Your Workbook Companion!

Chapter 3

Welcome to Chapter 3!

Explore these bonus home exercise ideas and resources below.

:: Create a List of Things That Make You Feel Your Desired Sensations

What activities, thoughts, or beliefs create desired feelings within you? Create a list of things that make you feel this way. Actively doing the things on this list with the intention of learning to cultivate your desired sensations will support you in building the neural connections that you want. For example, when you do things that bring you joy, you feel joy sensations within your body, and you stimulate your neural pathways for feelings of joy. The more you say yes to these activities or cultivate those thoughts and beliefs, the more you use neuroplasticity for your own benefit. You will begin to build the neural connections that make you feel the way you want to feel. Your brain will begin to change shape, much in the same way a muscle changes shape as you exercise. As you practice doing things that make you feel the way you want to feel, you strengthen those neural networks within your brain.

Now let’s consider the reverse, as this is equally important for developing your daily home program. What activities, thoughts, or beliefs remove desired feelings from within you? Create a list of all the things that get in the way of your feeling the way you want to feel. Get specific. Be detailed. Notice when you are repeating old habits, thoughts, or beliefs that do not create the feelings you really want to feel. Give yourself permission to interrupt old patterns and replace them with new ones that feel good. This could be as simple as slowing down, speaking to yourself with kindness, going to bed early, believing in your potential to change, or opening up to new possibilities without shutting yourself down before even trying. There is no right or wrong way of getting started. The first step is learning about it, reading about it, and doing nothing more. So you are right on track by reading this page.

If you relate to the example about loss of confidence discussed in Chapter 3 and feel like you never learned how rebuild it, don’t worry you can learn it now. Learning how to remap your brain’s neuron cells and your body’s sensory cells is like anything else—we start as beginners, we make mistakes, and we learn through trial and error. There is no such thing as a perfect way to build neural traits. It just is what it is. You do it in your own way. You feel it. You go through it. You experiment. You take a day off if you like. There is no deadline and no rush. You are in control and you choose what you feel ready for each day. Your outcomes are up to you.

The most important thing is to have a specific goal (such as wanting to feel self-confident) and to keep practicing toward achieving this goal with openness, self-kindness, and compassion. Self-confidence is a neural signal that has its own pathways and neurotransmitter cocktails that you will interpret as bodily sensations. You build the neural signal by feeling the sensations as they arise. Your body will get more and more exposure to that feeling-pathway as you learn new techniques and new ways to practice feeling sensations of self-confidence. You can try any of the exercises or tools scattered throughout your ROCK STEADY book or workbook. With time, the neural pathways that you build by practicing feeling them will strengthen. These neural pathways strengthen whenever you feel the sensations in your body that they represent. The longer you feel the self-confident sensations, the better. The more often you feel the self-confident sensations, the better. And the more you focus on these self-confident bodily sensations, the better. Duration, frequency, and intensity of feeling all accumulate to help you build neural pathways. Keep feeling.

:: The Standing Body Scan (Audio-Vestibular Exercise)

You can read the description of this practice and try it out in the home exercise section of Chapter 3. The standing body scan builds self-awareness, proprioception, balance reflexes, and muscle coordination throughout the body. It can be the foundation of a daily program and practiced three times a day for around one minute, or twenty breaths, each time. What might be the outcomes?

a) If you doubt yourself as you practice, then the neural pathways and chemical neurotransmitters for self-doubt will be stimulated. This can occur when you put expectations on yourself resulting in feeling anxious, unsteady, tense, or rigid in your body while you practice. Notice the impact on your body if you are pushing yourself to practice, comparing yourself to others, trying to be perfect, or forcing yourself to reach a given expected outcome. The thoughts that this person might observe are: I’m wobbling too much. I can’t do this. My body is so unsteady. I hate closing my eyes. My tinnitus is louder. Why doesn’t my tinnitus go away? This feels horrible. Why is my body so unstable? I am hopeless at this. Everyone else can do it better than I can. I hate this. While it is true that in this example you are indeed practicing daily and repeating the audio-vestibular exercise many times, the undesired neural pathways are being stimulated as you do it. Instead of steadiness, you are feeling self-doubt, anxiety, tension, tinnitus, rigidity, and unsteadiness. Notice that these are the neural maps being fired in the brain and body while you practice. Neuroplasticity is about what you feel, not what you do. Despite your intention to get rid of dizziness or tinnitus, you are unlikely to be successful if you focus upon it as you practice. In this example, there is judgment and self-critique of how you think you should be creating an inner conflict between body and mind. You can try to push through your feelings of dizziness or tinnitus, you can even try to ignore them, but none of this is helpful if you practice daily exercises without first finding sensations of steadiness or calm. Being at ease as you practice is essential to building the new neural pathways you desire. When anxious or self-critical, our symptom pathways are being repeatedly stimulated and strengthened during your exercises. This process can begin to appear hopeless, especially if you struggle to feel at ease in your body at all. (Finding a place of ease can take professional guidance and time to cultivate for some people.) The neural connections and synapse transmissions for anxiety, self-doubt, and tension will be firing and wiring each time, getting stronger through repetition. The dizziness or tinnitus will be further strengthened even when the focus is on weakening it; as counterintuitive as it seems, when we focus on it, we stimulate it. The brain doesn’t differentiate between wanting to get rid of and wanting to build. The point-of-focus is always addressed with more stimulation, not less: We can only build neural maps, we can’t delete them. Wherever we focus, we build!

b) However, if you were to practice finding your sensations of steadiness daily, then your steadiness neural pathways will be stimulated. If you practice feeling at ease and safe within yourself, then the neural pathways for ease and safety build. This is the objective of all audio-vestibular and proprioceptive exercises: to find steadiness while practicing in various positions. In this scenario, you are likely to feel at ease, relaxed, supported, connected to your body, and curious as you stand with your eyes closed. It is the same exercise but a different mindset. You are open to what you feel each moment and do not have rigid expectations of how you “should” be. You are supporting yourself, creating safety, and practicing with an open mindset. You rest if you need to rest. You open your eyes if you need to open your eyes. The whole time you focus upon building ease, steadiness, and safety. You are feeling what you want to feel, and practicing stimulating these neural connections. Chemical transmitters are moving between neural synapses that send messages of feeling relaxed, calm, steady, and grounded. You are doing it!

In this example an individual may observe thoughts such as: That is so interesting how my body readjusts itself automatically! I can notice how my feet and ankles move side to side. I can feel my body move, but I also feel safe as I sway. I can hear the neural pathways resetting along my inner ears and body. My body is alive and working hard, I can hear it! I am not afraid of the sound that my body makes, it is a part of me, and I am healthy just as I am. I am aware of where my center is as I move around it. It feels good to close my eyes and feel my body changing. I am okay. I have got this. My body is doing really well—I am learning how to feel normal again. If I need to open my eyes, lean against the wall, or call for help, I can, and I will. I feel prepared and in control. This person will stimulate the neural pathways of feeling at ease, confident, open, steady, relaxed, supported, and centered. They are practicing what they want to feel in their mind and their body. They are practicing with openness to each moment rather than rigidity or judgment to a fixed outcome. They are not focused on symptoms at all but rather openly experiencing a variety of safe sensations. They are welcoming in the sensations that they feel, rather than rejecting them, labeling them as abnormal or focusing on “getting rid of them.” They are building connections between the synapses of neurons that make them feel at ease and steady. They are engaging in neuroplasticity for healing. It is about what you feel, not what you do. What are you feeling right now? Pause throughout your day and notice what you are feeling. Let it be there. Open up to it. Let it pass. Don’t fight it or try to change it. Practice noticing what you feel in the present moment. And then choose what you want to do next. You may start with offering yourself understanding, kindness, and compassion. Honor what you feel for at least a few breaths. Is there anything you could try from your list of activities to generate feelings that you desire? Maybe you are inspired to try a standing body scan for twenty breaths with your eyes closed. Notice how you feel, no matter what that feeling is. Feeling is healing. Remind yourself that you do not need to push through or get rid of what you feel. Work with your feelings as they come and go, and notice what changes.

:: Try Releasing Your Neck and Shoulder Tension With Curiosity

This exercise is described within the Chapter 3 Home Practice Exercises: Listen to the audio exercise demonstration.

This audio recording talks you through the process and extends it further. Try doing this exercise every day for a week and see how it feels for you.