What Are Mindset Minisodes?
I’ve been hosting the Phoenix Helix Podcast for over 8 years, and there are now over 200 episodes in the archives! The long-form interviews you know and love will continue every 4 weeks. In between, I’ll be sharing short episodes inspired by my book: Healing Mindset – A Guide to the Mind-Body Connection for People With Autoimmune Disease. Stress is a powerful trigger of inflammation and autoimmune activity, and most of us have experienced stress-induced autoimmune flares. That’s the power of the mind-body connection working against us. However, we can also make the mind-body connection work for us! Simple techniques can help us relieve stress and send an anti-inflammatory cascade through our bodies instead. That’s my goal with these episodes. In each one, I’ll teach a simple technique you can start using right away.
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Negative Thoughts and Chronic Illness
Chapter 12 of Healing Mindset is called “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.” Decades ago, I saw this on a bumper sticker and laughed out loud because it was so true! Our minds are very convincing—they present thoughts as if they are facts, even when they’re not. I immediately went out and bought that bumper sticker for my own car. I knew I could use the daily reminder.
Human 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. What are some examples of negative thoughts? I’m never going to get better. I’m in constant pain. I have nothing to offer. I’m a burden. I’m a failure. My future is bleak. No one can help me. This flare is going to last forever. I’m going to keep losing abilities. No one understands what I’m going through. It’s not fair. I work so hard on my health and make no progress. Everyone’s life is better than mine.
It’s overwhelming just reading that list, isn’t it? Most of these thoughts aren’t true, but we can believe them in our darkest moments. Today, I’m going to share two techniques to halt a negative thought spiral and replace it with helpful thoughts instead.
Overcoming Negative Thoughts During an Autoimmune Flare
- Ask Yourself: Is This Useful? It’s amazing how powerful this simple question is. Often, it can interrupt negative rumination and stop it in its tracks.
- Ask Your Mind a Helpful Question: After interrupting the negative thought spiral with the question above, I recommend following with a helpful question. It turns out that our minds love to answer questions—it’s one of the reasons they can catastrophize so well. When they show us every worst-case scenario, they’re answering the question: “What could go wrong?” Here’s the part we often forget: our brains can generate positive ideas as well. That’s why it’s called brainstorming. We just need to ask the right questions. Here are some examples of helpful (and useful) questions to ask your mind during an autoimmune flare: What types of things help relieve my pain? What makes my pain worse? What choices can I make to have more of the former and less of the latter? If pain comes anyway, how can I comfort myself in a way that supports my health? Who can I ask for help? How can I be kinder to myself today? When can I rest? What nourishing food can I eat today? What can I do to support a good night’s sleep tonight? Sometimes I fear this flare will never pass; remind me of the times I felt this way before, and how the flare passed and I did get better. I also need to shine some light in my life. Show me the beauty that still exists in my life in spite of this flare. How can I create space for something pleasurable today, so that I can remember there is more to my life than autoimmune disease?
My Book: Healing Mindset
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