I found that there were two mindsets that were critical for all of this working: believing that it will work and accepting wherever I currently am. For me, the first was easy, while the second has proven to be ridiculously difficult. But both require knowledge. So let’s start there.

Knowledge and belief

First, knowledge for belief. It sounds like a paradoxical phrase, but consider for a moment that your nervous system is not rational. At least not in the classical sense. Somewhere, deep inside you, is the belief that you are in danger, and whatever actions the nervous system is taking is an attempt to keep you safe.

In my case, my nervous system went into a chronic freeze state which meant it was going to try to keep me from doing as much as possible, and when I resisted, it would throw more reasons (illnesses) at me to shut me down and get me out of harm’s way. Or, it went into a freeze state and lots of my systems stopped functioning properly because that’s just what happens biologically. In either case, my body stopped functioning properly, and I couldn’t function in society or at work. I needed to understand that was happening in order to “believe” there might be anything that could help fix the problem.

So basic biology was a third of the knowledge I needed.

Another third was “knowing” that other people with similar illnesses had recovered by doing similar work—not that they were feeling 80% better, but that they had 100% recovered, and maybe were even better than they’d been before. I binged Nicole’s podcasts because hearing other people’s success stories provided the real-life stories I needed to “believe” it could work for me too (listening to them also gave me lots of ideas for things I needed to journal about, which was tremendously helpful as well).

The final third was doing the work myself and very quickly seeing improvement. It was easy for me to commit to a 28 day challenge because I was desperate and I had nothing else to do with my time but lie in bed anyway. I started regaining energy almost immediately (it was still a slow, incremental increase, but it was clearly an improvement that was the result of the journaling), and my food intolerances went away in two weeks. The “knowledge” that I was improving helped me “believe” that I would continue to get better.

But ultimately, it’s been the belief that I can get better that enabled me to convince my nervous system to calm down.


I think the belief is a component of the retraining process. We need to retrain our nervous systems to be in a calm state and not in a panicked, fearful state. But what do we do when, as we’re recovering, the nervous system doubles down on its fearful state and triggers a flare of some symptom?

The belief that I was fine and safe at that point never helped me. That is, if I was in the middle of a flare, I couldn’t convince my nervous system that everything was rainbows and butterflies. My nervous system was convinced there was something to be fearful of. At that point, resisting the symptom simply proved to my nervous system that there was a reason to be fearful–and suggesting to my nervous system that it was wrong was an act of resistance, which only exacerbated the situation.

Instead, to prove to my body that I was safe and that the fear response wasn’t necessary, I had to accept everything exactly as it was. I had to say, “I have this pain. I’m stuck in bed. That’s okay. It’s okay to have this pain.” OR “I have this pain. That’s okay. I’m going to keep doing stuff anyway because I know I’m fine, even though I have the pain.”

I think doing the latter only worked once my nervous system had already calmed down a bit from doing all of the other work. That said, I’m terrible at acceptance. Well, I’m better now, but I’m still not good and I’ve been doing this for a little over a year now. Usually, I spend a really long time trying to convince my nervous system that there’s nothing to be scared of before I remember that I need to just accept whatever my nervous system is throwing at me, and I need to be okay with it.

That said, when I can successfully accept a situation for what it is, my nervous system calms down and I usually recover faster—not right away, but faster. For me, when a symptom arises, instead of trying to make it go away, I put all of my awareness into the pain and really feel the pain. I accept the pain (or the nausea or the fatigue or whatever else), and I try to fully experience it—where it is, how it moves around, what messages it might be trying to tell me, etc.

Sometimes, what I get is nothing more than a terrified, internal voice screaming “I’m scared! I’m scared! I’m scared!” Over and over again. In the midst of a flare, I often let the voice have it’s say and I try to feel the fear. What does the fear feel like in my body? How many muscles around my body have tensed up as a result? I let them stay tense until they’re ready to relax. I just accept everything happening within me as it is, and I don’t try to change anything. It’s so hard! But when I’d done it successfully, the next flare often wasn’t as bad or as long.

Some of this also comes back to knowledge. It’s hard to accept something if you don’t know what you’re accepting. For example, with my migraines, I could tell they were connected to a deep, intense fear, but it took nearly a year for me to discover that it was an intense fear of intense emotions that triggered the migraines. Only when I had that “knowledge” could I then accept the fear and start to address it. And my “belief” that the migraines could go away was what kept me going, not only while I was still trying to understand them, but also when I was going through the process of reducing their impact.

There’s nothing to “fix”

Another component here for me, that I’ll bring up in case anyone else has similar issues, is that I had to accept that feelings and emotions are okay to experience. I didn’t need to “fix myself” so that I didn’t feel negative emotions, which was previously what I’d believed. Instead, I needed both the knowledge and belief that emotions are good and healthy in order to finally accept them when they arose, rather than instinctively repressing them. Given that so much of my fear and anxiety stemmed from my belief that emotions were bad, I needed the knowledge that they’re good to reverse my beliefs, and accept my natural, emotional self.