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Season 3 Episode 6:

Our Visual and Nervous System and How To Reach Our Health Goals

with Alyssa Chang

 

Episode Summary

In this episode, Michelle sits down with Alyssa Chang, a renowned expert in brain-based coaching and vision therapy with a unique journey towards embracing a holistic approach to health. Join them as they uncover the fascinating world of neuroscience and discover practical ways to quiet the noise of restrictive diets and find sustainable, holistic approaches to health and well-being. 

 

They discuss: 

  • The role of the brain in healing and the concept of "brain-based coaching" [11:47]
  • The visual system‚Äôs connection to muscles and posture [14:59]
  • How brain based movement can allow for a more intuitive and natural approach to movement and self-care [37:24]
  • Overcoming exercise resistance through self awareness [44:15]
  • The importance of approaching health and fitness goals with compassion and understanding [47:37]
  • Using visualization to influence nervous system response [1:04:39]

 

 Alyssa’s Resources: 

https://coachalyssachang.com/ 

Better Expert 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/coachalyssachang/

 

 

Podcast Links: 

Quiet the Diet Podcast Page

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Episode Page (with full transcript!) 

 

Work with Michelle: 

Work 1-on-1 with a functional Registered Dietitian at MSN LLC

8-Week Fitness & Nutrition Guide

Learn more about the practice

 

Free Resources: 

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Connect with Michelle:

Follow the pod on IG

Follow Michelle on IG

 

 

Subscribe to the Quiet the Diet Podcast

 

Transcript 

 

Our Visual and Nervous System and How To Reach Our Health Goals With Alyssa Chang

 

Michelle [00:00:00]:

 

I can't believe we made it feel it feels like this is a moment that we've been coming to, like, a peak of my life, and we've made it to this moment.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:00:08]:

 

Yes.

 

Michelle [00:00:10]:

 

I'm so excited to have you here today, Alyssa.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:00:13]:

 

Thank you. I'm always so honored. When you asked me, I was like, yes, of course I'm honored.

 

Michelle [00:00:18]:

 

You're literally the least awkward person and the most smiley and giggly and full of wisdom that I know you're going to share with everyone today. So I'm very happy to have you on for personal reasons and also for myself knowledge reasons. I feel like every conversation we have, it's the flowiest, the deepest, the most educational, and you're willing to kind of go to places, I think, in your brain that other people to. I'm eager to go to those places with you today.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:00:44]:

 

Yes. I love our conversation. So this is just like, a recorded conversation with Michelle and Alyssa. Exactly.

 

Michelle [00:00:49]:

 

For our listeners. You guys. Okay, Alyssa first. You guys just heard Alyssa's introduction, of course, but, Alyssa, can you introduce yourself and tell us just what part of your healing journey your life brought you to this amazing practitioner that you are today?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:01:04]:

 

Thank you, michelle?

 

Michelle [00:01:06]:

 

Yeah.

 

Alyssa, can you introduce yourself and tell us just what part of your healing journey your life brought you to this amazing practitioner that you are today?

Alyssa Chang [00:01:06]:

 

So I work as a neuroscience health coach. A lot of my relationship to health was more performance based. I grew up as a collegiate athlete playing a lot of volleyball from the age of ten. And then after I graduated college, I kind of navigated this very interesting transition, which I feel is really common, of when your identity is attached so much to one thing and then that thing ends. You're just kind of floating in the space of like, well, what do I do now with myself, with my body, with my training? So I actually continued to train like an athlete, and I was like, I actually don't need to do this anymore, but I didn't know how to train any other way. And so I had a friend at the time just introduce me to this concept of bodybuilding, and he was like, hey, you should look into figure competitions. And I didn't know what that was, so I Googled it, and if you ever Google figure competitors, up will pop. Like these seemingly very happy, very fulfilled, lean, quote unquote, beautiful women. And I was just immediately pulled towards that, and so I was like, well, I want to be fit, healthy, and happy, and I love new challenges. Why not? Let's make things harder. And so I decided to compete. Spent a year in that traditional eating tilapia asparagus training 2 hours a day.

 

Michelle [00:02:22]:

 

And then brown rice bodybuilder diet that we always think of.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:02:26]:

 

Totally. Yes. And through that process, I was definitely getting sicker and sicker and really doing a great job of ignoring all my symptoms and such a tunnel vision of, like, I have to get on the stage no matter what. I will do all the unhealthy, very extreme types of things. And so I got on stage and competed, finished that, and then navigated a season, probably about three to four years, where my body was really rebelling against me. And so everything that I knew as a personal trainer at that point just didn't work for me. I was like, well, if I have pain, I'm going to do this. If I have digestive kind of flare ups, let me take out the gluten, take out the soy, take out all these things, and everything just didn't work. I kept getting sicker. I gained probably about 65 pounds in a very short amount of time. It was probably like five, six months at that point. Had extreme inflammation. I mean, walking upstairs, I had so much knee pain, back pain. I got lots of vertigo, licky gut syndrome, depression, anxiety, like the host of ailments and nothing traditional was really working. So then I kind of fell into this world of neuroscience through a bunch of mentors I was working alongside. And I remember my mentor was like, this will change your clients lives. And I remember thinking like, well, let's do that. That sounds great. I'm going to change more lives. And my first course, we talked about how important your vision system is and how important tongue mobility is, and your breath. And I remember this quote that they said that fitness and the fitness world tends to train everything from the neck down, but yet everything that's so close to the brain is forgotten about. And so as I stepped into that space, I started to really understand, wow, my body is this wonderful vessel for me to experience the world. And I spent so many years punishing her, manipulating her, pushing her, ignoring her. And then it became this transition of like, oh, what does she need? Let me talk to her. Is she hungry? Does she need more sleep? And so it was the beginning of such a beautiful partnership. And in that partnership I have now, I would say, arrived at a place where I'm far more compassionate, I know myself better, and as a result, know my body better. And I do this work a lot with my students, adopting this neuroscience lens, helping them heal.

 

You would say that one of the most integral parts of your healing, your physical ailments, was actually the application of these neuroscience principles, correct?

Michelle [00:04:57]:

 

And you would say because you talked a lot about first of all, thank you. And I know you would say this, but I'm going to ask you a leading question. You would say that one of the most integral parts of your healing, your physical ailments, was actually the application of these neuroscience principles, correct?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:05:13]:

 

Yes. It was such a weird concept. And I was very resistant because I'm inherently very a questioner. I can't just move my eyes or do retrain my breathing, and it's going to heal my metabolism. This just doesn't make sense. And yet it made a lot of sense. So I just got to a place where nothing was working, and so I was moving from a place of honestly desperation, but, like, a sliver of hope. And neuroscience is coined the science, or neuroplasticity is coined the science of hope. And so I remember at the certification they gave those wristbands, and on it, it says, the science of hope. And I remember just wearing that and thinking, like, I just am using that small, little guiding light as a hopeful. I can get better. Yeah.

 

Can you please define what neuroplasticity, at the most basic level, means for people?

Michelle [00:06:04]:

 

So when you say even neuroplasticity, can you walk it back old you? And I love walking it back. Can you walk back even defining what neuroplasticity at the most basic level means for people?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:06:15]:

 

Yeah. So neuroplasticity is your brain's ability to rewire itself. So, over the years, we've experienced a lot of things in our lives. Trauma being a very big category of you can break that down into lived experiences in your body. So physical trauma, emotional trauma, upbringing, all of those pieces that then has mapped your brain to attune to safety in a very specific way. And safety is inherently something that the brain desires, needs in order to move through the world. But what I define as safety, what you define as safety, is going to be very different. And so we want to acknowledge that neuroplasticity is how our brain has really shaped and formed in a way to move through the world that makes the most sense for our brain and body to feel safe and to survive.

 

Michelle [00:07:01]:

 

And then, just again, on the super baseline level, your goal would be to improve what would the word be? You would have to improve neuroplasticity to increase to enhance. What word would you use?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:07:12]:

 

That's a great question. I would say a lot of people desire to change how they feel. And I think when we understand that we can change, like, the hardwiring of what we think we can't change through neuroplasticity, that's the hopefulness, right? It's like, I'm not stuck in this person who is inconsistent and can never get to my goals. It's like, well, maybe there's actually this very scientific reasoning as to why this habit you can't change is actually ranking higher in your safety needs. And what we need to do in order to change is to really identify what has been unsafe for you in the past that has made you feel, quote unquote, inconsistent. Can we make safer next steps that then essentially will get you to your goal in a much more enjoyable, hopefully, way? I mean, we both know healing is never that pretty, but if we can have pockets, it's terrible. Some of my clients are like, why am I feeling worse? I'm like, this is normal. It's like when you start to get aware, right, it's just like, oh, my God, I'm sitting with all this stuff.

 

Michelle [00:08:18]:

 

You're just experiencing the things that your body wanted you to experience, but that you desperately tried to not experience for a very long time. So at some point, it comes to a head where you experience them for sure.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:08:29]:

 

Yes.

 

Michelle [00:08:29]:

 

So we are definitely going to talk about safety. It's really funny. I was just thinking so far for the episodes we've recorded for this season, all three guests so far have been talking about neuroscience brain based approaches to healing. And I'm like, I think that while over the years the dietitian, I have found different healing modalities to be more or less effective for individual clients. So some people work well with some things, some people work well with others. It just feels like a lot of the healing process and a lot of what I think initiates the healing process does come back to the brain so much. And that so much so that it might be every episode this season. People might hear me say sympathetic nervous system like 4000 times this season. And I'm going to apologize in advance, but I don't think there's ever enough talking about it because I think there is kind of a block to healing that comes for a lot of people and I do think it comes from the brain. And I know that you certainly believe that because you're a neuroscience based coach. So of course you believe that too, and you've experienced it and seen it in your clients too. We are going to talk hugely about that topic you just brought up, of feeling stuck, feeling like you can't push forward. And I think you work in a way that takes the pressure off of people to feel like they have to willpower things through. So when we say something is brain based, we mean it's on a subconscious level, not on a conscious level. And the retraining can happen on a conscious level, but the goal is to actually influence the subconscious level. So instead of just forcing your body to do things, it's to bring your body and your brain into coherence. So they're all working on the same page, but I don't want anyone to take Alyssa or I use brain based coaching or brain based initiation to mean my brain is broken and I have to do other things or different things and I have to work harder. It doesn't mean work harder, it usually means work differently than when you would expect. And one of those ways that's very interesting, that you work really differently is this visual coaching. So can you just super quickly draw this line between our visual system and our nervous system?

 

You work really differently with visual coaching. Can you draw the line between our visual system and our nervous system for us?

Alyssa Chang [00:10:33]:

 

Yeah. So there's a statistic that I learned in my certifications that we basically experience the world. Like our eyes are our first windows into the world. So we rely so heavily on our visual system to interpret if we're safe or if we're not safe. Is there danger? Is there a tiger around the corner? Right. We often reference this tiger in that sympathetic fight or flight response. And we have two eyes, but they work together. And so I do vision assessments with my clients to better understand, like, well, if our eyes are taking in 90% of our environment to determine if we're safe or we're unsafe, and I have a client who has these symptoms of anxiety, rumination, lack of willpower, I then want to assess from a movement standpoint, well, how are their eyes moving? Are their eyes working for them? The same way we're thinking about is my body working for me. When I was going through my whole journey, my eyes were just, like, exhausted. They just weren't working really together. I had one eye that was extremely suppressed, creating extreme domination or dominance in the other side. And we could think about it the same way we think about muscles is when we have asymmetry well, there's going to be natural compensation. There's going to be a domino effect. It could all trickle down to, well, if my eyes are not working well, then I'm going to have more neck tension. If my more neck tension I hold, my breathing is going to change. If my breathing is born hyperventilation, I'm going to definitely be more anxious. If I'm more anxious not breathing well, I'm not digesting foods well, so I could go to any traditional approach to address my anxiety, and I may get medication. And again, there's nothing wrong with medication except for me. I was like, there's something more to this this puzzle piece. I know there's things that are, like, connecting and trickling into one another. And so I started to look at this nervous system lens. And so we have all these lobes in our brain, and we have this whole lobe that's called the occipital lobe that interprets, again, all the moving pieces. We have all these ways we're supposed to be able to move our eyes efficiently, without pain, without tension. And yet most of us, right, are on screens. We're really fixated on a specific target, a specific distance, the blue light exposure, all of that automatically puts our brain into that sympathetic.

 

Michelle [00:12:45]:

 

Yeah, and we're going to dive even deeper into that because that's so important. I think the sentence that you just said, even that our blue light is influencing our vision, which is then influencing our nervous system, even that relationship is not naturally known to people or, like, something that they would know without learning this right now. So I think that's so powerful. I think even the fact that we tie our visual lobe to our occipital lobe, like, obviously the back of your head is where that occipital lobe is thinking about your brain being the organ of vision. We think it's only in our eyes, but whatever happens to the back of our head is going to affect our vision, too. So it's very powerful in and of itself. I will tell you also an anecdote about my own life, which is that about, like, six years ago, I think I got diagnosed with Binocular vision. And which is basically what Alyssa was talking about. When your eyes are not moving at the same pace, like, one eye and the other eye are not coming back together in the same time frame, And I went to a medical intuitive at the time who was like, yeah, your eyes don't want to open because they don't want to. That's she's like, in the most spiritual way, she was like, your eyes are not doing what you want them to do because they're exhausted, like you said, Alyssa. And they don't want more visual stimuli. They want less they don't want to see. And so they're not able to keep up with that demand. And then from a very kind of physical standpoint, can we also talk about that's maybe the spiritual standpoint of for you, like that example of exhaustion? Can we talk about how our vision and our nervous system can also affect muscle movement and the direction of which muscles are activated? Or not too?

 

How do our vision and our nervous systems also affect muscle movement and the direction of which muscles are activated?

Alyssa Chang [00:14:28]:

 

Yeah, fantastic question. I love you kind of highlighting that spiritual aspect because everything is so I mean, it's just mind boggling. The more I learn about myself, listen to podcasts, all those things, it's just like you're like, wow, we are just these amazing creatures. That so much gratitude for our bodies. Right?

 

Michelle [00:14:44]:

 

Like, wow, we're so integrated and cool.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:14:48]:

 

Yeah. And also just knowing that there's all these avenues of how you can approach your health. I think that was reassuring for me, because when something didn't work, I was like, okay, if I did my vision drills this day and I don't feel like my pain had gone away, well, okay, let me go to my other toolkit, and maybe I need to journal and brainstep and process out some emotions that maybe were building up in my body. And then I'm like, oh, wow, my pain definitely went down a notch. So multiple avenues. I think that's one thing you and I definitely agree upon.

 

Michelle [00:15:18]:

 

Vision, just millions. I mean, by the way.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:15:24]:

 

The visual system and muscles. So what's really fascinating is, as my clients start to and the people that I work with just start to really understand that interconnectedness of, like, wow, your eyes just we rely so heavily on our eyes, sometimes we need to move them. Sometimes we actually, like you mentioned, just need less incoming information. So some of you may feel fantastic wearing sunglasses when you're working out because you're removing light. And sometimes light could be just that added form of input that puts you into that more sympathetic, oh, my God, I'm really on edge. So with muscles, the fascinating thing is when we move our eyes up, so head stays neutral. Flashing our eyes up, it helps facilitate all of our extension muscles. So all the muscles in the back body, so your posterior chain, glutes, hamstrings, when we flash our eyes down, it actually facilitates flexion. So you can think about when you are at your computer, like, where do your eyes typically sit when we look at our phones. It's typically in that flexion, kind of like head down, neck down, chin down, eyes down. And yet what we can also kind of attune to is that computer posture syndrome that we see a lot of people like showing up with, right? They have that forward head. They have that hunch shoulders, the collapsing of the front body. And they could do all the dumbbell rows, all the cable seated rows, strengthen the back. And they probably would have the same posture for a really long time. They could get massages, open up the chest. The therapist would be like, you have really tight pecs. And they'd be like, okay, yeah, what do I do? Can you stretch your pecs? But what they really are missing, the missing link, is they are not utilizing that visual system in extension. So if you just sit and flash your eyes up, you might notice like, wow, I've not done this in a really long time. I feel strain and stress on my eyes. And yet what you might notice is the more you place your eyes in extension, you do vision therapy in extension, you might naturally notice you're able to hold your posture upright because posture is very reflexive. We can crank our shoulders back, elevate our chest, shine our chest forward, but over time, we're going to get tired. Our muscles aren't meant to hold us in that position. And you can think about how often we might be relying on our musculature. And if we are only relying on our muscles, what ends up happening is that can also be extremely taxing and fatiguing. And then what could happen from there? We may get irritable in our second meeting because we're exhausted from just holding ourself upright. Then we reach for snacks. Then we get reactive at our coworker, and it's just this domino effect. So if we can actually get to the root issue of like, well, your eyes actually play a role in facilitating extension, well, let's do some vision therapy. Oh, wow. I'm just naturally holding myself up right now.

 

Michelle [00:18:09]:

 

One thing that I want to pull that you said that's so important for people to understand is when people say you have bad posture, grandma's, put your shoulders back, stop hunching over. What you're saying is that just doing the physical movement of pushing your shoulders back repeatedly isn't going to really change your posture that much. And it's certainly going to exhaust you because you're activating those same muscles that are already quite tired, it seems like, all the time. So what you're saying is you can start kind of activating if I'm reading you right, you can correct me, but you can start activating the muscles literally by just directing through your eyes which muscle groups should be flexing or which muscle groups should be. Is that true?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:18:48]:

 

Yeah. So once I have my clients kind of go through like a vision assessment, we get an identity clarity on, like, oh, this eye is moving less, this eye is moving more. They're both moving great. In versus out. Then we do some vision therapy, and then once they kind of have a clear vision map, meaning your brain has these different maps of every body part. Once that gets clear, then we start to tack on vision therapy on top of, like, let's say, dumbo rows. So every time someone is moving into flexion, I actually have them facilitate with their eyes. So an easier example is push ups. Let's say I have my client going down into their push up. They're going into flexion. Head stays neutral, they flash their eyes down. So they're not only getting the neural charge and neural drive of flexion from their eyes, they're also getting flexion in their body. Then before they initiate back up, they flash their eyes up and then extend at their arms. So what they typically will notice is, well, a couple of things, I should say. Sometimes it's really hard in the beginning because they're actually flipped. So they flash their eyes down, and it actually feels harder, and then they go the other way. So it's like a mismatch. They call it mismatch. So what we need to do first is repair them in the way that the brain is actually supposed to be paired. But when they get there, then when they do push ups, they're cranking up push ups. Like, they're so strong, they hit PRS, they're so resilient. And it's not that I put them in, like, a five x five program or like, we have to train for three months. I'm like, let's get your eyes to work with your muscles, to work with your body. And then all of a sudden, they're feeling so resilient, so strong, so confident, and it's like we just almost like everyone's like, what is this stuff? Right? Not no one, but everyone is just kind of like, this is like magic. But I'm like, oh, it's actually just neuroscience, if you understand the brain.

 

Michelle [00:20:32]:

 

Very simple neuroscience that is definitive. And we've got locked down. That's all that it is.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:20:36]:

 

Exactly.

 

Michelle [00:20:37]:

 

But the idea that we can it's almost like you're helping. If I'm having this vision, like, there's a command center in your head, and instead of using the conscious part of your brain to direct the command center and to direct the muscles, you're just, like, kind of handing a piece of paper the command center, and you're like, Here, do this for me. And that makes all of those movements easier. And it's really that a lot of us are the reason we think we're stuck or exhausted is because we're working against what our body is asking us to do, and we're working from the bottom up as opposed to from the top down, it seems like.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:21:11]:

 

Yeah, I'm sure you know that movie inside out.

 

Michelle [00:21:14]:

 

Obsessed. Yeah, I mean, you and, like, talk about internal family systems and that movie Inside Out literally constantly tell everyone, well.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:21:21]:

 

Just imagine that it's based off of emotions, right? But what if it was also based on structures of the brain? So, like, your cerebellum is this part of the brain that controls what we call your movement, ABC. So how accurate you are, how balanced you are. So balance isn't I need to stand on this bosou ball for three times a day, 30 seconds at a time. It's like, well, you actually have this part of your brain that controls balance or plays a role in it. Accuracy, balance, coordination. So those of you that never played sports, it actually is a brain thing. It's not like you're not athletic. It's like, well, if we train the cerebellum, you might be able to catch the ball, shoot a basketball, and inhibition. So let's say there's actually, like, instead of joy, it's like, oh, you have the cerebellum. And the cerebellum needs to come online. So to say, get the controls and be like, oh, Alyssa's playing a sport now. I need to make sure that, like, ready and like, on and there to work with her when she's playing volleyball. So imagine you have all these little control guys living in your brain that's helping you just perform again, optimally for you, with you.

 

When you're talking about directing which muscles to flex or which muscles to do different things, is the brain signal causing an actual muscle activity? Is it causing a direction of blood supply? What's the actual thing that is happening?

Michelle [00:22:23]:

 

When you're talking about kind of directing which muscles to flex or which muscles to do different things, is the brain signal causing an actual muscle activity? Is it causing a direction of blood supply? What's the actual thing that is happening?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:22:42]:

 

When to repeat the first part of the question?

 

Michelle [00:22:44]:

 

So if you're doing, like, a visual drill to make the push ups happen better or correctly, and then people are able to do them more, is that because neurologically, it is influencing which muscle is turned on or activating, or is it directing blood flow to the area? Maybe both?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:23:02]:

 

That's a great question. I would say it's a combination of both, because how I understand it is more of, like it's basically creating that neural drive. In the quotations, a lot of people use that term, neural drive. So it's creating all those neurons directly feeding into the occipital lobe that then is feeding into, right. Like, then the musculature, then the activation, then the contractions. Yeah.

 

Michelle [00:23:22]:

 

So interesting. It's so cool. I've talked about this a little bit on a podcast before, but I had a bout of Dysautonomia Long COVID, and I was so amazed by my amazing hypermobility coach, Taylor Goldberg, because she was really explaining a lot more. About how COVID directly seemed to influence proprioceptors and then also influenced, like COVID specifically as a virus was very unique in that it was really affecting the way that our brain influences which muscle groups move. And it seems to have caused that attack. Either, like, we're like, maybe on the blood vessels that caused the attack a little bit because of the oxidative stress, maybe it was a little bit on the brain. But I'm finding in a lot of my clients now that if they're having this mass cell or Dysautonomia, which I'm having more and more clients with that honestly, since COVID because of just the actual impact of the virus. Combined with a lot of other factors, not just the virus itself. I found it so fascinating, this nervous system muscle relationship, this blood vessel muscle relationship and how you would think training your way out of it is going to help you. But if you're not directing the correct muscle groups to activate, it can actually be far more exhausting for people. So are there groups of people or maybe every person who just can train, train, but if they're not brain training, they're not going to get the same results or in fact may feel worse from doing more?

 

Are there groups of people who if they're not brain training, they're not going to get the same results or in fact may feel worse from doing more?

Alyssa Chang [00:24:56]:

 

Yeah, I mean, I think there's a large population, I think, unfortunately, that's the philosophy that's been adopted in the health and fitness space for so many years. Yeah, I'm one of them, right? One of them who just had, I would say, a high level resiliency for the amount of load I was placing on my nervous system and my body until it could no longer carry all that. So then we're navigating a very interesting, again, that transition where people are probably arriving at our steps and they're thinking like I used to, right? We often hear this like, oh, when I a year ago, I used to be able to do all these things. I used to be able to do all this stuff. And one of the best questions I was taught to ask my students is, well, what happened before it happened? Because there's always this building of stress, right? And our brain is going to do a fantastic job. When something feels like a little uneasy, a little too uncomfortable, it might just compartmentalize it. We distract away from it, we avoid it, we disconnect from it until we call it a throat bucket, right, that continues to fill and fill and fill, and then the output of that is going to be some very unique pain symptom. And depending on how long you've been kind of pushing through pain signals, ignoring the body, that one time you pick up a pen off the floor and then throw out your back, or you eat this one thing and then it cascades all these different kind of metabolic syndromes. It does in some ways make sense if you take the time to look.

 

Michelle [00:26:25]:

 

At someone's health history and it's never really one thing like you're saying. It was a unique past couple of years for people. And I work with some of my clients, like over five years, and just like you, Alessa, you have these very long term, very close relationships with your clients. And I'm seeing all these new kind of things and I was like, what happened in the past two years?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:26:46]:

 

And.

 

Michelle [00:26:46]:

 

There's just so many things based on what we're talking about that happened, right? There's just so many things. Forget about it being like a massive trauma, feeling like that for so many people, but just the fact that we switch in so many means to this virtual world. There's just such a higher demand on our visual system and as a result on our nervous system and as a result on our muscular, I don't know, system or muscles. And then on top of that, you have the added stress, and then on top of that, you may have had a virus, the virus, other viruses. You're in your home more. So there might be environmental toxicants, you're with your family more, they might feel like an environmental toxicant. It was everything all at once. But I think one of the things that you really bring to the table is that brought to the table today and always brings to the table, but is that it's not one thing, right? Like, it's always a combination of all these things. But I think the past few years have been, especially in your realm, distinctly challenging to the nervous system, which is why I cannot stop talking about it this season or in general, because it's kind of the whole game right now for people is what it really feels like. Because all of these things are unique challenges on the body, but they're also unique challenges to the nervous system. Have you seen that in the past few years? Changes in existing clients or new clients coming in?

 

Have you seen changes in existing clients or new clients coming in?

Alyssa Chang [00:28:04]:

 

Yeah, and it's really interesting. I love that you're bringing this up because I feel when the pandemic hit, there was the social distancing mandated, there was the zoom, the collective trauma in my brain. I was like, we're going to see very interesting symptoms surface in a few years, because what you'll notice is when there's ever tragedy or trauma, you're going to witness people move into their default trauma responses. Right? Maybe. Like, for me, I was like, I'm going to put together a program that's going to help support people. And I just went straight.

 

Michelle [00:28:35]:

 

We were talking about making one together. Alyssa we were completely out of control.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:28:38]:

 

We were like, oh, we got to.

 

Michelle [00:28:39]:

 

Deliver, we got to deliver, we got to help, we got to help. Exactly. And we were, like, active together at that time. Exactly. Exactly.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:28:46]:

 

And then after that kind of initial uptick, there's a settling. Typically there's a lull, and then there's this, what I like to call a neural hangover, where you've been living in such an activated state. And we also want to remember that the freeze response, which can show up as someone being disconnected, they're actually very activated internally. So they are even though they are frozen on the surface internally, there's so much chaos. So the neurohangover is just this kind of expected outcome for the amount of survival we were all living in. And if you had gotten actual COVID, right? You were naming such all the nuances of what people were experiencing. And there's brain inflammation. When the brain is inflamed, it's not going to be able to work to its fullest capacity. So you might have brain fog, right? You might be flubbing your words, like, unable to articulate your thoughts, but in addition to that, you might be more depressed. You might have felt the social isolation was extremely, extremely triggering. Yeah, especially for that was interesting for all my extroverts. Like, how do they self regulate? Because for a lot of them, they loved that form of I mean, we all inherently need it, but for them, there was so much of that self regulation with others or co regulation as we coin it. So this neural hangover aspect has been something I've noticed for sure. And then it's like that weird transition of like, okay, I think there's vaccinations and I think that it's kind of safer. But then you would see your friend, you're like, do we like, what is the normal? Because you used to just go and hug, and now it's like, I don't know how they feel. How do I feel? What's the safety protocol? And it was like this really weird reintroduction of being social that so many of us even for me, being out of practice, I went to something and I was like, wow, you are out of practice. You don't know how to have a conversation.

 

Michelle [00:30:47]:

 

No, come on, you were so cute.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:30:49]:

 

Well, when you said you're like, oh, you're like the least awkward person I know. And I was like, wow, I will receive that.

 

Michelle [00:30:55]:

 

You should receive that. I mean it. And I'll say it again, you're the least awkward person I know. You're like the most social, bubbly, insightful at the same time person. And we know how just dangerous loneliness is. So that was another huge factor on all of us. I didn't mean for this conversation to come about that. But it's even so funny, Alyssa, because we've been connected for over five years. I think we've been connected a long time. And just like, the people that we're seeing and the experiences they're having have changed so much. So I want to be up on the times to let listeners know I'm reflecting on these changes as they're happening. And I'm seeing how people are different. And a lot of it is coming back to this just assault on the brain that has been happening for the past few years in every physical and mental direction. And of know, New York City is fully back in action. People are back in the office and everything like that, but it doesn't mean that everyone's bodies have caught up with that. And I think about the New York of the past, maybe eight years ago or something, I was working like 90 hours a week. I mean, literally going from place to place. I just think now I'm like I would never want to, but also could never physically do what I did then. And it doesn't make me feel sad. It makes me feel like, oh my God, I'm treating my body with a lot more respect now, honestly, more than anything. But let's talk about that feeling that people have, Alyssa, where they were like before, this time I was able to do this. And usually people say in a reflective way that's a little bit hard on themselves, like, I used to be able to lift this much or do this much. Can we talk about what might kind of change our body's ability to do physical movement and how do we give ourselves grace or how do we kind of walk our way out of that, even that feeling? Not walk our way out of being able to do what we used to do, but take me through that a little bit.

 

What might change our body's ability to do physical movement and how do we give ourselves grace? 

 

Alyssa Chang [00:32:49]:

 

Such a beautiful and very common experience. Yes. I extend so much compassion towards that because it really lands with my own experiences as well. Where I wasn't actually currently appreciating how my body was showing up in the present moment, I kept wishing her away. I wished away that she wasn't this tired or didn't look like this, feel like this. And I always just completely obsessed with how I was before. And yet when I took the time to actually pause and really ask myself, well, how did you feel in that version? And actually, the honest truth was, oh, you were like a perfectionist. You were over training, you weren't present with your friends. It wasn't actually a better version of myself, but my brain created the image and the visual and the experiences that that was better. And you think about this, like when you're dating someone, then you break up, and then you're like, oh my God, they were the best of me. And then after time passes, then you're like, oh, that's weird. Actually, I was miserable. I was so anxious. And this is like the way the brain works. Anytime there's this transition, it kind of always looks colorful. Yeah, totally. Exactly. That is such a true experience from a very scientific lens. So if you're in this position where you are thinking back of what your body used to be able to do, I would just recommend that the beauty of that is that your brain does remember. And that was such a sentence that I think I held on with a lot of hope as well. My body remembers what it was like to be an athlete. My body remembers what it was like to enjoy family meals and not count calories or be distracted by I ate too much rice, or whatever it would be. And so your body does have these experiences really ingrained in her plasticity that she just needs to be reminded of. But right now, what she's needing and asking of you is to truly listen to her and so I always like to describe it as, like, a teamwork, like a relationship. And it's like dating, right? When you date your body, it's like, cool, what do you want? It's all like, great. And then you reach this place of gets a little comfortable, and then what you need to do is really take that time, ask her how she's doing, what does she need? And sometimes the heartbreak is like, when you're in a specific phase of your healing, you may not hear anything, and that's okay. Sometimes it's just the act of pausing, asking, pausing, asking that then at some point, you're like, oh, that's interesting. Today I actually feel tired. And so it's the pause that actually interrupts autopilot. And autopilot is purposeful, for sure, and yet so many of us move into that. Like, I'm just autopiloting my day that the brain actually needs novelty. So can we pause, print an interruption to our tendencies, settle into our body? And that's why for me, I'm such a movement person, because movement is one of the best ways to experience our world, experience our body, get in touch with our feelings, but just really trying to connect more closely to the body itself than what she's actually experiencing.

 

Michelle [00:35:47]:

 

Is it sometimes with our nervous system? Is it true that it is sometimes challenging to the nervous system and can instigate a sympathetic response to move, and sometimes it can instigate a parasympathetic response and calm you. Is there a time and place for movement when it comes to brain based movement?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:36:07]:

 

I think from the standpoint of brain based movement, the work that I do, it honestly, if I can truly sum it up, it really did save my life because it was that safest next step for me to honestly just move my body without pain. Because anytime I tried to hop on the treadmill, okay, I'm going to do some squats. My body was just like, alyssa, can you stop this? We keep giving you chronic fatigue. We keep giving you insatiable cravings. Every time you do these workouts, can you just listen? And so at that point, I was like, well, what can I do? Do I just and, like, even walking at that point was stressful. So what I had to do is I remember my best friend was like, you need to just go to the park, bring your kettlebells, bring a book, and sit next to them. And I was like it was like this whole learning of what I needed to do was be outside, right? Be in the sun, be in nature, read a book, take my brain off of controlling my body, fixing my body, like working her to the ground, and step into yeah. What does it feel like to breathe in my body? Wow, you can't take a full breath. You're not taking a full exhale. Okay. My intellectual brain is just like, okay, well, then that trickles down too. And I would go all into the intellect, which is honestly a safer place for me. I still need to work on, like, continue to get in connection more and more with my physical body. But, yeah, it's just this beautiful pathway of allowing your body to truly guide and lead you towards healing.

 

Michelle [00:37:47]:

 

Much like your nervous system can stimulate muscle movement, it sounds like you can do the opposite direction too. That muscle movement can help to regulate your nervous system as well.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:38:00]:

 

And I referenced before, the brain has maps, so they're called, like, brain maps and every body part. We also have a gut map, but they get blurry depending on our health history. So if I have a sprained left ankle and it wasn't properly rehabbed, my range of motion in my ankle maybe isn't as complete. Maybe there's, like, clicking bumpy parts. And so if I am deciding to go on a run, but that ankle map is blurry, I may automatically feel stress on the first 30 seconds. It's not because I'm out of shape. It's actually because my brain is like, alyssa, we're running on one leg. Like, what are we doing? This is super stressful. I don't know how you're doing?

 

Michelle [00:38:43]:

 

Three legged race here. We don't have a partner. This is very stressful.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:38:46]:

 

Very stressful here's. Anxiety. And so what we need to understand is that the brain relies on predictability. And if it can't predict that I have this left ankle, it's going to automatically put more threat into my bucket, make me feel more stressed. So then running, I just will chalk myself up to not being good at cardio. Right? We all have these things. We're like, well, I'm just not good at cardio. But it's like, oh, but if I have a blurry left ankle map, can I rehab that? And what happens to my run? And this is kind of the experiments I run on myself because I'm like, I want to try swimming. Okay, what is my assessment? Oh, these are the things that aren't working in my brain. Let me break this down, put myself into, like, a progression from a neuroscience lens, and then swimming becomes enjoyable versus this thing I have to tolerate.

 

Michelle [00:39:39]:

 

Yeah. So some of what people think makes them exhausted about exercise is just that they're fighting their biology and their brain chemistry, it sounds like, because I think people again, it's so likely, and I know this is a unique thing for New Yorkers especially, but we're very likely to attribute anything we can't do to just a lack of willpower. It's like, no matter what, it's just because we and this is unanimous for all people. It's not just New Yorkers, but I notice it a lot in my very high type a productive, hyper productive people, we are very likely to attribute it to a lack of willpower to why didn't we push ourselves? So how can people, in lieu of not everyone being able to always work with a practitioner. How can people start to inventory what feels exhausting for their bodies if they are at a point where they feel stuck and they feel like, I don't have willpower to do this. Willpower is not taking me far enough. I'm blaming myself because I'm not moving or I'm hating movement. How do we find out what the heck's going on with our bodies?

 

How can people start to inventory what feels exhausting and find out what is going on with their bodies?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:40:43]:

 

Such a great question. It makes me think of a few things, I think that, again, I always like to start from this lens of the reason why you are either actively choosing not to engage in exercise or resisting it. Intuitively, this is all information, right? It's like, oh, okay, well, is getting outside of the house making your brain feel a lack of safety? Because maybe the neighborhood loop that you're taking, there's a lot of dogs, and you have a history in your past where you got bit by a dog, right? So then there's these things that would validate why something feels challenging. And I think I like to spend some time just being curious about that. So maybe that's something someone could start off with is like, why am I resisting this? What feels unsafe? And then once you kind of identify, let's use that walking example of like, oh, I'm not walking, because there's these dogs that I pass, and they are aggressive. DA DA DA. Well, can we swap that for a different loop? Does that feel safer? And what happens? And so I like to create all these micro experiments for my clients because that's, I think, the best way to really understand yourself. So let's say this person goes out on a different loop. She's like, okay, that was a little bit easier, but I still feel a little bit of resistance to it. Well, maybe when you just need to swap walking altogether and start with breathing. Because maybe every time she's like I always like to say if your breathing at rest is dysrhythmic shallow, your second hyperventilation, when you add motion to it, it's going to be stressful. So we want to make sure that your breathing at rest is actually optimal to take on the load of walking. So maybe for this person, the safest first step is, can we get you to breathe a little bit more effectively so that when we start walking, it's not this like, I need to like the three legged or like the one legged walk that I was describing. So your brain isn't like, oh, my God, I don't know how to coordinate. Right? And coordination lives in the cerebellum. Coordinate my breathing with movement. So maybe that's a safer next step for someone, but it's like working your way back, starting with what doesn't feel safe, what's a perceived threat or danger? Can I make this safer? And then can I make this safer and safer and just keep going towards safety because you'll find the safest first step that you'll find to be very easy to implement, very easy to be consistent with. And then that becomes like, again, it's new pathway, but then we can build.

 

Michelle [00:43:00]:

 

On top of that's. Really helpful for people. And I think if the word safety feels like too unsafe, which is hilarious, but I know for some people it does, you can just say, what sucks about this? What would suck about going for a walk this morning? Whatever the language is that you use with yourself, that's what I would say. Why does this suck? Oh, this sucks because I can't do this. Whatever that language is that you need to use to just kind of find out where you are. But what you're really talking about, too, is just applying a really strong amount of compassion with yourself and not saying, like, you're not coddling yourself. And I know I often talk about this difference between compassion and coddling and saying it's okay to not move, do whatever you want, although you're saying that in a different way, of course, if that was what your body needed. But you're instead saying, where are you and where are we going, basically? And I think that's really different for people. So this is going to take me in a little bit of a classic quiet the diet direction, which is something you and I have talked about in your guest expert series and we've talked about before in that world of compassion versus coddling. Too, when we think about movement, let's talk specifically about movement. How do we know when we're just saying you're beautiful the way that you are, you don't have to do anything, you're great, versus let's do this together and be on each other's team. How do we know when it comes to movement if what we're doing is too coddly or if it's truly compassionate?

 

How do we know when it comes to movement if what we're doing is too coddly or if it's truly compassionate?

Alyssa Chang [00:44:31]:

 

Oh, that's such a great question. And I think you out of every health person out there that I know, you are always so great at bringing these very nuanced conversations to the surface that a lot of people internalize, right? They're like, I don't know, what is the difference? Like, a great conversation I had in my group was like the difference between trauma and intuition. And we just spent all this time holding the nuance of, like, it can kind of look very similar. And so I think the coddling, the compassion, and then like, hey, when can we actually push you a little bit? Obviously, you and I would agree it's going to depend, but some framework we can give you. Is there's going to be a point, I think, where you're going to actually crave movement? And for me, it always happens when my clients are like, so I was thinking about maybe joining this yoga class, or I kind of feel like I should be doing more. I kind of wait until they actually initiate it. And usually it's been a pretty high percentage that I haven't, like pretty high percentage that they've initiated versus me. And I'm kind of observing, like, I'm like, okay, their pain is going down. We do a lot of cycle syncing with their training. So it's like, okay, they're kind of approaching this phase of their cycle where I think exercise is going to be more available to them. And usually what I'll hear is like, phyllis, I've been thinking, I've been wanting to and usually it's actually a desire too. It's not a should. It's like, I kind of want to move my body and I'm like, oh my God, this is amazing. We have arrived. I'm celebrating on the inside and I'm like, okay, cool. What would you like to yeah, you're.

 

Michelle [00:46:06]:

 

Trying to keep it cool. You're like, yeah, whatever. We can exercise. I don't care either way.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:46:11]:

 

Like, you on the side, michelle oh my God, exactly.

 

Michelle [00:46:14]:

 

I know. Especially because we have the mutual client I'm thinking of too, which I actually am going to bring her up in a funny way related to this too. I love it is that this woman is one of the most spectacular people in the entire world. The most accomplished in ways of just like being a good human I don't care about even though she is also successful in whatever capitalist parameters we want to think of but just an amazing mother human person. And we've been talking for years about nervous system stuff. And then you came in and just put it on high drive and did these incredible work with, you know, it's really funny because we've been working on really big important stuff in her life. And only recently, after years, did we start talking about actual content of her meals. So we've been joking basically behind your back, Alyssa, by the way, about the fact that we almost were like, crying in the session recently because we were like, oh, we have to talk about lunch options. And she's just so it's not like even a trauma response. It's just something very dysregulating about lunch specifically for her. I have a couple of clients, by the way, who just hate lunch. And it's just super trigger. I don't know. Lunch is like because dinner and breakfast foods are very laid out for lunch for some people. It's just like, I hate lunch and don't know what to do about lunch. And we were joking because we're like, what drill is Alyssa going to make us do about lunch? We have to explore lunch or whatever because me and her could not come up with a lunch option that she liked. And we were both so bored and so angry during the session. It was very funny. But it's just what is hard for someone at one point is not always going to be hard for them. And when something becomes hard, it is an invitation to explore why it's hard. And so you can make a joke out of it, too. Like, yeah, this is ridiculous. We've dealt with the hardest life things ever when it comes to health, and now we're just, like, sad about lunch, and it's like and we were so sad, Alyssa. We were really sad about it. She's going to die laughing when she hears us. I actually looked up at the camera, and she was like, almost like she had a sullen face. And I'm like, we're just talking about sandwiches. We do have to pull it together a little bit. I know we're bored, but we're not actually traumatized about this. We're fine.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:48:26]:

 

I think that was such a good read on your end to be like, actually, I think this person in particular, I think that there's this conversation around structure and flexibility. And when do you insert a little structure? When does say structure feel safer for this person? Too? Right? And so I think you did a really good judgment call, being like, hey, let's actually get into a little bit of the details. Let's sit in this discomfort, right? Everyone's like, sit in discomfort, but truly, when you do it, you're like, yeah, I know why I'm not here 100%.

 

Michelle [00:48:53]:

 

Yeah, we're like, we hate it here. We both are uncomfortable talking about lunch, but I was like, I'm going to get a stupid document out, and we're going to talk about stupid lunch, and that's what we're doing, and it's fine. There are certain people, especially, who are very structured, who structure is extremely safe for them, and structure feels very good for them, and there's times when it's not. And what I love that you brought about how you get so excited when your clients come to you and say, let's focus on this now, or I have a desire to work out. I feel that way with food, too, where I'll have a client who will be working through the weeds of the internal conversation around food for a while, and then they'll come into my office and be like, hey, I want to go on a keto diet. I'm like, cool, let's do it. Whatever. If you continue to open up that conversation, things just start coming up. Or really what's interesting about movement specifically, is you forget that you were in pain in a good way. So then you'll just be like, yeah, I'd love to run a mile today. Weirdest thing in the world, Alyssa. I just felt like I wanted to run today, and then you're like, okay. The conversation has now changed away from how am I not being in pain? To what does my creative brain want for me? And I think sometimes we have to acknowledge when we're healing, it's not only that we no longer notice symptoms, which is what I'm always looking for in client sessions, and I know you're looking for too, but also when our brains get excited about new possibilities, that's when we know that we're in that healing phase, too.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:50:18]:

 

Yes. Oh, my God. So well said. Oh, my god, there's so many times where I'll have a client say, like, I don't know. Today. I just randomly did x. Right. And I'm just like, tell me more. I'm just like, oh, my God, tell me more. And it's like, to them, it's like you said, right? It's like, it's not really random, but it is random from the standpoint of, like, I have resisted getting in the pool to take a swim for years, and all of a sudden I just was swimming. You're like, great, because your brain saw it as a possibility for you to have safe movement. It can be cathartic. It's not this sympathetic fight or flight. This is so stressful for you. It made me also think of just the way that we probably invite our clients in to advocate for their voice and their body. And I always like to ask them this question of like, well, what's your guess? What's your best guess? Know you wanted to swim or you don't like taking that morning walk? They're like, Well, I think it's, oh, my God, that's just them advocating for their intuition. And I'm like, totally. That's the answer.

 

Michelle [00:51:24]:

 

Yeah, let's say wink, wink.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:51:27]:

 

That it.

 

Michelle [00:51:27]:

 

Is that because it's 100% that let's just say, let's pretend that that's the answer. It's true. It's like when we're in those moments, it's almost like the more random it feels and the more inspired it feels, the more likely it's from that intuition piece. And I really do notice that there is a time and place for making food changes. And I feel sad to have to tell clients when it's not the time sometimes. And they know it. They know it's not the time. Obviously, they've expressed it's not the time, but it's also a relief to just say, like, you know what? Let's do the listening to our body. Let's do some symptom management for now. And then one day, I just love my clients come to me and they'll be like, yeah. So I traveled. I went on a seven hour flight, and then I ate whatever in Europe, and then I came back and I'm just like, you weren't leaving your house because of anxiety. Are you noticing that? And they're just like, oh, yeah. Because the fun part of our brain is that it catches up so quickly and moves so quickly through those phases that we don't joyously remember the details of the phase that we're in. So whenever you're in a phase where you feel stuck in your healing journey or you feel stuck in your movement or feel stuck in your food, just know that patience and communication are probably going to shift things more than trying to pummel through those stages in life. Because there is a stage in life where it's like, yeah, I'm going to go gluten free for a little bit. And there's a stage in life where it's like, I can't do that. There's a stage in life where you're. Going to lift heavy. There's a stage in life where you're going to go ground in the park and stare at your kettlebells. Totally.

 

Alyssa Chang [00:52:55]:

 

It makes me really think of this stuckness with actually a natural, safe plateau. And I think when people think of like, let's say they're on a weight loss journey and they reach this plateau, I think traditional methods are often like, okay, let's remove this, let's add a little bit more. And I think what I've understood and observed with my students is that I think the plateau is actually a purposeful, safe next step in your weight loss journey. Because what's happening is your very cognitive, functional, online brain of making all those decisions is like, we're pursuing weight loss in the sustainable way. I'm proactively choosing this. I'm not trying to force anything. Like I'm doing it compassionately, but that old survival brain is like, but we remember when you starved us and didn't feed us when we were hungry and over exercise. And so it's this combative relationship and I think that plateaus or kind of that old survival brain being like, is this actually a proactive choosing on your behalf? Are we doing this in a safe, sustainable way? And then once you kind of just hang out in that plateau, what you'll notice without changing anything is that then there's this new level that's reached of trust, right, with your body that then it's like, okay, it's like this exhale those two parts of your brain being like, okay cool, I get it. She's proactively choosing this. We're okay, we're safe, let's keep going, let's see how this works.

 

Michelle [00:54:17]:

 

Which is why weight loss often this very and I just am re endorsing what you're saying. It's often this very coy journey. You have to play with your body a little bit. Sometimes when you pummel it, you'll just notice like it feels like no matter how low I go in calories, how much exercise I'm doing, it's not making a difference. The jig is up, kind of your body kind of realizes what you're doing and it's like I'm kind of not into this. And I'm not saying that extreme calorie restriction in the presence of stress does not always result in weight loss or does always result in weight loss. Because I think people would make the argument of famine or something. Like they're like, people are very stressed in a famine and they're still losing weight. So I'm not saying that it makes it impossible to lose weight in a time of stress because I want to be sensitive and understanding of the fact that that's also very not true in some cases. But on an intentional weight loss journey where the reason that you're not eating is because of this stress you're putting on your body or that diet culture aspect or anything like that, your body is going to recognize that as not awesome for its future survival, right? So it is really important. Again, if we're talking about brain based changes that you're always approaching with compassion, and it is the hardest and most frustrating thing that we can't shortcut often, and the shortcut is actually what appears to be the harder thing. Like, Alyssa, you're like, do a visual drill with me for three minutes. A, like, that's what you're asking people to do. You're not asking them to train for an extra 2 hours for what they think they need to do. So it's often just the connection is what's going to produce the greatest results. And getting your body to function as your body is intended to function very often starts in the brain because that is the command center of the body, obviously. So what tiny bit of advice. I know you've given nuggets of wisdom left and right here, and people are just full of safety after this conversation, but what advice could you give someone who feels stuck in a fitness journey besides the incredible advice you gave, feels stuck in any sort of health journey to take that one? Tiniest, what is that one tiny step to start with?

 

What advice could you give someone who feels stuck in any sort of health journey?

 

Alyssa Chang [00:56:28]:

 

Okay, I have a couple of thoughts, but the first one that comes up is to go on a walk. And it's interesting. Yeah. So when we feel stuck, sometimes physically moving your body forward is just that counteracting to that physical. When you feel stuck, just look at what's happening in your body. Yeah, you're sitting on the couch. You're like, hours have gone by on social media, et cetera, et cetera. So I would say if you can just get movement from your body, you might find more mental clarity. I think that having safe, supportive conversations are also a beautiful thing to lean into, to just really like, you and I talked about this loneliness that people carry, and sometimes stuckness is attributed to the fact that you don't have people to hold space for you and listen to you and validate that you're not alone. I feel exactly like you. I felt stuck this last week, and I didn't do X, Y, and Z. Sometimes just that sharing and that validation can help you then be like, oh, it's not just me. It's not my fault. And then, who knows? The next morning, you're like, I'm going to take that walk, or whatever it might be. But physical motion, momentum forward just tells the brain, hey, we're not stuck. Like, we got this. And so this is not on a treadmill as well. Ideally, it's going to be outside in nature. If you can be barefoot, that's even better. But just the physical momentum of moving forward, I think is going to be a great thing to turn to.

 

Michelle [00:57:57]:

 

I have a joke with Kochko, dr. Kochko, who I've had on the podcast, of course, twice. I have a joke with him where I say, oh, my back hurts. And he goes, oh, did you walk? Like, he's like, don't even message me about your back hurting. And now I actually am using this hypermobility. Coach Taylor Goldberg. Amazing second mention, Taylor. I'm sending this up. She's unbelievable. But same thing where it's like I feel walking saved my pain so much and has taken me out of pain in so many different ways in my life. Digestive pain, back pain, neck pain. Walking is even in the experience of anxiety, cortisol build up, adrenaline build up, movement forward. It's almost like if you're activating the opposite, like you're saying of the freeze response. And sometimes it's so hard for people with anxiety too, who feel stuck in their physical head without creating those new neural pathways, without physically moving your body forward. That's like we said, how your muscle can signal to your brain. That's the way that it can be done. And our muscle is also an endocrine organ. It influences actual hormone signals throughout the rest of our body. But just visually seeing something new and the act of moving your body forward is there's about how many different ways it's influencing your nervous system. It's innumerable. So I just feel so personally grateful for the walking, too. There's nothing like it. I mean, I also think that there's other important movements, obviously, but it is something very special about it. And almost in most flares of an autoimmune kind, walking is still accessible to people. Obviously, if you have full body pain, that's not if walking is not accessible to you, like you said, Alyssa, I've had clients where I said for three weeks, we're just going to show up at the track. You're just going to sit on the track in the grass part in the middle of it. Don't walk, just sit on the track. And then again, one day, randomly, it'll be like, I'm going to run this thing. Let your body tell you when it's time to okay. And then tell me the stuck piece. Sorry to interrupt you.

 

Alyssa Chang [01:00:03]:

 

Actually, it kind of makes me think of something that is probably I'm going to use the word better. Better than what I was going to originally say is mirror neurons. So if you are someone that has chronic pain, maybe watching like go to a coffee shop and watch people walk, go on YouTube, just watch someone walk.

 

Michelle [01:00:19]:

 

Or visualize yourself walking.

 

Alyssa Chang [01:00:21]:

 

Yeah, or visualize yourself walking. It's pretty powerful. I had this one student who she would watch push up videos because she had a lot of stability next stuff going on. And so when she would watch someone do push ups, she could literally feel that visual input being processed in her brain the same way that then she felt like the vasculature, the strength, the embodiment of just watching someone do a push up. And I think that, again, there's more accessible steps for people as they're in the stuck phase to create action. And it's just about number one. Yes, definitely scaling it back, but also getting creative. Like, do you have a laptop? Do you have YouTube? Can you just look up a video and watch that? And you will, with time, probably start to again entertain with curiosity. Like walking. Sounds kind of cool to do today. And allow quotes.

 

Michelle [01:01:12]:

 

Exactly. It'll feel random. Also, what you're saying is, Alyssa, again, if you can't do it through muscle, do it through vision. And just seeing those things is activating different parts of your brain. So I love that. In a lot of other conversations we have, I say you can influence your nervous system through what you eat. You can influence your nervous system through how you move. And in this very specifically, we're saying you can influence your nervous system through muscular movement and through vision. And if you can't do one, try the other, basically go any direction you need to go in. And there's a lot of options available to you because if you have even vision wise, I don't even know if your eyes have to be open, you can create visions and that'll still create the same nervous system response, which is why anxiety is so powerful for people, because you're creating a lot of visual things that could happen.

 

Alyssa Chang [01:02:00]:

 

Use it to your advantage.

 

Michelle [01:02:02]:

 

Exactly what most wonderful thing happens in the entire world? Alyssa, I can never thank you enough for coming on. So I am always amazed by you, but I was particularly amazed by you today. And I know that our audience will have gotten so much from you. Where can people find you, work with you, tell they're going to need more Alyssa after this?

 

Where can people find you and work with you?

Alyssa Chang [01:02:20]:

 

Well, thank you, first off, for having and inviting me. I've always loved our little FaceTime hangouts and chats. And now that we are sharing a client, I think it's just really helped me also just learn so much more about how you hold space for your clients and just the energy you bring your personality, like making light of very difficult experiences like anxiety and living in a body that you feel is very challenging to work with. So, thank you.

 

Michelle [01:02:44]:

 

Don't call our little FaceTimes little, by the way. There's 3 hours we've needed water, like, after our FaceTime. Yes. Thank you, uncle.

 

Alyssa Chang [01:02:53]:

 

They can find me. Instagram is probably where I'm the most active coachalissach, and then it's the same for my website coachalissachang.com. I have a few offers of how I work with my clients. I do have one on one slots. I primarily like to invite people through annually through an open enrollment, through my program called Better Expert, where we are really going through this nervous system lens of how to train the brain to heal the body. I'm just now in a beta testing group for Better Expert Volume Two, which I'm so excited about because it's returning graduates that have worked with me in 2021. And just to get updates on how they've been integrated, I know the 2021 Crew.

 

Michelle [01:03:30]:

 

What a good crew.

 

Alyssa Chang [01:03:32]:

 

What a great crew.

 

Michelle [01:03:33]:

 

Exactly.

 

Alyssa Chang [01:03:34]:

 

Michelle is a guest expert inside of this program. And, yeah, it's just a very special opportunity to create more autonomy, more agency for them to program for themselves. So I'm always about, like, how can I make you as independent as possible? You can choose to continue to work with me, but I want to create the critical thinking skills, the problem solving skills, the autonomy for you to feel like an expert in your body. And so a lot of my programs are designed in that way. And the last thing is my membership. So I have a membership that is, again, all about the nervous system, tutorial, videos, like minded students who are also just approaching this from a very compassionate and scientific lens. And it's a community that I want to continue to build because I just think more people need access to this information, and other people that are really trying to not do the very dogmatic, like, no pain, no gain type of approach, they're like, no, I want to work with my body. And so that's the membership and how it's created.

 

Michelle [01:04:28]:

 

Well, I could not encourage all of you more to look at Alyssa's. Not only extremely informative posts, but her extremely aesthetic post. She has the cutest, petutiest instagram in the entire world and just soul. And I encourage you to work with Melissa and check her out. Alyssa, thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming here today, and I just can't wait for this episode to air, honestly.

 

Alyssa Chang [01:04:48]:

 

Thank you, Michelle.

 

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