Let go of the fear holding you back from doing what you love
One of the first things that Dr Sarno recommends, and really turned a corner for me, is to stop fearing physical activity and resume normality as you were before your chronic symptoms hit you. Depending on what you're feeling this will be different everyone but the idea is to resume whatever it is that you did before and you are now fearing to do, because of your symptoms.
Motion is lotion
This section focuses more on those suffering from fear of movement, so it might not be directly relevant to you if your symptoms are digestive, skin, or other types of chronic issues. However the principle is the same - challenge yourself, face your fears and get back to doing what you enjoy.
Movement might seem impossible at first if you’re in a lot of bodily pain, weakness or reduced mobility, but if you're like me, then fear is probably holding you back much more than pain is.
Start slowly, try Yoga
I started really slowly, walking a little each day then once I felt safe doing this I started doing really gentle yoga, and just generally moving around the house more and not fearing to move.
Yoga was so important in my recovery process that I totally fell in love with it and once I was recovered enough to do it, I went to yoga teacher training in India. I'm so excited to be able to offer bespoke yoga classes to the TMS community now! Get more information on that by clicking here.
Talk to yourself with confidence, not fear
Something as simple as sitting upright when I used to believe a chair would kill me. I gradually realised that I was safe and wasn't broken and the chair wouldn't hurt me, so I started to sit up. To a certain extent at first, I had to face the pain and keep reminding myself that I was safe, but when it didn't get any worse - I saw that as a win and I carried on 'upping the exposure' every time. I wasn't broken, there was nothing wrong, I was safe, REPEAT.
I talked kindly to my brain instead of my previous frustrated pissed off fed-up default mode, and as I did so, my confidence in this diagnosis grew and my tension started to release...
Knowing that you are already well and solidifying your mindset is key to convincing yourself that you are well and there’s nothing structurally wrong with you (more in the MINDSET section later). We need to lovingly convince ourselves that movement will build our bodies not break them. As I did these things, with that new faith and confidence, I gradually got better. Not completely, but enough to further convince me that this was most certainly TMS and give me the hope I needed to carry on.
Don’t overdo it
I’m not suggesting you sign up to a triathlon if that was your jam before, but maybe dust off your trainers and get out for a walk or a short bike ride. Float about in a pool and let your body move again in weightlessness if you can, it's so incredibly therapeutic to release yourself from the fear and feel movement again no matter how small.
Reach out to me if you'd like to take part in my Yoga for TMS classes, they're suitable for any ability level.
Embrace the things you used to enjoy
Demand your life back! Love the outside world again, rediscover the joys you used to have before, like gardening, cooking, dancing, music and socialising! You’re re-teaching your body and your primitive brain that you are in fact OK, totally safe and these activities cannot hurt you. My fear caused me most of my flare-ups around this time, self-doubt can be utterly debilitating. It might take some time for your body to ease up and let you do these things without fear...just be kind and patient with yourself, and listen to your body if it needs to rest. But keep going.
Repeat repeat repeat
Encourage yourself to keep moving, especially when you don’t want to, and eventually, your brain will catch up and realise that your fear has dissipated and you don’t need the symptom flares anymore. Some people can recover fully from TMS just by working on this point alone, but not me...I kept going. I got to a point where the feeling I was getting from practising yoga was far outweighing the feeling of fear of doing it, and it became one of my new obsessions.
Finding something you really love doing is important, so it's not a chore and you look forward to it every day...whatever that is for you, do it and do it often...
Online support to get you moving
There are certain TMS support groups on Facebook that focus on 'Exposure Therapy', such as Our Limitless Mind by TMS survivor and coach Matt Iac, based in Australia. Exposure Therapy is basically another name for the practice of getting back to what you used to do or facing what you fear the most. There’s so much support out there, get involved and reach out to others doing the same as you, it's comforting, encouraging and you no longer feel like you’re suffering alone - you’ll find motivation and understanding like never before. The TMS communities online are like online therapy 24 hours a day, it really is amazing and literally the only reason I go on Facebook anymore.
You can join my private Yog for TMS with Dani Fagan Facebook Group, we encourage and support each other to move without fear, whether you take part in the classes or not.
One resource that I found particularly motivating during the tail end of my recovery was The Mind and Fitness Podcast - a fabulous weekly show hosted by TMS survivor competitive weightlifter and Crossfitter Eddy Lindenstein. His own story and motivating interviews further convinced me to not fear exercise and I gradually reincorporated the intense weight-bearing routines I once loved but no longer practised due to fear. He also runs a private Facebook group for all things TMS, check it out here - TMS - The Mindbody Syndrome.
Where to next?
Uncovering your suppressed negative feelings has a miraculous effect on your physical body. Like releasing a steam valve, they need somewhere to vent.
Click here to continue to the next section (Emotional Discovery)