Breaking the Vicious Cycle

Each month my turn to write my blog post rolls around, and each month I often feel stumped for what I am going to write about.  This drives me crazy!!  As someone whose head is otherwise constantly spinning with thoughts and ideas and inspiration of various sorts, I am perplexed and annoyed when all of a sudden, I feel as though I am staring inside my own mind at a blank wall.

What I have learned, after years of practice, is not to get too caught up in the annoyance.  Not to resist the irritation, and yet not to let myself get riled up by it either.  In fact, what I have learned to do is to lean into it all and then to simply breathe, get curious, and see what arises.

So, you see, in this exact moment as I write this, I have a choice.  I can choose to: get frustrated about not knowing what to write about; worried that I am not going to make my deadline to get this to my colleague for posting; scared that inspiration will never strike me again; self-defeatist and start beating myself up that I have nothing to say and am a horrible communicator and I am best just to resign myself from the blog post rotation (can you relate to any of these wild thoughts??); or, I can lean in to the symphony of thoughts and feelings.

I can simply stop.  Breathe.  Notice the frustration, fear, panic, angst. But rather than resist it, I can metaphorically wrap my arms around it.  Acknowledge, love and accept it, and thus myself, for feeling what I feel.  Feel how tired it makes me feel.  How underneath the edge of anxiety I can feel some sadness, some tears springing to the surface.  I can feel a bit of vulnerability coming forth, honouring the small still voices of worry and fear, and if I can breathe and lean a little further in, I can start to relax.

Simultaneously noticing the voices of judgment that want to spring forth and tell me how ridiculous this is, how this ‘feeling’ thing will do nothing to getting me towards my goal of writing a blog post, how I need to stuff this all down and just get to work; attempting to pull me back out of this relaxation response I was beginning to fall into through my breath.  And so, with this next barrage of thoughts too, rather than follow them, I notice them, honour them, give them a voice, surround them with love and patience and those metaphorical hugs, and then feel that feeling settle back into my nervous system: the melting, surrendering into peacefulness, vulnerability.

Perhaps you can feel it yourself, too, this rollercoaster effect, just by reading these words, and can relate to similar rides you might take in your own life as a result of your own mind.  When the mindset of pressure, judgment and expectation dominates, it winds us up, creates a stress response and pulls us into a state of panic.  Until we remember the breath, and to lean into the uncomfortable feelings, resisting nothing, and engaging the mindset of calm, relaxation, acceptance, thereby creating a relaxation response and stirring the inner feeling of inspiration and possibility.

And up and down we go, with our bodies following our thoughts, until that time we retrain ourselves not to attach so strongly to the fear-based amygdala-activating thoughts, and we cultivate the habit of leaning in, being with, breathing and acceptance.  Like riding a bike, we can all learn to do it, and like riding a bike, it will take practice however our nervous systems can be trained over time, not to forget.

As I leaned into my own blank wall of a mind, allowed myself to acknowledge the impatience, frustration, fear, etc. that was there (as I described earlier), basically breathed and loved and hugged myself through this, then the words, as you are reading, started to flow.  And they flowed back to this concept on the Nervous System, one that I risk sounding like a broken record about, as it is my passion and the focus of my work, both for myself personally (as someone who has had a handful of nervous system/ mental health challenges over the years; acquiring labels from anxiety to depression to ocd/ disordered eating/ body image manifestation) and in my practice.  Because in fact, the nervous system really does trump everything.

The act of writing (or any other inspired process) takes place in the right hemisphere of the brain, the creative brain, which can really truly be best accessed when our bodies are in the parasympathetic nervous system response, aka the relaxation response.  This is the opposing system to the sympathetic nervous system response, aka the stress/ fight or flight response.  With this latter nervous system predominant our brains and bodies are concerned solely about survival: we subconsciously tense our muscles, increase our heart rate, blood pressure, and breath rate (shallow and short) and we start to sweat and perhaps even feel a little anxious as our bodies prepare to fight or to flee.  When we are not actually fighting an enemy or running away from danger, what happens is that we begin to fight ourselves and run away from the task at hand, or our goal, whatever that may be.

In my case, writing an article.  In yours it might be choosing a new more nutritious way of eating, cooking a healthy meal, deciding to implement a workout program, giving up a detrimental health habit (such as too much screen time, smoking, sugar, overwork, etc.), incorporating a supplement protocol, or even writing a blog article!!

Everything we do (other than ACTUALLY fighting or fleeing!) will be more effective if we can do it from a place whereby the PNS is dominant over the SNS.  We absolutely need both in activation, as the SNS is what actually allows us to get sh** done, however if we are constantly panicked and burnt out and anxious as our starting place, we really aren’t that effective.

This is because the choice to act from inspiration, rather than stress, is far more sustainable, and creates a positive, constructive, self-perpetuating cycle of success, thereby breaking the vicious cycle of stress, negative self-talk, punishing/ violent “motivation”, poor personal choices and destructive, addictive self-soothing but also self-sabotaging habits and patterns.  I am sure you know the latter all too well.

There are a multitude of ways to help your brain and body shift gears and learn this new state of being and fall into the health-promoting, constructive cycle.  I will include a few of my favorites here and as you read through them, see which ones may sound intriguing, curious and enticing to you.  Then try them!  Reach out as we have an incredible resource team here at Prairie Sky health who can help you:

  • Mindfulness practices, prayer and meditation
  • Journaling
  • Time spent alone and in nature
  • Movement: exercise, especially time spent outdoors in very beneficial
  • Supplements: GABA, l-theanine, lemon balm, passionflower, B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, 5-HTP, lavender, hibiscus, etc.
  • Essential oils: frankincense, lavender, mint
  • Nutrition: 40:30:30 diet whereby 40% of your foods come from carbohydrates in the form of: whole grains (rice, quinoa, oats), starchy (sweet potatoes, plantains, beets, carrots, etc) and non-starchy (green leafy) veggies, fruits and berries; 30% of your foods come from proteins (eggs, chicken, fish, lentils, chickpeas, beans, wild game, naturally raised beef/ bison, raw nuts and seeds); 30% of your foods come from good quality fats (avocado, coconut, olive oil, flax oil, hemp oil, raw nuts and seeds also fit into this category, etc.)
  • The “Mediterranean Diet” is one of my favorite diets for balancing the nervous system and feeding the adrenal glands.
  • Avoidance of high stress foods like caffeine, sugar, alcohol, processed foods, breads, cakes, cookies, etc. is important as these are stressful on the body and perpetuate the fight or flight response.
  • Reiki, Body Talk, Acupuncture or other energetic healing practices
  • Physical practices like massage therapy, chiropractic or osteopathy

I have spoken on the various aspects of health and what one can do to support each crucial aspect in the radio series I did with Sherry Lee on CJTR earlier this winter.  I have also spoken to her on this subject specifically: “The Nervous System Trumps Everything”, and all of these episode links can be found on my website

If you would like to learn more and immerse yourself in learning this new language of health.  By all means, reach out any time for more information, to any of us at the clinic, and we would be honoured and overjoyed to work with you on your own health journey towards greater health, joy and peace.

Blessings, and thanks for reading!

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