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.
Below you’ll find a wide variety of ways to harness the anti-inflammatory power of the mind-body connection for autoimmune health. For more resources, see the entire mindset archives.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)!
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.
Releasing a burden we’ve been carrying too long can lighten both body and soul. Yet this can be one of the hardest things to do, even when we want to do it. Why is letting go so hard? Are there things we can do to make it easier? In this episode, we talk about fostering a letting go mindset, goals for letting go, techniques for doing that successfully, and knowing when NOT to let go. My guest is Courtney Carver, the woman behind the website Be More with Less and the author of the book Soulful Simplicity. She’s one of the leading voices in the minimalist community, but today we’re not talking about letting go of material things. Courtney has a lot of wisdom to share about letting go in general.
In the research, they call it expressive writing or art therapy. At home, we call it journaling. This simple practice is an amazing stress management and self-awareness tool. It helps release emotions that are difficult to let go, gain clarity to make difficult decisions, uncover hidden parts of yourself, express gratitude, discover playfulness, and simply honor and accept where you are in the moment. You don’t have to be a writer or an artist to keep a journal and gain these benefits. In this podcast, we’ll be focusing on using creative journals for autoimmune health. My guest is Olwen Wilson, a woman with autoimmune disease herself who also teaches the art of journaling.
We hear a lot about the mind-body connection, but what are its uses and what are its limits? Are there techniques we can use to minimize pain and manage it better? How does the stress response increase pain’s intensity? How does guarding against pain add a second layer of tension that can make pain worse? Vidyamala Burch has lived with chronic pain for over 40 years. Learning how to survive and thrive started as a personal goal and later became her professional mission. She’s an author, educator, and cofounder of Breathworks, a non-profit organization that teaches Mindfulness-Based Pain Management to individuals and organizations around the world.
When I think of a healthy holiday, I think of so many things: autoimmune health, celebration, self-compassion, stress resilience, and social connection. Yet the holidays are sometimes the opposite of these things! What is a mantra? It’s simply a statement of intention. How do you want to spend your holiday season? I’ve come up with 5 to inspire us.
When I was at rock bottom with rheumatoid arthritis and experiencing excruciating pain on a daily basis, I started keeping a gratitude journal. That might seem like a strange time do this, but I deeply needed to focus on something beyond the pain and suffering that had become my entire world. And it helped! It didn’t alleviate my pain, but it did reduce my suffering, because it helped me remember there were still good things in my life. It turns out I’m not alone in feeling these benefits. Research is showing that gratitude can improve both mental and physical health. In this podcast, my guest is Dr. Fuschia Sirois, an expert in the field of gratitude and chronic illness. We discuss the research, alongside practical steps for making gratitude part of our daily lives.
Our homes can have a powerful effect on our lives. Not only do they reflect our interests and daily responsibilities, they also impact how we feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. Decluttering can be a cathartic experience with benefits that resonate beyond material things. We learn the practice of letting go. We reflect on what we value most. We make space for change. We let more light in. Autoimmune disease is often a wake-up call for this type of priority-setting, and decluttering can be a way to de-stress and support our health. My guest Courtney Carver has multiple sclerosis herself, which inspired her decade-long journey into simple living. Today, we share practical tips for decluttering everything from our homes, to our emails, to our hearts and minds.
If you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that I often include a “Belly Laugh of the Week” – for good reason! Even in our darkest moments, laughter can take us by surprise and soothe not only our soul but also our body. How does this work? The physical act of laughing releases endorphins – chemicals in our bodies that are called “nature’s narcotics.” They can give us a feeling of euphoria and even relieve pain. Laughter also reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), and even makes our memory sharper. Goodbye brain fog! Living with autoimmunity is hard, and sometimes laughter feels out of our reach. Yet, those are the moments when we need laughter the most. So, today I offer you a laughter roundup.
This is one of my favorite mind-body techniques. When I feel stuck in fear, anger, or grief with no way to move forward, this technique transforms those feelings into peace. Does that sound too good to be true? That’s why I love this technique – it’s that powerful for me. Autoimmune disease and suffering often go hand-in-hand, physically, mentally and emotionally. The Work of Byron Katie is a process for questioning stressful thoughts and the feelings they feed. In this podcast, I offer myself up as a guinea pig with Katie as my guide. At the time of this recording, I wasn’t in remission and feeling frustrated because I was “doing everything right”. Can you relate? Listen to our conversation, and learn how to apply this technique in your own life.
Hypnotherapy is a therapeutic technique that uses the power of positive suggestion to bring about subconscious change to our thoughts, feelings and behavior. In this podcast, we talk about its application to life with autoimmune disease, and how it might be an effective tool to help us manage our stress and even alleviate chronic symptoms. My guest is clinical hypnotherapist, Kerry Jeffery, who also has autoimmune disease herself.