sharing my story, hoping that it makes someone else who is struggling feel heard and understood. Even if our traumas are different.
Your pain is real. Your feelings are real. Your mystery symptoms are real.
April 16, 1991 was a cruelly tumultuous day in my childhood. While it’s a day that forever shaped my perspective of this world, it also brought restoration and healing and purpose I wouldn’t have had without it. It brought me to where I am today, fiercely advocating for wholeness and healing – mind, body and soul.
If you struggle with anxiety or depression, you know it affects your entire life. It affects how you move (or don’t move), your concentration, your ability to sleep, your interactions with others, even your bathroom habits. Because anxiety is on the rise, and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, I want to share some little-known triggers for anxiety that you may not be hearing about from anyone else!
Like everything I share, remember that your body’s response to food or internal/external stressors is individual to YOU. What is a trigger for one person might not be a trigger for you. Being aware of how your unique body responds to this world is only something you can determine.
Five triggers for your anxiety that your doctor might not tell you about:
Artificial sweeteners and dyes – not only do they disrupt nervous system function, but sucralose decreases beneficial gut bacteria and aspartame increases anxiety and depression (just another reason to lay off the Diet Coke). Sweeteners can also negatively impact blood sugar – which can increase panic attacks! Food dyes may trigger “mind-storms,” which are issues with the brain’s wiring or electrical activity. No bueno!
Too much screen time – blue light from screens can suppress the hormone melatonin which is needed for restful sleep. Screens can also disrupt the calming neurotransmitter Gaba, along with serotonin – the happy one.
Magnesium deficiency – magnesium calms your nervous system and prevents the creation of excess cortisol, the stress hormone. Some call it “nature’s Xanax.” It’s needed for just about every process in the body. It’s found in nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens, but it’s also an inexpensive supplement! Two of my favorite formulations are the Plexus one, here, or Nutritional Frontiers, here.
Excess caffeine – a little is fine, but too much can stimulate the fight or flight response and trigger racing thoughts, or even panic attacks. Some people metabolize it slower than others, so keep that in mind when you have your afternoon coffee or tea break – your mind might be racing at 1 am!
Stored trauma that hasn’t been addressed– trauma can keep our bodies in that constant fight or flight state, which can lead to poor sleep, inability to concentrate, and panic attacks. Fortunately, there are a wide range of trauma therapies, and many mind-body strategies available to help your body unlock trauma and heal! EMDR and EFT (tapping) are two of the most popular. The wellness center I work with has some amazing trauma therapists and resources here.
Honorable mention: Blood sugar issues: when we’re riding that blood sugar roller coaster it can cause all sorts of poor mental health symptoms. Limit sugar consumption to limit the swing. Consume plenty of fiber-rich vegetables, brain-boosting fats and quality protein with each meal. Many times we fail to fill up on necessary nutrients so we stay hungry, reaching for quick fix glucose fuel and perpetuating the cycle of brain fog and hunger.
Poor digestion: If you can’t digest protein, you can’t make the neurotransmitters needed for mental health. Period. You know that old saying, “you are what you eat?” It’s not true. It should be, “You are what you are able to digest.” When we can’t create serotonin from our food nutrients, we can’t access melatonin either, which affects mood AND sleep. Taking digestive enzymes and working on gut health can help, something I love helping people with!
The next round of Feast 2 Fast, an online coaching group that pairs science-based nutrition principles with timeless spiritual truth to reset your mind, body, and soul starts May 3.Join the wait list here – or contact me directly for more coaching options!