Dear Candy Q & A: Insights from my own experience
May 2, 2022
7 min read
Q: Can you share with us some tips you learned from your own experience of recovery?
A: Absolutely! As I was reflecting on this question, I came up with seven things that I feel are so important to include in the journey of recovery/transformation, especially if you are looking to go beyond alleviation of symptoms into a state of resilience & thriving.
1. The importance of movement
As human being we are not designed to live a sedentary lifestyle. My son is currently studying Human Kinetics at the University of British Columbia, and in conversations with him and occasionally quizzing him to help him study for exams over these past few years I have been learning so much more about how exercise is at the foundation of health & wellbeing. Not only is it necessary for the reversal of issues (including chronic health problems) but it is a huge factor is prevention of dis-ease, especially as we age. In the latest research, they equate a sedentary lifestyle to smoking (that's how much it adversely affects our health).
Regardless of what issue(s) brought you to brain retraining, make sure you are incorporating some form of movement and exercise into your daily routine. Every little bit helps, so if you have energy issues and can only do a few minutes, its still better than nothing. And by doing it, you will be able to work your way up to more. Don't be surprised if you feel tired at first and want to take a nap after brief periods of exercise. In fact, give yourself full permission to do so. This rest is different (so long as you are not drastically overdoing it). It actually is helping your body to restore itself. Rather than assuming it is post exertional malaise and making you worse, trying giving yourself a week or two of deeply resting after (without judgement) and see what happens. We do our deepest healing and restoration when we sleep.
If you are bed bound, focus on breath work instead to start (discussed below). For myself, I started with short walks & worked my way up, and did yoga (again starting small and working my way up). At one point I attended an aqua-fit class for seniors at the local recreation center. That was actually a lot of fun, and they were very nice to me even though I was easily the youngest by about 30 years! More recently, I've added a few Kundalini yoga warm up exercises each morning to start my day. This combines breath work with exercises specifically designed to get your body working optimally. I do exercises for getting the cerebral spinal fluid, the lymphatic system, and the cardiovascular system moving, stimulating the organs & circulation, stabilizing the core, and releasing shoulder tension.
Start just slightly beyond where you're currently at and slowly add a little more. If you're not sure where you're at, take your best guess and give it a week or so, then reevaluate. The improved circulation and oxygenation in the body will help you heal, and your muscles will be happier doing what they are designed to do, which is move. And if you can do your movement activities in nature, even better.
2. Hot/cold showers
There is a lot of research to support the benefits of hot/cold therapy (sometimes referred to as contrast therapy). It is really good for stimulating blood flow and improving heart health. Cold plunges have been shown to increase dopamine by 230% and BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor, responsible for the maintenance & regeneration of brain cells) by over 500%! So this will help you feel more elevated emotionally and help your brain regenerate, and all you have to do is stand under running water (or jump into a source of cold water). How amazing is that! It is also really good for the skin. Because I have an infrared sauna (which is also super great for health and longevity), I sauna first and then do 30 seconds or more of a cold shower. You can also do this solely in the shower - 2 minutes of as hot as you can stand it, followed by 30 seconds of cold, and up to three rounds of this routine. If you are temperature sensitive, you may do a little less, but still get some benefits. Of course if you have any concerns please check with your health professional first.
3. The importance of oxygenation through breathing/breath work
Naturally, oxygenation is improved with exercise, however we can also get benefits by doing breath work. I found that alternate nostril breathing really helped to decrease the stress response and regulate my nervous system, and also clear away brain fog. It showed me that, while I assumed brain fog was simply part of the condition I was experiencing, it could actually be alleviated easily by getting more oxygen to my brain and by balancing the hemispheres of my brain through breathing techniques. This was a big insight. There are some that believe all dis-ease is correlated with improper breathing and that we can greatly improve our health through breath work.
There are many different breathing and breath work options online. I've worked with clients that have done the SKY Breath Meditation classes and found them really helpful. Gupta recommends The Art of Living classes as part of his program (artofliving.org). Ari Whitten of The Energy Blueprint talks about using the Breath of Fire (from Kundalini yoga) as one way of improving your mitochondria function. For myself, I use a few of the breathing exercises taught in Kundalini yoga. I found that up to ten minutes in the morning and then the occasional 3-5 minutes of alternate nostril breathing during the day was sufficient.
4. Proper Hydration
Our bodies are made up mostly of water, and our brains and nervous systems both require proper hydration in order to function optimally. Ensure that you are drinking at least 8 - 10 glasses of good quality water daily. If you find it just goes in one end and out the other, occasionally add a pinch of Himalayan salt to your water or throw a pinch in your mouth immediately before drinking. It will help you absorb the water and it is also good for helping to restore the adrenal glands. I found that dehydration increases fatigue and feeling generally "off". Again there were times when I thought I was having an increase in symptoms and it just turned out I that needed to hydrate. If you're not a fan of drinking plain water, consider adding a splash of lemon or lime to it.
5. Having a purpose or things that bring meaning and value to your life
We naturally feel better when we are in alignment with our purpose and values, regardless of what is happening physically. For myself, one of my values is being kind to others and my life purpose is to help others. When I was at my worst, I honoured this by making a decision to smile at every person I walked by or passed in the grocery store, and do small acts of kindness when and where I could. Even though these were little things, I felt like I was making a contribution, which improved my spirits greatly and allowed me to focus on something other than my own health. As I became more resilient, I was able to express my purpose and values initially through volunteering and relationships with others, and eventually through my work.
Perhaps you already know what brings meaning, value or purpose into your life. If not, take some time to reflect on this, or complete this survey to help you uncover your top values.
6. Cultivating Self-Love
I thought that by doing the right things to improve my health I was engaging in self-love. It took me a long time to realize the difference between doing things to "fix" myself and nourishing myself through love. What self love means might be different to different people. For me, it was about really giving myself permission to slow down and simplify my life, to do the things that fill me up and feed my soul on a daily basis, to take time and space for myself rather than putting everyone else's needs ahead of my own, and to continually fill my own cup so that I am giving to others from that (much stronger) place. As I grew stronger in self-love, I became happier and it didn't matter so much to me if I was still having some symptoms. There was a new level of inner contentment within me that hadn't existed before (definitely one of the silver linings of my health-related experiences).
7. Connecting with something greater than self
It is extremely difficult to turn off the ongoing stress response when deep down we feel alone, like we have to do it all ourselves, or that nobody really understands or has our backs. Even if we do have wonderful people in our lives it doesn't always translate into feeling fully supported or understood all the time. Connecting with something greater than yourself, whether that is a divine being, prophet, angel, source energy, life force, a sacred symbol, the center of the universe, Mother Nature, or some other variation that is unique to you, is so important in helping us feel safe and always looked after. This happens on a level that is beyond what other human beings can provide. This is eternal, unchanging, always present no matter what. Often the most difficult part is opening our hearts to receive and let it in, allowing ourselves to be supported. There is great support out there for you, you simply have to ask for it to help you and then open to receive (divine/angelic beings will not transgress free will, so you do have to ask).
People who have a lot of anxiety often feel unsupported or all alone in their journey. Surrendering our fears, worries, burdens over to something greater than oneself not only lightens the load but creates a sense of support and connection that allows our system to really be able to let go and get into deep rest and restoration. As we foster these connections, it can also increase our intuition or inner guidance, which shows up to help us along our path and reinforces the feeling that we are not alone and are being supported. We don't have to belong to a religion or have any particular spiritual beliefs to connect with something greater. Just pick what resonates with you and start to cultivate a relationship with it, with the intention of opening yourself up to receive and allowing yourself to be supported. For myself, Reiki and meditation were a big part of helping me to both cultivate self love and deepen my connection to something greater.
Hopefully you've found some helpful tidbits in here to support you along your journey.
Until next time!
If you have a question, please email me at email@example.com
Candy Widdifield is Registered Clinical Counsellor, Wellness Coach, and Registered Reiki Master Teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She works with people all over the world, helping them to optimize their wellbeing and thrive in their lives. Her modalities include coaching, therapy, Holy Fire World Peace Reiki and the Safe & Sound Protocol. More information about Candy can be found at www.candywiddifield.com