Part 1 of a 5-part series
I recently had the opportunity to spend time with a highly experienced and insightful retired psychologist who has over 40 years of experience treating all ages. He not only shared his wisdom, but invited me to “go behind the scenes” and experience first-hand some of the strategies that he has used with great success.
In our several hours together, he introduced me to five modalities and had me personally experience each so I could understand a client’s experience. I feel like I was able to learn more about the mind body connection and how one’s thoughts, beliefs, and emotions impact our struggles with chronic illness, both physical and mental.
Dr. Herrick said anxiety, depression, and chronic illness are three commonalities he sees in his practice. Many can relate, whether in snippets of time throughout life or on a constant basis.
He said there is a unique feature of our human brain that no one can escape from and it plays a significant role in our overall health. “It’s not a diagnostic category … rather it is the internal battle that people have with their inner voice that criticizes, denigrates, and rips them apart all day long.”
No one is immune to this struggle. “People who struggle with long-term physical or mental issues know this phenomenon all too well,” he said.
“It’s hard to regain good mental and / or physical health when you hear this voice in your head berating you, criticizing you,” he said.
Herrick zeroes in on ways to help his clients learn healthy, practical, and non-prescription ways to approach, handle, and overcome challenges.
Through applying these strategies, it has been found that individuals can make significant improvements in their lives. He offers advice and techniques that can be used both in the office and at home.
What he finds hinders improvement, regardless of diagnostic labels, is the “overwhelming negative attitude and limiting beliefs that filter into every aspect of our lives for the chronically ill patient who has tried so many remedies and doctors to little avail.”
This isn’t solely when a bad thing happens in life, but as you go through a normal day. Take a moment as you go through the mundane tasks of today and examine how you are talking internally to yourself, about yourself, and to others.
He expanded, “If you do this readout of your inner dialogue, pay close attention to the impact of these thoughts on your attitude, on your mood, and on your relationships with other people. You will gain significant insight into what holds you back. It is good to keep striving to limit your negative thoughts to 20 percent of your total daily thoughts.”
If you are familiar with the sympathetic nervous system, you know that it’s the official term for the “fight or flight” response. Sympathetic nervous functions include: sweating in response to a tense situation or temperature change. When under stress, the sympathetic nervous system is activated and its response “is characterized by the release of large quantities of epinephrine from the adrenal gland, an increase in heart rate, an increase in cardiac output, skeletal muscle vasodilation, gastrointestinal vasoconstriction, pupillary dilation, bronchial dilation…” In other words, it prepares our body for “imminent danger.”*
We all have had exposure to “fight vs. flight” moments. It breaks down on more of an individual basis though. My sympathetic nervous system, compared to yours, or my friends would certainly fall on a different number of a hypothetical 1 to 100 scale.
How do we alter our sympathetic nervous system? Staying in “fight” mode is taxing, heavy, and can impact our health in various ways (and all other facets of our life).
“Most people who come into my office experiencing life difficulties have a sympathetic nervous system that is really charged up,” said Herrick. “While in flight/fight mode very rarely do we have good things happen to us,” he continued. “Being in a super-charged sympathetic state endangers relationships and our mental and physical stability.”
In contrast to our sympathetic nervous system with its fight/flight responses, the parasympathetic nervous system strives for calmness.
He said, “The struggle is between parasympathetic and sympathetic control of our emotions, moods, and energies. It is also a key struggle for people with chronic mental / physical illnesses. The more that our parasympathetic controls what transpires in our brain the easier and healthier our lives become.”
The first modality that Herrick had me experience is called “IASIS – microcurrent transcranial stimulation” (MCTS). It can benefit a multitude of conditions, particularly those involving anxiety and depression.
“MCTS is designed to increase the activity in the parasympathetic part of our brain, which is the center of our calming responses to the world,” explained Herrick.
Most people would like to “quiet the ever-present noise” when tackling complex decisions, life altering medical news, trying to be kinder to themselves or just seeking a meditative moment.
“MCTS helps people recognize parasympathetic functioning and assist in increasing sympathetic controls so they can manage stress and anxiety in their life.” This helps to significantly quiet that distracting, ever-present noise.
Most people can benefit from MCTS. “People with severe symptoms as well as milder symptoms can all benefit from MCTS,” he explained.
I was interested to experience MCTS. It is 9 exposures of 20 seconds each. This does not seem like a lot, though this level of exposure is very effective.
Herrick began by cleaning areas of my face and head in order to adhere the electrodes, which have wires that connect to a computer.
Once the computer program verified the electrodes were properly placed and viable, treatment started. It is a painless and quiet process. We talked about the benefits and application of this strategy during my exposure to it.
He started with the three most basic sites which “usually brings about significant activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.”
It is not unknown to have clients share that their brain is truly quiet after undergoing even the first MCTS session.
A pilot program that was conducted at University of California, San Diego right before the COVID-19 pandemic and involved soldiers with PTSD is getting re-started now.
The University of Texas also has experimental treatment programs involving MCTS focusing on problems such as addiction, anxiety and depression, and PTSD. Two of the studies have been submitted for peer review in international journals.
“In summary, the utilization of MCTS offers significant assistance to people struggling with many aspects of chronic illness. It is a very simple technique to experience. There are no significant side effects to be concerned about. This technology represents a breakthrough in altering our brain activity in a way that is positive, relatively quick, and broad-based,” Herrick explained.
Watch for more in the series, “Thumbs up to HeartMath + expert insight” on April 20, 2023