- In order to truly heal from chronic Lyme, it is crucial to address emotional healing, as the mind and body are deeply connected.
- Emotional healing can be achieved by repairing the limbic system, increasing mindfulness, and adjusting the mindset.
- The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a technique involving applying pressure to meridian points in order to tap into the body’s energy while focusing on a negative emotion, can help to restore energy balance.
- The limbic system, composed of a few different structures in the brain, can become impaired as a result of stress, trauma, infection, or chemical exposure.
- Limbic system impairment underlies many chronic illnesses and can impede healing.
- The Dynamic Neural Retraining System (DNRS) uses the principles of neuroplasticity to repair the limbic system, retrain the brain, and improve stress response.
- Mindfulness is the cornerstone of emotional healing and can be practiced through meditation.
- Journaling, practicing gratitude, and engaging in light exercise can all offer profound healing benefits.
- To improve mindset, let go of victim mentality, practice patience and acceptance, listen to your body, stay present, practice positive visualization, and allow yourself to feel your emotions.
- Remember to be kind to yourself!
- For more in-depth guidance and support on emotional healing and other critical steps towards recovery, sign up for Dr. Jay’s at-home Lyme disease program or apply for one-on-one coaching
STRATEGIES FOR EMOTIONAL HEALING… FOR THE WHOLE BODY
Healing from chronic Lyme and other chronic illnesses is about more than just finding the right combination of treatments and protocols. Chronic disease takes its toll not only on your body but on your mind and spirit– and the mind and body are deeply interconnected. Emotional healing is absolutely essential for overall healing.
Emotional healing goes beyond positive thinking (although positive thinking is great!). There are all kinds of strategies and tools out there for rewiring your limbic system, increasing your awareness and acceptance, and changing your mindset to optimize overall healing. Underlying these tools and strategies are a few general principles:
- Mindfulness–being aware of your feelings and emotions–is extremely important
- Emotions are forms of energy and can manifest themselves as physical symptoms
- The brain can change itself, and you have the power to initiate these changes
EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE (EFT) TAPPING
The universe is made up of energy, and so are our bodies. Eastern medicine has long understood the way that energy moves through our bodies, and how it can be accessed via our meridian points. It is this understanding that underlies acupuncture and acupressure; applying pressure to specific spots on the body based on the meridian points. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping is a powerful, do-it-yourself healing modality based on these same energy points. When we practice EFT, we are tapping into the body’s innate capacity to heal, and we can relieve both physical and emotional pain and discomfort holistically.
Tapping is a technique that can be used whether you’re experiencing emotional trouble, physical discomfort, or both. The more we learn about illness and about wellbeing, the more clearly we understand that physical disease and emotional distress are deeply intertwined. Chronic disease, unpleasant symptoms, and pain can very easily lead to mental and emotional symptoms. Similarly, when we are experiencing negative emotions and we aren’t addressing them, these emotions have the power to come out in the form of physical symptoms. Understanding our emotions as forms of energy that can take many shapes and learning how to work with the body’s innate ability to heal allows for holistic overall healing.
An EFT sequence begins with a reflection on the emotional state or concern that we want to resolve, and involves tapping specific meridian points with the fingertips while focusing on this concern. The technique of stimulating meridian points while zeroing in on negative emotions together with positive, personal affirmations works by rewiring the brain’s stress response, calming the mind from within, and restoring the body’s energy balance. It is a technique that has been used successfully for healing from emotional trauma or distress, anxiety, chronic pain, PTSD, phobias, chronic headaches 1, chronic fatigue 2, and more.
Research on EFT has demonstrated reduced levels of cortisol after just one hour-long tapping session 3; improved limbic function and neurological markers 4; significant improvements in PTSD symptoms among war veterans 5; and improvements in anxiety, depression, pain, mental health, feelings of helplessness, rumination, and social function 6.
EFT TAPPING TECHNIQUE: HOW TO DO IT
One of the best things about tapping is that it can be done anywhere, at any time, by anyone. There are 5 basic steps in an EFT sequence:
1. Identify the issue: The first step is to reflect on and identify the issue that you want to concentrate on. Is it an overwhelming anxiety? Feelings of guilt or grief? Worry or nervousness about a particular situation? It is important to select only one issue to focus on.
2. Rate intensity: Once you’ve identified the concern that you’re going to focus on during your tapping session, give some thought to how bad the problem is for you right now. How intense is the negative emotion or feeling? Tapping experts advise that you rate the intensity on a scale from 0-10. This way, you can compare the baseline intensity of the feeling (before tapping) to the way you feel afterward.
3. Set up statement: The next step is to come up with a statement that acknowledges the issue you’re focusing on and includes a personal affirmation. The general format for a setup statement is “Even though I am/I feel [problem/negative emotion], I deeply and completely accept myself”. For example: “Even though I’m anxious about the speed of my recovery, I deeply and completely accept myself”. Once you’ve developed your statement, you’re ready to begin. Start by tapping the outer edge of your hand with 4 fingers from the other hand. As you tap this first meridian point, repeat your set up statement three times.
4. Tapping: EFT tapping uses a specific sequence of nine meridian points (we have 12 in total). You can use two or four fingers when tapping (depending on the part of the body and what feels right), and you want to be using your fingertips as opposed to your fingernails. While you tap, repeat a shorter, more simplified version of your set-up statement in order to maintain the intended focus as you tap into your body’s energy. This can be as simple as “my fear” or “my sadness”, or more specifically if you’re focusing on emotions surrounding a particular occasion or situation (i.e. “my appointment”).
The meridian points are as follows, in sequential order. Tap each point 5-7 times while repeating your reminder phrase.
- Karate Chop (KC): Outer edge of hand
- Head (TH): The center and top of the head
- Eyebrow (EB): At the edges closest to the nose
- Side of Eye (SE): Between the eye and the temple
- Under Eye (UE): The harder area under the eye
- Under Nose (UN): Between the nose and the lip
- Chin (CP): In the center, between the lip and the chin
- Collarbone (CB): Below the hard ridge
- Underarm (UA): Below the armpit
- Head (TH): The center and top of the head again, to finish off the sequence
5. Test intensity again: Now that you’ve completed your tapping sequence, take some time to consider the intensity of your negative emotion again. Rate it on the same scale from 0-10. If the intensity has decreased, but it is still higher than you would like, you may wish to repeat the tapping sequence.
And that’s all! Tapping is easy to learn and easy to do, but the changes that can occur as a result of simultaneously acknowledging emotional distress, practicing complete self-acceptance, and tapping into your body’s energy can be incredibly profound.
DNRS: DYNAMIC NEURAL RETRAINING SYSTEM
The Dynamic Neural Retraining System, or DNRS, is a healing program for the mind and body based on the principles of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change) and the importance of repairing the limbic system. Chronic Lyme, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, anxiety disorders, and food and chemical sensitivities are among the many conditions for which DNRS can be a life-changing tool.
There are in-person trainings as well as a more affordable set of DVDs with a workbook you can order online.
With the program, you are taught a series or words and “steps” to repeat, as well as affirmations, visualization, and meditation. You will also learn about what neuroplasticity of the brain means and how to identify various types of negative self-talk and how to pivot to a new way of thinking. You are encouraged to challenge yourself daily before your DNRS practice, which is about one hour a day for at least six months. Many people with Lyme, chemical sensitivities, extreme anxiety, fibromyalgia, and other similar issues have used this program in conjunction with a great herb and supplement protocol.
Underlying many chronic illnesses, including Lyme, is a broken stress response caused by an impaired limbic system. The limbic system, sometimes referred to as the “feeling and reacting brain”, is made up of a series of structures within the brain including the hippocampus, hypothalamus, and amygdala. It is this system that controls our internal and emotional reactions to the various stimuli that we encounter every day.
When impaired– often as a result of trauma, stress, or infection– the limbic system can cause us to become overly anxious, overly irritated, and to just generally overreact to everything around us. Not only does this take a toll on us emotionally, the limbic system influences the immune system, the endocrine system (responsible for our hormones), and the autonomic nervous system, leaving us in a state of perpetual emotional and physiological stress that impedes healing.
- Emotional trauma
- Long or intense periods of stress
- Chronic infection
- Exposure to chemicals
- Toxic mold
- Overactive stress response
- Feeling overly emotional and/or experiencing more negative feelings than usual
- Altered sensory perception
- Brain fog
- Fatigue/low energy
- Impaired cognition
- Poor memory
- Decreased ability to detoxify
- Increased sensitivities to foods, chemicals
It is no coincidence that many of these symptoms overlap with symptoms of chronic Lyme disease– limbic system dysfunction is often a major underlying component.
The DNRS system uses and teaches the science of neuroplasticity– in other words, the brain’s capacity to change itself– to target and heal the limbic system and re-wire the body’s stress response7.
So how does it work, practically speaking? DNRS– which can be learned through in-person training seminars or an intensive DVD program– starts by teaching you the background and science behind what you’re about to do (what neuroplasticity is and how it works), and then launches into a series of specific, step-by-step techniques and exercises to change your body’s broken stress response from within. These exercises focus on training the brain on a series of skills including focus and attention, emotional regulation, emotional distancing, visual response, language response, cognition, and behavior.
Remember, nobody is saying that you’re doing anything wrong when it comes to your emotional reactions: a system within your brain may just be out of whack because of circumstances beyond your control. But you have the power to change this!
Once the intensive training portion of the program has been completed, DNRS exercises should be practiced daily for at least 5 months to allow for new neural pathways to be fully and properly formed.
When new neural pathways are formed as a result of DNRS, the stress response normalizes, the mindset shifts, the brain and body are able to function better, and both physical and emotional healing can take place.
MEDITATION & MINDFULNESS
Mindfulness is really the cornerstone of emotional healing, and its principles underlie pretty well every possible healing strategy. Essentially, mindfulness is about being present and aware, and observing and identifying how you feel and what’s going on both inside of you and around you. This is crucial for overall healing.
Part of this, when trying to overcome chronic illness, is about understanding your symptoms, your triggers, and your limits. You may also begin to understand both yourself and your disease in a new way.
Meditation is an excellent way to practice and learn about mindfulness, especially when there is a specific emotional thorn in your side that needs to be addressed. It can be challenging if you’re not used to the practice to sit and focus on the present moment, even for a short period of time. If you’re just getting started, guided meditation apps like Insight Timer and Headspace can be extremely helpful. Guided meditations will help to provide you with the framework that you need to eventually lead your own personal meditation sessions (if you choose to) and to generally be more mindful throughout the day, even when not actively meditating.
The benefits of meditation are well-documented and include improvements in self-awareness, anxiety, mood, stress levels, pain levels, and attention, as well as immune system benefits and improvements in blood pressure. 8 9 10 11 12
Writing regularly in a journal can have a significant positive impact on emotional and overall wellbeing. It is a great practice to make sure that you’re checking in with yourself, and it can help you to clarify and process your feelings.
Another great idea is to keep a gratitude journal. Taking the time to stop, focus on, and write down a few things that you’re grateful for every day can help you to shift your mindset, and is especially helpful when coping with a chronic illness that may otherwise be consuming your thoughts altogether.
A light exercise routine– one during which you are not pushing yourself too hard and not competing with anyone (including yourself) but where you are simply treating your body and mind to a bit of movement, energy, and oxygenation– can help to improve your mindset. Try taking short walks or practicing mindfulness-based activities such as yoga or tai chi.
SOFT STRATEGIES: HOW TO ADJUST YOUR MINDSET FOR EMOTIONAL & WHOLE BODY HEALING
Fight the victim mentality. When you’re coping with a chronic illness, it can be hard not to feel like a victim. You may ask yourself questions like “why is this happening to me?”, and you may be consumed with the feeling that your disease is unfair– this is understandable. But this pattern of negative thoughts and the view of chronic illness as a personal betrayal or punishment can actually hinder healing. When we feel hatred towards our disease, it has too much power over us. When you notice yourself falling into patterns of victim mentality, try and reframe the situation, and adjust your perspective. Learn to look at your disease as an opportunity for growth and healing. You have control over your mind.
Listen to your body. This is one of the most important things to remember when working on healing. Most chronic illnesses are multifaceted and complex, and to recover holistically, we have to go one step at a time, and at our own pace. Don’t push yourself too hard. Allow yourself to rest; allow yourself to slow down when you need to. If something doesn’t feel right to you, and you need to take a break, trust that intuition. Listen to your body, first and foremost.
Remember that you are not your disease. Chronic Lyme may be a part of your life right now, and it may be a part of you, but there is more to you than your disease. Remember not to make your disease your identity. How do you define yourself? Who are you? Ask yourself these questions, and remind yourself of these aspects of you when it feels like your disease is taking over.
Stay present. Okay, we’ve touched on this already, but it bears repeating. Thinking about things that you could have done differently in the past or worrying about what’s going to happen in the future hinder healing. Remember to live in the present. This is mindfulness.
Feel your emotions. Illness often worsens or manifests because of past emotional trauma that hasn’t been explored. Negative emotions that have been suppressed can come out in the form of physical symptoms, from pain to headaches and fatigue to weight gain. You don’t want to dwell on your negative emotions, but ignoring them altogether is not the solution. Instead, take the time once or twice a day– or as needed– to check in with yourself. Ask yourself what you’re feeling, and write it down, or simply sit with those emotions. We all feel negative emotions sometimes, and acknowledging them is a big part of how we learn and grow from them.
Practice patience and acceptance. Understand that healing takes time. Be grateful for any improvements, acknowledge any setbacks, and continue to move forward with your recovery at your body’s own pace.
Practice positive visualization. Although it may not be instant, remind yourself that you are capable of healing! This mindset can make a big difference.
A FINAL STRATEGY: BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Being kind to yourself is an underlying principle of many of the strategies outlined here, but it deserves some extra attention. Many of us become so exhausted or spend so much time taking care of the other people in our lives, that we forget to take care of ourselves. But in order to truly heal, it is so important to prioritize self-care. This means something a little different for everyone, but whether it’s taking a bath, reading a book, or doing yoga, make sure you’re taking time for yourself that isn’t about anything but you and your overall state of emotional wellbeing. Your whole self will thank you.
Which emotional healing strategies have worked for you when overcoming chronic disease? Let us know in the comments!
For more in-depth guidance and support on emotional healing and other critical steps towards recovery, sign up for Dr. Jay’s at-home Lyme disease program or apply for one-on-one coaching, and get ready to regain control of your health!
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