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What if you stopped saying STOP to chronic symptoms?

When you experience chronic illness, it can help to think of symptoms as friendly messages, guides, gifts in some small way.

Do you get frustrated when your symptoms arise? Do you tell them to stop, to go away?


Many brain retraining programmes will encourage you to say STOP to your symptoms in the moment (or emotional states/patterns of thinking that aren't serving you).


It makes perfect sense on one level. The purpose is to interrupt the neuropathways that are connected to those sensations or symptoms. It's about breaking your patterns, using the power of neuroplasticity.


I was doing this for a really long time during my healing journey, and it was so ingrained in me that this was how to respond, that I too included a strong STOP pattern interrupt when I first started teaching brain retraining.


But I've moved a long way from that now. By being constantly on the look out for symptoms and emotions and ordering them to stop, you're communicating to your limbic system (home to fear centre of brain) that they're a threat - putting your nervous system in an even more dis-regulated state.


Symptoms are not the enemy, they are friendly messages, guides, gifts in some small way. They are your body communicating something to you. Even if it doesn't feel that way at times.


Balancing the nervous system.


When you embrace this - you can communicate to your brain that you're resilient and these feelings aren't a threat - allowing your nervous system to come back into balance and the body to do it's healing work.


Sometimes this means allowing uncomfortable feelings, leaning into them, saying no to things that are outside of your nervous system capacity in that moment, or on that day. Truly honouring where you're at and what you need.


When I wrote this, it was one of those days for me. I was due to meet friends for dinner, I was due to do a yoga class, I was due to go to the beach. I did none of those things. Instead I bunkered down, I listened to hours of podcasts, watched Tinder Swindler and communicated what I needed to my partner and those around me. That's a big step for me, to truly honour with compassion what I need, rather than push through to manage the perception of others and the expectations I have of myself.


Compassionate brain retraining.


My brain retraining process has kindness and acceptance at the heart of it. It's about untethering from unhelpful stories and patterns, but learning to be with sensations in the body with complete compassion.


It's about creating something positive, despite what's happening in your body. And it's about implementing the process with complete flexibility, self-love and creativity - moving it from a chore to an enjoyable ritual.


If you haven't yet, make sure you watch my free masterclass which shares it all - including a downloadable guided practice.


Sending lots of healing love,

James