Our imagination is powerful, because our brain responds to imaginary experiences very similarly to real-life experiences. If we’re spinning worst case scenarios in our mind, that triggers a very real stress response in our body. Positive visualizations do the opposite. Not only do they interrupt the stress response, but research shows they can help reduce anxiety, improve performance, increase mobility, and manage pain. In this 8 minute episode, I share a simple technique for using positive visualization to soothe autoimmune symptoms.
Stress is a common trigger of autoimmune flares, and chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation. Thankfully, there are many techniques that can help us manage stress better. You can also quickly browse this topic by resource type: articles and podcasts. Not sure where to begin? Start here.
Many of us love to help others and also love to please others, which can make it hard to say no. The trouble is that there are limited hours in the day, and we can’t do everything. When we have autoimmune disease, learning to set limits is essential to our health. Sometimes we forget that when we say yes to everyone else, we’re saying no to ourselves. Eventually, our body might say no for us in the form of an autoimmune flare. None of us wants that. In today’s mindset minisode, I’m going to share some beginner tips for saying no. I’ll also share a technique that can help you identify your priorities so that you say yes to what matters most, and say no to the things that keep you from those priorities.
The onset of autoimmune disease is a before and after moment for many of us. We feel like a completely different person, not just in our bodies but in our lives. Jobs and interests that were big parts of our identity might no longer be available to us. The roles we play in our families may change. It can feel like we’ve lost who we used to be and we don’t recognize ourselves anymore. In this 6 minute podcast, I talk about the stages of this type of identity crisis, along with a technique to help you through it.
When our mind convinces us something is impossible before we’ve even tried, that’s a self-limiting belief. It’s common for autoimmune disease to trigger them. Googling your diagnosis can lead to scary visions of the future. Symptoms can dramatically change our lives, taking away activities we used to love. With the flare-based, unpredictable nature of autoimmunity, life becomes more uncertain. The brain feels safer with certainty, so when it’s possible you might fail, your brain may convince you not to try. The problem is that this keeps your life smaller than it needs to be, not only cutting you off from failure but also success. We don’t need perfect health to live a fuller life. We can expand our skills, activities, accomplishments, and relationships, and we can start with small steps. We may not be able to do everything, but we can do some things. The key to overcoming self-limiting beliefs is to focus on progress and possibilities, not perfection. Life isn’t an all-or-nothing game. In today’s mindset minisode, I share a simple technique from my book, Healing Mindset, to identify the beliefs that are holding you back, and take the first steps to overcoming them.
One of the fastest ways to tap the relaxation response is to tune into our senses. It immerses us in the present moment, offering a break from our worries, and gives us the space to simply be. It’s available to us anywhere, anytime, and it only takes a minute. You can do it for longer, but even a brief pause is beneficial. In this 9 minute episode, I share some of my favorite ways to tune into the senses.
We spend a lot of time on social media without necessarily noticing how it’s impacting our mental, emotional, and physical health. Social media has both benefits and potential risks. Many people with autoimmune disease find like-minded souls on social media who may understand their experience better than nearby family and friends. However, social media is also linked to increases in anxiety, depression, eating disorders, loneliness, insomnia, brain fog, and more. So, what do we do? In this short podcast, learn a simple technique that allows you to see how social media is impacting you, and curate your experience accordingly.
Our brains have a negativity bias – paying more attention to what’s wrong than what’s right. It’s not uncommon to have a silent soundtrack in the back of our minds, playing our worries and grievances on repeat. This is especially true when we have a chronic illness. Learning to recognize and question negative thoughts is a powerful skill to have. In today’s mindset minisode, I teach how to overcome negative thoughts during autoimmune flares, and replace them with helpful thoughts instead.
With autoimmune disease, many of us choose healing diets to reduce inflammation and live healthier lives. When we first make this change, we’re very focused on the foods we’re no longer eating, and it’s common to say “I can’t eat that” when those foods are offered. Have you ever heard the saying: “Be careful what you say because your body is listening?” It’s true! And our hearts and minds are listening too. Words matter – whether we say them out loud or in our thoughts – and there’s a big difference between the phrase “I can’t” and “I choose”. One is negative and one is positive. That may seem like a small thing, but it can actually have a big impact. I dive into the details in this article.
Can we befriend a body in pain? With autoimmune disease, we’ve been told that our body is attacking us which sets up war imagery in our minds. Yet our bodies are our home. So, when we get furious with our bodies, and hate our bodies, all of the furious energy gets directed toward ourselves. It’s understandable to feel this way when we are suffering, but there’s a parallel here that’s interesting to consider. We want our body to stop attacking itself. Are we willing to do the same, mentally and emotionally? In today’s mindset minisode, I share a simple but powerful technique that can be a first step to befriending your body.
Emotions are part of the human experience, and when life is hard, challenging emotions often arise alongside – feelings like grief, anger, anxiety, resentment, guilt, and shame. They’re not fun to feel, and sometimes they can be overwhelming. Many of us try to ignore or run away from these emotions, but research shows that suppressed emotions don’t go away. They get stronger. They can also come out sideways in the form of physical symptoms, addictive behaviors, or lashing out at others. If we want to live a healthy life with autoimmune disease, we need to find a way to feel all of our emotions, including the challenging ones. In this 10 minute podcast, I share a technique designed to do just that. It can take you from overwhelm to calm in just a few minutes.
With autoimmune disease, we often have a complex relationship with our bodies. When we hear that our immune system is attacking us, it can feel like a war within. It’s common to feel angry with our bodies and disassociate from our bodies, and yet our bodies are our home. We cannot leave them behind. So, today I’m sharing a special body scan meditation, led by me! It’s designed to help us reconnect with our bodies in a gentle and loving way. This is one my favorite forms of meditation and is incredibly soothing to me on a daily basis, but especially during an autoimmune flare.
Something new is coming to the Phoenix Helix Podcast. Mindset Minisodes! The long-form interviews you know and love will continue every 4 weeks. In between, I’ll be sharing practical techniques from my book, Healing Mindset – A Guide to the Mind-Body Connection for People With Autoimmune Disease. Today, we’re starting with gratitude. I know that’s an emotion that’s hard to feel when we’re suffering, yet it’s on our toughest days that we need gratitude the most. It can shine a light into our darkness like a lifeline. In this episode, I teach a simple technique with powerful results.
Life with chronic illness can inspire strong emotions that trigger emotional eating. If the foods chosen are inflammatory, autoimmune flares may follow, turning short-term comfort into longer-lasting pain. This often leads to feelings of shame, guilt, and self-judgment, which can drive more emotional eating, creating a vicious cycle. If you find yourself caught in this pattern, you aren’t alone. Today’s podcast is designed to help. My guest is Tomesha Campbell. She is a fellow autoimmune warrior, as well as an AIP certified coach who specializes in Intuitive Eating. She’ll be sharing her personal experience and professional advice.
Can you go a day without complaining? When I first heard of this challenge, I thought to myself: “Oooh! That sounds really hard!” Yet I don’t see myself as a negative person. I have a daily gratitude practice, and it was born from my darkest days with rheumatoid arthritis. When pain seemed to be my whole world, I needed to find a way to still see beauty. That gratitude practice saved me. But that doesn’t mean I have a perfect mindset. I definitely complain. I think most people do. Complaining feels good in the moment, but research shows it increases stress and harms health long-term. So, how can we break the habit? In this article, I share how.
You may know Shauna Ahern as The Gluten-Free Girl, author of the award-winning food blog and cookbook series. Now, her career has gone in a different direction. After experiencing a medical crisis brought on by stress, she started looking at her life through a joy lens, removing stressors and adding more pleasure and peace. Now, it’s her mission to help others do the same. The truth is, it’s often easier to find joy when life is going well, but what if you’re in the middle of an autoimmune flare? What if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety? What if you’re in the middle of a life crisis? Is joy something we can cultivate even during our most difficult times? And what are the benefits if we learn how? These are the questions we’ll be exploring in our conversation today.
If you ask people with autoimmune disease to name their biggest flare triggers, stress often tops the list. And if you ask people to name their top sources of stress, many are overwhelmed by the news. Today’s podcast is a life skill building episode – one that’s very important for emotional and physical health. How do we consume the news in a way that keeps us accurately informed without becoming overwhelmed? How do we discern fake news from real news? And how do we break through feelings of powerlessness to see where we can make a difference in the world? My guest is Sharon McMahon, an expert who shares non-partisan information about news and democracy. She’s a voice of reason in unreasonable times, and I’m grateful to have her on the podcast today.
If you feel overwhelmed in the face of suffering, you aren’t weak, you’re human. If you also have autoimmune disease, you have a body that’s more sensitive to stress which means autoimmune flares might arise alongside. If you have a history of trauma (which is common for people with autoimmune disease), world traumas might feel especially intense, layered on top of your own experiences. So, overwhelm is natural, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. Here’s a step-by-side guide to feeling grounded, replenished, and able to support yourself and others again.
When you have autoimmune disease, it’s common to feel disconnected from your body and even betrayed by your body. Yet we live in our bodies, so this creates a complicated relationship with ourselves. Instead of self-love, we might end up feeling self-hate. How can we change that? How does self-love, or the lack of self-love, impact our wellbeing, both mentally and physically? My guest today is Dr. Shainna Ali, a mental health counselor, educator, and advocate. She is also the author of the Self-Love Workbook series. They are practical guides with concrete action steps. They go beyond a misty view of self-love and teach skills we can apply in our daily lives.
Research shows that affirmations can help people cope with life’s challenges, an important skill when living with chronic illness. They boost problem-solving in stressful situations, and they lead to better health choices as well. There is a risk with affirmations, however. Sometimes they backfire. In that circumstance, your brain disagrees so strongly with the affirmation that it strengthens your negative thoughts instead. Has that happened to you? If yes, you’re not alone. In this article, I share tips for quieting your inner critic. I also teach my favorite technique for overcoming the mind’s resistance to affirmations – Iffirmations!
Today we have a very special episode. I’m celebrating the publication of my new book: Healing Mindset. It’s a guide to the mind-body connection for people with autoimmune disease. The mind-body connection isn’t just an idea. There’s an entire field of science called psychoneuroimmunology that studies this connection. How we feel in our body affects how we feel in our minds, and our thoughts and feelings impact our physical health. Today, we’ll be talking about specific mind-body techniques, science-based benefits, and how to harness this connection for autoimmune health. My partner for this episode is Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Many of you know her as one of my most popular podcast guests. She’s an award-winning science journalist, author of 7 books, a fellow autoimmune warrior, and an expert on the mind-body connection. Today, we’re trading places. She will be the host and I will be the guest!
It’s not surprising that the mind-body connection can reduce stress, but what about pain, fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms of autoimmune disease? Can it reduce those too? The answer is yes! That’s because stress has a huge impact on autoimmune disease, increasing inflammation and flare activity. When we harness the mind-body connection for our health, we have the potential to soothe our inflamed bodies and calm our overactive immune system. In this blog post, I share 10 science-backed benefits across a wide variety of autoimmune diagnoses. I also feature different mind-body techniques. Meditation is wonderful, but it’s not the only way to tap the mind-body connection.
This is the project I’ve been working on for the past few years, and I’m so excited to share it with you! What is a healing mindset? Simply put, it’s the practice of harnessing the anti-inflammatory power of our minds to support autoimmune health. It’s realizing that some thoughts and behaviors ramp up inflammation and others tone it down. This book is a roadmap to doing less of the former and more of the latter. Inside, you’ll find over 90 mind-body techniques written specifically for people with autoimmune disease. It also includes beginner tips, advanced troubleshooting, and testimonials by fellow autoimmune warriors who have felt the power of the mind-body connection in their own lives (including me)!
Did you know that digestion starts in the brain? When we don’t pay attention to our meals and instead multi-task at mealtime, or eat under stress, our digestion becomes suppressed. This can lead to uncomfortable gastroinstestinal symptoms and also increase food intolerance. In this article, I share simple ways to harness the mind-body connection to not only digest your meals better, but enjoy them more too!
Before autoimmune disease, did you have a yoga practice that you loved but can no longer do? Do you struggle to find a way to adapt your practice to your ever-changing autoimmune body? Do you miss yoga and want to make it part of your life again? Or maybe you have never practiced yoga, but would love to try and don’t know where to begin. This podcast is for you! My guest is Jivana Heyman, founder and director of the Accessible Yoga Association and co-founder of the Accessible Yoga Training School. He has over 25 years of experience teaching yoga to people of diverse abilities. In this episode, we’re going to troubleshoot a wide variety of autoimmune symptoms and talk about how to develop a personalized yoga practice.
This is one of the most popular podcast episodes – for good reason! If you think you can’t meditate, this podcast is for you. Do you picture meditators sitting quietly with completely empty minds – something you could never do? Let me tell you a secret: those people don’t exist. Even the Dalai Lama has thoughts while he meditates. The mind is designed to think just like the heart is designed to beat. Meditation isn’t about stopping thoughts; it’s learning how to notice and detach from them. There are also many different ways to meditate, including moving meditations, or cultivating mindful moments in everyday life. My guest is Jeff Warren, who is known as the “MacGyver of Meditation”. He excels at fixing people’s meditation problems. In this episode, we talk about common meditation obstacles for people with autoimmune disease, and how to overcome them.