There is no question about it, these new times we are navigating are taking a toll on our mental health and well-being, creating more stress and affecting the way we perform in both our personal and professional lives. Don’t take it from me—ask the people, like the Kaiser Family Foundation did in a recent survey.
In its monthly KFF Tracking Poll released on Aug. 21, 53% of U.S. adults surveyed said that stress and worry over the coronavirus was negatively affecting their mental health. Compare that to March when KFF first added that question to the Tracking Poll and only 32% of U.S. people reported that it was negatively affecting them. The poll got specific about the impact on people’s health and well-being, such as their eating habits (32%), difficulty sleeping (36%), increased alcohol consumption and substance abuse (12%) and worsening of their chronic health conditions (12%). Ten percent more people who are living under shelter-in-place restrictions reported suffering negative mental health effects than those who are not.
Daily life during normal times is stressful enough, but now people have a host of new concerns, such as isolation, loneliness, and the anxiety of parents over the specter of sending their children back to school (or not). People worry about contracting the virus and spreading it to vulnerable family members. More job worries. More money worries. It’s a long list.
All of this changes our brain chemistry, and over time it can significantly change the very structure of our brains, and not in a good way. Constant stress can have damaging effects on our brains and bodies, causing inflammation in both the brain and the body and a wide range of other physical health effects. It can seriously impact our moods and emotions by changing the levels of serotonin and cortisol in our brains. Depression, anxiety and burnout can all be created and exacerbated by these changes.
So let’s move on from the doom and gloom. In every dark space we see opportunity, and the bright spot in this one is we all have the power and tools within us to turn this around. That’s what I want to impart to you in this article.
The opportunity in this lies in our brains. Fortunately for us, our brains are malleable, flexible, and importantly for this discussion, they are trainable. This is the power of neuroplasticity: we can all become self-trainers and do our own daily work to create our most resilient brain. I will go into more detail on neuroplasticity in a blog article in September, but for the purposes of this article, just keep in mind that the plasticity of our brains means they have the potential for positive change and growth that we can help drive.
Rick Hanson, one of the foremost thinkers in neuroplasticity and brain resilience, writes about the possibilities we have in his book, Resilient:
“Changing your mind for the better means changing your brain for the better. The brain is continually remodeling itself as you learn from your experiences. When you repeatedly stimulate a ‘circuit’ in your brain, you strengthen it. You learn to be calmer or more compassionate the same way you learn anything else: through repeated practice.” (Hanson, 2018, p.2)
Just as those coronavirus issues I mentioned above can hardwire less-than-preferable pathways in our brains, we have the power through various self-healing techniques to reverse these effects and create more preferable pathways through our brains that get us where we want to be. At Dr. Kate Truitt & Associates we teach tools that allow you to stimulate those circuits in order to create your resilient brain, addressing stress and anxiety, compensating for damage that has been done, enhancing learning capacity, and even healing through the difficulties brought on by our new challenges.
In this article I want to introduce Neurofeedback, which is one of the tools we employ and teach to help clients build resilience. I also will highlight Self-Havening—a psychosensory self-healing tool you can use in your daily life.
Neurofeedback is a cutting-edge treatment technology in which we work together with clients to analyze and retrain the brain’s electrical patterns. Our goal in employing neurofeedback is to promote your optimal wellness. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, chronic pain, ADD/ADHD, headaches, PTSD symptoms, sleep disorders, stress, and memory and recall problems.
But there’s more…
Like the brain, neurofeedback is very flexible. It can be a standalone treatment, or incorporated into psychotherapy, but neurofeedback isn’t just for mental health conditions and their symptoms. It can also be uniquely tailored to individuals for optimizing their performance and reducing their stress in professional/corporate, sporting, and artistic domains, enhancing desired brain functions such as focus, and much more.
The principles of neurofeedback have been around since the 1960s when a NASA scientist named Barry Sterman accidentally discovered them while studying the toxic effects of rocket fuel on brain function. He found that some of the animals in the experiment inexplicably showed no symptoms of seizures when exposed to the toxin. Sterman later discovered these same animals had been used during a previous experiment of his, in which their brainwaves had been trained to optimize in a certain frequency, and they carried within themselves.
And that is how neurofeedback works—it is a non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical method for optimizing brain functioning by rebalancing the electrical patterns in your brain away from atypical brainwave patterns to more “productive” ones. Let’s see how it works in our modern-day practice.
During the coronavirus pandemic we provide an at-home neurofeedback training program. Through an intensive one on-one interview coupled with a full assessment battery of questionnaires, your at-home brain care program is designed. Once the at-home training kit is received at your home, you are taught during this session to run your own brain-training sessions on our portable equipment from your own home, where you can train on your schedule. Each session is recorded and automatically transmitted to our office, where a licensed mental health professional reviews and analyzes your data to find significant outliers within your brainwaves. It is these which are typically targeted for Neurofeedback Training, in which brainwaves are trained toward the desired direction through rewards generated by changes in the audio/visual stimulus. During weekly check-ins over the phone your results are reviewed and protocols are specifically fine-tuned for you.
During the stay-at-home order now in place in Los Angeles County, only the Neurofeedback At-Home Training Program is currently being offered, with real-time monitoring via the cloud. The weekly check-ins are being conducted via telehealth throughout California.
When we get to a point at which it is safe enough for in-person visits, we will again offer our Neurofeedback & Biofeedback In-Office Training. To find out more about this and all of our neurofeedback services, visit our Neurofeedback and Biofeedback page.
Self-Havening—Another Way to Calm and Train your Brain
Havening also takes advantage of the latest advancements in neuroscience and neuroplasticity to create lasting positive change in our brains. The Havening Techniques® provide a gentle approach that can rapidly release encoded traumatic memories, facilitating fast and effective healing from PTSD and other fear-based disorders such as anxiety, panic disorder, and phobias. The Self-Havening Touch also provides a powerful opportunity for self-healing as well as building resiliency.
We have the power of self-healing and grounded calm in our own hands. The video below titled, “Self-Havening for Health Empowerment and Anxiety Reduction” provides you with an experiential exercise in self-havening to decrease help decrease stress, anxiety, and fears using the awesome power of neuroplasticity for personal strength and empowerment. For more detailed information on Havening, see our blog post titled, “The Havening Techniques: Neuroscience in Healing,” and our “Introducing The Havening Techniques®” page. You may also find several self-havening exercises at the top left of this page.
Trauma, stress and anxiety don’t have to put you on the sidelines. You deserve to live your most fulfilled life. Contact me and my team today to learn more about the Neurofeedback and the Havening Techniques!
Hanson, R. (2018). Resilient: How to grow an unshakable core of calm, strength and happiness. New York, NY: Harmony Books.