Taking the Fear Out of Coronavirus

Let’s talk about the coronavirus and how best to approach it realistically while improving overall health, peace of mind, and enjoyment of life. In my 8-min video and the text below, you’ll find some valuable tips about how to reduce stress, stay optimistic and maintain wellbeing.

In a fortunate synchronicity, I’m launching GraceFull360, a simple, affordable program using evidence-based tools and joyful spiritual practices to optimize health and wellbeing. It’s starting on the Spring equinox, March 20. I’ve put my whole heart into developing this program for you, and there couldn’t be a more auspicious time to turn the temporary panic over coronavirus into long lasting resilience and mind/body/spiritual wisdom. We’ll be following six gentle paths together, and supporting one another in focusing on what’s beautiful, positive and GraceFull in our world, every day of the year (virus alert or not) ===> Register Here.

TIP #1: Social connection.

Find a trusted friend and share your concerns. Sometimes just speaking our fears out loud helps diffuse fear. I’m writing this note in collaboration with my cherished friend and colleague, Dr. Gilah Rosner, who is also my partner in GraceFull360. Many of you have met Gilah at one of our retreats in Santa Fe, Nashville or Italy. It really helps to have a trusted friend with whom to share the good and the worrisome. Social isolation significantly increases inflammatory and stress markers, fuels rumination, and decreases the immune response. The antidote is relationship. Human beings are hard-wired to connect.

TIP #2: Mind your breathing.

Slow, controlled breathing techniques have been used for centuries to induce calm because they are SUPER fast, and they work! These forms of breathwork marry the prefrontal cortex to the midbrain. They increase Heart Rate Variability like other forms of focus exercise. Clinically they can be used to quell excessive arousal, like panic attacks. I call this technique “Gearshift Breathing” because it short circuits negative thoughts and quickly shifts us into a mindful space that opens us to calm and peacefulness. You watched me demonstrate this technique in the video.  It’s a terrific go-to tool that reduces anxiety fast. Here are written directions.

Sit upright in a comfortable position, with a straight spine and chin parallel to the floor. Breathe in slowly through the nose, and exhale slowly through pursed lips as if you are breathing out through a straw. This slows the breathing way down to 4-6 breaths a minute. You’ll notice that after you release all the air, there is a delay before the next natural breath. Don’t hold your breath, just let the rhythm evolve naturally. Only 1-2 minutes of this breathing is enough to trigger the hormonal drip that calms your fear circuits as you become more present.

Tip #3: Don’t freak out!

There is an enormous amount of fear being fomented in the media, and in our communities about coronavirus. Largely, because it is new, and we don’t know what to expect. 

One thing we do know for certain, is that fear drives us into a ‘fight or flight’ response and suppresses our immune system. So, calming anxiety is of paramount importance in staying immunologically robust. If you’ve read anything by our good friends, Dr. Bruce Lipton or Dr. Candace Pert, you understand how stressful thoughts and beliefs affect our neuroendocrine system right down to our gene expression. Yes, fear is felt right down to the cellular level. This is the essence of the Mind-Body connection, something I have devoted myself to for decades.

Stress is largely perception. Your bodymind interprets your world and releases the chemistry that matches the world you create with your perceptions. Stressful thoughts and beliefs change the neural pathways in your brain and cause cortisol and adrenaline to overflow into your bloodstream, resulting in a cascade of cellular events that predispose your body to illness. 

Unchecked fear and worry can result in the nocebo effect – i.e. a negative outcome in health that is the direct consequence of relentless worry and unrealistic negative thoughts. 

TIP #4: Stick to the facts.

Get your information from reliable sources and don’t let yourself get highjacked by the internet or social media. A few reliable sources that you can consult via the Internet are Dr. Anthony Fauci from the Centers for Disease Control; Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN; and the new Coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, Dr. Deborah Birx. The New York Times has a carefully updated daily coronavirus update, as does CNBC. You can subscribe to either or both of these.

TIP #5:  Listen to the stories you tell yourself, and consciously choose a positive spin.

With the information at hand, it’s just as easy to spin a powerful, healing story, rather than a story that makes you sick… or at the least, a neutral story that is realistically hopeful about what the future may bring. And, as I say in the video, you can counteract the brain’s negativity bias – a survival strategy that causes us to be more affected by the bad than the good – by taking time to savor the little good things that happen every day: the song of a robin; the taste of a crisp apple; the smile of a stranger… Enjoying sensations of love, warmth and goodness in your body for 10-20 seconds actually results in the formation of new, more positive neural networks.

TIP #6:  Refocus your attention on something pleasurable and relaxing.

Relax and enjoy whatever and whenever you can. Read. Talk on the phone. Do a puzzle. Knit or paint. Binge watch your favorite show. Whatever outlet gives you pleasure, go for it. This is good medicine at times when rumination threatens to take over. Even going outside and looking up at the sky expands your attentional field and calms down the worry centers of the brain.

Tip #7: Mind your lifestyle

Your mission, both in times of epidemics, and all times is to keep yourself as strong and healthy as you can be.  You already know how… but let us give you some friendly reminders on how lifestyle has HUGE impact on building and maintaining immune strength.

Of course, you want to follow conventional advice, like frequently washing hands, especially before touching your face, staying away from crowds in enclosed spaces, and remaining at home if you do catch a cold, flu or respiratory virus.

Stay hydrated.  This means not only drinking enough but getting the quenching structured water stored within fruits and vegetables.

Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This means eating the rainbow of whole fruits and vegetables (organic is best), clean, pasteured proteins and wild fish, probiotic foods like natural sauerkraut, plain yogurt, kefir, kombucha, healthy fats like EVOO, cultured organic butter, pasteured eggs, avocados and nuts. 

Ginger, garlic, onions, greens, aromatic herbs, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne, and miso are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods. Eat some of them in generous amounts every day.

A large part of immunity begins in your gut, and this is a time to stabilize any signs of digestive distress or leaky gut. If a continuous state of low-grade inflammation and the stress signals associated with it, arise in the gut, that’s less immune power to ward off infection. Take it easy on (or even eliminate) gluten, sugar, artificial sweeteners, dairy proteins (if you are sensitive), refined oils, processed foods, and overuse of NSAIDs and antibiotics.  These can interfere with your healthy gut microbiome.  A little red wine would be in order, but not excessive amounts. Don’t kid yourself… alcohol is sugar.

Restore yourself through rest and sleep. Your body is repairing itself while you sleep. Your psyche is repairing itself while you sleep. Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, reports on recent research studies showing how sleep triggers rhythmic waves of life blood and cerebrospinal fluid “that appear to function much like a washing machine’s rinse cycle”, flushing the brain of toxic waste during sleep. Enough said?

Move a little.  Even gentle exercise is great for your mood, helps the lymph system flush out toxins, and helps keep immunity strong. Better yet, put on some music and dance like no one is watching!  Make sure to do some serious shaking.  Shaking mitigates the cortisol stress response, releases tension, blockages and negativity, and as a bonus, evokes powerful feelings of bliss and joy.

Step outside and commune with nature. This powerful connection is so calming, that it is rated the #1 stress reducer in cultures around the world. As a bonus, 15-10 minutes outside boosts your vitamin D as well.

Be prepared. Preparations not only help when and if they are needed, but they reduce stress beforehand. Make a plan that suits your age, lifestyle, and social connections. Stock up on food, herbal remedies, toilet paper, Kleenex.  Know who you’ll call, where you will go if healthcare is needed, and how you can optimize your budget in case of work loss.

Last, but surely not least, Gilah offers us some simple herbal advice. Gilah is not only a molecular geneticist and cracker jack western scientist, she is also a fully trained herbalist. In another auspicious synchronicity, the first herbal remedy that Gilah teaches us how to make in our GraceFull360 program is Four Thieves spray, anecdotally known for its use in warding off infectious diseases!   

TIP # 8:  Try some well-documented herbal and natural remedies.  If you want to order high quality products online, we love Tonic Herb Shop.  Co-owner Ashley Davis or one of her qualified staff can offer guidance on their hand-crafted products, as well as remedies from top-shelf, reputable commercial, herbal medicine companies. We especially love their Elderberry Syrup, Elderberry Chai, Immune-Building Broth Packets, and Fire Cider.

Here are a few of Gilah’s favorite herbal and supplements for immune support.

Elderberry is one of the stars of herbal antivirals. Not only has it been used in traditional medicine around the world for centuries, there are excellent double-blind, placebo studies from Israel, Norway and other countries. The easiest and tastiest way to get elderberry medicine is in a syrup. It’s delicious.

‘Medicinal’ Mushrooms are highly regarded throughout the herbal community for their immune boosting ability. Loaded with polysaccharides, antioxidants and numerous other constituents, mushrooms such as shitaki, maitake, chaga, reishi and cordyceps are available as liquid extracts or capsules. Shitaki, of course, makes a tasty addition to soups and stir-fry dishes.

Fire Cider – wow!  This spicy, sweet and sour tonic is traditionally taken to fan the fires of immunity and decongest the sinuses. The vinegar is alkalinizing, and is infused with immune boosting garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, cayenne and other healing foods.

Adaptogens are tonics, or everyday building and strengthening herbs, that bolster resistance to stress, so they keep adrenals and overall immunity strong. Revered worldwide, and often considered more food-like than herbal, adaptogens include such herbs as ashwagandha (an Ayurvedic favorite), eleuthero (formerly known as Siberian ginseng), rhodiola, and astragalus (especially good immune booster). Tulsi, the Queen of Herbs, aka Holy basil, is a delicious and gentle adaptogen and nervine (quiets the nerves).  You can drink this tea every day.

Nervines are herbs that help you relax.  Favorites include tulsi, lemon balm, bee balm, lavender, scullcap and chamomile. All make a soothing tea, and as a bonus you get to inhale their lovely fragrance.

Vitamin C can become depleted in times of internal or external stress. You might consider vitamin C supplementation at the first sign of illness. Gilah likes liposomal vitamin C for its excellent absorption. Here and Here are two good sources.

Vitamin D3 modulates both innate and adaptive immune responses, and many North Americans are deficient.  Of course, vitamin D is also essential for calcium and bone homeostasis. Make sure to get it from a reputable company.

Essential oil inhaler. We have friends that swear by periodic sniffing of essential oils to stay healthy and calm. You can even make these inhalers yourself. For gentle calm and gentle seasonal support try a mixture of peppermint, lavender and lemon.  Or to ramp up the immune support try a mixture of clove, lemon, cinnamon, rosemary and eucalyptus.

You can take small, daily doses of herbs to boost your immune system, and you can take larger, medicinal doses if you become ill. In case of illness, it’s best to be guided by a professional. So, If you’re interested in herbal medicine, now would be a good time to develop a relationship with a qualified herbalist in your area, who can consult with you to develop a personalized plan.

And finally, try to think of the coronavirus as an opportunity rather than a threat. Rush, worry and stress are the pandemic that will persist long after the virus recedes. So, in addition to stocking up on a month’s worth of toilet paper and canned beans, remember to invest in rewiring your brain and nervous system for calm, healing, and optimizing your immune system. This is the perfect time to invest in your health and your happiness by joining me and Gilah in GraceFull360. Do yourself and your loved ones a real service and Register Now. We can’t wait to take this healing journey with you!

And if you found our coronavirus resource helpful, please share it with friends and family.

Blessings,

Joan

A reboot for your brain, A balm for your soul…

Ramakrishna said, “The winds of God’s grace are always blowing. It is for us to raise the sails.”

So, let’s uplift our sails and our souls, and navigate the vast ocean of life together! I’ve been pouring my heart into GraceFull360, my new interactive online program designed to gently guide us down 6 simple paths toward daily optimism, wellbeing, and grace-fullness. The journey will encourage us to focus on the beauty and truth of who we are, and what it means to live fully human.

I’d like to personally invite you:

I can honestly say that since I’ve been working on this project, I actually feel happier, and my sense of spirituality has been renewed and invigorated. So, I know you will L-O-V-E our journey together.

So gentle… so heartening… so informative… and so affordable too! Come sail away with me to GraceFull360. Doors opening this Sunday, Feb 23.
Love,
Joanie

P.S. Register between Feb 23 and Mar 12 and receive a digital goodie bag from me, including a song from the fabulous Karen Drucker!

Co-Creating with Divine Mind

Joan is interviewed by Ande Anderson as part of the Believe and Receive summit sponsored by AVAIYA University & Enlightenment Village.  The entire summit is available if you’d like to hear it.

Joan joins Jayson Gaddis on the Smart Couple Podcast

Joan joins Jayson Gaddis, host of the Smart Couple podcast and founder of The Relationship School, to discuss making meaning & developing safety & resiliency through relationships.

In this podcast, you’ll learn how to dig deep into your self-belief, overcome victimhood, and increase connection.

Blessed Festival of Light

The Festivals of Light are almost here! Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, and Christmas are all expressions of the power of light to extinguish darkness. It has been a difficult year worldwide, and now is the time to stop, exhale and refill ourselves with light. Letting joy and hope rekindle in our hearts may be the most powerful gift we can give to ourselves, our families, and our world in these pivotal times.

I am sending you light, love, and gratefulness for being part of my life, and a thread in the fabric of goodness and kindness that sustains us all. The Season of Light is sacred, but can also be a time of rush and hurry, as we wrap up the old year, plan holiday celebrations, travel, shop, cook…. and all that this season entails.

This year I am committed to pause and reflect to savor the sacred reality of the season. My husband Gordon and I are taking two days of personal retreat December 20 and 21 (the solstice).

We will retrospect the year past, give thanks that we’re still here (a daily practice in our mid-70’s), meditate, pray, journal, take long walks, do a little yoga, and fast from technology.

The solstice is also our 15th anniversary, so a little champagne is in order as well!

If there is a single wish I have for you in this season, it is that you can take at least a day for retrospection, meaning-making, and gratitude.

In preparation for winding down I am finishing up my holiday shopping this week. I wanted to share a couple of my favorite gift ideas with you. The first is my little book, Pocketful of Miracles, A Book of Daily Prayers and Practices that follows the seasons. There is a whole community of people (maybe you’re one of them) that reads this book daily- some for many years now.

And newsflash! Pocketful of Miracles is available now on Audible as well, if you’d like to listen to me reading it to you each morning.

Another great holiday gift is the art of one of my dearest friends, Sara Novenson. She is a mystic, a sage, and an artist of the soul. I met her almost 20 years ago on a visit to Santa Fe. I am now a collector of her art- I have 5 of her paintings, two of her books, and her newest creation- a deck of oracle cards featuring the feminine sacred archetypes that we know as the women of the bible. Sara embodies feminine wisdom, grace, and beauty as does her art. Please check it out here.

But first, here are two snippets from the seed thoughts for the solstice, December 21 (9:19 pm this year) and December 22.

December 21: Peace be with you. The darkest day of the year has dawned, and the Great Medicine Wheel has shifted from the West to the North. We have descended to the deepest levels of archetypal wisdom, and on this day we come to rest. The silence of winter covers the land, and even the waters are still and frozen. Their clarity reflects the purity of heart that we are claiming in this season.

December 22: The time has come for celebration, for the Light has been reborn. The animals feel the stirring of the lifeforce deep within their dens The seeds begin to stir within the womb of Mother Earth, and we know that the cycle of life will continue for another year, Rejoice, for today the time of light is greater than the time of darkness.

Keep the Faith, dear one, and know that you are loved,
Joanie

Celebrate a Rainbow of Traditions – Sacred Santa Fe 2019

Let’s celebrate a rainbow of spiritual traditions!

I can’t wait to share some of Santa Fe’s most beautiful sacred sites and traditions with you during “Sacred Santa Fe“… a magical adventure in Santa Fe and surrounding areas, December 11-16, 2019.  Immerse yourself in the natural beauty and spiritual ambience of New Mexico during the Season of Light.

Here’s a personal invite from my heart ♥ to yours:

We’ll travel by day to sacred sites and artists’ galleries including a rare visit to the Pojoaque Pueblo on their Feast Day. There we’ll meet sculptor Roxanne Swentzell for a private gallery tour. Here’s one of her magnificent works of art called “Held”.

http://www.roxanneswentzell.net

And here I am with Gilah, posing with one of Roxanne’s sculptures in her Tower Gallery.

Each day we’ll return to IHM retreat center owned by the Carmelite sisters for fabulous food including some joyous interactive evenings together. You will have ample opportunity to delight in unique holiday shopping opportunities—affordable and beautiful New Mexico crafts, art, clothing and more.

THIS RETREAT WILL SELL OUT – PLEASE REGISTER NOW TO SECURE YOUR PLACE.

Give yourself the holiday gift of this celebration of spiritual diversity in the company of like-hearted people… I’m so looking forward to sharing this beautiful experience with you.

Blessings,

Joan

See Joan in the Heal Documentary

NOW AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX! Ever wonder if the mind-body connection is real? Try this simple 40-second experiment that Author & Biologist Joan Borsenko leads us through to prove just how powerful your imagination really is!

HEAL is available on DVD and all Digital Platforms (iTunes/Amazon/Vimeo).

Purchase here:   www.healdocumentary.com/purchase.html

Celebrate a Rainbow of Traditions – Sacred Santa Fe

Let’s celebrate a rainbow of spiritual practices!

I can’t wait to share some of Santa Fe’s most beautiful sacred sites and traditions with you during “Sacred Santa Fe”… a magical adventure in Santa Fe and surrounding areas, December 11-16, 2018.

Here’s a personal invite from my heart ♥ to yours:

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty and spiritual ambience of New Mexico during the Season of Light. We’ll travel by day to sacred sites and artists’ galleries including a rare visit to the Pojoaque Pueblo on their Feast Day. There we’ll meet sculptor Roxanne Swentzell for a private gallery tour. Here’s one of her magnificent works of art called “Held”.

http://www.roxanneswentzell.net

We’ll return to IHM retreat center owned by the Carmelite sisters for fabulous food and joyous interactive evenings together. You will have ample opportunity to delight in unique holiday shopping opportunities—affordable and beautiful New Mexico crafts, art, clothing and more.

ONLY 5 SPACES LEFT – PLEASE REGISTER NOW TO SECURE YOUR PLACE.

Give yourself the holiday gift of this celebration of spiritual diversity in the company of like-hearted people… I’m so looking forward to sharing this beautiful experience with you.

Blessings,
Joan

Writing Down the Light

Fall is on its way, and with it my annual east coast writing retreat at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA (November 16-18). (click here to register) I’ve taught at Kripalu for many years. It’s always a great experience to be there- good people, fine yoga, excellent workshops, and delicious food! Fall in New England is cozy and beautiful, a time to turn inward and harvest the wisdom of life through a deep exploration of our personal stories.

We are all storytellers whether you consider yourself a writer or not.

Eastern philosophies teach that the stories we tell ourselves are central to how we perceive and interact with the world. In recent years Western science has caught on. In fact there’s a new approach to medicine called narrative medicine. So much of our physical and emotional lives- as well as our behavior- is driven by the stories we tell ourselves.

For the past five years I’ve been facilitating wildly wonderful writing retreats- a time for consciously crafted storytelling. Some people come back every year and continue the process of writing their way to health and happiness.

Here’s a description of the workshop, which combines writing with a focus on how story changes our brain and our life…and how to craft an evolutionary narrative.

Writing Down the Light

The stories we habitually tell ourselves change our brain circuitry, our relationships, and our path through the world. They can elevate life to heaven on earth, or drop us unceremoniously into the fire.

In this weekend writing workshop led by a New York Times best-selling author known for her tender exploration of the human spirit, you have the opportunity to rewrite your own narrative and discover the vector of love that forms the invisible warp of light upon which your life story is loomed.

Join Joan Borysenko to enter the realm of the soul and:

  • Explore your life myths, both sacred and profane
  • Harvest the wisdom of deep discontent
  • Use the written word to transform darkness into light
  • Learn the arc of transformational storytelling
  • Change your brain and your life by changing your story
  • Discover the relationship of story to affective neurobiology

CE Credits are available from Kripalu at a small additional charge for Certified Counselors, Psychologists and Social Workers.

Click here to register

 

The Universe Insists on My Makeover

Every so often, it’s good to change things up, to re-invent ourselves, to grow and to evolve.  Sometimes we initiate those changes, and sometimes the Universe makes that decision for us.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness – especially kindness to myself. You know, even though I’ve taught self-care, self-love, self-compassion for years, I could be a lot kinder to myself. I haven’t been mindful enough of the natural changes in my life and my body. I’m happy, and a little surprised to say, that I’m going to be 73 this October. This really makes me think about redefining my priorities in life, and asking, “How well am I taking care of my health?  How well am I taking care of my relationships? What is most important to me now?”

I realize the tendency I have (and maybe you do too?) to go along, doing the things I’ve always done.  But now, I realize it is time to stop, take a breath, and look with self-compassion at all the areas of my life. At 73, in the Hindu tradition, this would be the time to take off into the forest and say, “Life as a householder and as a careerist is done. It’s time to pay more attention to your inner life.”

I do want to spend more time meditating, journaling and reflecting, and looking back at the patterns of my life (which is one of my favorite spiritual activities). I do, in fact, a memoir retreat called, “The Spiritual Art of Memoir, Finding the Invisible Thread of Grace”.  Whenever I teach it, I write a couple of my life’s stories, which is always followed by a big “Aha” moment – I learn something so valuable every time. This “metabolism” of my life is something I want to do more of. By giving my soul a chance to speak, I am doing a great kindness to myself.

I truly love my work. I love to learn, to share, to write. But my typical pattern of work, more work, then hopping on an airplane to give a lecture or retreat to work some more, sometimes comes at the expense of other priority activities, like exercising, stretching, meditating, writing, and just being with myself and those I love. I am blessed with a wonderful husband, wonderful children and 7 grandkids, and many wonderful friends, all of whom I want to enjoy more time with, as time goes on.

Here’s what happened a few weeks ago. The Universe demanded that I make over the whole way I live my life, and how I deal with myself.

I want to start this story by telling you I’m perfectly fine and healthy.

I had an episode of transient global amnesia. It sounds much worse that it is. I was sitting with my husband and a friend, having breakfast and chatting. Later in day, I had the sudden awareness that I had no recollection of those 2 hours. It would have been much more distressing if I hadn’t already heard about this from a friend who had a similar experience.

I had an MRI which was completely normal, and I’ve learned that fortunately, transient global amnesia is rare, seemingly harmless and unlikely to happen again. Interestingly, it is related to migraines, with which I’ve had a lifelong history.

What else happened that week?  I hadn’t been kind to myself. I way over-committed myself with a local conference, friends visiting from out-of-town, along with my normal, heavy workload. Not to mention re-wiring the house with new internet service. Then my computer died. I was stressed. I overlooked the little warning symptoms of impending migraine and tried to push through. Over-commitment is so common in our busy, busy culture, even for a “stress management expert” like me.

So, what is my new plan to manage my stress, and to be kinder to myself?

I’m working shorter stints, no more than 4 hours at a time. I’m taking my entire weekend for R&R, unless there is something truly urgent to complete. I’m exercising. I’m stretching. I’m eating mindfully. I’m meditating.

And every time someone asks me to do something, even though my heart leaps with the desire to do it for them, I’m not automatically saying “yes” right away. I’m being mindful and saying, “I’ll get back to you shortly about that.”

And now, I’m making a promise to you. That I’m going to be much more kind to myself.

And I hope you’ll make the same promise to someone –that you are going to be much kinder to yourself!

So, that is the makeover that the Universe insisted I do.  What will your makeover look like?

Warmly,

Joan

P.S. My website has gotten a makeover too!  We’re adding more free content, and it’s easier to navigate. There’s also a daily quote from my new audio version of “Pocketful of Miracles”. Check it out at https://joanborysenko.com