Beat Autoimmune with Baby Steps: Prioritize Emotional Wellbeing

“When you can maintain a level of inner tranquility no matter what is happening around you, you can avoid the damage that stress causes to your health.”

– Gerald S. Cohen, D. Hom., D.C. & founder of the Center for the Healing Process

Step 4: Prioritize Emotional Wellbeing

Healing from autoimmune disorders is a holistic journey that involves mind, body and spirit. It can feel overwhelming — especially if you think you have to address everything all at once. I’m breaking it down into baby steps to help simplify your journey back to vibrant health. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to check out the first 3 steps:

The evidence is clear that autoimmune conditions and stress in all its many forms – chronic, acute, physical, mental, emotional, etc. — go hand in hand.1 Even childhood trauma2 and inherited stress3 have been scientifically linked to adult autoimmune disorders.

Cancer counselor Daniel Kennedy has spent 20 years working with cancer patients and observes:

“Across the board I see emotional pain of unresolved grief or trauma–some type of major loss: a loss of marriage, loss of freedom, loss of a job or a loved one. Instead of grieving adequately, they have suppressed it. It has to come out somehow and often it will manifest in some kind of illness.”

Bottom line, if you want to heal from or prevent the advent or progression of autoimmune conditions, you must cultivate your emotional wellbeing in addition to focusing on the body. Research suggests that efforts to promote physical wellbeing that do not also tend to mental and emotional wellbeing may be doomed to fail.4

What is Emotional Wellbeing?

You can think of emotional wellbeing as a deep state of peace that abides, even during life’s ups and downs. Spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle uses the metaphor of modern life being a spinning wheel, and peace being the still center at the hub.

How can you maintain your “still center” in the midst of messy modern life?

Nurture yourself. Feel and let go of difficult emotions. Actively cultivate positive emotional states. And, seek and regularly practice ways to relax.

1. Love Yourself First

When you love yourself first, you proactively “fill your bucket” which, in turn, gives you energy for the important people and activities in your life.

Make a “Fill Me Up“ List

Make a list of things that nurture you. These can be easy to do and free, like calling a good friend, taking a bath, doing some gentle yoga poses, or going for a walk — or just being — in nature.

Do One “Fill Me Up“ Every Day

Schedule and DO one of those self-nurturing things every day.

Speak Kindly to Yourself

Harsh self-criticism is a form of toxic stress. Do you have a nickname or affectionate name you can use to address yourself, like sweetheart, sweetie, honey, dear one, or precious?

Plan Something Special for YOU

What have you always wanted to do for yourself? Visit a national park, do a yoga retreat, take an art class, a weekend away… or just take some time off work to rest and recharge. Will you look into it? 

2. Release Suppressed Emotions

When you hold on to negative or difficult emotions, you harm yourself mentally, emotionally and physically. Long-held anger, grudges, sadness, resentment, regret, worry, fear and unresolved emotional trauma take up real estate in your brain, affect your attitude, and get lodged in your cells, which is a set up for disease. Feel and release these trapped emotions and ease into peace, which is where healing happens.

Forgive Everyone — Including Yourself

Forgive anyone who ever hurt you. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, and it doesn’t mean you have to be buddies with someone who “wronged” you. Forgiveness is ultimately a gift of freedom you give yourself. Most importantly, forgive yourself.

Tap It Out

Try tapping key acupressure points, aka Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) as a tool to help you release stress, emotional trauma, worry and anxiety. In less than 5 minutes you can find freedom from whatever is stressing you out.

Release Deep Grief

Grieving is a normal and healthy response to loss – of a loved one or the end of a relationship, or even your own loss of function. It’s the unexpressed, long-held grief that can get stuck in your cells and harm your health. Try EFT or go see a grief counselor, therapist, or energy practitioner to release deep grief.

Just Sit

Sometimes we avoid sitting without distraction because we are afraid of what might come up emotionally. But, this is an opportunity to allow whatever arises — like tears, to flow, and that is so healing. Start with five minutes and work up to ten or twenty. 

3. Increase Positive Emotions

Kelly Turner, Ph.D. & author of Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds studies people who survived cancer, even when they were given little hope. Increasing positive emotions is one of the traits common to all survivors. Dr. Turner notes that cultivating positive emotions requires daily practice. And, she emphasizes, you don’t have to be happy all day long, you just have to make the effort to laugh or be grateful every day.

Laugh More

Norman Cousins wrote a book called Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient about the power of laughter (and high dose vitamin C) in helping him heal from his “incurable” heart disease. 

Start a Gratitude Journal

Emotions like compassion, love and gratitude strengthen the immune system and synchronize the body’s systems. Consider starting a gratitude journal and adding to it each night before bed.5

Choose Kindness

Science shows that kindness heals wounds faster. Arguments and hostility cause wounds to heal more slowly. Choose kindness.6

Have Compassion with Yourself

Self-compassion has three aspects: mindfulness, common humanity, and kindness. Good news is that it can be learned. How can you be kinder to yourself today?7

4. Choose Peace

We live in an always-on society with no shortage of things to stress us out. Our habitual state of too little sleep, too much caffeine, and too many pressures can exhaust our adrenal glands, harm our guts, elevate our cortisol output, lower our thyroid function and inflame our whole bodies. This is the pro-disease state. To heal or prevent disease, we must actively engage the “Relaxation Response” – which is the opposite of the stress response.

Surrender Your Stressors

Take stock of your life and write down everything that causes you stress. What can you eliminate, minimize or outsource? If it’s all on you, then you need to learn and practice stress management techniques. For the things you can’t control, surrender them to a higher power or the universe.

Catch and Replace Negative Thoughts

Often the biggest source of our stress is our own mind. Research shows that we have about 60,000 thoughts each day and most are negative. Worrying, catastrophizing, mind reading and all-or-nothing thinking are examples of distorted thinking. The antidote is to become aware of your thoughts and challenge the unproductive, distorted ones.

Activate the Relaxation Response

Deep breathing, yin (restorative) yoga, hypnosis, progressive relaxation, and meditation are all calming practices that activate the “relaxation response” which counteracts the fight-flight-freeze mode. Do one of these daily – even for five minutes. Don’t have five? Start with one.

Choose Herbal Tea

Ginger, peppermint, and dandelion are caffeine-free, soothing and anti-inflammatory. Sip herbal teas after noon.

Prioritize Emotional Wellbeing – Action Summary

  1. Love yourself first by planning and doing something nurturing for yourself – every day, however small

  2. Free yourself from long-held emotional pain by forgiving everyone – especially yourself

  3. Proactively increase positive emotions like laughter, kindness and gratitude.

  4. Minimize stressors, especially your habitual, distorted, and negative thoughts – and find ways to relax everyday.

How will you find more emotional freedom today? What one relaxing thing will you do for yourself? 

When you free yourself from emotional pain, your mind, body, and spirit will be lighter, brighter, and more aligned with healing energies, which is a profound gift for yourself.

Take good care!

P.S: Want my help reversing an autoimmune condition?

If you live in the continental U.S. and are ready, willing, and able to invest in your best health, I offer Functional Medicine Total Health Transformation Programs over Zoom in collaboration with a skilled naturopathic doctor (ND). Get on my calendar for a free 30-minute discovery call.

Image Credit: Edu Lauton
1 Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease, Stojanovich L, et. al., Autoimmun Rev. 2008 Jan;7(3):209-13. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2007.11.007. Epub 2007 Nov 29., Reference
2 Cumulative childhood stress and autoimmune diseases in adults, Dube, SR., et. al., Psychosom Med. 2009 Feb;71(2):243-50. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181907888. Epub 2009 Feb 2, Reference
3 Inheriting Stress, Inna Gaisler-Salomon, NY Times Sunday Review Reference
4 Emotional wellbeing and its relation to health, Physical disease may well result from emotional distress, Sarah Stewart-Brown, Reference
5 The Coherent Heart; Heart–Brain Interactions, Psychophysiological Coherence, and the Emergence of System-Wide Order, McCraty et al., 1995, Reference
6 The Impact of Psychological Stress on Wound Healing: Methods and Mechanisms, Jean-Philippe Gouin and Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, 2005 Reference
7 Kristin Neff, Associate Professor, Human Development and Culture Educational Psychology Department University of Texas at Austin and pioneering researcher into self-compassion), Reference




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Palmer is a certified Functional Medicine Health Coach who has helped thousands of people reverse autoimmune conditions based on her own two-decade battle to successfully beat multiple sclerosis (MS). She’s the author of the Amazon #1 bestselling book, Beat Autoimmune, which has a powerful foreword by Functional Medicine pioneer, Mark Hyman, MD.

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