This is such an important episode because we get to talk about one of my favorite topics — anxiety! — with one of my favorite doctors and Instagrammers ‚ Dr. Ellen Vora!
This Episode’s Guest
Dr. Ellen Vora is a holistic psychiatrist, acupuncturist, and yoga teacher. She takes a functional medicine approach to mental health—considering the whole person and addressing imbalance at the root. Dr. Vora received her B.A. from Yale University and her M.D. from Columbia University, and she is board-certified in psychiatry and integrative holistic medicine. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.
- FREE: Hack Your Nervous System with Cold Plunges
- Dr. Ellen’s book: The Anatomy of Anxiety — Understanding & Overcoming the Body’s Fear Response
- Follow Dr. Ellen on Instagram
- Get Dr. Ellen’s Free Guide: 4 Keys to Health
In this episode, holistic psychiatrist Dr. Ellen Vora and I…
- discuss Dr. Vora’s holistic approach to psychiatry
- discuss anxiety as a symptom, not a diagnosis
- discuss the necessity of switching echo chambers, especially if the echo chamber you find yourself in is disempowering and keeping you stuck believing that anxiety is a mental illness diagnosis
- talk about transforming our understanding of anxiety
- discuss the difference between “false anxiety” and “true anxiety”
- ask “what is my anxiety trying to tell me?” instead of “how do I get rid of anxiety?”
- share practical ways to discharge anxiety energy from the body and talk about crying as a free, but underrated way to regulate and discharge anxious energy
- talk about the relationship between psychedelics and anxiety and the scientific hesitation to have the conversation
- discuss people who are naturals at life and highly sensitive people who feel like life doesn’t come naturally
Hey there. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to March. Um, man, I’m so freaking excited. I like, even though there’s literally seven feet of snow outside my window and there’s like snowdrifts everywhere from my husband, plowing snow all winter long. Um, I actually stood outside yesterday for like 12 minutes.
In the sun not wearing a coat. I could feel the warmth from the sun and spring is hood. It’s finally, it’s finally coming. Um, I know, I think in every intro to almost every episode, this winter, I’ve talked about the weather and maybe I need to sit with that and examine what purpose that’s serving for me, because there’s definitely a lot of resistance to winter.
Um, that I feel, which is why I’ve gone to Mexico twice. This winter once in January with my daughter. And then I just got back from a trip with my son. We went for his 18th birthday to Cozumel and we went snorkeling. We went to. Scott it, which is like a, a theme park that the local people sort of refer to as like Mexican Disney world. Um, we ate amazing food. My son got to try alcohol since it’s legal for 18 year olds to drink in Mexico.
And he actually like, he, you know, he didn’t feel the need to go overboard. I was really, really proud of how he was regulating himself in that. Um, we did karaoke. We laid on the beach, he got a terrible sunburn and spent two of our days of vacation and our room because he was as red as a lobster and in a lot of pain. Um, but overall we had a really, really fantastic trip and it was a really expansive trip.
And I’ll eventually share more about why it was expansive and how is expansive. And most importantly, how my nervous system was during that expansion, because. It wasn’t easy. It was not easy. Um, but I’m really excited about today’s podcast episode. I’m so thrilled that someone like today’s guest came on my little podcast. I have, um, Dr. Ellen Vora. And i will tell you about her and then we will dive into a juicy conversation and i hope that it benefits you and links for all the things are in the show notes below or you can also find show email@example.com forward slash podcast and this is episode 72. so enjoy
I have today, Dr. Ellen Bora, she is a holistic psychiatrist and acupuncturist and a yoga teacher. She takes a functional medicine approach to mental health, considering the whole person and addressing imbalance at the root kind of sounds like the title of this podcast.
Isn’t it? Uh, Dr. Vora received her BA from Yale university and her MD from Columbia university. And she is board certified in psychiatry and integrative holistic medicine. She lives in New York city with her husband and daughter. And you have a book coming out in March called the anatomy of anxiety. So welcome Dr.
Ellen to the podcast. Thank you for being here. Thank you Lindsey. Oh, I’m so excited to talk to you. Okay. I just have to, before we even start talking about the anatomy of anxiety, I just back up and like, I have to talk to you about being a holistic psychiatrist. Um, I have some experience with my own psychiatry, with medicine and working with a psychiatrist and going to a psychiatric hospital and hospitalizing myself.
So I, uh, my experience was that as the patient, I could not rely on the doctor to steer me in the direction that I wanted to go. I had to really seriously inform myself of a lot of stuff that. I did not go to medical school for, but I had to learn anyway in order to be my own best advocate. Um, and so I’m just curious if you can talk about what a holistic psychiatrist is and how your work cause I’m sure it’s different in so many ways from just like the run of the mill psychiatrist.
So can you elaborate on that? Some I’m really interested. Yeah. So I do think that the field of psychiatry is, um, depends on what day you asked me today. I’m sort of feeling like saying broken and I, and I don’t think that it’s. Um, irreparably broken, but I think that I know my colleagues write really intelligent, really well-meaning really hardworking people.
Um, I know the training I went through and for me, I found myself working in the psychiatric units and in the. Setting with supervision and just feeling completely out of alignment with what I had been taught to do and how I had been taught to treat patients. And so I had a real crisis and kind of coming to Jesus moment when it was like increasing this person’s eye practice.
That one more time was not going to be the final thing that was going to get them to a place where they’re thriving and finally accessing fulfillment in their lives that, you know, it just, it had to Dawn on me that this wasn’t the path. And so, and that process for me was happening in parallel with my own health, completely spiraling out of control.
So it was like in parallel being trained, how to treat me a certain way and being like something’s not right here. And at the same time going to conventional doc after conventional doc and being like, help me, everything’s wrong in my body. Nothing’s working. And then being like, oh sweetie, you know, your lab tests are normal.
You’re fine. You’re probably just stressed. You’re probably just a hysterical, annoying person. And so, um, and then being like, drive this new experimental medication for IBS or whatever the case may be. And so these two processes were happening in parallel and I was just like, something is rotten at the foundation.
I here, we’re not understanding health and healing. So I really went back to the drawing board. I looked to other parts of the world other times in history and how they’re approaching health and healing. I started studying Chinese medicine and acupuncture. I’m a little bit of iron Veda nutrition, eventually functional medicine.
I became a yoga teacher, which is like, roll that into these kinds of eat. Pray, love cliches, you know, just, it’s all part of it. And in the end, all of these learnings. Really outclassed my very expensive and very ivory tower education with conventional medicine. I don’t regret. It depends on the day. I mostly don’t regret that I went through conventional training.
I appreciate a lot of what I learned there, but that’s not at the end of the day, what helps my patients? It’s everything else I learned on my own. Yeah. Oh, that’s so beautiful. So as a holistic psychiatrist, you do prescribe as Sri’s and things like that. I mean, you do prescribe psychiatric medication, but you do it in tandem with all of these other things that really are treating a person like a whole person and not just like here’s this pill and hopefully it works.
Um, so I really, really appreciate that. And, um, do you do, uh, are, are you an advocate of like pharmacogenetic testing for people as well as part of holistic psychiatry? My response to that is, um, kind of like a shrug. So the way I think about meds is, um, if somebody comes to me and they established care with me and they’re already on meds and they find that it’s helpful, but they want to supplement that approach with a holistic approach.
Cool. I’m going to add other approaches and other strategies. If someone comes to me and they’re like, I’m anxious, I’m depressed. I’m not on any medication. Please help me. I’m usually not reaching first for the prescription pad. We’re probably going to clock in a decent amount of time, trying all of these different holistic strategies, everything from healing, their gut to figuring out like, do they have a connection to meaning or purpose or spirituality in their life?
Certainly nervous system healing. Certainly just like thinking about how can we completely tip from the. Limbic system where it’s the foot is stuck on the gas pedal, you know, and to get them to a place where their nervous system can be calm, where their gut is. Well, where they’re, non-inflamed where they’re nourished, where they’re rested getting some movement and they’re getting their fundamental human needs met.
And so that’s most people that I see and we work on all of that. And then at the end of that, it’s not really, like, they’re not really necessarily identifying with the term, like I’m depressed or I’m anxious anymore. So you sort of obviated the need for meds. Some people it’s not the case. And sometimes it means deeper trauma focused therapy.
And sometimes it means adding a medication at that point. And I’ll often help people get off of medications. If somebody wants to do the gene testing to kind of actually finally answer your question. I think that I’m probably not the right psychiatry for them because it’s a little bit more of a, there’s a philosophy in there, which is that your depression.
Is a Lexapro deficiency disorder. Let’s just figure out sort of which SSRI is appropriate for your body. And I think there’s some validity to the way that they’re matching up liver enzymes and HLA types and all of that with different meds. But I’m still thinking that your depression is a manifestation or a symptom of some other underlying imbalance.
And just from a place of pure elegance, I want to identify that in balance and address that. And so for me, meds come much later in the process and it’s where I’m thinking there’s just too much. That’s hard about life right now, and we need a bridge out, but I rarely think it’s fundamentally treating the true root cause.
Yeah, I completely agree with you. I definitely do not believe that SSRI is or benzos or any of it are actually treating anything. It’s just symptom management, um, which sometimes is needed, right? Like sometimes the person that was definitely my story. I mean, I was, I was experiencing such a degree of anxiety, panic attacks, and just the most ridiculous insomnia ever to the point that I was like, this is how I’m going to be forever.
There is no end. I would rather die because that seems easier than living more like this, because I was so miserable. I was losing weight. Like, I mean, I could not keep weight on, I was eating constantly. I was so hungry, but I just kept losing weight. And finally I did, I tried to kill myself and, um, then I did not succeed obviously and checked myself into psychiatric hospital and, um, Thankfully had had some DNA testing done before.
And so I was able to show up with all of my DNA information on a flash drive. And that was really significant for me because, um, I have had some really strange, um, I don’t want to say reactions, but like, um, strange results from pharmaceuticals in the past where it’s like, my body seems to not respond like a typical body would respond to a lot of different pharmaceuticals.
And so I had some DNA testing done, not pharmacogenetics specifically, but just some overall DNA testing done. And I had it read by somebody who specializes in Nutrogenomix actually. And, um, it was so interesting because I didn’t expect this at all. That wasn’t even the purpose that I had the testing done.
But what came up from that was that I have all of these CYP four 50 mutations. And after I learned what that meant suddenly. You know, the reason why the Vicodin didn’t work after I had my wisdom teeth removed, it was like, oh, that’s why. Like, that’s why, because I’m a fast metabolizer. So my body burns it off before it has a chance to have a therapeutic effect.
So that was really, really helpful information because it meant when I went into the hospital and I showed them my flash drive and they didn’t even really understand the CYP thing, but thankfully the hospital pharmacist did and I did. And so they were, I was like, you cannot prescribe me an SSRI. Like you can’t prescribe me Lexapro, Prozac, you can’t do it.
It’s not going to work. My body will not process it properly. So we settled on, um, a pretty powerful combination, um, of low dose of Seroquel, uh, clonazepam and Mirtazepine. So I can process a tricyclic antidepressant, but not an SSRI. After six weeks or so, I started having a weird side effect that I knew was from the Seroquel, cause I’m just very intuitive and very connected with my body in that way.
And I told my psychiatrist at the time it was, the sensation was like a letdown sensation in my breasts. And I was like, what is going on here? And just somehow with no proof at all, I just had the feeling that it was the Seroquel and okay. So I, I contacted my psychiatrist and I was like, I’m having this very weird, like tingling, let down sensation in my breasts.
And I have not breastfed a child for 15 years. So there’s like no logical reason why I would suddenly be having this letdown sensation. And of course at first she was like, well, are you sure that’s what it is? And I’m like, lady, once you’ve breastfed a baby, you never forget that sensation ever. Um, So she was like, well, I don’t think it’s the Seroquel.
I think you should probably have your hormones checked. It’s probably something else. And I was just, I’m like a, a sleuth when it comes to researching stuff like this, and I’m just like a tenacious bulldog. I’m going to find the answer. So I went down the rabbit hole and I looked and I looked and I looked and I finally came across a very small study in like 18 men.
And after they took Seroquel, their prolactin levels were elevated. And I told her about the study and I could tell she was. We’ll find to stop taking Seroquel then. So I did, I guess what, within like a week the letdown sensation went away, but okay. So you’re the only person I’ve ever talked to. Who’s been like, yeah, it was the Seroquel.
Like you already knew that. Yeah. Well that’s, I guess one of the reasons I am grateful for my medical school education is because I sat in some huge lecture hall, like, you know, with PCO S and anxiety and an inability to focus. And I was bloated and constipated. Everything was wrong in my body, but I was sitting there listening and they were like, Well, so there’s a different atypical anti-psychotic called Risperdol or Risperidone, and it is known to impact prolactin levels.
Um, it directly, I think, acts on like, you know, a part of the pituitary. So that’s a known side effect and I never, ever got taught about these 18 men that had this experience with Seroquel, but your brain has to connect the dots. Seroquel is also an atypical anti-psychotic. And even though it’s not Risperdol, it’s close cousins and.
Bodies are different. And so that would certainly be my guess. I mean, if somebody told me actually it was the Mirtazepine, I’d be like, okay, I’ve been bested, but my med school education tells me, look at the Seroquel for that, but also listen to patients and, and certainly listen to patients who have a lot of attunement with their body.
I have a patient, I love the way she put this. She’s like, you know, she’ll go to doctor’s appointments and they’ll dismiss her. Cause she’s like, I can feel something in my gallbladder. I can, like, I can feel that my B12 is low and bill I’ll be like a crazy lady. And she’s like, no, I am a reliable narrator.
And that’s just it. I knew I was when I was going to doctors, I know my patients are. And just because something wasn’t written in the textbook that we happen to read that happened to be published in like 2001 does not mean it’s not someone’s valid experience bodies are infinitely variable. And so it’s just a problem with our medical training.
Is this feeling of. That’s not how it was taught to me and therefore it isn’t true rather than I was taught a really limited perspective on human health. And you’re telling me, this is your lived experience. And let me be open to that. Gosh, you’re speaking my language. It’s connection in the word. Maybe, you know, rather than like, no, that’s not true.
I just always answer with maybe to learn about this together. Yeah. Oh, I love that. I love that. Well, afterwards I dropped that psychiatrist and I got a different one and, um, as luck would have it, the psychiatrist that I got, I would not say that. Holistic at all, but he is very open-minded. And so I come in with like my holistic beliefs and my very intuitive knowing of my own body.
I love the way your patient put that of like, I’m, I’m a good narrator of my own body. Um, I really love that. And I’m a great narrator, like I can feel too, like when my gallbladder like squirt some bile out, I feel it, I feel like every little thing, I feel it. And I know there’s people who aren’t like that, but there’s a lot of people who are, um, But he was very open-minded and I mean, I went in on the very first day that I was going to see him and I had my notebook with everything written down and I had my DNA flashdrive and I mean, I had everything right.
Because I was so used at that point, I was so accustomed to having to basically go into doctor’s appointments, prepared to do battle for myself. And so I came in with like a very defensive posture, I guess. And as soon as I sat down, he was like, I can tell that you came in here, like really ready to, to fight for yourself.
But why don’t you just tell me your story first? And like, that’s how he started the appointment. And it was like, I immediately, I mean, I didn’t feel my guard totally dropped, but I immediately felt more at ease because I was like, he’s not just going to talk to me for 15 minutes and then send me out the door.
And after that, I ended up spending that first appointment with him for an hour and a half. And then after that, he said, every time I see you, I can tell that we’re going to have a lot to talk about. So I want you to make sure you schedule as my last appointment of the day, every time you see me. And so I, I continue to do that even though I’m not on any medication at all anymore.
Um, I still, I still keep him and I still have my like by year, by annual appointment with him, because I want to make sure that I always have. Resource if I ever need it again. Um, but yeah, it’s been really special to work with him and he’s been so open-minded so like in 2020 I had gotten off all of my psych meds.
I had done, um, a benzo taper by that point that took me for. Um, I had gotten off the Mirtazepine and I had like massive, massive rebound insomnia, and I was determined this time. I’m going to do it without meds. Like I was determined and I wanted to start a protocol called the Nemetschek protocol. Um, that’s like high doses of fish, oil, high doses of olive oil bagel, nerve stimulation.
And every once in a while you take an antibiotic called Rifaximin for gut imbalances and, um, you have to have a prescription for Rifaximin, obviously. And so when I came across this protocol, I did all of my own research. I see. The research, the website quotes from the book I sent all of it to my psychiatrist and an email.
And I was like, I want to try this protocol, but I’m going to need a prescription for an antibiotic. And I’ve already talked to my GP and they won’t give it to me. And he read over everything and he was like, I’ll prescribe it. So I have a psychiatrist who prescribes and continues to refill whenever I need this antibiotic for Rifaximin.
Not because he’s an expert at holistic healthcare or even like nervous system healing or anything like that. But because he trusts me to be my own best advocate and then to come to him and let him know, like, here’s how I want to change the plan. Um, I’m sure your approach is a lot different because you’re probably used to customizing things for your patients versus like somebody, you know, your patients has come in and you have the same 15 minute appointment every single time.
Like I’m sure my psychiatrist does. So I’m wondering if you can like speak to maybe the difference of that or, um, even, even, how has it changed your relationships with people to be able to have more of a holistic approach versus this like very textbook, dry approach? Yeah. So, I mean, the one you described where it’s like, you know, even like when you showed up initially ready for battle, um, it’s it’s Simon.
When I hear that, I, I both like really resonated. And I stepped back and I’m like, what the hell? Where have we gotten in healthcare that patients have to show up and be like, I have to advocate for myself, I’m ready to battle. And doctors, I think on some subtle unconscious level, sometimes even think of their patients as the enemy, you know, it’s like we’re adversaries rather than teammates.
And I see it, you know, it’s, I don’t blame any individual in this process. Like it’s very much a broken system where doctors are strapped for time. Um, they’ve been trained the way they’ve been trained. They have the tools that they have and then patients get annoying and push back and they’re like, but that doesn’t work for me or that causes milk let down.
And we’re like, well, I’d never read that and stop ruining my day, you know? And it’s like, and don’t question my authority. You know what I mean? It’s just like, I think that, um, it’s so terribly broken. And yeah, I was really miserable having to work within that system and it was such a crisis for me. I thought about dropping out.
I thought about doing something else entirely. I wanted to become an acupuncturist or a yoga teacher. I didn’t want to practice medicine because it felt like it was just soul crushing. And so then eventually I figured out that I could, and this was very scary because I did not have a compass or path.
Like I had no roadmap for how this would turn out, but I was like, what if I totally carved out a new way of practicing and design it exactly in alignment with what I believe? And if I just sort of hang a shingle and practice in that way and see if some people knock on my door, like maybe that. Uh, solution and it was truly scary.
It’s easy to look back and be like, man, cause like, look, it’s abundance. Like I have a supply demand issue. That’s just beyond repair. Like there’s so much need for this approach to mental health. And there’s only one of me and I constantly feel like I need to clone, but it’s like at, when I was figuring this out, I was like, this is scary because I had a.
The attachment to the polished pedigree of like, I am like all the other academic physicians and I’m speaking in that rigorous evidence-based language way. And I didn’t want to be ostracized from that world. I didn’t want to be shunned or seen as like a woo-hoo, you know, like wacko or quack at the community.
But I mean, once I left, I’d never looked back. And so now the way I practice, if somebody comes in, um, and to establish care with me, the initial appointment is two hours long. And amazingly enough, we always, always go over. I have no doubts. It’s nowhere near enough time, but, um, everyone always starts with.
You know, I basically just am like, Hey, you know, preambled preamble. And then I zip my mouth and it’s like, somebody else will talk for usually the first 45 minutes or so uninterrupted. And I just want to hear someone’s story, but also I want to hear how they tell their story. I want to see what’s important to them and how they structure it.
And then I have a lot of questions and it’s very 360 degrees about their life. You know, it’s questions about their psych history and their family, psych history and their family, medical history. But it’s also questions about, um, you know, how are they pooping? What’s their energy like, and what is their sleep like?
And do they get acne? And did they have their wisdom teeth taken out and have the red Lyme disease? That’s all relevant to me. But then also it’s, psycho-spiritual, you know, everything from like, are you feeling fulfilled in your work and your relationships with your life dreams? Um, do you have a spiritual practice?
Is that like something that. You kind of rebelled against at some point in your life. Is that something that’s vibrant in your life? Is it something that’s triggering? You know, if somebody wants to like shut down that conversation, I’m totally cool with that. Like, I’m a psychiatrist, I’m not here to like evangelize, you know, but it’s like, but I do think at least we shouldn’t step around it.
Like if, if like, I want to know what is someone’s relationship to a sense of meaning in their life. So that’s what a typical. Session looks like, and it couldn’t be more different than the 15 minute med management I was trained to do. Wow. I love it. Oh, it’s so beautiful. So, um, can you only see people in person or can you see people tele-health there?
I, at this point primarily work remotely, but I should add that I’m not taking new patients. So there’s that, which is sad, but what I hope to do right now, I’m launching a book. So it’s like, that’s kind of taking all of my extra bandwidth, but once that’s calmed down, if that ever comes down, um, then I want to start groups and just make this scalable because there’s just, you know, if I can take in another five people into my practice, that’s.
Scratching the surface of the need. So if I can open up and have something where at least like I’m exposing groups of people at a time to this approach, I think that that’s the next, oh, that’s beautiful. I love it. I wish you all the success in the world on that, because I agree you’re not an evangelist, but you could be with this kind of a thing.
Like you could be, you know, not really evangelizing it, but just like spreading it. This is the kind of thing that needs to spread because it, it opens up so many more possibilities than. Our traditional model that most people think is all that’s available really, to me, all of that hope. And it’s like on social media, it’s interesting how all, like spread the message of like, there are other approaches that we can take to mental health and I’ll see a lot of people they’ll always push back.
They’ll be like, don’t shame me for taking meds. And it’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa. This is never, first of all, I don’t do shame. Um, but second of all, like there’s like 99.9% of psychiatrists and therapists are like, let’s talk about meds. You know, that’s how we’re approaching mental health. So that message is out there, but then it shows that isn’t out there is like, well, have you thought about, you know, fill in the blank, inflammation, gut health, nutrition, B12.
And so, you know, I just want to spread that message without implying that there’s anything wrong with taking a conventional approach, if that works for you. That’s great. I just want people to get relief. Yeah. That’s fallen short in your life and you’re despairing. That’s where I want to intervene and just be like, There is hope there’s so much more that we can do.
Yeah. Well, my background is, um, I was a food blogger before I did the work I do now. And, um, I’m a certified health and wellness coach. Um, and so I was doing food photography and writing recipes and coaching people on, um, food, sensitivities and supplementation and you know, whole 30 and paleo and keto and vegan, and like all these different health and wellness sort of gut health, like all of that.
And, um, What really shifted was actually whenever I had my own dark night of the soul, because when I was at my worst, I was already eating the most nourishing diet I’d ever eaten in my life. Up to that point, I was taking like $400 worth of supplements every month. Um, I was working with a practitioner who did like muscle testing and applied kinesiology and like stealth, pathogen protocols and parasite cleanses.
And, uh, like, I mean, I was doing all of that. Right. And I was still just completely falling apart. And so when I got out of the hospital on this cocktail of psych meds and I was still very fragile, I feel like, um, I made a promise to myself that I was going to do whatever it took to heal, whatever got me to that place, that really dark place.
And it was a wake-up call for me because I realized that. That my perfect clean diet. Um, my $400 of supplements every month, all my little practitioners that I went to for chiropractic and acupuncture and energy healing, and like all of it, like I realized the missing puzzle piece in all of that was my nervous system.
And nobody ever talked to me about my nervous system. Nobody ever told me how it’s impacted by trauma. Um, nobody ever told me about the brain inflammation that happens as a result of trauma and nobody ever told me what to do about it. And so I was always on this hamster wheel of wellness, always like running, but never really getting anywhere and, and buying the miracle supplements and trying the new practitioner and trying the new diets and all of that.
Always thinking that the next thing was going to be the thing like this is going to be what heals me. Right. And, um, Then I learned about my nervous system and I was just like, oh my gosh, like, it was, it was the puzzle piece. And so you mentioned your books. So I would love to shift now into talking about anxiety because one of the things that people either really love me for it, or they really hate me for it.
As I say, anxiety is not a diagnosis, anxiety is a symptom. Oh good. Nobody can see it, but she was like, yes. So, um, maybe they’ll hear it more and accept it more coming from a psychiatrist than from someone like me. Um, so can we talk about anxiety and why anxiety is a symptom and not a diagnosis and what’s going on in the body?
Um, why we can’t get rid of anxiety, but instead we have to learn to listen to it. Um, I know in your book you talk about the difference between true anxiety and false anxiety. So I definitely want to dive into that. Um, and yeah, we’ll just see how far. How far we can get, you also talked about like it being natural to resist the discomfort.
And one of the sayings, like if I had a motto that everyone knows me by it’s, I’m comfortable being uncomfortable and, um, learning how to be in that discomfort without panicking. And I, I learned that through cold plunges, like that was really my gateway drug into, uh, consciousness and presence was cold plunges and getting into like 50 degree water and, you know, like my labia going numb and my feet going numb, but being like, I’m so fucking comfortable, I’m so comfortable.
I’m comfortable being uncomfortable. And like, I feel the discomfort, but I can rise above it and like, Um, it’s it’s and then I taught a couple of little girls this past summer. I was doing cold plunge and they were like, we want to try that. And I was like, okay, all right, get in. And like, one of them, I was holding her hand.
She’s 10 years old and I was holding her hand and she was in this 50 degree water and she was like hurt. And I was like, just stay focused on your breath. Just like focus on your breath, focus on your body. Your mind is telling you that this is scary and impossible and it’s too much. And it really is too much.
You can get out anytime you want to, but just see what happens when you stay with it. And she stayed with it. And then she went in further and she went in further. And then she like looked up at me and she was like, I’m doing it. And I looked at her and I was like, isn’t it amazing what we can do when we don’t pay him?
Like we can do so much when we don’t panic. So, um, yeah, that was a little bit of a rabbit trail, but I just, I’m so passionate about talking about anxiety and being with discomfort and not panicking about it. And, um, I was on a walk in the woods this past summer. And, um, I often go for walks in the woods and get what I call like downloads or spiritual messages or whatever.
And what came through for me that day was the universe was like panic. I’m curious what your perspective is on this. The universe was like, panic is when your mind is trying to override what your body is naturally trying to do. So your body is like, I need to move. I need to shake. I need to get out of this situation or whatever, but your mind is like, oh, don’t do that.
You’re going to look weird. Like, don’t do that. What will people think? Like, don’t do that. So your mind is like overriding your body’s need. And that is to me is what panic is. What. Yeah. Yeah. So I think that that is genius. I think that’s smart. Like it’s right. So panic at, in the essence of panic is resistance.
You know, it’s so sort of like digging our heels in and being like, no, no, no, not this. Whether it’s a fear of, well, you know, what will people think or I’m gonna embarrass myself or, um, I’m going crazy or I’m going to die. It’s like this resistance to where it feels like our body is heading. And I think that’s such a smart way to do it because I do think that resistance is an essential, um, sort of verb.
To create a state of panic. Like you can have the bodily symptoms of your body in a stress response. You can have your heart racing and your Palm sweating and tunnel vision. And you kind of have sort of all of that sympathetic response in the body. But for it to feel like panic, I do believe there has to be a layer of resistance to where your body’s going, and then it spirals into panic.
And it’s so hard, so hard actually. Shift from like, I resist this too. Let’s do it. Like let’s ride out this wave because it’s exquisitely uncomfortable. But the part that’s most uncomfortable about it is the narrative that we tell ourselves that this is not okay that I’m going to die. That I’m going to go crazy.
That what will people think that’ll be too embarrassing to get out of this row in this theater, in front of everybody, you know, all of those feelings, um, So I think that’s really smart. I didn’t, I didn’t think it out the universe gave it to me. Yeah. I mean, you’re available for those messages, right? Like that’s we all have that.
We all have access to that. We just have to be in the woods walking and, and listen, we do modern life is not so conducive. So let me see if I can chip away at some of the questions you brought up anxiety as a symptom, not a diagnosis. I have noticed that people sometimes get triggered by this idea. Like it’s feels invalidating to be like, anxiety is not a diagnosis.
I certainly come up against this. Often on social media platforms, if I’m like talking about potential root causes of anxiety or of ADHD and people will be like, no, it’s actually just a genetic dopamine issue. You know, it’s like, okay, you know, we can have that conversation, but sometimes there are root cause imbalances that are contributing to these states that we’re calling anxiety, we’re calling ADHD and.
It’s to me, I’m not here to invalidate someone’s connection, tutor experience with it. Like the symptoms are very, very real. Um, but it’s to point out the fact that this is not a destiny, it doesn’t have to be our identity. It doesn’t have to be a fixed trait. That’s going to last your whole life. It’s something that can change.
And that also can feel invalidating because people are like, no, I’ve tried everything and I haven’t made any improvement. It’s just my anxiety. It’s just my ADHD. It runs in my family. It’s just a genetic fact. And I get it. Like, when you feel like you’ve tried everything and it hasn’t budged, it feels so discouraging.
And you feel like if someone’s trying to tell me this can change, like that has not been my experience. I like to swoop in and be like, have you tried everything though? And like, to your point about, um, like how you were kind of a plus plus student at wellness, and then it was accessing it from the place of the nervousness.
I feel like what happens is that everyone has tried everything in the echo chamber they’re already in. Oh my gosh. But sometimes we need, and some people haven’t even tried everything in their own echo chamber, but sometimes we actually need to switch echo chambers. And it’s a little bit controversial. I listened to one of your podcasts with the author of the book.
Um, the, fuck it diet. Oh yeah. Caroline. Yeah. And you guys brought up so much interesting nuance around the toxic wellness industry and culture and all of that. And it’s tricky because I think there is a lot of toxicity to that culture. There is this issue of orthorexia. There is the kind of like treadmill of like the green juices and the, you know, all the supplements and all the, you can do everything and not feel any better.
And in certain ways it’s contributed to the original problem because now you fear food, you feel fragile. Declining dinner, party, invitations, you’re obsessing and fixated. And like in many ways, all of that is just going to reinforce a state like anxiety. But, um, I also think that like, that’s that echo chamber and folks that have maxed out in that echo chamber, and it’s only made things worse, need to hop over to, oh, say nervous system or like a psychospiritual echo chamber or ease, pleasure leaning into like how to get back to like ease as medicine, play pleasure as medicine.
But then I’ll have folks that are like very deep in the indulgent echo chamber, like, you know, subscribed to all of the body positivity accounts. And they’re eating in our modern food system that. Is rife with foods that get our bodies out of physical balance. And some of them actually need to even hop a little bit into the orthorexic echo chamber, not to say they need to go all the way to orthorexia, but like even just eyeopening information around like the food that we eat matters to our physical health and our physical health matters to our mental health.
And so it’s just there, aren’t easy answers here, but I think in a way it’s like, well, what should you do? It’s like, whatever you’re not already doing. Yeah. Yeah. Oh my gosh. I love that. I’ve never, I’ve never thought of it that way, but you’re right. It really is about hopping into a new echo chamber and listening to some other people who are really passionate about it, who are really valid things to say.
Um, yeah. I, I have a hard time with that too. Like I want to believe in, uh, you know, health at every size. I want to believe that like, um, you know, fatphobia is real and I probably have internalized fat phobia, like an all, I want to believe all of that. And at the same time, I’m like, But, but we can’t keep eating this way and calling it healthy just because we’re trying to make, fatphobia go away.
Like it’s such a, it’s such a weird complex thing and it is that way with everything. Right? Like, um, you know, there’s probably, you know, if I had come to you, for example, back in 2019, whenever I was doing all of this, you probably would have been like, well, have you tried the diet changes? And have you tried the supplements and all of it like that.
Cause you’re really well versed in that. And I would have been like, yes, check, check, check, check. You know? And so you like, because you have this holistic perspective, I think you have like multiple echo chambers, I guess, that you’re like operating in, like that are in your wheelhouse. Um, and so you may have been able to see it more from a bird’s eye view and be like, okay, she’s been in this echo chamber and this one and this one, but she hasn’t been in this one yet.
And the echo chamber for me, I guess that I found the most beneficial after. Leaving all the other echo chambers was the nervous system, echo chamber, and also the psycho-spiritual echo chamber. Those have been two that I’ve stepped into in the last like three years that have been profoundly transformational for me in a way that like, I’m more interested now in those than I am in like supplements and restrictive diets and all that kind of stuff.
So. Yeah, not really a question. Just you’re speaking my language and you’re, you’re vocalizing it in a way that I hadn’t ever done before. And I really appreciate it well, and when I meet a patient like you and someone comes in and they’re like, I am a plus plus at the wellness echo chamber, like I like can’t turn the steering wheel fast enough to get out of that echo chamber because it can be destructive.
I think it’s so important to like have the education and just to start at least make choices consciously about how we feed ourselves. Like we can’t just be blindly eating all the things that big food is selling us. Like it’s addictive and it’s poisonous. And it’s like, these are such charged terms that I know I’m getting myself canceled on the internet, but it’s like, okay, these foods are not serving our bodies.
And so if you don’t know that yet, and you don’t know how to nourish yourself, you have to know. And then once you know, it, you make all these choices from a place of, self-love not from a place of restriction or a self negation or anything like that. Not like this will cure my anxiety is like perfectly restricting and eliminating everything.
It’s more just like, oh, when I eat this, I feel this way. Why don’t eat this? My body says, thank you. When I eat this, I don’t feel so good, but not in like a huge baggage, heavy duty way of like, I should feel ashamed and I’m so gross. It’s more just like, oh my body said no. So next time I’ll make a slightly different choice.
And, um, I think that like the health at every weight, it’s so true, but it’s so, there’s so much nuance within that. And like, to me, in a way we hear that statement and to us, the hop, the operative word is like at any weight, but I actually think the operative word is health. So it doesn’t mean like, just eat whatever the fuck you want and you’ll be healthy.
It kind of means. Your weight is not what tells you, it tells us whether or not you’re healthy. Like that’s broken messaging that we’ve gotten from like the nineties, but it’s like, it’s, it’s healthy is, is like, we don’t know what that’s gonna look like, but it still has to be healthy. It’s like, what nourishes your body?
What serves you? What gets you less inflamed? And it’s such a delicate balancing act because you have to do it without a fear-based mindset. And so in our world does not make that easy. So, uh, yes. Long journey. Yes. Well, okay. So along the veins of a fear-based mindset, like that’s, that’s the perfect way to describe anxiety, right?
Like every you’re afraid of everything, you’re afraid of everything in the future. You’re afraid of, um, you know, catastrophizing, everything like it it’s God, it’s the most, I think anxiety is the most miserable. State to be in like anxiety and insomnia. The two of those together to me is a recipe for absolute misery and disaster.
Um, and also both of them are symptoms of a dysregulated nervous system. And also both of them can be symptoms of nutrient deficiencies, um, you know, like diet issues, gut issues, like all of those things too. So, um, in reading about your book, the anatomy of anxiety, um, it says in the same way that bustle dander Cliff’s book, the body keeps the score, changes how we understand trauma, the anatomy of anxiety, your book will transform our understanding of anxiety.
So how is your book going to transform our understanding of anxiety? Here’s the main paradigm shift is that rather than going through the usual classifications of anxiety that I was trained to use, it’s like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, OCD, PTSD, so on and so forth. Um, I really don’t find that that meaningfully steers management, um, cause I’m not, you know, like it’s, it’s designed to steer management.
It’s designed to tell you if you have this, take this med and if you have this, take this med and if you have this add CBT and those aren’t the tools that I lean on most of all. So I have a really different classification system that I use in my practice, which is to divide anxiety into two categories, false anxiety and true anxiety.
And I don’t call it false to invalidate the very real suffering and false anxiety. Um, but it is to recognize that there’s a straightforward path out false anxiety is avoidable anxiety. It’s all of these states of anxiety that we’re in, that we think of as sort of lifelong heavy duty mental health struggles.
When it’s actually just our body tripped into a stress response. And it’s usually happening as a result of really mundane aspects of modern life, strong coffee, sleep, deprivation, technology, blood, sugar crashes, inflammation, dysbiosis in the gut, sort of all of these, just like mundane, subtle aspects of what it means to live in our modern world that get our physiology out of balance, triplets into a stress response.
And that stress response feels synonymous with anxiety and even panic. And so we say, I have anxiety and I always will. And I say, well, like, Drink a little bit less coffee. Nobody likes that one. Um, make more conscious choices around alcohol, prioritize sleep, make sure that you’re actually getting good quality sleep.
And here’s all the strategies on how to do that. Make somebody less inflamed, heal their gut a little bit, make sure that they’re really nourished focusing on nutrient dense foods and just make sure that the body is actually set up to succeed. And once you have your physical health and balance and really replete and kind of abundant juicy, sometimes the brain.
Functioning. Well, then you’re not anxious anymore. So that’s the false anxiety. And then I leave as what remains after you’ve addressed the false anxiety. I call that true anxiety and it’s, um, not pathologic. It’s not something we should medicate away. That’s actually here with a very important message.
That’s our internal compass speaking up, communicating to us. Something’s not right here. Please pay attention. And so that’s where, like when you take a walk in the woods and you get your downloads, like we meet a practice where we’re getting still, we’re slowing down and we’re listening. Because our true anxiety is not just here to be a nuisance and to ruin our lives.
It’s here to point us and point our attention towards the ways that we can be helpful. And that can be on a really small scale. It can be on a larger scale. It’s just, what’s really true to us, but really is alive in us and how we can make our unique contribution. Um, that’s so beautiful. I love it. So, um, you write in your book instead of asking, how can I stop feeling so anxious?
We should be asking what is my anxiety telling me? So can you elaborate on that? Yeah, I mean, I think that we’ve just been taught so much that like, Anxiety is the problem. And so we want to make it go away and I get that it’s really uncomfortable. Um, I want to make all the unnecessary avoidable, false anxiety go away.
I don’t think there’s any purpose to being in a stress response from caffeine or inflammation. Again, I think that serves us in any way. I mean, you can make a case for the MTHFR mutated canaries in our modern coal mine, feeling sensitive to the modern world. And, you know, in that respect, their false anxieties helped teach us all, but that’s a separate conversation, but I think that most of all, I want to make the false anxiety go away, but our true anxiety, it doesn’t go away is the thing.
It can not be pushed under the rug. Um, if we suppress. It transmutes, it pops up in another way, or it transforms from a whisper to a shout. Like if it’s sort of like whispering at us and nudging us and being like a, this job is kind of feeling like a dead end, this job is sort of sucking your soul. Like if it’s whispering for a little while and we choose to ignore it because it’s an inconvenient truth that would blow up our life, we keep ignoring it.
And then eventually we need to get to a point where it’s like, we can’t get out of bed in the morning. We can’t bring ourselves to go to the office. We’re crying at the office, we’re melting down. And it’s like our unconscious almost figures out another way to get the message across or to stand as a barricade to us carrying out something that’s really out of alignment for us.
So I think that true anxiety, it behooves us to actually just slow down and listen and honor what it has to say. So is it, is it fair to say that maybe true anxiety is. The voice of your intuition, it just keeps getting louder and louder. The longer you don’t listen to it. I do think so. I do think so. And intuition is a tricky one because we’re so conditioned throughout our lives to cut off that line of communication.
So many of us it’s very rusty and, you know, I’ve so many patients that are like, well, what’s my intuition. And what’s fear. You know, I really love the way the author Glennon Doyle describes how, like, fear almost has this more. High-frequency like shrill feeling to it and intuition, even if it’s about something like that, doesn’t feel right.
It has a lower vibration, more grounded resonance. And I certainly feel that in my body, I also always, I’m very informed by like Martha Graham of modern dance fame and how she’s. Contraction and expansion is sort of always the dynamic and I’ll check in with my body. Like, do I want to go to this job or this job?
And I’ll just listen for where does my body keep tracked? And where does it expand? What feels like warmth and openness. And I can breathe better. What feels like tension and coldness and rigidity. And like, my stomach feels upset and that usually helps me kind of hear my intuition. So whatever feels contractive, like cold and makes your stomach upset.
That is fear. That’s my body saying? No. Or like, that’s my intuition communicating now. Okay. So, um, for people who are listening, who do have anxiety, um, obviously if it’s false anxiety, you’re going to tell them to prioritize, sleep, quit drinking so much caffeine. Be careful with alcohol, um, all those kinds of things.
And if they still have anxiety, then we’re looking at more of that, your anxiety. So like, um, it’s interesting that I sort of see a similarity. So one of the pillars of my work is, um, that in order to heal, we have to reduce lifestyle inflammation. I call it lifestyle inflammation, but it’s like, it’s like the job you hate the toxic relationship, an inability to set boundaries, um, you know, uh, racing, thoughts, mindset shifts, limiting beliefs, like that kind of stuff is, you know, not eating a nourishing diet like that kind of stuff is lifestyle inflammation.
And I think that’s what our true anxiety points us towards is it’s showing us what’s out of alignment and like where things need to shift if we’re willing to sit with it and listen. Um, but often the. Those those decisions take time to write, like you don’t just say I’m ending the relationship and then boom, the next day you wake up and it’s over or I’m leaving this job I hate.
And then boom, you wake up the next day and you suddenly are in a job you love, like, I’m not saying that’s not possible, but I’m saying it’s not likely. So what are some ways that people can discharge the energy of anxiety from their bodies, whether it’s false anxiety or true anxiety. And they just have that, you know, for me, anxiety feels like a knot in my throat, like a really tight knot in my throat.
And then it radiates down and I feel like flutters and my chest. And then that radiates down into like a hot nausea in my solar plexus. So like for me, it’s very much from like neck to, uh, diaphragm. Like that’s where anxiety lives for me. I know for a lot of people, it lives in their neck and shoulders and they get a lot of tension there.
And for some people it may live in their pelvises and they have like pelvic issues or whatever. Um, but. Are there some ways like that generally work, I hesitate to use the word work, but are there some ways that generally work, that people can discharge that anxious energy from their bodies in real time?
That can be really beneficial. Yeah, totally. So I think that one practice I really like to do for myself and for my patients is actually just shaking. Um, so I put on a track of music. It’s shamonic drum beats, and I will close my eyes and kind of let my body be floppy and I’ll just shake and move.
However, my body feels like moving for I’ll do it for like a minute and a half. That’s usually about as much time as I have for this practice, but that does the job and you can do it for like 10 minutes. Um, and I think that it, it does a couple of different things. One is I think it approximates something that you’ll see happening in the animal kingdom or animals after an acute stressor.
Many of them have a kind of shaking practice that seems to discharge that excess of adrenaline, it kind of presses control-alt-delete on the nervous system. It tells their nervous system, the threat has passed now I’m safe. And so I just try to do that. Reset my nervous system, but I also find it has a almost physical excavation quality to it.
Like it shakes things up. So whatever memory or trauma or tension I’m holding in my hips and my chest in my heart, like it comes up and then I hold that like really gently. I just think curious about it. If a memory, like a random image comes up to me that feels meaningful and I’ll just stay. And I’m not trying to like come to any huge conclusion, just staying curious, opening, continuing the conversation with why did that come up?
What was my unconscious trying to offer up? And sometimes it’s just releasing something. So I like shaking practice for that. Um, oh, I love shaking. I’m so glad you said that shaking his mind, like number one, when somebody is like, I’m struggling with anxiety so much, what should I do? I tell them to shake and they’re like, shake, what do you mean?
And I’m like, literally just like put on some music and just start like wiggling and shaking. And like, you know, you’ll feel like a vibrating through your body. And then afterwards, if you shake for like two minutes straight, like you feel kind of tingly and almost high afterwards for a minute, you know?
Um, and I’ll share a quick story with you. So I took my daughter to Mexico, um, earlier in January and we had no problems on our trip. It was a beautiful trip is wonderful. She’s 16 and a half. So it was a great mother-daughter time. Like we had a really, really lovely time. We’re coming back into the country and we flew from Mexico to Houston.
So we had to go through department of Homeland security to go through immigration in Houston. Before we went through customs, my daughter, nor I did anything wrong. I’m not really sure what the problem was. And I don’t want to share the whole story here because I’m not, I’m still figuring out like on a practical level, what to do about it, or if I even need to do anything about it.
But one of the department of Homeland security officers displayed a show of force. So as to intimidate him, And it was very scary and she had not done anything wrong and I had not done anything wrong. And the sky was, he was really being a jerk and it was very inappropriate and it was very scary and I wasn’t sure what was happening.
They wouldn’t tell me if they were going to search me or detain me or let me go through, like I kept asking, okay, what are we doing? And they weren’t giving me an answer. So finally they let us through and I was like, I need to speak to a supervisor immediately. And I spoke to the supervisor and I told him about the inappropriate display it for us to intimidate.
And he said that he would watch the security camera back and see, and then reprimand the officer or whatever. And they let us go through and we went through customs and everything was fine. Well, I had, so, I mean, that’s the closest I’ve been to having a panic attack in like three years. So, cause I really feel completely healed from anxiety and panic.
So that was, it was close. I hadn’t felt that anxious in years a very long time. And I could feel that hot, that burning that knot in my throat, that sick feeling all over my body. And even after that, they let us go through and everything was fine. I still couldn’t shake it. And so I told my daughter, I was like, okay, I have to shake.
And literally like in the middle of the airport, I dropped our bags, I dropped everything and I just started shaking, shaking, shaking, shaking, shaking, and about 30 seconds into it, I felt like this, like hyperventilation kind of crying that needed to happen. And so I let it happen and people were walking around us and, uh, at one point a guy stopped and was like, is everything okay?
And my daughter just goes, yeah, she’s fine. This is how she gets rid of anxiety. And so I did it for maybe like two minutes and then I was like, okay, I’m okay now. And picked up our bags and we kept right on going. And like, it really did. I feel like that could, that event could have been. Too much, too fast, too soon for my nervous system and could have been in my body as trauma, but because I practice shaking and I have nervous system hygiene practice when I’m not dysregulated, I know what to do when I am dysregulated to take care of my nervous system in the moment in real time.
And. I’ve just gotten to the point where I don’t give a shit. If I look like a crazy lunatic, because anyone who thinks I look crazy doing that, like they don’t have the experience of living with the consequences of that event. If I don’t take care of my nervous system, you know, that’s my story. I applaud you for the shaking.
And it’s interesting, right? It connects back to what you were saying earlier about resistance with panic attacks. And it’s like, in a way our body already has the wisdom. It knows what we need to do, but all of our social conditioning of what looks normal is what actually causes the problems. And so many of us just need to embrace the, like who the hell cares, what we look like to take good care of our bodies and to give ourselves what we need in that moment.
And it’s like, yeah, I think that it’s, I wouldn’t even want to call it dysregulated because it almost implies like that there was some problem in how your body responded. Your body responded appropriately to the show of force like this. Evolution. Hard-wiring one, one, you know, he’s like, he’s like, I’m going to be aggressive with you, so you need to guard and, um, mobilize the stress response.
So it’s more just that, um, we can push it to the side temporarily if we need to get by in a certain situation, but that energy needs to go somewhere. And if it doesn’t come up and out, it gets lodged and causes problems in the long run. Yes. Oh my gosh. Yes. So any other favorite, uh, regulating strategies or anxiety discharging things that people can do besides shaking?
Um, I, I mean obviously like going out into nature, just being in nature, that’s very grounding. That’s very stress-relieving. Um, but people get tired of hearing that people get tired of hearing me be like, nature, breath, work, like, you know, meditation, they get tired of that and they want that they go back to, well, I’ve tried all that and it doesn’t work, you know?
Yeah. I mean, I think that it’s helpful to have a long menu and you sort of reached for what your body feels like in that moment. And sometimes it is nature bathing. Sometimes it’s surfing and sometimes it’s shaking and sometimes it’s dancing, um, singing humming. Breathwork is certainly helpful. Um, like some people want to just do a very passive, more like yoga nidra, guided relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation, getting body work, you know, it’s more expensive, but like sometimes that feels really like the right strategy to reach for, um, play orgasm sex pleasure in any form.
Um, And, and I think like the key actually is just to like drop in and listen, what one is calling your name. Um, and so I think like cuddling is great, right? So there’s so many different ways that we can give our body a release. Um, actually, I’ll tell you my real favorite is actually just crying and crying is so underrated and it’s such a good strategy free.
You always feel better afterward. I think we have a big problem with branding around crying. We think it’s like indicative of we’re in a bad place. And if we start to cry, we’re supposed to apologize and be like, I’m sorry, and make it as small as possible. And think of it as a burden to those around us.
And I think that’s all wrong. I think crying is such wisdom from our body, giving us a release, um, part of our stress response that hormone act H or adrenocorticotropic hormone comes out in our tears. So it like actually decreases our stress response and it’s bonding. And I really think it’s so quintessentially human too.
So I think that like, I encourage people to really think about crying as this gift. And if you get an opportunity to cry, Don’t make it smaller, make it bigger, like dive into it and let it be a really big cry and a really good cry. And don’t think of it as this means I’m in a bad place. I think people are in a bad place when they’re stuck and the energy isn’t moving.
But as long as the energy is moving, which with crying, it absolutely is. You’re not in a bad place. Your body is doing what it can to help you dispersion from something heavy. It was carrying. Um, yeah. I, um, recently started working with a client who, um, on their application to work with me. They were just like, I just cry all the time.
Like I just cry all the time. I can’t stop crying and I want to work with you because I just want to start crying. I don’t want to cry anymore. And. To me. I think the fact that they’re crying all the time while it’s not fun. And certainly like, can get in the way of certain things, just like shaking, like a maniac in an airport can like, you know, kind of gets in the way of like what people perceive as normal.
But to me, that’s like, at least she’s crying. At least it’s still moving. Right? Like that’s a good thing, you know, like, but you’re right. We’re so conditioned to believe that crying is like weak or, you know, I’ve even been in situations where I’ve been like talking to someone and I’ll get emotional about something and start crying.
And then I catch myself being like, oh, I’m sorry, you know, I’m sorry I’m doing this. And like, why are we apologizing for this? And I did not know that about act H in tears. That is crazy. And the, and the crying all the time thing, I was going to go out on a limb and say, some people they’re sort of stuck in a rhythm of crying all the time.
Um, it’s almost like I worry that, you know, when someone kind of, rather than having a big sneeze, just sort of like was like blocks it. Like if you’re crying all the time, but you’re always letting yourself cry only like 40% of what your body wants in that moment. You’re sort of holding it back and be like, resisting it.
Like it’s not coming to completion. So the next time you cry, like, like go whole hog, a hundred pounds. And see if that changes things. And if you’re still crying all the time, um, there’s communication to that. Going back to like anxiety is a symptom, that’s a symptom that’s telling us something. Um, it’s telling us something important for this individual.
I don’t know what it is, but it’s always something to pursue. It’s like, what is feeling like profound sadness to you? And is there something that you’re, that we need to look at it? Yeah. Oh, absolutely. So I’m looking through these notes here and the word psychedelics caught my eyes. So, um, I’m, I am totally in support of appropriate use of psychedelics.
So if you are open to it, can we talk about that next? Because the reason why I say, um, that I want to talk about it is because if you read the research, like coming out of Johns Hopkins or the maps studies and all of that, A lot of people are hesitating to publish psychedelic use as being helpful for anxiety.
So they’re, they’re saying it’s useful for depression. They’re saying it’s useful for end of life anxiety, if you have a terminal illness or something like that, but they are actually like almost contraindicating using psychedelics if you already have anxiety, because it can create more anxiety or it can, you know, make you have a bad trip or something like that.
So can you speak to that kind of, so I knew the I’m also kind of like watchful and waiting for like, when are we going to start talking about the relationship between psychedelics and anxiety and why the hesitation? I think that, um, I think they’re being so smart about how the. Uh, unfolding the scientific discoveries, basically.
Like they, they recognize they’re coming on the heels of the psychedelic Renaissance of the sixties and sort of this moral panic around it and government shut down. And so now it’s being handled with so much it’s being handled so judiciously and I think so smart to start with end of life and to kind of think about that as like, well, you know, these are patients that are terminally ill, so, you know, it’s harder to make a case for this being unethical.
Like you’re not causing these long-term harms. Um, and then depression, which I think really lends itself to psychedelic studies because in many ways, depression is almost like this absence of vitality and this absence of engagement with life and psychedelics just like, don’t let you stay in that mindset.
There’s so there’s so much vitality and engagement to it. Like it’s really hard to stay. Um, Deflated about the human experience after a psychedelic experience or a psychedelic ceremony. And so then anxiety is different. And I think that it’s kind of speaks to the question of what is, you know, in, let me, let me kind of think out loud a little bit, there’s this idea to anxiety, which is like, well, it kind of boils down to that ultimate fear of death or losing the people that we love.
And so then there’s questions around like, well, what is really happening here in this universe? Like who the heck knows is that truly the end? Is everything just dust at that point? Or does something beyond what meets the eye exist? Like do we continue to exist in spirit form? I sure don’t know that psychedelic experience.
Seem to open up that question a little bit for me, you know, I find connect to spirit. I connect to something that, you know, I find my brain wants to call God. Um, I connect to, um, my loved ones who have passed away. So, you know, it can, it all just be a construct of my brain. Totally sure. You know, but it opens up a question of is that anxiety, worst case scenario, truly reality.
And at least I think there’s something healthy and living that question. I do think that there’s fear around anxiety, tipping people into a so-called bad trip. And I think that I should hope it’s the next frontier where with the right set and setting and, you know, appropriate indications and all of this, we can not only control for that or be okay with that, but like kind of embrace that.
So I think that there is something. Meretricious even about having a challenging experience in a psychedelic ceremony, like what you were talking about with the cold plunge, um, getting the muscle memory of being like, oh God, I can’t handle this. And then handling it, um, is a really important thing to witness yourself doing.
And I think that psychedelic ceremonies I find and I’ve had bad trips, um, it always feels like it comes from a place of love. And I think like being shown or guided through something challenging, that’s ultimately in my best interest and there to help guide me and teach me, um, just give me a different relationship to resisting discomfort.
Um, that was really beautifully said. So I, I have experienced some level of anxiety on every psychedelic trip I’ve ever done. And I have used that in the past as like kind of an excuse to be like, Hmm. I don’t think I’m going to do it for a long time. Cause the last time I had a lot of anxiety. And then I was talking to my best friend about it.
And she was like, if you don’t have some level of anxiety during a psychedelic experience, then you’re probably not taking enough because like the whole point is to be able to ride the waves. Right. And, and for me during psychedelic experiences, anxiety is never like present from beginning to end. It always comes in waves.
And so there’s like a wave of anxiety where it feels like, oh my God, I’m going to lose my shit. And then it’s followed often by a wave of like euphoria and release and then another wave comes. And then, so that’s how it has been for me. And, um, the LA the more nervous system work I do and the more spiritual work I do, the, I don’t want to say the easier my trips get, but.
The more space I have available to me during the trip to get the meaningful things out of it, versus just writing ways of anxiety, if that makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. I think that that’s so smart and it’s like, I mean, the idea is relaxed, downstream, right? And I think that I liked the way Pema, Chodron defines anxiety as, um, it’s resisting the unknown and like psychedelics start always with a kind of like, you are slipping down this slope into the unknown and you have no control.
And I mean, every time, every time I’ll have that, oh shit moment of like, oh God, why am I doing this again? Here we go. Ah, there’s no escaping, we’re going. And I’ve had to rebrand it for myself and for my patients as like, rather than like, oh God, oh God, oh God, what’s going to happen. Is this going to be bad trip?
Is this going to be torture? I’m going, I don’t want, I want to resist. Um, I’ve kind of rebranded that sensation as Lance and mean for me, my worldview is that when I’m in a ceremony, I bring a lot of reverence to it. I think it’s a, it’s a portal to being able to connect with the divine. That’s my worldview.
And so I see that feeling of like, whoa, here we go. As entering a temple. It’s like, you don’t want to casually walk through that threshold. You want it to knock your socks off a little bit and you want to feel that tingling overwhelming, you know, your body is showing up and mobilizing it. Experience of this is salient.
This is a big deal. And so that’s how I feel about it. Now, when I have that, like slipping down that slope into the unknown feeling rather than like, ah, it’s more like. Like fixer color, you are about to beat God. Oh my gosh. I felt that I got tingles all over whenever you said that. And I’m totally gonna use that for my next experience, because that’s such a great way of looking at it.
I, I don’t use psychedelics recreationally. I never have, like, to me it is powerful medicine and I approach it with the utmost respect and I, I don’t do it unless it starts calling to me. And when it’s calling to me, then I know it’s time. Um, and I always do it like in a very private, safe place. Um, I have not though.
I’m curious if you have done a psychedelic trip, uh, blindfolded, like laying on a couch or how mine have all been like outside in nature. So I can like freely walk around and I can stare at the little universe that lives on the rock and I can stare at the leaves and I can like lay in a hammock or lay on a blanket in the grass and feel the earth breathe.
And like all this kind of stuff I have not yet done one like blindfolded laying on a couch where it’s a very internal experience. Have you had that experience? Yeah. How was that? How was that for you with anxiety? That is awesome. Anxiety. I mean, for me, when I’m, I’m sort of doing the lying down on a couch or a mat with a blindfold, I very much go right into a place.
Like, I kind of feel like I’m in therapy with God and it feels like, I mean, I, I feel like I’m being directly spoken to and there’s humor and there’s love infused throughout it, but it’s basically like, Hey Ellen, you know about this shadow, you know, about this thing. That is not awesome that you’re thinking and doing, you know, about this issue with ego, you know, it’s like, they’re just, it’s a, it’s a confrontational, loving therapist.
Who’s calling me out on all my bullshit and it’s yeah. I just feel like I’m in conversation. I mean, it can be so many things. That’s one of many places I go in, in that kind of setting. Um, but I don’t think there should be anything to fear and I can see the instinct of like, to feel free and able to walk and to be grounded by nature.
But, um, I bet you’re ready for. Like we just be grounded by the, you know, be in your body and, and be grounded by the loving presence of the medicine. Yeah. Well, I don’t know when my next step is going to be, but that’s how I’m going to do it, like on a couch with a blindfold and have a very internal experience versus an external experience.
So, well, thank you for sharing all of that. I don’t want to spend a whole time talking about psychedelics, but, um, it’s something that I’m super interested in. And so I appreciate you having the conversation. Um, so let’s see. I don’t know if I have any other questions for you about anxiety or, I mean, you shared so much good stuff.
Is there anything that you just want to really make sure you say, or that we get out there to folks before we end our chat here? Yeah. There’s two things I jotted down that things that you said that made me think of different things. So I’ll just throw those out there. One was that, um, The, I think you or somebody you interviewed mentioned in another episode about the MTHFR mutation and.
Someone who’s their, body’s not good at detoxifying. And I think that that’s such an interesting dynamic with anxiety, because in many ways, it’s sort of like we have our life naturals. Do you, Sarah Wilson’s term, we’re just going through life can eat anything. It doesn’t affect their body. You can kind of like take any med.
They’d metabolize it appropriately. My husband is one of those people. Plus the life naturals. We need them to, we need them to be our pilots and our surgeons. And, um, but then we also need our highly sensitive people. We need our people who are. Genetically even designed to be affected by the modern environment.
And, you know, it’s the well trod metaphor of the Canary in the coal mine, but highly sensitive folks are our profits. And they’re certainly here to feel whatever everybody else can’t feel. And it’s an early warning system for like, Hey, these things are not serving humanity. Um, I feel it, you know, five years before you’ll feel it, but it’s happening.
And it relates to the other note I jotted down, which is that we’re living in the attention economy. And I think I would file this under false anxiety, like a source of false anxiety, but basically one aspect of modern life and why people are so in fear so much. Is in certain ways, this like banality of evil, which is that marketing right now and the attention economy, we’re really smart.
Companies are vying for our attention. That’s the commodity right now. And they’re smart. They’ve done their homework and they know behavioral psychology, they know neuroscience. And they know that if they give us a reward at an unpredictable interval, like a slot machine that will stay glued, or if they instill fear or uncertainty or doubt or controversy, we will rubber neck, we will tune in.
So they get more clicks, they get better ad revenue, but our mental health is the collateral damage. And we are many of us just bathed in waters of fear. Not only because the world is headed for certain destruction, but in many ways, because marketers are like trying to make a buck. And so I think to recognize that, you know, just recognize when you’re being sold.
And just notice when that’s coming at you and see if you can turn it off or unsubscribe or turn away or just see it for what it is, which I think can put up a little bit of a force field. And, um, so I think that that’s another reason why so many of us are just operating from a place of constant fear.
That’s such great advice. Yeah. And I think if I would, if I was to tack on anything to that, um, outside of even like social media and the news and stuff, I just remember like when I was in that, I call it now I call it toxic wellness culture because there is an element of toxicity to it. And to me, the element of toxicity that exists, there is an underlying base of fear.
Like, yes. Um, you know, they’re, they’re selling. They’re making money off of people’s fear of what they believe is wrong with them. And then there’s, and they’re selling the solution for it. Right? So the, the fear is they’re like, oh, there’s something wrong with me. I have all these weird chronic and mysterious symptoms, but my lab work is normal and my imaging is normal and on paper, I’m totally fine, but I still don’t feel fine.
So there’s a fear of the unknown there, right? Like what the fuck is going on with my body? Why does it seem like everything is just braking randomly, all of a sudden, then it doesn’t make sense. And it doesn’t follow a clear pattern, you know? Um, and I think that the wellness industry can use that uncertainty and that unknown, and they can capitalize off of the fear that’s there because if they can sell you this miracle supplement or this rare herbs that’s found in the Amazon jungle and harvested by unicorns and like, you know, it’s no known fair trade certified or whatever, like, like we’re going to buy it because.
’cause that it’s feeding or it’s temporarily, I guess maybe putting a little bit of a bandaid on our, our fear about what’s happening in our own bodies. And so the same thing that you’re saying with like the news and stuff is like, if, if we’re watching the news and we’re being bombarded with all of these messages of doom and gloom and fear and all of that, then whenever someone, especially someone in authority, like authority has a lot to do with this too, or who we perceive as authority comes along and offers us same as the wellness industry.
Like, here’s this fix, here’s this thing that you can do. And you’re going to get your life back. Like this is going to be what ends the, the pandemic or whatever racism. I mean, whatever it is. Right. And it’s all about like, finding where we have chinks in. I don’t want to call it armor. Cause I don’t want anyone to walk around with like a suit of armor on, but like, um, it’s like where we have holes that are.
Uncertainty, which everyone has those, everyone has these little things that it really bothers them, but they don’t have the answer for that thing. Right. And social media and the mainstream news media and the wellness industry, and probably the fitness industry and the diet industry. They’ve been really, really good at finding those little, those little cracks of uncertainty, where we all feel some fear and are seeking answers and they know how to like deliver.
I love that. I think that I see it as like there’s two branches of the wellness industry. And I think that the key is in discerning. And I think over here we have a very fear-based approach. That’s basically like, oh my God, did you know, you’re broken, you’re broken and you need to be fixed. You realize food is poison, everything’s poison.
You’re very fragile and everything that’s going to hurt you. And so. And it’s selling a product, but honestly, oftentimes it’s just people in their own dysfunction too. They’re not even necessarily selling anything. They’re just like, they, they feel the need to be like, I’m worried about this and let’s talk about it.
Yeah. And so, um, and I think over here on the other side, you have like some pretty pioneering thinkers who are like, Hey, wait a second. The way we’re approaching health is getting some things wrong. The body is actually pretty elegantly designed. And what we need to do is kind of get out of its way and give it the conditions that help it feel good.
And I think very much in that is like handing the power back to you and reminding you that, you know, what you need. We just don’t know that we know. What we need as we’re totally cut off from that communication and that knowing, but it’s handing the power back to you and it’s saying like, your body’s pretty good.
It needs a couple inputs that it’s not getting, you need to take away a couple of things that are irritating. The system need to take out like life inflammation, right? Like all of that. Um, and there’s good guidance to be found in that, but it’s never coming from a place of fear. It’s coming from like a stance of empowerment.
And yeah, I think we’re in a really interesting moment with all of this, but yeah. Is what’s on the menu right now? It is. We definitely are. Um, okay. So your book, the anatomy of anxiety, understanding and overcoming the body’s fear response is coming out March 22nd. Is there like a, is there a pre-order thing?
Can people pre-order the book there’s totally. Yeah. And I think that I’m learning this as I go, but I think pre-ordering matters a lot. So it does. Did you hear, if you listened to the episode with Caroline, she also has a book coming out or by the time this episode airs, her book will have come out. Um, but pre-ordering counts toward your first week of sales.
Yeah. So if you get a hundred thousand pre-orders, then that means the day your book launches, you’ve already got a hundred thousand sales week one, which I think would certainly put someone on like the New York times bestseller list, but it, it does help for you to get pre-orders. Uh, increases your chances of getting on a bestseller list.
It’s exactly right. It kind of boosts you into that sort of exposure and then it becomes exponential. Um, but to me, like I’m unattached, I want this book to help people, if that means that it said bestseller. Okay, great. If it means it falls in a few hands and those people are helped. Great. Um, I really trust that this is happening exactly as it needs to.
I do think I’m going to probably organize something where if you sign up on my website, which is Ellen vora.com, you can send it from my newsletter and then I’m going to announce. Um, and offering with the pre-order. I think it’s probably going to be like a live event, something like that. So it was like a little bonus incentive.
Um, I haven’t figured that out completely yet, but if you get on my newsletter, you will be the first informed by newsletter is very, very dormant. I have not sent anybody an email years, so, but, um, I think, you know, I, I don’t, I don’t like the idea of being super salesy, but at a certain point I’m going to be notifying.
Like here’s the bonus and yeah, but I, I hope that if anything that we’re talking about today resonates with people. If it seems like my messaging could be helpful, I hope my book can, um, fall in your hands and help you find relief from anxiety. Um, that’s amazing. I’m sure it will. I know that this is going to resonate with a lot of people listening.
So in the show notes of this episode, I will have linked your book, your website, and your Instagram accounts. So people can find you and follow you in all the places. And I wish you. All the best with your book launch and I hope you do make it on a bestseller list. I think we can manifest that for you.
Let’s do it so so much. Thank you, Ellen. I appreciate you being here. I appreciate you. This has been a great conversation.
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