When I was 12, I started experiencing excruciatingly painful migraine headaches.
I still remember the first one, which was very scary since I had no idea what was happening.
I felt dizzy, my vision started to get weird, and I felt numbness on one side of my body.
My mom was scared that maybe I was having a stroke, given the numbness on one side of my body.
A trip to the doctor determined these were migraine headaches…
And a whole new chapter of my life began with most of my teenage years being filled with this headaches that could at times be so bad that they required a trip to the ER for high doses of pain meds.
After the first couple experiences of these debilitating headaches, I became very superstitious about various circumstances that might have caused them.
Since we couldn’t figure out an obvious trigger for them, I started to associate the place I was at when the came on, the thing that I was doing, or especially the lighting of that place as my potential triggers (without real evidence that this was true)…
My world got smaller and smaller as I didn’t want to go back to some places, do certain things, go places with bright or flashing strobe lights and I was TERRIFIED that I’d get another headache resulting in another ER trip.
It wasn’t until I was in college that the intensity and frequency of the headaches went away, as I learned to begin to manage my stress.
While I have long understood that these headaches taught me a great deal about how I could use relaxation to help control and eventually eliminate them from my life, it was only last month that I connected them to something else in my life…
Being an empath and a highly sensitive person.
In preparing a talk with my friend Laura Rowe, who specializes in working with empaths, I had a light bulb moment that my headaches actually could have been a way that I was trying to block out my sensitivities.
Of course not consciously… but on a subconscious level.
You see, being someone who could sense other’s emotions, pick up what wasn’t being said, and who was just sensitive to a world that is loud, sometimes crowded, and often overwhelming, I was often overwhelmed.
In talking to Laura, I realized that it is actually COMMON for empaths to experience headaches because it is like a way to try and block out all the noise we are bombarded with.
Fascinating discovery for me.
And this is EXACTLY what Laura and I will be talking about in our upcoming online class “Unraveling” on December 3.
If you are curious how being an empath or a highly sensitive person might be connected to physical symptoms and health issues, we invite you to join us.
There are some “spiritual” schools of thought that seem to lead us to believe we should always be happy, upbeat, joyful, grateful, and only things that are positive.
And that if we feel anything less than that, well we aren’t doing our work or that we are doing something “wrong.”
Yet this constant false positivity is dangerous because it doesn’t allow us to acknowledge where we are at in the present moment and that it is part of being human to sometimes feel less than amazing.
I believe it can even contribute to things like illness when we are constantly suppressing how we feel.
We all experience up and down cycles within our emotional and mental states.
It would be unreasonable to think we should always be positive, upbeat and happy and never experience feelings of sadness, frustration, or depression.
In my own life, I have come to observe this pattern where after weeks of feeling good about life, in the flow, and happy, then I hit a low patch.
In the low, everything feels heavier, more challenging, more emotionally overwhelming. Feelings of sadness, grief, or frustration can come to the surface. The low definitely doesn’t feel so good.
In fact, right now, I am in a little bit of a low.
Yet when I start getting into thinking that I should resist the low, force myself out of it, or when I judge or blame myself for experiencing the low, that is when things get worse.
It is natural to experience this ebb and flow cycle in life and the more we push against the low, get frustrated by it, or judge or blame ourselves for feeling it, the harder it becomes to move through it.
Resisting the low or thinking negative thoughts about ourselves because of the low doesn’t honor that it is a part of our natural cycles of life AND it also makes certain feelings and emotions seem WRONG.
If you are sad and down, allow yourself to feel those feelings.
If you are frustrated and feel stuck, again allow yourself to feel those feelings too.
ALL EMOTIONS ARE JUST ENERGY.
When we give ourselves space to simply be present with what we are experiencing and we get curious about if there is a deeper meaning or message to how we are feeling that we need to examine, things can begin to move and shift in a very natural way.
When we fight the feelings or we suppress them, the energy of them often grows stronger and it becomes harder for it to dissipate.
It is only when we become stuck in the negative and spiral downwards over a longer period of time that it becomes problematic.
If, instead, we feel our feelings, whether we see them as positive or negative, and we let them show us what we need to see, that is where true healing and transformation can occur.
INSIDE I CRINGED WHEN EVERY CONVERSATION BEGAN WITH “HOW ARE YOU FEELING??”
After I was told (incorrectly) that I had leukemia back in 2004, I remember feeling like all the parts of me, all of the pieces of my identity that had existed before were gone.
The Lyn that was the daughter, the friend, the grad student, the dancer, the healthy and alive woman… all the parts of me, suddenly disappeared.
One minute all those parts of me existed and in that instant of hearing that I had cancer, it was like “poof” those parts of me were gone.
In the months that followed my diagnosis, I felt like the only part of me that was seen by anyone was “the sick person” or “the cancer patient.”
Every conversation with a friend seemed to begin with “How are you feeling?” or “How is your treatment going?”
While it was nice to know that people did care about me, it was also extremely painful to feel like I was reduced to this one identity of sick person.
I longed for all the other parts of me to still be seen, acknowledged, talked to and talked about…
It felt really lonely to be seen in only this way.
Yet I felt like it wasn’t ok to say, “You know, I’d really rather talk about something else…”
WHEN WE ARE GIVEN A LIFE-CHANGING HEALTH DIAGNOSIS, IT CAN FEEL LIKE THIS ONE THING BECOMES OUR ENTIRE IDENTITY… LIKE WE LOSE ALL THE OTHER PIECES OF OURSELVES.
And it’s painful…
Maybe you can feel how much you long to still be seen as wife, as mother, as friend, as daughter, as business woman, AS YOU.
Because this diagnosis is NOT YOU.
Let me say that again…
THIS DIAGNOSIS IS NOT, I REPEAT, NOT WHO YOU ARE.
You are still all of the parts of you that you were BEFORE you heard that diagnosis pronounced.
You might feel a bit worse for the wear, a bit more in pain or symptomatic. Yet those parts of you that seem to have vanished or be ignored are still there.
And it is totally ok (in fact, I encourage it!) for you to voice your needs and desires to talk about other parts of yourself and other parts of your life in conversations.
It is wonderful to say, “I appreciate your concern for me AND I also would love to talk about our relationship and the fun things we can do together today.”
THE LESS YOU ALLOW YOURSELF TO BECOME AND IDENTITY WITH YOUR ILLNESS AND YOUR DIAGNOSIS, THE HAPPIER AND MORE WHOLE YOU WILL FEEL AND THE EASIER IT WILL BE FOR YOUR MIND, MIND AND SPIRIT TO HEAL.
When we don’t let ourselves become identified as this diagnosis, when we still acknowledge all parts of ourselves, we empower ourselves to feel more whole and alive.
And that is a powerful fuel that can be used to heal and transform your health.
I think that many of us have the belief that people like teachers, leaders, and healers have things “figured out.” Like they have gotten to the end goal somehow and their healing is “done”…
Today, I want to share that although this is something we think and maybe we WANT to believe this, it really isn’t the case. Healing and evolving is ongoing for ALL humans while we are here on earth.
I’d like to share one of my own recent (and still ongoing) challenges and growth experiences.
Over the past few months, I have been dealing with some fairly severe pain in my mouth. The first day it came as sharp stabbing pain in the roots of a couple teeth and went away. Then it built to pain moving from place to place in my mouth and feeling like my gums felt very angry.
In working with dentists, it seems like I’ve developed a pretty strong clenching/grinding pattern. My bigger question is WHY this has come up because I don’t think it is for no reason.
I’ve been left these past couple months working on practicing what I teach—listening to my body and what it is saying to me through this pain I’ve been experiencing—which has been very slow to resolve.
To be transparent, some days, the process isn’t easy and I get frustrated and just think “Make it go away now!” A couple weeks ago, I almost took my husband up on his offer of a leftover Vicodin. But I didn’t because that’s not how I want to treat my body.
The process of understanding this pain is like a trail of breadcrumbs that is leading me to messages that my own body’s wisdom and my own higher self are trying to bring to my attention.
Through working through the healing process with other practitioners, I’ve had insights into how some of the pain in my face connects to feeling like I wear a mask at times (and sometimes that mask doesn’t even feel like it is MINE), how I hold myself back from feeling all the joy that is available to me, and most recently, that much of this pattern is about speaking my truth.
Some of you may say “Oh you seem visible and you share your message and your truth here” but there are parts of it that I don’t share—words that it feels like I literally bite back—in my relationships, in my business, even in my connection to myself.
This pain is calling me to go deeper and deeper into the process of being ALL of me, feeling like it is safe to share even the struggles (WHILE I’m in them instead of after I’ve gone through them and feel like I’m clear on the message), and to speak my own truth without apology or fear.
Two weeks ago, a dear friend of mine held space for me. I thought I was just going to be getting some bodywork but instead in our conversation, she asked me how my breathwork practice was going and how it was helping with this pain.
I replied “I haven’t really been doing it because it hurts my mouth when I do the breathing.”
She said I want to hold space for you and be with you here while you do this. I had been feeling that I have NEEDED to do the breathing but when I’m in my own space and the pain surfaces, it is too much and I stop.
By having someone hold sacred space for me, I was able to breathe and face the discomfort.
And what surfaced in that breathing was a profound realization about something that I have hidden from saying to anyone for 15 years. I spoke it out loud, to my friend, and could feel a deep healing begin to occur.
I’m not quite ready to share what came up YET but I realized this is a key piece of my story that I cannot hide if I am telling my own journey. I’m allowing the healing to continue with the part of myself that I let go of 15 years ago before I share this piece of my story publicly but I did hear strong guidance that this is crucial to share when I am telling my story.
So to all of you who think I’ve got it all “figured out” or that I’m so far ahead of you, the reality is, it is still a journey and a process.
Another healer friend describes the process of healing like a spiral… sometimes we come back to deeper layers of something we thought we had healed and there is another layer to address.
Wherever you are on your journey, honor it. Don’t think that you haven’t made strides in your process because you HAVE. But also, don’t look at someone like a healer or a teacher as someone who is done with the process because the Truth is, we aren’t. We might be some steps ahead of you but we are still walking our paths.
In the past couple blog posts, I have talked about recent studies that have shown that stress isn’t always dangerous to our health and well-being. If you haven’t read the past 2 posts, I suggest reading them before continuing to read this one.
In today’s post, I want to talk more about the “tend-and-befriend response” to stress and how it is beneficial.
This particular response is part of our evolution and how we banded together with our tribe to survive danger. Part of the response is about protecting children from threat, so this response is often seen more in women but it is also something that can be demonstrated by men too.
This particular response helps to decrease fear and increase hope. It activates activity in areas of the brain to make you smart, brave, and social.
Through the activation of oxytocin, we have more empathy, connection, and trust and fear in the amygdala becomes dampened so we can be courageous. Through the activation of dopamine, we become more motivated, optimistic and fear is also dampened. Through the activation of serotonin, our perception is enhanced, our intuition is heightened, we have more self-control, and our awareness is enhanced to help us make smarter decisions.
So how can you activate this particular response when you are feeling stressed?
You can reach out and help others, give someone support or take time to listen to them. Practicing random acts of kindness or donating to those in need are great ways to activate this response!
Another way to tap into this response is to focus on goals that are bigger than yourself when you are feeling stressed. For example, in a job interview, instead of focusing on your individual goals for wanting this job, think of how this job will let you help your community, what kind of change you’d like to create through this position,
Again, to learn more about this other stress response, I highly recommend reading Dr. Kelly McGonigal’s book “The Upside of Stress.”
In my last post, I shared a little bit about new research that has shown there isn’t just 1 stress response like we all have believed for years but instead there are 3 different stress responses, including “challenge response” and “tend-and-befriend response.” If you haven’t read that post first, I suggest you take a quick read of it before continuing.
In this post, I want to dive deeper into the “challenge response” to stress and how you can begin to tap into it.
This particular stress response is ideal for situations that require us to perform under pressure, like an athletic event, public speaking, an exam, or some type of performance.
The challenge response gives us energy, focus, and other resources to succeed, it elicits peak performance, and it helps motivate us into action.
Yet if you’ve been in one of these situations like where you have had to speak in public or you are getting ready for a big athletic event, you might notice that in the past you have felt the typical “fight-or-flight response” kick in…
So how do you make sure you can access this response when you need it?
One way to tap into this mode is to consciously make an assessment of your skills and resources to face the task ahead.
You can ask yourself how hard the task will be, do you have the skills, strength and courage to do what’s required, and if there is someone who can help you face the challenge.
When you do this, if you can realize you have the skills and resources needed and remember similar situations that you have faced with success, you will typically be able to find your entry into “challenge response.”
Another helpful thing to remind yourself of is that your stress response is actually an asset, not something harmful. Tell yourself that your anxiety and racing heart are actually bringing more oxygen to your brain, that it is giving you more energy for your task, and more strength and focus to do what you need.
The research of Dr. Kelly McGonigal actually showed that when participants in a study were told this message that stress was supporting their brains and their abilities, no negative health impacts of stress actually showed in their bodies.
This new understanding of stress is another beautiful example of how our beliefs and our mindset have a powerful impact on our health.
If we believe the old paradigm that stress is dangerous or can kill us, it pushes our bodies to respond with the classic “fight-or-flight response.” If instead, we see stress as something that is supporting us in taking on a challenge, our bodies will respond differently and not be negatively impacted.
To learn more about this other stress response, I highly recommend reading Dr. McGonigal’s book “The Upside of Stress.”
For years, many of us have heard the idea that stress is bad for us. You may have even heard that stress can kill you.
This idea definitely has some basis in reality, as stress can contribute to things like high blood pressure and heart disease, which can cause sickness and even death.
However, in the past decade, new research has come out supporting the notion that stress doesn’t always have to be bad for you and that in many cases, believing it is “dangerous” is part of the problem.
One of the key components of this new research is that there are actually 3 different stress responses, not just the “fight-or-flight response” we all think of.
With this new paradigm there is also the “challenge response,” which helps to prepare our bodies for situations where we need to perform under pressure, and the “tend-and-befriend response,” which drives us to connect with others and use the power of community when under threat.
These 2 other types of responses activate different hormones and neurotransmitters in our bodies than the “fight-or-flight response” does.
The “tend-and-befriend response” helps to produce oxytocin to help us connect, empathize, and trust, to produce more dopamine for motivation, optimism, and decreasing fear, and more serotonin for enhanced perception, intuition, and awareness.
The “challenge response” allows the body physiologically to respond like we are exercising, rather than running for our lives. This puts less stress on the heart as our blood vessels stay relaxed, our heart beat is actually stronger, and each beat pumps more blood. In addition, different hormones like DHEA help the brain learn stress resilience rather than becoming more sensitized to future threats.
In future posts, I will be sharing more about these 2 other types of stress responses and ways that you can start to shift out of “fight-or-flight” and instead use “challenge response” or the “tend-and-befriend” response.
Did you know…. Only 3-5% of all disease is believed to be caused by our genes?
So what accounts for the rest of the reasons we get sick?
In this short video, I explain more about the fascinating science of epigenetics.
Don’t worry… if you’ve never heard that term, I will give you a SIMPLE explanation of what it is AND, more importantly, what it means for your health!
I’d love for you to take a few minutes to watch and learn more about how so much more of our health is under our control than we were led to believe for many years!
After you watch, let me know what your biggest takeaway was in the comments! 🙂
This morning, I stepped on the scale and it was down 17 pounds from the beginning of this year. Each time the number goes down, I feel an internal sense of celebration.
My weight has been something that I have struggled with since my teenage years but in the last 5 years, I’ve gained an extra 25 pounds. For me, it really isn’t about getting to a certain number on a scale, it is how I feel about my body and how my body feels at a certain weight.
With the weight I’ve gained in the past 5 years, I have felt uncomfortable in my body. I feel like I get tired more easily, like it is harder to get around… even my feet were starting to hurt more if I stood or walked for a significant amount of time. I also looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t feel my best, and I was frustrated when trying to buy clothes that nothing seemed to fit or look good.
In January, I started working with one of my BodyTalk teachers who has developed a specialized way of working with BodyTalk tools and hormones connected to weight and metabolism.
After having tried to lose weight for several years through some dietary changes (mostly cutting down but not completely eliminating carbs) and seeing more of a yoyo effect, I had grown frustrated. I could lose 10 pounds but not more than that and after a month or 2, the weight would go come back.
Since I’ve struggled with weight since even my teenage years, despite being a very active and health-conscious teen, I have always felt like there was something about the way my body was made up that didn’t allow me to lose weight or be a weight that felt healthy for my body. I guess you could say I felt that I had “fat genes.”
Through working with my teacher for the past 4 months, I have easily released 17 pounds and the number just keeps going down from week to week. I’m losing inches in places and most of my clothes are now way too big. The best part is this is not some crazy fad diet or I’m not having to workout for several hours a day to see results. It is instead through healing an imbalance in my body that has probably been there most if not all of my life.
For the past 4 months, the main changes I’ve had to make are to exercise more days a week (but usually for around 20-30 minutes a day and I’m doing something that is enjoyable) and to decrease eating (but not completely eliminate) certain foods like potatoes that my body doesn’t easily metabolize.
The primary focus of the sessions I’ve received instead has been on numerous imbalances in my own hormones that help with metabolism. We have reset the gateways in my brain that have been thinking I’m in danger of starving to death tomorrow when in reality I have plenty of excess fat to burn should disaster occur.
These metabolic issues have stemmed from things like being exposed to toxins over the course of my lifetime, belief systems about being satisfied in my life and how much of that I was allowed, and also from things like ancestral exposure to toxins or having ancestors who have lived through things like famines or limited food supplies.
By addressing these root issues that cause an imbalanced metabolism, my body is now able to easily let go of weight and I’m not spending my time focusing on counting calories (that model has been proven not to work), feeling like I’m starving, or living at the gym.
I’m so grateful for these tools that can help my body return to a healthy weight and a healthy metabolism.
BodyTalk has changed my life in the past 6 years. It got rid of pain in my left knee that seemed to come out of nowhere and which nothing else seemed to get rid of (this was how I found BodyTalk!). It has helped me be able to sleep without taking a sleep aid, made me a less anxious person, and it has even shrunk an enlarged spleen due to a blood disorder (something doctors didn’t think was possible- at least without me taking some new medication which I refused to do). And now it is helping me release weight and feel healthy once again.
Yesterday, I interviewed a dear friend of mine. Annabel is one of the most inspiring people I know and I wanted to share her journey with ovarian cancer with more people, as I believe it is inspirational no matter if you are dealing with a health challenge or not.
Hear her wisdom on:
- the power of community for our health
- just how impactful our mindset is on our health
- how it isn’t really helpful to say yes to helping a friend if you are exhausted or unable to show up fully
- how she manages “bad days”
- and so much more!