Training your brain filters to see the bright side is within your reach
By Isa Herrera, MSPT, CSCS, founder of www.PelvicPainRelief.com
What if I told you that you’re a QUEEN?
Would you believe me? Would you wear your crown with pride and treat yourself with the respect, nurturing and love you’d think a queen feels every day?
Sometimes, when I tell a woman, “You are a QUEEN,” she laughs in my face. It happened many times. I probably would have laughed in the past too.
Yet over the years, I’ve seen powerful things happen and crazy wild dreams come true when, in that moment that seems like your darkest hour, when it feels like nothing will ever be OK again, you dare to keep a little bit of hope that there is a queen within you… and you dare to take the action you need to awaken her.
But how do you do start?
Start with your “why”
The first step to awakening the queen within you when everything just feels hard is to remember why it’s worth it to you to take another step forward.
You can create a list or a vision board or a Pinterest account – whatever works for you. But either way, focus on why all your effort matters:
Are you finding yourself overwhelmed with all of the pregnancy-related information out there? Are you tired of the looks you get from your spouse because they don’t get your lady problems, and expect things to go on as usual? Are you fed up with overworking yourself and feeling like you can’t function and you need to provide for your growing baby?
Is this overwhelm keeping you from doing something you love, like dancing, or starting a side hustle, because who has the energy or physical ability to pull any of that off?
Imagine what life could be like if you could pull that off.
Visualize what it could be like and how you would feel. Write it down or record it, then go back to it every single day, so your brain knows to focus on it more than on your pain of pelvic dysfunction. Specifically, you want the reticular activating system – or RAS – of your brain to learn what to focus on.
The RAS system is a filter for all of the information (subconsciously) flowing through our brain… It eliminates the extra noise. When a message gets past the RAS filter, it enters the brain and gets turned into thoughts, emotions or even both.
The more you consistently focus on what you’re working toward – virtually type it into your RAS every day by saying it out loud, writing it down or reviewing your list – the more that message will find its way past the RAS and your brain will be all in to help you claim and keep your crown.
Examine how you talk to yourself
If you consistently tell your RAS that you can’t do something – because of down there problems, because of exhaustion, because you’re a mom, because you’re not a mom, or because you’re too old or too young, or because you’re not good enough – that’s the message your RAS will pass on to your brain, and before you know it, it’ll become your reality.
When I was in the trenches, trying to heal my pelvic floor after my baby was born, I had to examine my thoughts every single hour of every single day. Because it was that hard to stay empowering toward myself.
A book that helped me was Loving What Is by Byron Katie. In the book, she recommends challenging thoughts you take for granted.
Ask yourself, “Is my thought true?” Are you really incapable? Do you really don’t have the time? Do you have 100% scientific evidence it will always be this way?
And if you think your thought is true, she recommends looking at how that makes you feel.
Then, she recommends turning the thought around, even just for a moment, long enough for you to tell yourself “I do have the time” or “I am capable,” and see how that feels.
Be willing to change the story you tell yourself
One of the reasons I had to examine how I spoke to myself every hour is because, when I was in the trenches of my healing journey, I had catastrophic thinking – something that’s very common for people dealing with chronic medical challenges.
Experts agree, and even brain research has shown, that if there is a negative pain or overwhelm mindset, focusing on how awful pain or overwhelm is and expecting it to worsen actually amplifies pain processing in the brain.
But when people suffering from long term pain receive cognitive behavioral therapy, it affects their pain levels. In one study, patients in a therapy group were asked to replace catastrophic’ patterns of thought – things like my pain is awful and there’s nothing I can do about it – with empowering thoughts, such as, this pain flare is temporary, or this overwhelm or pregnancy exhaustion is temporary, I’m going to focus on good self care, you can turn things around 100%.
In another recent study, for 11 weeks, a group practiced daily relaxation of mind and body [and] cultivated a sense of safety that counteracts the ingrained danger signals of chronic pain, stress and overwhelm that were previously sent to the brain, it reports.
They patients ended up with less pain, greater control over their experiences, less catastrophic thinking about pain and, importantly, increased volume in the regions of the brain associated with brain control,
They actually changed their brain’s structure.
And if you can do it with pain, you can do it with overwhelm during pregnancy, and you can do for negative self-perceptions. Start telling your brain how great and capable you are, and telling your unborn baby that everything is going to be ok, remind it of all the wonderful things you’ve already accomplished, and eventually, your RAS will let the message sink in.