One of the speakers I heard who had the most impact on me during the recent Neuroscience Training Summit on SoundsTrue was Dr Kristin Neff, a neuroscience researcher and self-compassion teacher who talked about activating our mamilian caregiving system by placing your hands over your heart and offering yourself compassion in the midst of suffering.
I find this technique really valuable when I’m feeling distressed and anxious, and just had a session with a client who also found it really helpful for calming her anxiety. The technique is based on the Buddhist tradition of mindfulness which generally implies a sense of self-compassion, but making the self-compassion aspect the explicit focus.
Aside from the mere fact that this kind of meditation has worked for thousands of years, I also like that modern neuroscience can now explain how and why it works, so you can take it on faith, or take it on reason. Either way, it works. Essentially what you’re doing is self-activating the soothing mechanism that emotionally aware mothers instinctually use to soothe their distressed infants by holding them and cooing when they’re upset.
When everything is working well, over time we learn to self-soothe by internalising this experience from our mothers. But if you didn’t have an emotionally aware mother or if you’re hit with an overwhelming experience like CFS, it can take some conscious attention and practice to develop the ability to self-soothe anxiety and distress.
If you fear that self-compassion might seem a little self-indulgent, consider one thing I recall Dr Neff saying in the Neuroscience Training Summit about the opposite of self-compassion: “There’s nothing more self-focused than being lost in the throes of self-criticism.”
Self-compassion is the antidote to self-criticism, and the more self-compassion we practice, the more compassion we have available for other people.
Dr Neff has a set of guided meditations available for free on her website that I highly recommend. She has a soothing voice and you get to benefit from her 20 years of self-compassion practice.
I have a couple of clients who find EFT really helpful for dealing with emotions, especially when they feel overwhelming. I got an email this morning from one such client who has been ill with CFS for over ten years and is now recovering, in part through my coaching. She gave permission for me to share it here:
I want to share these eft videos on chakra alignment with you. I know eft is not your thing. I know you come in contact with lots of people and I have found these videos amazing. Maybe they might help others.
I am doing the one for the 5th chakra, communication with great results.
I’ve been reading Barry Green & W. Timothy Gallwey’s book The Inner Game Of Music to learn how to calm my nerves onstage for my future career as a comedian/musician. There’s a lot of wisdom in the book about dealing with anxiety and staying present under pressure, and I thought this paragraph was particularly pertinent to recovery from CFS:
When we realise that what at first looks like a stressful or negative experience can be understood as a ‘dissonance’ that can lead to resolution, we can begin to accept the stressful moments and flow with them instead of resisting them. The times that we look back on with the greatest pleasure are often those when we experienced a full measure of obstacles and stresses and were able to bring them to a harmonious resolution. Our goal is to be able to ‘experience our experience’ fully, without classifying it as either bad or good.
Well I don’t know about looking back “with the greatest of pleasure”, but apart from that I think he’s onto something.
I just want to say a big “Thank you!” to everyone who participated in helping me get my Life Coaching qualification with Beyond Success, the company that I did my Emotional Intelligence-based coach training with.
Getting qualified was the final step in my Life Coach training; something that I had been putting off for about 3 years because I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting a sick, depressed life coach. However, one of the things that I learned from Mickel Therapy was to complete the things that we’ve been putting off since they all contribute to our sense of powerlessness and unconscious stress.
I’ve been listening to some of the free recordings from The Neuroscience Training Summit for the last few days, and just thought I would give you all a heads up about it. I’m firmly convinced that CFS is a neurological illness, and I have found some really interesting clues by listening to some of the worlds leading neuroscience researchers and therapists talk about what they’re discovering about the human nervous system.
If you’re like me and believe that knowing more about your internal neurological wiring could help you deal with what you going through better, I recommend checking the last few free recordings of the summit out at The Neuroscience Training Summit on SoundsTrue.
One of the paradoxes of having a chronic illness is that since we tend to spend a lot of time and energy focusing on fixing the problem; which means we’re spending a lot of time and energy on the problem itself. Of course what we really want is the solution to the problem, but when the solution isn’t easily apparent, it’s easy to get stuck feeling anxious and just focusing on the problem.
That has been my experience anyway. We get more of what we focus on. At the same time, what we resist persists; which is why I think that “fighting fatigue” doesn’t work, and I no longer push myself when I’m feeling tired: I rest. And I tell myself that’s OK.
Lately I’ve been focusing more on creating the life I want for myself and on helping other people than on working hard to recover. I spend a lot of time playing music and have a gig lined up in a few weeks that I’m really looking forward to. I don’t feel so anxious when I’m absorbed in playing music, and I feel my nervous system relax.
I also coach other people who aren’t yet where I’m at, and helping them move forward really helps me feel positive too. One of my clients recently sent me this video, which I think has some great advice about relaxing your nervous system and focusing on being happy using EFT:
I’ve been recovering from a cold for the last week-and-a-bit, and I’ve really noticed how my thinking turns towards negative victim thinking when I feel particularly unwell. At the same time, over Easter I watched The Passion Of The Christ on TV, Mel Gibson’s brutal Catholocism-inspired glorification of suffering and martyrdom.
Taking it easy over Easter gave me time to reflect on whether martyrdom, suffering and victimhood should really be glorified. My conclusion is that while suffering can build patience and cause us to reflect on what is really important to us, martyrdom is overrated. It reflects a worldview that life is just about suffering and pain, often with some promise of reward in the non-existent afterlife, rather than to be enjoyed in the present moment.
After all, nothing is as bad as the smell of a burning martyr.
I was recently contacted by a reader with CFS who said that the Keto//OS ketone supplement from Pruvit had miraculously cured his brain fog. I can’t say I’ve ever really experienced brain fog, although I do get a lot of anxiety to the point where I feel very sleepy & like I need to lie down; and I think they’re related.
Nevertheless, my reader sent me a 3 day sample of Ketone//OS and I agreed to write about my experience with it.
The main thing I have to say it that it’s delicious! I think I feel a little more alive than I did before taking it; but with my current low-stress lifestyle I’m gradually recovering anyway so it’s hard to say what contribution the Ketone//OS had. I suspect it’s a placebo, and a fairly expensive one at that… which may improve its effectiveness at reducing the anxiety that I believe leads to brain fog.
About seven weeks ago I finally got around to taking swimming lessons. It’s something that I had been planning to do ever since moving to live near the beach 18 months ago.
There are a number of reasons for this: Firstly, I don’t feel safe in the ocean when I’m out of my depth. Deep down I know that I’m not a good swimmer and whenever I’m in deep water my body responds with a lot of anxiety. I figured that if I knew I could swim confidently I wouldn’t get so anxious about not being able to touch the bottom. I go body boarding a lot and I feel relatively safe with the body board strapped to my arm, but I get caught in rips all the time and I know that if the strap was to break or I lost the board somehow, I’d be in real trouble.
One of the principles that I learnt during my brief experience of Mickel Therapy a few years back was that it is important to stay on top of things in order to avoid feeling any more overwhelmed than we already do by being ill. Having an accumulation of small unresolved life stressors can add up to create stress and tension in our nervous systems. That’s why it’s helpful to make a judicious list of “outstanding issues” that we want to address and whittle it down over time.
I say “judicious” because most people with CFS tend to take on too much, and and up feeling overwhelmed with the familiar feeling that there is “not enough time”. We don’t really trust in the process of life and have bought into the idea that the more we do, the more stuff we can have and the happier we will be.
The truth is that time is indeed limited and we need to choose what to focus on in our lives generally. But when I got sick a whole bunch of things that were actually important to me started to fall by the way side.
Now that I’ve whittled my “outstanding issues list” down to virtually nothing, it’s important to stay on top of things to prevent that feeling of overwhelm from coming back.