Got Pain? Heal your Emotions – Part 2

This is Part 2 of my series of articles exploring the connection between emotional healing and physical healing.

Check out Part 1 if you missed it.

My Story – Healing Pain/Frozen Shoulder

In 2014 had a life changing experience of healing my own physical pain.

I had been experiencing severe shoulder pain for months. Despite trying many different treatments and seeing many different doctors and healing practitioners, the pain was worse than ever in the weeks right before I was scheduled for a 10-day Vipassana meditation course.

Right before the course, my doctors diagnosed frozen shoulder and advised that I not attend the course because keeping my shoulder immobile while meditating would cause more pain and more problems.

I ignored that advice.

My pain sensations were excruciating for the first 4 days. Vipassana meditation teaches a specific technique that works with sensations in the body. I kept patient and persistent with the meditation technique.

By the 5th day, I was amazed to find my pain was no longer there.

Poof. Gone. No more shoulder pain. No more frozen shoulder. And it never came back. And no doctor could ever explain why.

The human mind is where anxiety starts, and where emotions start (the limbic system is the part of the brain regulating emotions), and where pain starts.

Quieting my mind and my emotions, released the pain from my body.

7 Types of Pain Often Linked to Emotions

• Headaches and migraines
• Neck and shoulder pain
• Back pain
• Stomach pain
• Menstrual pain
• Pain in the extremities
• Widespread pain including fibromyalgia

* Source: Kim Saeed, Author, Researcher, Educator

Thoughts ⇒ Emotions ⇒ Pain

Remember that neuroscience research shows that the same neural circuity is activated when you experience physical pain as when you experience emotional pain. 

Because the neural circuitry is shared, when either type of pain is experienced your brain has the same chemical response as well. This chemical response is primarily excess release of stress hormones (mainly excess cortisol and adrenaline known to cause inflammation as well as anxiety).

Dr. David Hanscom, MD and author of “Back in Control” believes the primary cause of chronic pain is Unconstructive Repetitive Thoughts (URTs).

He concludes that these Unconstructive Repetitive Thoughts cause the sustained release of those stress hormones which cause physical pain.

What You Can Do

Chronic pain is one of the most difficult things to deal with. It can make you feel very out of control.

One of the hardest parts about chronic pain is that often no one can find the specific source of the pain, or a concrete explanation. Friends, family and even doctors don’t believe you or tell you it’s all in your head.

So, what to do?

#1 – Learn about your emotions and emotional healing

In addition to seeking physical pain relief or treatment, this may be the time to explore how your emotions may be contributing to your physical pain.

Sometimes that means looking at your current emotional state and the emotionally challenging or stressful things in your life right now.

Sometimes it means looking at past emotional experiences that have not been dealt with (recent ones or even adverse childhood experiences).

Sometimes it means looking at unhappiness in current relationships – a big cause of emotional and physical pain.

#2 – Change your thinking with CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a short-term, goal-oriented process focused on problem-solving. Through the process, you learn to understand and manage your thinking (cognitive), feelings (emotions), and actions (behavior).

CBT can help people feel more in control of their pain, and teach new coping skills. It can help you change the way you view your pain and help you function better, with pain interfering less with your quality of life.

Changes in your thoughts actually change the chemical response in your brain (cortisol, adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin) that can make pain worse. When you think better, you will feel better. 

In multiple ways, changing your thinking process can help you regain more control of your life despite the pain.

#3 – Learn Mindfulness

Mindfulness research shows that it can help you cope with pain by:

• Decreasing repetitive thinking and rumination about pain
• Decreasing emotional upset about the pain
• Increasing a sense of acceptance of the present moment
• Increasing the relaxation response and decreasing stress

Tapping to Release Unresolved Emotions

Tapping brow

Tapping chin

Tapping collar

 

Unresolved emotions can be contributors to both anxiety and chronic pain.

 

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or Tapping) can help you release unresolved emotions from your energy system.

Learn more about Tapping.

Got Pain? Heal your Emotions – Part 1

Neuroscience now proves what the Buddha taught 2500 years ago. We are WHOLE beings… mind, body and emotions are related and integrated.

This is my first of a series of articles exploring the connection between emotional healing and physical healing.

My meditation teacher S.N. Goenka said “Physical sensations are experienced in the body but the feeling comes from the mind…the deepest part of the mind, where unconscious patterns are causing automatic reactions.”

Sensations in the body do not exist separate from the mind. This means we can heal the body by 2 methods – through working on the physical body AND through working on healing the mind and emotions.

This just makes sense because we know that the brain runs the show. Your body doesn’t function without your brain. It’s all connected.

Pain and Your Brain: Neuroscience Research

Thanks to a quickly growing body of neuroscience research, we are learning more about the sources of chronic pain. We can see through functional MRI’s that physical and emotional pain both activate the same regions in the brain.

Here’s 4 critical things the research shows about physical pain and emotions:

#1. The same neural circuity is activated when you experience physical pain as when you experience emotional pain.

Examples: In a landmark fMRI study in 2003, similar areas of the brain were activated during a social rejection scenario (emotional pain) and during the application of a heat wand to the volunteer’s forearm (physical pain).

In another study, when subjects visualized a time of past relationship breakup (emotional pain), both the emotional and the physical pain centers lit up.

Bottom line: Physical pain and emotional pain are the SAME in your brain.

#2. Anger increases pain.  Many research papers have shown a relationship between anger and increased pain.

#3. Blame increases pain. Studies also show that people who blame their problems on other people or situations have more pain.

#4. Anxiety increases pain. The connection between physical pain and anxiety is a double whammy – it goes both ways!   Pain creates anxiety; anxiety increases pain.

Back Surgeon Eliminates Surgeries with Emotional Healing

One of my favorites books on this topic is “Back in Control” by Dr. David Hanscom, MD. He is a back surgeon who specializes on only on the worst, most chronic and complicated back problems.

He won’t even schedule back surgery for patients until they first do 8-12 weeks of emotional healing and calming of the nervous system.

His prerequisite 12-week program focuses on emotional healing to:

• Reduce anxiety
• Reduce negative thinking
• Reduce anger
• Give up “victim thinking”
• Increase proactive self-care
• Create a vision for recovery
• Create a vision for long term productive, happy living

After doing that emotional healing work, he finds that many patients actually cancel their back surgery because the pain goes away! He’s working his way out of a job and healing people without surgery.

More Connections

The Physical Therapy field is getting on board with the connection between emotions and pain. I was thrilled to learn recently that Marquette’s Physical Therapy graduate program now includes coursework about the role that neural circuitry plays in chronic pain.

So, the discipline of physical therapy (a very “physical” discipline) also understands that your thoughts and emotions are important contributors to chronic pain.

Much research also shows that Adverse Childhood Experiences affect your brain’s neural circuitry and are correlated with development of physical illnesses later in life. Mind and emotions affect body.

Check out my Mind Over Medicine article and be prepared to be astounded to see very concrete examples of how the mind alone creates real physical effects in the body.

The connection between emotional healing and physical healing is becoming clearer and clearer across disciplines (showing what Buddha knew all along).

In my next article, I’ll share my own profound experience of healing my body with my mind. I’ll also dig deeper into emotional aspects of pain and what you can do to heal.

DIY Moisturizers for Inflammation and Anxiety

Lots of research is showing the connection between increased inflammation levels in the body and increased anxiety. This makes reducing inflammation a great wellness strategy.

My colleague Trudy Scott is a nutritionist specializing in anxiety. Check out her blog for some great recipes using essential oils to create your own moisturizers for helping with inflammation and anxiety.

Click HERE to read more about recent research re: skin moisturizer reducing markers of inflammation, and also the role of inflammation on anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Click HERE for some DIY recipes with anxiety-reducing essential oils.

Can Anxiety Cause You to Go Crazy? Stop Catastrophizing

Extreme anxiety can cause you to think you are going crazy, losing it, having a nervous breakdown, or even dying.

People who suffer from panic attacks are especially prone to this sort of extreme thinking because the sensations of a panic attack are so intense. This extreme thinking is what we call catastrophizing.

When the emotional part of your brain becomes afraid of the worst case scenario, you can begin to tell yourself scary stories… in other words, you being catastrophizing. Of course, this only increases anxiety so the emotional part of your brain takes over even more.

Emotional brain vs. logical brain

From a neuroscience perspective, the emotional part of your brain is connected with the limbic system and the amygdala – part of the fight-or-flight part of your brain. This is part of the brain is often referred to as the cave man brain – programmed to watch out for danger. When it gets activated, it tricks you into believing that there is a sabretooth tiger about to eat you.

The newer part of your brain from an evolutionary perspective is the frontal lobe. This is the logical, rational part of your brain which controls higher cognitive functions such as logic and decision-making.

When the emotional part of your brain kicks in to protect you from that sabretooth tiger, it literally blocks some of the access to the logical, rational part of your brain. This is by design. If there really was a sabretooth tiger about to eat you, would you want to pause and make a pro/con list in your head before making a decision what to do next?

Catastrophizing comes from the emotional part of your brain. The emotional part of your brain increases anxiety while the logical part of your brain can reduce or eliminate anxiety.

To overcome anxiety, it is important to realize that you have access to both of these parts of your brain.

Fight fear with facts

Catastrophizing comes from fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety are feelings. Feelings and facts are two completely different things.

Anxiety and overwhelm are feelings. Fear of going crazy is a feeling. It’s not a fact.

There is no such clinical condition as “going crazy.” The same is true for fear of losing control (of yourself), for fear of “losing it,” and fear of having a so-called nervous breakdown. Those are not clinical diagnoses. There is no such thing.

Catastrophizing leads to telling yourself scary “what if” stories of some dreaded unknown. These are the things of scary movies or horror films. Not reality. Not facts.

A common catastrophizing thought is that “l’ll go crazy and end up in a straight-jacket or in a mental institution.” Guess what? Those are just more scary stories from scary movies. The fact is that mental health treatment is not like that.

Debunk Catastrophizing Thoughts

In Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), catastrophizing is one of many cognitive distortions. Anxiety triggers your emotional brain and causes distortions that can “trick” you into believing that something is true and factual when it really isn’t.

How can you get out of your emotional brain and use your logical brain to recognize that the imagined catastrophe is not factual or accurate?

Ask the logical part of your brain what does it really look like to “go crazy?” Literally, what does that mean? Document all the details in writing:

• If someone were observing you, what exactly would you look like?
• What would you be saying or doing?
• What would an observer notice about your behavior and actions?

Document behaviors and observations only – not your feelings. Remember, feelings are not the same as facts. Detail what you would be doing vs. what would you be feeling.

Each time you describe one action or behavior, ask yourself “What happens next?” Then write down the next action/behavior and ask yourself again “What happens next?” Keep drilling down until you can’t come up with any more answers.

This will help you debunk your fears, stop catastrophizing, and reduce anxiety and overwhelm.

Routines to Reduce Anxiety

Human beings are wired to crave routines. Our brains like the structure and predictability. It brings a sense of safety, comfort, and certainty to our day-to-day lives.

Even those of us who get bored easily still feel some comfort with basic routine and habits in our lives. Your routine does not have to be boring or dull. It just needs to be regular and repeated.

It does not matter so much what your routine is because regulating your daily actions is really about reducing the human brain’s instinctual fear of the unknown. Your brain likes knowing what to expect so it can relax.

In this way, routines themselves can help reduce anxiety. It is the fight-or-flight part of your brain (amygdala), aka the caveman brain, which instinctually likes to have things the same. If things are the same, it knows you are safe.

What if you need a new habit or routine?

To reduce anxiety, a change in routine is often needed. In fact, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy stresses the need to develop new tools, techniques and strategies for stress and anxiety reduction.

We often need to add stress-reducing or calming new habits into our routine to balance a “crazy busy” life and ease anxiety.

Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things.

You may know what you need to do to help reduce stress and anxiety (i.e. mindful belly breathing, meditate, exercise, sleep more, etc.), but because of that caveman brain you are likely to have a hard time doing it.

Don’t get down on yourself for this. It’s just your human brain resisting new habits. Also, old routines die hard due to that caveman brain and its bias toward keeping things the same.

Hacks that Help

Here are some hacks to help your brain interrupt its old routine in order to and create a new habit:

• Write down the new habit you want to create. Visual reminders are great! Try post-its on your bathroom mirror or steering wheel or nightstand.

• Keep it simple – create one new habit at a time instead of trying to make multiple changes at the same time.

• Add-on. Attach a new activity to an existing routine. Ex: Right after you brush your teeth, or before or after you pour your daily coffee, or before you get out of bed.

• Set alarms or reminders on your phone. Or download an app that rings a gentle mindfulness bell as a reminder.

• Plan ahead and block off time on your calendar for new activities. New activities will stick better through consistency and repetition so schedule them daily.

• Use the buddy system to get support. Maybe someone would like to create the same habit along with you, or someone may be willing to help you with reminders and accountability.

Allow yourself to be imperfect, as we all are. If you forget or miss a day, just get back on board as quickly as you can. Cut any negative self-talk.

ZZZZ-Zinc

Anxiety often causes sleep problems. According to Psychology Today, researchers are finding that having adequate levels of zinc can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, increase the overall amount of sleep, and increase sleep quality.

CBD Craze – Can it help you with Anxiety and More?

You can’t miss the CBD signs and stores that have all popped up since the beginning of the year.  What is CBD (which stands for “cannabidiol”) and why is it now the hottest thing?

First, let me say I am a big believer in CBD products and use them myself.  I have many clients who are thrilled with the results they get from CBD products for anxiety, sleep, pain and more.

 

Benefits of CBD

Research continues regarding the many possible benefits of CBD including:

  • Anxiety – works as a neuroprotective antioxidant to reduce stress
  • Sleep – helps with insomnia by interacting with serotonin receptors to promote relaxation and increase sleep duration
  • Pain – can relieve chronic pain, muscle stiffness, headaches
  • Inflammation and Arthritis
  • Digestion
  • Health Optimization

All CBD is Not Created Equal

Before you jump on the bandwagon, it’s important to take the time to educate yourself because products, quality and pricing can vary wildly. This is especially true because hundreds of companies have literally launched overnight to take advantage of the CBD boom.

My goal in this article is to provide information to help you make educated decisions for yourself. 

I’ll also share the products that I personally use and trust.

What is CBD?

At the end of 2018, the law was clarified to make a critical distinction between hemp and marijuana.

CBD oil comes from industrial hemp plants, CBD extract contains cannabidiol (and sometime other components such as terpenes, amino acids and essential oils) – but no THC.

Hemp and marijuana are NOT one and the same. They are like cousins that come from the same genus of plant but the are different in a critical way.  Both plants contain cannabidiol (CBD) but only marijuana additionally contains THC – the psychoactive chemical component that “gets you high.”

Key Questions to Ask About CBD Products

  • Can I see independent lab test results to ensure quality and concentration of CBD? Reputable companies use third party labs to test their products and publish lab results for your review.  You want to ensure that the testing shows full dosage of CBD as claimed, and ensure that no other undesirable chemicals are found in testing.

 

  • How long has the manufacturer been in business producing CBD products?

 

  • Are organic hemp plants used for CBD products?

 

  • Where is the industrialized hemp grown? Growing standards in other countries are not as high as those set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so knowing where the hemp was grown can matter.  Plants grown in the U.S. are subject to high quality controls, including limiting exposure to pesticides.

 

  • What extraction method is used to extract cannabidiol from hemp plants? There are many different methods to extract cannabinoids from plants.  CO2 extraction is generally seen as having the highest quality control levels.  Other methods can involve using solvents ranging from organic olive oil to ethanol and petroleum.

 

  • Where is the industrialized hemp processed (extracted)? Sometimes hemp grown in one country is shipped to another country for processing/extraction.

 

  • Is the CBD product an “isolate” or “broad-spectrum?” Hemp plants produce other chemical compounds that can work together with CBD to provide synergistic benefits.  This is often referred to as the “broad spectrum” or “entourage effect.”  Does the product include these potentially useful compounds?

 

  • How much CBD are you getting per dose and what is the size of the dose?

Dosage and Types of CBD Products

Many CBD products will have a number on the front of the bottle, often ranging from 300 mg to 5000 mg. This number is not the amount of CBD oil you get in a dosage.  It is the total amount of CBD in the bottle.  A high-quality CBD product will list the amount of active cannabidiol you receive per dose.

Typical amount of CBD per dose is between 10-50 mg or even higher.  It really varies by person.

CBD comes in many forms and as long as you know how many milligrams of CBD you are getting per dose, then the form is a matter of preference.  Flavors (watch for chemical additives) are often added because pure hemp products don’t taste very good.

 Common CBD products include:

  • Oil tinctures, administered by dropper or sprayer
  • Capsules – dry or liquid
  • Chewable Gummies – look for those with only a few grams of sugar
  • Creams and lotions for topical pain relief

Lowest Therapeutic Dosage

Quality CBD products are expensive.  So, your goal is to find the minimum therapeutic dose that gives you the results you want.  This can be challenging however.  Reputable manufacturers or resellers can help you with dosing recommendations.

CBD Products I Use

 I have used 2 quality brands of CBD products:

  1. CbdMD – I love the gummies, capsules, and sleep formula. You can buy it online but the best place I’ve found to buy it is locally at Gracie’s Essential Oils in Brookfield.  Tim, the manager, will take the time to educate you and help find the right product and dosage for you. He’s taken classes on the subject and is very knowledgeable.

Gracie’s Essential Oils

3305 N. 124th St  (inside Infinity Healing Center)

Brookfield, WI  53005

262-373-0401

tim@amazinggracespa.com

  1. Charlotte’s Web. They’ve been around a long time and have a quality, albeit pricey, product.  I’ve used the oil and capsules.  You can find them online or at Fresh Thyme.

 

 

 

Visit a Forest

Numerous studies in Japan have tested participants’ responses to viewing scenery for 15 minutes in either a forest environment or an urban area.

Forest environments were perceived as significantly more comfortable and soothing, and had noticeable positive effects on people’s moods compared with urban environments.

Those viewing the forested areas, reported significant decrease in negative feelings such as “tension, anxiety, depression, dejection, anger, hostility, fatigue and confusion.”

* Read the whole article by my colleague Trudy Scott! 

My Favorite Products for Sleep and Anxiety

This is the first time ever I am revealing my own personal Top Favorite products. This is Part 2 focused on products for sleep.

Anxiety and sleep problems go hand-in-hand so sleep must often be addressed in order to manage anxiety.

In addition to many effective things you can to do improve sleep, here are some of my favorite products that can help you sleep better.

If you missed Part 1 on my favorite products for anxiety and happiness, check it out HERE. 

Fitbit Alta HR

I can pretty much guarantee you are not getting enough sleep and/or enough quality sleep. Fitbit Alta HR is the best way I know to really find out.

Not all Fitbits are created equal when it comes to usefulness for improving sleep via detailed sleep tracking data. Fitbit Alta HR gives you better data than other Fitbits about your sleep stages and sleep patterns.

This data will help guide your troubleshooting process. It helped me make several improvements in sleep that make a real difference in my life.

I love, love, love my Fitbit Alta HR.

CBD products

It’s the biggest craze of 2019.  And for good reason.  It’s great for sleep and many other things (especially anxiety).  CBD oil and capsules are great for insomnia and can help with getting to sleep faster and staying asleep longer.

My favorite CBD product specifically for sleep is the CbdMD brand and the name of the product is “CBD PM Oil” which combines CBD with melatonin, as well as Valerian root, Passionflower extract, Cascade Hops, Chamomile flower and Lemon Balm. 

Learn a lot more in my recent CBD article and find out why I’m fan.

Sleep Stories with Calm App

Sleep Stories are meant to take you back to a simpler mental state and let your brain relax and transition from a busy day into time for deep rest, just like bedtime stories did when you were young.

Stories are read in a very soothing tone and carefully designed to ease and lull the mind. The free version of the app has a few stories about things like lavender fields or magical waterfalls, and the full version has more stories.

 

Coffea Cruda

Homeopathy is a natural system of supplements that has been around for at least 100 years. Homeopathic remedies are inexpensive, small pellets dissolved under the tongue.

Coffea Cruda is a homeopathic derived from the coffee bean. It is very useful for the person who has mind racing that gets in the way of sleep. I leave mine right on my nightstand.

This product and recommendations for use can be found at most health food stores.

Badger Sleep Balm

At bedtime I use this soothing balm made of organic Bergamot, Lavender and other calming essential oils. It works topically and I also put it on my lips, nostrils and under my nose for aromatherapy.

Guided Mindful Belly Breathing Meditation 

This product showed up on my favorite list of products for anxiety too.

It seems a little weird to list my own product as a favorite, but this Mindful Belly Breathing Meditation.  It calms the nervous system so well that many people swear by the guided audio meditation for use before bedtime to fall asleep.