True healing comes from addressing the core of a person. Requiring ongoing stimulation of the Parasympathetic or Vagus nerve is an indicator that one is applying bandaids to the problem which is not resolved.
Here are the true changes a person must make to turn on and stay in the parasympathetic nervous system, where the body is in self-repair mode 24-7, and no symptoms persist.
(I can’t take credit for my understanding of what I teach. It has all come from my journey with many mentors, teachers, and healers along the way, each one building upon the last, for whom I am eternally grateful.)
1. Accepting that I am unhealthy is the first shift required to becoming fully healthy.
As an expert in Functional Medicine and holistic health, I was very wrapped up into the pop-culture of healthy living. I had studied, tried, or facilitated hundreds (literally) of holistic modalities and taught about holistic living. For me to recognize that requiring purified air and water, unscented non-toxic personal care products, restricted food-plans, and tons of supplements just to function actually meant that I was UNHEALTHY, was a BIG – HUMBLING – LEAP. A new definition of health emerged out of this perspective crisis. To be fully healthy meant I did not have any symptoms that I needed to manage at all. My body worked optimally on its own. To be brave enough to let go of everything I had learned and used to control and micro-manage my symptoms and go down a new path of healing took everything I had. However, it was the obvious choice after admitting the truth: I was not healthy. I was chronically ill. I avoided this path for many years, but after it got me nowhere, I was finally ready.
2. Beginning the process of allowing all the suppressed experience of my symptoms to come out is necessary to healing.
Whatever you push down or push through causes stress in your body and brain. Any symptom that has become chronic or become a full blown illness has been suppressed or repressed.
3. Identifying the unhealthy behavioral patterns that keep the sympathetic nervous system turned on allow these to change.
Shifting my view of what symptoms are, where they come from, and what they mean gave me the power to become fully healthy and no longer suffer autoimmune, genetic, and environmental illnesses. Escaping symptoms and discomfort no longer became the focus. Instead, I understood that being unhealthy had so much more to do with my relationship with myself and how I interact all the parts of my life. I uncovered the behavior patterns and coping mechanisms that I was not proud of, nor peaceful about. They caused a great deal of insecurity, people pleasing, burnout, overwhelm and anxiety, and much more. It was no longer a mystery why I had chronic illness. It made sense how I was in a constant state of stress and that my body never had a chance to functional normally or repair itself. This was the true work of healing set before me.
4. Choosing to slow down as a way to engage the Parasympathetic is like flexing a muscle. The consistency is what gives us power to overcome our symptoms.
The sympathetic is dominated by survival parts of the mind, filled with racing thoughts, feelings and automatic reactions. It’s really something to experience observing all that happening without being lost in the experience of it. This is called being present. Presence is something that happens “in the heart” not “in the mind”. We become the observer and are able to approach things from a new whole-brained perspective.
5. Redefining commitment gets us out of seeking external validation and gives us an internal gauge for determining what it means to do our best in any given situation.
As a society we are conditioned to see commitment in the “world of feelings” or in the “world of behavior.” While there may be indicators in these worlds of where my commitment level is, they are certainly not synonymous. Someone can be fully committed and going through a very challenging season of life. In this situation they are likely to face very challenging emotions and doing their best will not look the same as in other less-challenging time periods in life. On the other hand, someone could be uncommitted and therefore suppress and push through their uncomfortable feelings pretending everything is fine as they check off their task list of “should’s”.
Commitment is the openness and willingness to feel and face everything that is me – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Commitment is being willing to learn and grow and embrace all of life’s and my own ups and downs, with acceptance.
Commitment is being 100% responsible with myself, my life, and my experiences knowing I have choice in the matter of what is and most importantly what comes next.
This is a big one. Without commitment, our programs – any program – cannot work.
6. Building the muscle of being present is the one and only, singular focus, of a person who lives in the Parasympathetic.
Presence first, or I’m not “there” in my life. I’m either present or I’m in survival mode – running auto-pilot programs of habitual behavior, taking the easiest route, and reacting to stimulus. The heart-check must come first before I can authentically live my life. I schedule daily time to build the muscle of being present, being with myself, and therefore honoring myself as the most important person in my life. The problem with programs that sell a specific “modality” or “technique” to “stimulate the parasympathetic” is that the focus becomes the external stimulus. We do not have a specific activity but rather get to choose one for ourselves. In this, the focus becomes ourselves and how we are treating ourselves regarding this sacred time. It becomes a mirror to see our relationship habits and feelings towards ourselves, and therefore teaches us everything we need to know about improving that relationship.
7. Every choice matters when I matter. Every choice either builds stress (stimulates SNS) or peace (stimulates PNS) in the body.
Who I really am is who I am when no one is looking and when I gain nothing external from the choices I make. I observed a very interesting phenomenon in myself. When I made choices for others, that others saw, or that impacted others I would be likely to have integrity and do what was meant to be done. However, when the choice was just for me, or something no one else would see I was likely to pretend it didn’t matter or wasn’t important and would cut myself short. That meant from the time I hit snooze, breaking my promise to myself of when I needed and promised I would get up to the stop signs I’d roll through to the water bottle I would never wash out. I was treating myself in a disrespectful way that I would never treat someone else. I came last on my priority list and gave all of my ”self” to others. The big choices that matter are a handful of choices, but we make hundreds of small choices a day. If each choice were a vote for which nervous system you were in, who would win? If you have chronic illness, it’s the SNS – Stress Nervous System. It’s time to get honest with ourselves and start holding ourselves accountable, parenting ourselves to “adult” in a loving and compassionate way we can take pride in. This brings us peace. This gives ongoing, daily stimulation to the PNS – Peace Nervous System.
8. Going back to the beginning of how the illness began in the first place allows the biological survival program to shut off and complete healing to take place.
Up 3-6 months prior to the onset of a new illness there was a major life change. Most people do not know what life change this was and often blank entirely thinking there were none. This was the case with me. I suppressed it. Also, there is a misconception in the world that life changes that cause stress are “traumatic”, which is rarely the case. We experience life changes from birth (yes, that’s one) through all of life with school changes, work changes, relationships change, housing changes, loss changes, etc. When we do not cope with this change on an unconscious level, we turn on automatically and immediately a special biological survival program. This means there are immediate cellular and biochemical changes that take place according to how your brain perceives the conflict and thinks it needs to react to survive. Each part of the brain controls specific functions in the body, so there is a 100% correlation in what conflict was interpreted by the brain to what location of the body undergoes cellular and biochemical change. Our clients who develop the same symptoms unconsciously interpret their situations as the same kind of conflict. This makes it really easy for us to guide ourselves and our clients to guide themselves through this healing process. We learn so much about ourselves and how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Our bodies then teach us everything we need to know about how to improve this relationship with ourselves and our lives.
9. Mastering the “heart-check” so we have an inner-guidance system for making supportive, healthy choices.
This is the greatest skill our clients learn that allows our clients to be self-sufficient in navigating life in a healthy way without dependence on their practitioners to maintain results. We each have an ability, when we are present, to know what is best in any given situation. Our bodies have a subtle response to every option that becomes glaringly obvious once we know what to observe. When we look for answers outside of ourselves we don’t give ourselves the chance to be honest about what is best for us. We blindly follow others regarding what to eat, what supplements to take, how to heal, how to respond in relationships, what we’re supposed to do as partners, parents, and children, and more. The answers are within you. And your body always knows what you really know is best for you. When you are so in-tune with this truth-or-lie-detector response in yourself you can begin to make choices that are consistent with your values and commitments. You say no to what doesn’t work. You spend your time on what matters most and what furthers your goals and nurtures healthy relationships. Every place you feel stuck or stress in life is a place where there are inauthentic and misaligned choices being made. In the survival mind, you cannot see any other feasible options, but in a whole-brain state you are able to see the obvious cause and effect of your current choices that are creating those results and are able to make wise choices to create a workable circumstance. This does not mean life becomes free of challenges. It means I have the emotional intelligence (internal locus of control) that gives me an empowered and peaceful place to navigate life’s challenges from.
Believe it or not, we have just scratched the surface. There are many more nuances that arise when we get “on the court” in applying these distinctions.
These biological changes – from sympathetic to parasympathetic – cannot take place with informative learning and acquiring concepts. For these to work, they must be learned through experiential learning.
Experiential learning is a process of being engaged fully through practical application and discovering for oneself through their own experience.
Our practitioners teach solely through our own experience, and it’s what sets us apart from the majority of other physicians and healers who have simply learned to repeat information or follow protocols. It does not make sense to have a professional guiding you who has not personally accomplished the results you wish to have and is a living example of the results you want in your life.
To assist you in the experiential learning process, we offer a complimentary breakthrough call where we review your medical history, educate you on how the brain and nervous system work, and assist you in exploring these concepts in an experiential way. If we know we can help you resolve your chronic symptoms, we will review a custom-crafted program with you to see if that’s what you want to do. If we are not a good fit, or you need something else, we will provide referrals and resources that will help you get what you need. Schedule your free consult below.