I spent the entire weekend documenting everything I’ve tried for my MS. Thank God for iCal, my Amazon order history and the “purchase” file I keep in my email app. I’m not surprised by the vast majority of medicines, therapies and equipment as much as I’m shocked at what I forgot. For example I literally had …

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Failing to Understand Stress

January 4, 2017

I thought that I fully understood the stress response and had been to enough yoga classes to avoid getting sick due to stress. But what I’ve learned over the past year has been a real game changer. It turns out I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to stress and chances are, you have too.

In a previous post on trauma, I talked about how the stress response is more traumatic to our nervous system than previously thought. We now know that not completing the stress response by discharging stress-energy is an underlying cause of many chronic conditions and illness.

As most of us know, the stress response involves:

  • Increased heart rate,
  • Increased respiration
  • Increased muscular tension
  • Increased pulse rate/blood pressure
  • Increased sweating
  • Decreased digestion
  • Increased release of glucose and fat
  • Increased release of corticosteroids
  • Immune system suppression

Most realize how our jerk of a boss might be the reason we can’t lose weight (fat and glucose keep entering our system), we get the flu (immune system suppression) we’re refilling our high blood pressure medication or need a massage on a regular basis. But we also are beginning to acknowledge how past stressors that haven’t been dealt with may show up today as a symptom or an illness. In other words, that compound leg fracture in high school, the creepy guy from the fraternity party back in 1988 or a sad 2 am call about a sudden family death – All of these moments not only change us psychologically and emotionally but also physically.

Another piece to this puzzle is how seemingly non-traumatic events can be just as detrimental. Let’s say, for example, that you skidded on ice into a telephone pole. Even though you weren’t hurt, it traumatized your nervous system as you braced for the impact. Let me repeat that.  It traumatized your nervous system.

It sounds very dramatic to say that you were traumatized by a fender bender. How could something you survived be so devastating?  That’s because your autonomic nervous system kicked in, forcing you to: hold your breath; tense up your muscles; release a ton of cortisol; stop digesting your lunch; stop healing the cut on your arm while your heart began to race. It responded automatically, hence the name autonomic nervous system. It didn’t care what happened to you, it just knew you needed to either fight, flee or freeze so it prepped your body for what was about to happen. Even though you walked away unscathed, all of the energy that was created needed to be processed and discharged.

We spend a ton of time and money trying to avoid or handle the stress in our lives. We change jobs, get divorced, end toxic friendships, go to cross-fit, take deep breaths, color, and pray which are all great tools because completely avoiding stress is impossible. However, since we’re never taught what do to during the immediate aftermath of stressful situations, we store more and more of this energy in our bodies. Many of us simply need to learn how to deal with the stress responses our body automatically creates.

Animals discharge stress all the time. Pay attention to your pets and notice how many times they shake off the weight of being on high alert, playing or determining dominance with another animal.

That’s why animals don’t have nervous breakdowns, irritable bowel syndrome, or other human-only diseases (unless they’re abused or confined). But we humans don’t complete the stress cycle by shaking it off (discharging the stress-energy). Instead, we ignore it, store it and eventually get sick.

So what should we do after that car accident above? Well, before you grab your cell phone to call for a tow truck, or tell your boss you’ll be late, you would want to stay seated and orient to your surroundings. Notice that the accident is over, the airbag deployed and you’re still here. Then if you were to begin trembling or shaking allow that to occur and don’t try to stop it from happening (same with chills, sweating, or any other tingling sensations or emotions that arise).

Feel them. Experience them. Notice where the shock has landed in your body. Don’t allow your logical brain to take over. Don’t spend these precious moments jumping ahead to needing a car rental, dealing with insurance stuff and figuring out how you’re going to get to your noon appointment. Stay with what you’re experiencing in the present moment.  If you feel like crying, by all means cry. If you’re pissed, get angry. And if suddenly memories of a past car accident begin flooding your consciousness, allow your body to react to those as well.

Now here’s where it gets tricky. Someone is probably going to stop, knock on your window and talk loudly to you, asking if you’re okay. A person wanting to help is not going to want to watch you shake or cry. So feel free to tell any good Samaritan that you need a minute and to leave you alone while your body does what it needs to do.

All of this somatic experiencing is the work of Dr. Peter Levine who after working with thousands of trauma patients had the opportunity to respond to the trauma of being hit by a car, which he explains below. His ability to discharge his body’s own accumulated stress in real time kept him from storing a trauma that would haunt him later.

To learn more, pick up his book, In An Unspoken Voice.

And if this post has got you wondering how much trauma and stress you’ve stored over your lifetime, consider working with a somatic experience professional. They can gently help you discharge anything from your past that could be negatively affecting your health today.

A few months ago I was frustrated by my continued gait dysfunction. No matter which medications I’ve taken (Copaxone, Tysabri, Ampyra, Low Dose Naltrexone), therapies I’ve attempted (yoga, Feldenkrais, Anat Baniel Method, physical therapy, myofascial release, basic calisthenics), or medical equipment I’ve purchased (AFOs, foot drop braces, canes), my walking was going to shit. I’d …

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What do mean girls, martians and babies have in common? The all solve their problems one at a time. Cady Heron understood this: Babies do it all day long as they slowly map out their newly acquired brains: And in The Martian, Andy Weir taught us that “you solve one problem, then you solve another problem, and …

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Failing to Vibrate Daily

February 19, 2016

Before we get started, I’ve got to know. Why exactly did you click on this blog post? Who are you, Samantha Jones? What type of daily vibration do you think I’m talking about?

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 10.52.49 PM

I’m talking about Whole Body Vibration.

You see, the vibrator I use doesn’t fit in a nightstand. It’s a whole body vibration machine. Specifically mine is the Power Fir DS-K01 Bantamweight Vibration Massager. I love my machine so much that I consider every day to be a failure if I haven’t stepped on it for a least a few minutes.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 7.05.28 PMI discovered the power of vibration at Ballenger Creek Chiropractic. Every time I had a knot in my back, Dr. Cassie would pull out a jack-hammer-like hand-held device that pounded the hell out my muscles. I would walk out of her office feeling amazing and then hop on her whole body massager to stretch, strengthen and also work on my balance.

I loved their machine so much I often went 3 times a week until I researched WBVs and figured out that I could buy an affordable model to use at home.

Although fitness folks like exercising on WBVs I use it to stretch and get blood flowing to my weak left side. Some days after only 5-10 minutes I’ll look down to find that my left foot, hand, leg or arm is beat red and itchy like how your legs look when you go for a run. Considering how little movement I give to one half of my body, I love knowing that I can give my vascular, lymph, and musculoskeletal symptoms a workout.

I also can’t help but notice that ever since I started actively working at the level of my nervous system and added movement with awareness to my life, my machine has been helping me wake up parts of my body.

For example today I made the connection that when I’m using my exercise bike, if I press into the peddle with the forth toe on my left foot, it helps to stabilize my knee which allows me to peddle properly (i.e., my knee doesn’t collapse in on itself). I then took that new tidbit of information into my functional, daily movement. Suddenly I can more easily rise from a chair, keep my legs crossed and push off my foot when walking which is HUGE!

So what does that have to do with a vibration machine?

I believe the machine is bringing parts of my body back online. By micro-moving bones, tendons, joints and bringing blood flow to the aspects of myself that I normally don’t feel at all, I’m bringing these parts back into my mind-body consciousness. This awareness helps integrate my foot back into a very complex gait-cycle that most people don’t think about let alone, notice.

If you’re interested in adding this technology to your wellness regimen keep a few things in mind:

  • Although they make industrial machines for gyms that cost upwards of $6,000, you can buy a small, home-use machine for about $150.
  • In her book, Whole Body Vibration: The Future of Good Health, Becky Chambers notes that double motor machines are a waste because you can’t completely synchronize two motors. Although you won’t notice the millisecond difference, your nervous system will. Keep it simple and stick to a single motor machine.Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 7.23.41 AM
  • Avoid seesaw oscillation and stick with vertical vibrations.
  • If you only want to warm up, stretch and relax your muscles then a WBV can be a passive addition to your wellness routine
  • But if want to turbo charge your fitness regimen, WBV only does that if you’re already a fitness freak that loves to sweat and push yourself to your limits. It adds another dimension to your workout, brings more muscles into play, and challenges you in ways different from static, floor moves.
  • I have no clue if you can lose weight with these machines so if you think you can vibrate while eating a doughnut without any consequences, spend your money on something else. I also can’t confirm that 10 minutes of WBV exercise equals an hour of traditional exercise like a lot of the marketing materials claim.

And finally this is the part of the post where I need to remind you that I’m not a doctor and I’m not dispensing medical advice. I’m just telling you what works for me. In other words I’m describing activities not advocating any, so talk to a healthcare professional if you’d like to add whole body vibration to your healthcare regimen. But between you and me, if I had a pacemaker, recently implanted pins, plates, or screws, a history of deep vein thrombosis and blood clots, varicose veins, disc issues, orthopedic problems or recent head or neck trauma, I sure as hell wouldn’t be adding vibration to my day until I spoke with someone in the know.

Day 31: Failing to Explain How I Plan to Kick MS’s Ass

February 8, 2016

This past November I started an online course with Irene Lyon, called The New Inner Game. It’s a 12-week nervous system rewire. Irene combines her kinesiology and bio-medical research backgrounds with her Feldenkrais and Somatic Experiencing certifications to do some pretty ground breaking work.

The toughest part of this work is explaining it, but I shall try…

Everyone suffers from trauma. We suffer from emotional wounds, shock trauma, acute injury, psychological damage and chronic stress and as such we’ve all been thrown into multiple fight, flight or freeze responses due to traumatic events throughout our lifetimes.

Unlike animals that automatically discharge excess energy once they’re safe, we humans let that energy build up. This disrupts our autonomic nervous system and causes our vagus nerve to malfunction.

Because the vagus nerve (which prevents inflammation) connects the brain-stem to our visceral organs and the Autonomic Nervous System unconsciously controls all of our body systems, this disruption eventually shows up as disease and/or emotional issues.

Irene has been teaching me how to work at the subtle, internal, somatic, (body) level which helps me to move with more ease and less tension, better follow my impulses and not only notice but also discharge this excess energy.

Research is now showing that this type of work will not only re-balance my nervous system but by toning and strengthening my vagus nerve it will also help to decrease my chronic inflammation and strengthen my immune system, improving my overall health and wellness.

In case you’re wondering if any of this is valid, her work dovetails nicely (and is partially based on) the research coming to light about how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) negatively affect health in adulthood (Donna Jackson Nakazawa has written extensively on this). How trauma gets stuck in our nervous system causing psychological problems and health issues. (Peter Levine’s lifework.) Dr. Gabor Mate has been exploring and writing about how the emotions we process are connected to our hormonal, nervous and immune systems while Dr. Michael Merzenich’s research in brain plasticity has completely changed neurology as we once knew it.

So yes, the nervous system can be rewired. That’s what I work on every day and what I hope to ultimately succeed in achieving. But it’s complicated, nuanced and multifaceted. There’s no nervous system re-wire pill that I can pop. (However if you have severe epilepsy or depression you can have a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) implanted in your chest wall to send mild electrical impulses to your brain via your 10th cranial nerve which is cool!)

But for the most part, doing this work takes, time, patience, mindfulness and requires movement, resourcing, orientation and sound to get your autonomic nervous system back on track.

I’ll be blogging about this in future posts but suffice to say this is a cool and exciting option if you suffer from one of the more than 80 autoimmune disorders, emotional distress, or feel chronically overwhelmed.

If you’re interested in your own personal re-wire another 3 month session starts next month. You can also work with Irene 1:1, dig into her blog or download her free content. Go to her site for more information or message me if you have any questions.