Survivor Story: Self-Compassion- Not Just a BuzzWord! with Vanessa Woodburn


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By Mariah Morgan & Eryn Martin, Mariah Morgan, and Eryn Martin. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Life. Is. Hard! (Thank you Captain Obvious). How we tell our stories and talk to ourselves directly impacts our mental health and abilities, to not only recover from brain injury, but to live a fulfilling life. In this episode we talk about how to love yourself through ALL times. Vanessa Woodburn, integrative health coach, PCS survivor, and author of Bounce Back: Reclaim Your Life After a Concussion joins us with practical advice on self care. Even if you don’t have PCS this episode applies to all brain injury survivors and we venture to say, all humans.

Topics covered in this episode:

  • Integrative health coaching: looks at the whole person: emotional, spiritual, nutritional, physical, sleep
  • Post concussion syndrome: there can be a lack of awareness in the medical community of what to do for someone with PCS, “you look fine,” “your test results are fine”
  • Vanessa found she needed to search for help on her own
  • Bounce Back: Reclaim your Life After a Concussion by Vanessa Woodburn
  • Applies to any brain injury.
  • The book focuses on self compassion while doing this work.
  • Gives a stepwise approach for recovery addressing many topics such as sleep, nutrition, exercise, self talk, telling your story, etc
  • Writing our stories (self talk)
  • Is what I’m telling myself true? We have the ability to change our story into positivity
  • Rising Strong by Renee Brown. The reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution of our stories.
  • We are neuro-biologically wired to make ourselves safe in our story. We have to search for what is true. Our stories never end and constantly change
  • Night of the Gun by David Carr: a reporter who had addiction issues that after recovery wrote about his story. He found that the way he represented his story was not actually true, he had created a safer story leaving out difficult parts. After interviewing others he found a more true version
  • The constant rehashing of your story can get you bogged down. What does the revisiting to the story do to your mental health? There have to be points along the way where you release parts of your story so you don’t get stuck. Sometimes you need space from it rather than living in it
  • “If you fight for your limitations you get to keep them” (Jim Kwik). Am I putting a lot of energy to stay in a certain place that doesn’t feel good? You can choose to put your energy into moving forward (16:12)
  • It's a balancing act of listening to what you need but not getting stuck in a spot
  • Self compassion: with all these things going on, what do I need today? The answer might be different then what it was yesterday. Is today the day to push yourself? (18:45)
  • Self-compassion and Self-care: what will nourish you? Your brain, your body, and your mental health? Self-care considerations:
  • moving your body,
  • how is your sleep?
  • how are you connecting with yourself on the inside, building in quiet so that you can actually listen to what you need?
  • Bring it to a practical level.
  • Kristen Neff, researcher- self care has a ying and yang, a fierceness to take care of yourself and to ask yourself “what do I need.” It is a push and a pull, the both/and
  • Your standards for what you need change daily. Just because you are resting and caring for yourself doesn’t mean you have to let your goals go. It just changes the path to get there
  • Balance- there are many ups and downs that happen at a fast speed. We have to be kind to ourselves and recognize that our needs change
  • Rigidity is not practical. Have to be flexible
  • Have to be nice to yourself through the process
  • “O my gosh, but I said i was going to do this” (25:55)
  • Self-compassion and kindness to ourselves allows us to change our self talk--if it’s not going as I planned then say to yourself: I’m doing my best, I am human.
  • Instead of being all in or all out- build in time to take stock and see how you are today, what are the boundaries, what’s ok for me today and what is not. Bring this into how you plan.
  • Plan on a shorter term basis because our needs change quickly
  • “Being kind, friendly, supportive and caring to yourself in how we plan, talk to yourself and carry through on that is really a tool. It is something you can keep in your tool belt for life, not just when things are going bad but all the time” (27:18)
  • Shifting self talk
  • Need to rephrase how we talk to ourselves. Shift it from my struggle to the struggle, shift I can’t do this to “I'm learning how to…”
  • Shift the standards we have of ourselves and be forgiving like how you would be to someone else
  • The conversations we have with ourselves tend to be more harsh then what we would ever tell anyone else.
  • We judge ourselves harshly, can you talk to yourself like someone you love?
  • “If you say mean things to a friend, you lose a friend but you’re stuck with yourself so you should make nice... The person you have the most conversations with in your life is yourself...Need to speak to yourself kindly.” (29:55)
  • Live Wired by Dr. David Eagleman: neuroscientist. Most exciting definition of a brain. He describes the brain as a living, breathing, dynamic, and electric fabric. In a concussion the fabric has been pulled, a concussion is a shearing pulling force to the brain. It being electric means that it is changeable. It is the potato head theory, you can always shift and move things around Just like Mr. Potato Head
  • Need awareness of self talk to be kind and supportive on the inside--you can’t get it all from the outside
  • You can rewire kindness to yourself in how you build your brain and move forward.
  • Being positive requires training. Be forgiving to yourself. You don’t create a new habit right away.
  • We are wired for the negativity bias, it is our brain’s way of keeping us safe (i.e. if you are aware of the big, bad, and ugly, you can protect yourself from ). Your brain is always going to choose a story that keeps you in the same place because it is safe and known. Building a new habit requires celebration when you stick with it, recognition when you’ve fallen off--you can always get back on.
  • Getting through the trauma
  • Do you want to go through the rest of your life saying you can’t do XXX?
  • Can start to slowly reintegrate back in whatever it is that scares you. Doesn’t need to be 0-60. In this episode, we related it to biking which is the activity that Vanessa got injured doing
  • Showing weakness is a shift but serves as a good lesson especially for our kids. It’s ok to show vulnerabilities, be open, and accepting. Kids don’t need to grow up learning they need to be perfect. You can role model positivity and reality.
  • Asking for help
  • Learn to ask for help
  • Receive help: feels good to the giver
  • Reach out, ask for help, give help, and receive help
  • “By allowing someone else to fill your bucket you are also filling another bucket” (43:25)
  • Pressing the fear boundary. It’s ok to let your guard down once and a while.
  • Allow others in. “It's a very human thing. We are meant to live in connection with others.” (45:17)
  • Wisdom to PCS survivors (47:15)
  • The science around concussion care is evolving so rapidly
  • Research online for a concussion care clinician--often found in the rehab world: physical therapists, chiropractors. They look at concussions as treatable, rehabilitable injuries
  • They know how to assess where you are and treat it
  • Can still be beneficial years after injury
  • Complete Concussion Management--train professionals all over North America
  • It’s great to see them right away but you can go any time and you may need to go back
  • It is never too late to seek treatment and help
  • “It’s never too late! There is always something you can do to change your story!” (49:15)
  • Reach out to those who can help you. Build confidence and get the tools you need to respond to things in a way that is empowering, has potential, and hopeful that you can make changes and move forward (50:55)
  • There is positivity to be had in all of this.

Links to any resources mentioned: Thinking of buying one of the books? Click the links we provide here to help support the show!

Follow Vanessa:

Instagram: @vanessa_woodburn

Facebook: Vanessa Woodburn Health Coach



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46 episodes