“We too often seek to be cured when we need to focus on being healed.”
~ Donna Jackson Nakazawa
How Do Stress and Trauma Impact Our Brain and Body?
People with autoimmune disease have sensitive bodies. Not only can certain foods cause flares, but so can stress or lack of sleep. We’ve all experienced this. What you may not realize is that trauma from the past influences this sensitivity as well. Trauma can wire the brain into a default inflammatory response, where stress triggers an intense physical reaction. It’s unconscious and not something you can override with simple positive thinking. So, if you have judged yourself for being “too sensitive”, know that it’s not a character flaw, it’s part of your body’s physiology. In fact, research shows a direct connection between trauma and autoimmune disease itself. People who are diagnosed with a stress-related disorder like PTSD are 30-40% more likely to be diagnosed with autoimmune disease. And when it comes to childhood trauma, children with two or more adverse childhood experiences are 70-100% more likely to be hospitalized due to autoimmune disease as adults.
Those can be scary statistics, but I have good news, too. While we can’t just “think” our way past a built-in trauma response, there are things we can do to rewire our brains for health. We can change our default patterns to ones that support peace and resilience in the face of stressors. That’s what this course is all about.
In addition to the traumas of our past, this post is being written in early 2021, and globally we’re going through a long-term shared trauma due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pressures are intense, losses are great, and emotional reactivity is high. For many people, myself included, this past year triggered an increase in autoimmune symptoms. For myself, getting mental health support was essential to reclaiming remission. This course is a form of self-paced trauma therapy. While it doesn’t replace the 1:1 guidance of a professional counselor, it can be a powerful form of self-care.
Who Is Donna Jackson Nakazawa?
Donna is the creator of this course, and many of you are already fans of her work. I’ve interviewed her twice on my podcast about The Mind-Body Connection and Autoimmunity and the Brain. She’s an award-winning science journalist and the author of six books, including my favorite: The Last Best Cure. Donna’s expertise is the field of psychoneuroimmunology – the interaction between our thoughts, emotions, nervous system, and immune system. She has autoimmune disease herself, so she has a special interest in helping people with chronic illness. She also has a gift for making science understandable and applicable. This course is built on 30 years of work in this area.
What Does This Online Course Offer?
Your Healing Narrative combines neuroscience with expressive writing and mind-body techniques. Together, they rewire the brain to support peace and resilience even in the face of adversity. Donna calls this Neural Re-Narrating™. It’s designed to help heal trauma and restore a sense of internal safety. The course is self-paced and includes:
- 8 lessons with 100+ activities.
- 12 instructional videos offering insights into the latest neuroscience on adversity and resiliency.
- 10 meditation and breathing exercise videos to help release anxiety and trauma, plus “take home” strategies for achieving new levels of inner calm to use in your daily life.
- 10+ audio activities with writing, drawing, and mind-body exercises to help calm the brain, body, and nervous system, and help reset the stress response for peace and possibility.
- 20+ writing prompts and exercises tapping into our conscious and unconscious thoughts and memories, accessing our innate resilience and capacity to heal.
- Written transcripts for the audio and video, and printable PDFs for all of the exercises.
What I Love About the Course
It incorporates self-compassion practices from the very beginning. People with a history of trauma often focus on others at the expense of themselves. In fact, the idea of self-care and self-compassion can feel very foreign. Donna knows this and gently teaches these practices in baby steps. It’s a key part of transforming old patterns.
It can be hard to design a self-paced course on trauma, because therapeutic techniques can tap strong memories and emotions. Donna designed this course to be a safe container for people to do this work. That’s why there are self-soothing exercises taught throughout, with permission to take breaks if you feel overwhelmed, and practices to help you re-ground and feel safe in your body again.
She also explains the science at every step, helping us understand the basis for the techniques and how and why they work. It’s empowering knowledge. Often with autoimmune disease, we feel out of control within our own bodies. Stress can make us feel the same way. This program is designed to help us regain some control in both areas, helping us create new brain pathways that support our health physically and mentally.
How To Enroll
This online course is available in two options: one for individuals and one for healing professionals. They’re actually quite similar, because both courses are designed to help people heal themselves. However, Donna noticed that many people who are drawn to healing professions have a traumatic history. They seek to make meaning out of their own pain by helping others, and they often struggle the most with self-care. They are the “wounded healers”, and she wanted to create a course especially for them. Whichever course you choose, save $25 with the code CALM2021.
Further Resources: My Podcast Interviews with Donna