[00:00:00] Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.
[00:00:50] Hello and welcome to Move with Deb, the podcast soon to be renamed the Curiosity Cure or Curiosity Cure the podcast with Deb or Curiosity Cure with Deb. One of those is gonna be the name and here's why. Move with Deb that's some old IG stuff. That was back when I was studying restorative exercise and movement and working as a body worker.
[00:01:22] And one of my goals was to help people feel empowered to move in a way that help them feel better in their bodies, which is still my goal. My goal is to help you feel better. Or feel more, better, more of the time, feel better in your body, whether that's your body image, whether that's physically recovering from chronic pain, using these mind body skills to help you feel better.
[00:01:52] And so that's, you know, the through line of me who I am, what I do. I actually had that when I was, I had my own clothing store. I had that same mission when I was working as a body worker. And now I do that using mind body coaching skills. So kind of the intersection between the cognitive work and the somatic work and interpreting sensations of the body through messages of safety.
[00:02:21] And that is complicated because we live in a society and a system that doesn't support people, not feeling well. And that's today's topic. I wanna talk about COVID a little bit because I am recovering from Covid and in, recovering from Covid, I have been using my mind body medicine, pain reprocessing knowledge actively as a part of my recovery plan.
[00:02:53] So I have not just the things that I do to help me kind of feel better, sleep soup, you know, staying masked, staying away from people, all those kinds of things. But I am also using my knowledge to help me not only feel better and feel empowered, but also recover well, as much as that is in my power and control.
[00:03:20] So every experience, I have of feeling better. So as my symptoms improve, I intentionally note that and teach my brain through a process of what I call embodied storytelling. That my body is recovering well. So like, you know, that moment where I was like, could wake up in the morning and go from having really intense, you know, acute symptoms. So I felt kind of the most poorly on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and that was the same time as the wildfire smoke was in New York. So I actually did not realize I had covid, I thought it was a response to the wildfire smoke. So as I was recovering and feeling better, though, I made an intentional effort to note every experience of feeling better.
[00:04:17] I was like, okay, I am, you know, not coughing as much. Okay. I am like I getting up and oh, my body actually doesn't feel depleted. Like I don't feel like I have to go back to bed right away. Oh, okay. You know, my mind is feeling more clear. Hey, that's amazing. It's just about noting these moments of recovering and remembering even other times where I was sick like I was traveling in Scotland and I was so unbelievably sick. Uh, I was sick for pretty much the entire trip and it was such a bummer. There were so many things that I wanted to do during the fringe festival and I went and saw The Cure and I basically napped through the entire thing cuz also it was a rainstorm and a mud slide.
[00:05:09] The whole experience itself is a story, and I recovered from that experience of being very sick for like two weeks, and I'm using all of that experience and information to help me now. I am healing and I really do feel back to normal. Which is great after only a few days of being sick and I, I got Paxlovid, I have finished my doses. I'm testing negative, like all of these things that I'm using to help me support myself and support my brain in this process of recognizing healing. So also really working through fear.
[00:05:52] For me, one of the things I think I benefited from was that I had already been feeling better and much improved before I had my positive test. So I was able to separate the physical from the emotional distress. Cuz fear is one of the main experiences that we are working with when we are doing mind body healing.
[00:06:14] I wanna invite into my awareness that I was not afraid of not being able to pay my rent or pay my bills. I was not afraid of not being able to access food. So those things make a difference, like as soon as I. Got a positive covid test, I made an Instacart order and I was able to order what I needed and like safely receive it, in a way that, you know, knew that I was gonna be able to take care of myself. Those things make a difference when we're talking about fear, we want to bring in awareness of all the stressors that we have.
[00:06:52] So I have a job in which it's very covid safe. I was able to keep working. I did have to reschedule some clients on one day, but I think that was about it. So while recovering, I was still able to work, that's not the case for everyone. So I want to say that those things also benefited me in my process and recovery.
[00:07:15] I didn't have to take off huge time away from work. I didn't have economic pressure. I wasn't putting my family at risk. All of those things are stressors and anything that is a stressor will be felt in the body. So I wanted to also make sure and highlight that. Just so when we are starting to examine the mind body process that we're actually taking into consideration all of the information.
[00:07:42] Understanding how the mind and the body work together. How the brain uses predictive processing to determine what our body is doing. So what we are experiencing physiologically is a key ingredient to managing and essentially unlearning symptoms. As we've learned through the Boulder Back pain study and all of the work from the Pain Psychology Center and colleagues who are doing mind body healing, brain changes are possible even after having experienced chronic symptoms for a decade. So longevity of symptoms doesn't equal permanence. And we're talking about brain changes and the direction that we want the brain to be changing.
[00:08:25] I pulled together a list of resources that are either ones that I've experienced directly, clients or other folks doing mind body healing have experienced directly, that are this type of work in terms of covid recovery. So whether it's recovering from experiences of long covid or just while you are managing the experience of having covid, how you can help your mind and body work together so that you recover well and faster.
[00:09:01] And there's a lot to be said about covid. There's reason to be fearful. There have been failures of so many systems. People need care and help and not all covid symptoms can be addressed with mind body medicine, but the ones that are nervous system related, so whether it's ME/CFS, pots, dysautonomia, they often can be.
[00:09:22] There's so much that we don't know and are still learning, but my goal is to share credible knowledge and resources for people to be able to learn, apply, and feel empowered to feeling better. Because one of the things that I notice happens a lot is when we are fearful and then we seek help sometimes we find resources that feel helpful, but what they actually do, is increase fear, increase catastrophic thinking. And we can have what's called the social contagion of symptoms. I've seen this happen. We also can have the social contagion of recovery. And I also see this happen in a lot of mind body medicine groups on Facebook, I'm seeing a lot of people sharing these concepts and work and sharing their recovery stories, which is why I made a podcast about how to listen to and use recovery stories for your benefits. I'm gonna link to some of these recovery stories in this. I'm going to share the neuroscience of mind body medicine and talk about how it relates to long covid. So that's some of what I am doing right now is really helping my body and mind feel better. And I really do feel better. I'm kind of excited. I am a little nervous. That was an unexpected event in my life.
[00:10:59] I had to cancel a trip that I was looking forward to, had to reorient myself towards the way that I have been moving around in the world. There were so many times where I have had a sniffle and then would test negative and we have personal responsibilities, there are collective responsibilities, and it can feel very scary to not know how to control our risk. And that fear is real, but also fear creates a cascade of experiences in our physiology. I'm gonna link to an article that is from New York Magazine, the article is called Has Long Covid Always Existed, and you know, some of these things, they're provocative titles, so in anything I share, I am not the expert of everything. I cannot tell you a hundred percent whether something is true. I can only share with you the knowledge that I have, the beliefs that I have, the ways that I've helped people recover from chronic pain and chronic conditions. The kind of work that's being done in this field with colleagues and other experts who work in mind body medicine, who do research, who work with patients at all different levels.
[00:12:26] My goal is to share information for your highest benefit, because I really think it's important to believe that feeling better is possible, and even if we don't know the exact pathway towards that, when we believe there is a pathway, it gets us oriented towards what's happening in our bodies in a different way.
[00:12:52] So this article shows kind of the issues with medicine and how they've separated the mind and body, and there's so much stigma in being perceived as having a psychophysiological classified disorder. But everything we experience in our life is psychophysiological. We have decided in medicine that there's a hierarchy of care and it seems so wrapped up in sexism, whereas women who complain about pain are not taken seriously.
[00:13:24] And we have turned some conditions into quote unquote real ones and some into fake, and that's not true. And that is such a problem. Being able to recover from a nervous system slash brain driven pain or symptom disorder doesn't make it not real, and it doesn't mean you didn't really suffer intense symptoms.
[00:13:52] Whatever you feel is real and also recovery is possible. And I know there are other possible injuries in the body from Covid, so I'm not making claims that all can be helped with this approach. But working with nervous system healing helps reduce pain and distress even with incurable cancers. So why not also add this in?
[00:14:14] This segment was interesting to read. How can we support and listen to people who are sick without subconsciously suggesting that getting better is not possible? I used to mention to my client that the intensity of a symptom does not correlate to an intensity of tissue or body damage, but rather to our perception of threat and danger.
[00:14:38] This is from the article. One of the first people to get Covid in the UK was a 64 year old British professor of infectious diseases named Paul Garner. In 2020, he spent seven months trapped in a wrenching cycle of illness, exhaustion, and extreme emotion. Here's a quote, I started wondering whether I would be ill for the rest of my life.
[00:15:02] He says, Gardner published a personal essay in bmj, which is formerly the British Medical Journal, describing his symptoms sporadically aching muscles and upset stomach, muddled thinking, dizziness. Sometimes he would feel better, and then sometimes he would relapse and feel as though someone had hit me around the head with a cricket bat.
[00:15:24] Looking for answers, he became active in online long covid groups and read up on advice for people with ME/CFS. To avoid triggering post exertional malaise. He took the advice of patient advocates and carefully paced his activities, despite his best efforts. A 10 minute bike ride set him into a three day relapse. Determined to pace himself more carefully he paid careful and constant attention to his body. Yet for all of his efforts, his relapses only became more frequent. Eventually, Gardner decided to change course after talking to a psychologist in training who had chronic fatigue syndrome herself. Quote. She explained that when you get anything stressful, whether a virus or an emotional shock, it sets off a stress response in the reptilian part of the brain.
[00:16:17] Now, whether we not, we actually have a reptilian part of the brain is up for debate, but I'm just gonna read to you what it says. A brand new virus will certainly do this. Your nervous system is on high alert to shut down your body, to conserve energy and these deep automatic responses to protect. You can get dysfunctional after the virus has gone, but the stress remains.
[00:16:43] So you're left with this misadjusted set of regulatory functions like an oversensitive smoke alarm. She showed him that, by the way, he was thinking about his symptoms was affecting how he experienced them. By paying obsessive attention to his symptoms, he was increasing his stress levels and making them worse effectively.
[00:17:05] She was telling him how to use a cognitive behavioral technique. Gardner began to believe that recovery was possible. He stopped reading stories about chronic illness and practiced diverting attention from his bodily symptoms. He began exercising again. After several weeks, he was back to nearly his pre C O V I D level of fitness.
[00:17:27] So I just wanna say that again after several weeks, that is not a long period of time after having spent months in bed. He spent months feeling sick, being sick, and then after several weeks with this newly adjusted approach, he began to be back to his pre covid level of fitness.
[00:17:50] In January, 2021, he wrote his blog, in which he says, I have recovered. He wrote, I did this by listening to people who have recovered, not by people who are still unwell, and by understanding that our unconscious normal thoughts and feelings influence the symptoms we experience. So one might expect that this you know that his fellow long covid sufferers would've cheered on his recovery.
[00:18:16] But over a hundred people posted comments to his piece. The majority were angry or dismayed. People attacked him on Facebook and demanded that he withdraw his recovery story and gave him death threats. For all of this, I kind of just want to say that it makes sense to feel like your symptoms will never go away.
[00:18:39] There's this concept in mind body work where we talk about this feeling of this shouldn't be happening, right? When we start to have a symptom, have a flare, and in p R T training, Pain reprocessing therapy training. Alan Gordon, you know, says over and over and over again. The goal is not to change the symptoms.
[00:19:07] The goal is to change our relationship to the symptoms. And then my mind body work, you know, I even expand this out to include emotions. Our goal is not to change, but our goal is to relate to what we're experiencing differently. And yet there is a paradox to that because that is the pathway towards change.
[00:19:30] So I'm very grateful for this knowledge base. I'm very grateful to all of these very brave people because as you can see that doctor got a lot of negative feedback for his work, um, for his own recovery and then for sharing it. The same thing happened with Dr. Sarno. He helped thousands of people with his books and this was before we had F MRIs and we, before we had the Boulder back pain study, before we had this quote unquote scientific evidence based work, he was still able to help people and yet never received a single referral from within N Y U and the Rusk Center of Rehabilitation. Yet he persevered in sharing what he knew, helping thousands of people, helping people recover from pain. The takeaway, if I can offer one, is to believe that recovery is possible and believe that recovery is possible for you regardless of the symptoms that you are experiencing.
[00:20:40] And now I am not a person who says like, you can't have any doubt and you have to be a true believer. I'm not saying that at all. I love doubt. I am a skeptic, and except that my skepticism does not hold up to the evidence that I see and witness and experience both in my own body and in my clients and in other people.
[00:21:04] So at some point you're like, you know, if we didn't believe in gravity and yet, you know, there's just gravity all around us, it's okay to be skeptical, but at some point it's like, if you wanna feel better, what do you wanna start believing will help you feel better.
[00:21:19] Here's another beautiful recovery story. She wrote a story about her long covid symptoms and also her recovery process. So her long covid symptoms were remedied by doing nervous system repair, mind body work. Pain science, pain, neuroscience is a treatment protocol. I actually had this conversation the other day with a client, which is when we think about, you know, pain, so let's just talk about chronic pain and, and if we think that it's because of degenerative changes in the body we will pursue one treatment protocol.
[00:22:00] What we find is there's failed back surgery syndrome. It made it into a syndrome. We notice that people don't often feel better after surgery or after injections, like those remedies or treatments don't last. And pain reprocessing is a treatment protocol, and it's important to get the right treatment for whatever it is that you are experiencing, right?
[00:22:29] Um, eyewitness people rewiring their nervous system out of extreme threat and unconsciously learned and reinforced symptoms every day. And here's her quote, While doing this difficult yet necessary internal work to regulate my nervous system, my physical symptoms steadily improved. The headaches and brain fog decreased my memories, vocabulary and energy began to return.
[00:22:55] Even the sparkle in my eyes came back demonstrating that my nervous system was regulating back to homeostasis. My health team noticed the results and encouraged me to continue the work I was doing all through. Though I experienced improvements through mind, body techniques, it doesn't mean that it was all in my head, right?
[00:23:18] I'm gonna say that again. She says, Though I experienced improvements through mind body techniques, that does not mean it was quote unquote all in my head. The symptoms I experienced were real and physical. All pain is real, no matter the source. It's not really mind over matter either, as the body and mind are intrinsically connected.
[00:23:43] It's been interesting process with a client recently helping her with migraines and pains that she was experiencing due to a stressful job. And one of the things that we discovered is she Used to have this involved recovery plan where basically she, you know, she would take her weekend or whatever days that she's off and would set aside that time to just, you know, recover from her work week.
[00:24:15] And one of the things that we really worked on is how to intervene throughout your workday and allowing yourself To check in with your body, meet your needs, de-stress as the day is going on. You know, create options that are not just pushing through and falling apart. And so all of that stress that used to get built up and flow over and be overwhelming and push her into a headache isn't happening.
[00:24:44] And so therefore the headaches aren't happening. And also the way that she would think about her symptoms and her, what we call pain behaviors weren't happening. And so now she doesn't need a recovery plan because she has nothing that she needs recovering from. And her job is still the same. And we've created plans for when times are stressful at work or when she has an increase in responsibility or when unexpected things happen, or helping her better navigate her relationships with her colleagues or subordinates or, or people in charge, right? So that she is a human being, having a mind body experience inside of a system and a structure that is called her job or that is called her life.
[00:25:28] We also work through a whole lot of beliefs about being able to fly, feeling well enough to get on a plane and having a plane ride safely without symptoms. She had a whole amazing trip to Italy and felt better. And even in moments where she could like, feel a little bit of symptoms, she was able to create these pivot points and shifts and these places where she could check into herself and make choices on purpose about how she was going to deal with how she was feeling.
[00:25:57] And in our session this week, She was like, oh, I used to think I could never go to Australia because the flight was so long. Or that I would have to like, wait until I was retired so I could take a boat. And now she is like, oh, I totally believe that I could fly there and be fine. And even in moments like we've worked on getting to this place of when you're, when you're actually like feeling things and you, you're feeling it and you don't wanna be feeling it, maybe you're having a flare. Coming up with really amazing responses to that experience of what you don't want to be happening, that unwire that whole series of pain behaviors. We often now talk about just not assuming you know how you're gonna feel tomorrow.
[00:26:43] And I think that goes back to that doctor's conversation about how he got back into exercise, right? Dr. Gardner dropped the whole system of tracking, and also my client did this as well. She stopped tracking her headaches, she stopped tracking how she was feeling throughout the day.
[00:27:05] Because there is a way in which our attention system, right, like we have all of these subconscious processes that are happening. And so our brain is, is like, you know, checking in with the body and being like, okay, you need resources over here and you need this and you need that. Like the body is working on creating and managing that allostatic load and, and maintaining homeostasis.
[00:27:27] And when we are pre-deciding, For the body what's going to happen then it's like placing an order in advance. Basically, our brain is placing an order with our body in advance, and you're gonna get that. And so one of the things that we do in mind body healing is really tap into this open, spacious curiosity.
[00:27:49] And what if we don't know? It also helps first we build skills of like, what do we do when we're feeling things that we don't wanna be feeling. There's kind of a whole series of ways that we can approach that. But then also part of it is like assuming what if we don't know what's gonna happen?
[00:28:05] What if I don't know what's gonna happen when I take this long walk or when I take a bike ride or when I go do an activity? What if I am not trying to so carefully control everything that every time I feel, you know, kind like I'm coming up to the window of tolerance that I like back off?
[00:28:23] The way that we expand our window of tolerance, or one of, as one of my teachers, Victoria Albina calls it our window of bodily autonomy, which is so powerful because, and one of my clients really, really loved framing it in that way, which is because we are the ones putting ourselves in the center of our experience.
[00:28:44] So one of the ways that we expand this window of tolerance, right, and tolerance. Yeah. It's like we wanna actually more than just tolerate things. Expand our capacity to experience things and sometimes experience things that are unpleasant when we expand our capacity to feel without triggering a whole series of pain behaviors without assuming the worst, without triggering that brain's predictive processing by dropping the rope by, letting go of the way that we have always done it.
[00:29:21] And so what I love in Dr. Garner's story is, yes, he had felt poorly and he had believed maybe I will never get better. And then as soon as he started this approach, which was stopping reading about chronic illness and practice diverting attention away from his bodily symptoms. He just began exercising again and he really believed that he would get better. Uh, and just as I talked about in the beginning, like I am really noting when I am recovering from anything. Even when I'm recovering from like exercising, right? People talk about like heavy leg day, and then they're just like, oh, my legs hurt so much.
[00:30:01] Even as I'm recovering from any experience, I am telling myself the story of when it feels better. I am placing my attention on purpose because attention is the process by which we teach the brain what is important to us. I know in this podcast I've talked about the Bader Meinhof effect or the frequency effect, and that's when we bought a new car or you know, new to us car, and then we notice that car on the street more often. And it's not that there's more of that car on the street. It's like we've trained our brain and our attention system to notice that on purpose, to be like, oh, there's that thing, right? We can do it in the opposite way, which is to train our brain to notice something we don't like, as a way of creating a sense of protection.
[00:30:58] But you know, it never quite feels protective in some ways. It kind of just feels terrible over and over and over and over again. So knowing that these things are the way that the mind and body work together, I use my attention system to create the experience of recovering. So every time I feel better, I note that. This is the same work that Dr. Garner did and I'm trying to think of how I wanna say this. In mind body work, it's individualistic, I'm helping. One person, you know, I'm creating this podcast, so hopefully I'm helping more than one person at a time.
[00:31:35] But when I'm working one-on-one, I am working with that one person. I am helping that one person experience their mind, body, human experience differently in a way that benefits them. The failure that we have going on with Covid is more than just, you know, hey, here's this individual, way to get better and feel better.
[00:31:59] People have so many needs that are not being met and that is a collective failure. Some of the things that I had to work with are like, feeling like I was being cared for even though there's nobody else here to care for me. One of the things that I did was reach out and talk to people and get help. A friend of mine, Amazing friend of mine picked up my Paxlovid for me and dropped it off. People were checking in with me asking if I needed things, if I needed food, if I needed whatever, and I didn't have those kinds of material needs, but some people do. So some of the other ways that we can get help in feeling better is remember that we are not alone, and that there is this sense of collective, and there's the collective failure, and then there's also the collective triumph.
[00:32:53] It's not easy to ask for help. It's not easy to feel vulnerable. It's not easy to be sick. It's not easy to be any of these things. And we do not live in a society that gives us a lot of space and room to just be sick and to recover. We don't really live in a society that gives us permission to just recover, to just stop what we are doing to feel safe in not doing. And to allow ourselves to heal.
[00:33:26] When we are feeling uncomfortable symptoms, we are often in a rush and a hurry to get rid of them, to manage our symptoms, to stop experiencing what we are experiencing and that kind of frantic rush and hurry is another thing that kind of creates this fear response that, that turns on the threat response.
[00:33:49] And so as we are experiencing ourselves in this human body in this particular time, I want to encourage you to start to step back and look at yourself as a whole. And think about where do I feel supported? How can I increase my sense of safety? That I am okay, that I will be okay, that I have what I need.
[00:34:17] And if you don't, what are the things that you might want to do or change or create to get that? How can I use this mind body medicine science for my highest benefit. So those are some things that I wanted to share with you as I am in this process of recovering from covid, what I am doing on purpose to help me feel better, and I'm gonna share all of these resources, there's a whole lot that I have discovered. I hope that they're helpful for you. So whatever you are experiencing, I just want you to know that I'm thinking of you, that you are not alone. I hope that this work will help you feel encouraged to take those steps of being curious about what mind body medicine and mind body healing is about.
[00:35:08] If you are curious about working with me, that is absolutely something that I would be happy to talk to you about. So you can book a curiosity call with me and let's chat.