Episode 118 Holistic Tools For Managing Overwhelm For Highly Sensitive People: Interview with Erika Belanger

May 3, 2023

What does it mean to be an HSP? What challenges come with being an HSP and what holistic strategies can you use to overcome the overwhelm of being highly sensitive?

MEET Erika Belanger

Erika is a yoga teacher, somatic coach, and the host of the On & Off Your Mat Podcast. For the last 8 years, Erika has helped sensitive women let go of overwhelm and overthinking by learning to manage their thoughts, feel their feelings, and heal their nervous system through mind-body-spirit practices. She’s living proof of the power of self-healing as she herself has grown and worked through eating disorders, chronic illness, addiction, mental illness, patterns of self-sabotage & self-abandonment, and childhood trauma. She teaches online and in-person, for week-long retreats bringing her students and clients on a journey of awareness, compassion, embodiment, and transformation.

Find out more at Erika Belanger and connect with Erika on Instagram & Facebook 

On & Off Your Mat Podcast

IN THIS PODCAST:

  • Recognizing the signs that you may be an HSP 3:18
  • Finding and understanding the source of your overwhelm 15:00
  • What are some holistic practices that can help HSP? 19:32

Recognizing The Signs That You May Be An HSP

  • Understanding the energy cycle of being highly sensitive
  • The importance of understanding how your body reacts to stress
  • What does it mean to widen your window of tolerance
  • How each HSP is unique in their symptoms

Finding And Understanding The Source Of Your Overwhelm

  • Are you more prone to anxiety as an HSP?
  • The importance of accepting and embracing yourself as a highly sensitive person
  • Finding ways to stay within your window of tolerance

What Are Some Holistic Practices That Can Help HSP?

  • The importance of integrating many practices and touching on all aspects of your wellbeing
  • How do your thoughts affect your emotions?
  • What is a “Thought Protocol?”
  • Bringing your emotions back into your body and integrating movement and being present
  • What is an “Orienting Practice”?
  • Integrating spirituality into your holistic approach

Connect With Me

Instagram @holisticcounselingpodcast

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Sign up for my free email course: www.holisticcounselingpodcast.com

Rate, review, and subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.

Find out more at Erika Belanger and connect with Erika on Instagram & Facebook 

On & Off Your Mat Podcast

Connect with Molly Sider on Instagram and on the I Am This Age Podcast

Transcript

Chris McDonald: If you're someone who feels things deeply and often become overwhelmed by the world around you, then you might be a highly sensitive person or an H S P. In this episode, we'll discuss what it means to be an H S P, the challenges that come with it, and holistic strategies to help manage the overwhelm that can come with being highly sensitive.

Join us as we dive into the world of highly sensitive people and learn how to empower and thrive as an h s. This is Holistic Counseling, the podcast for mental health therapists who want to deepen their knowledge of holistic modalities and build their practice with confidence. I'm your host, Chris McDonald, licensed therapist.

I am so glad you're here for the journey.

Welcome to today's episode of the Holistic Counseling Podcast. Are you highly sensitive, or do you have clients who are, maybe you have heard the term highly sensitive person and aren't quite sure? If you are one today, you'll learn more about what it means to be an H S P or highly sensitive person. What are some holistic tools and practices that can help with emotional regulation and help you learn to embrace it?

Today's guest is Erica Emmanuel Belanger. She is a yoga teacher, somatic coach, and host of On and Off your Matt podcast. For the last eight years, Erica has helped sensitive women let go of overwhelm and overthinking by learning to manage their thoughts, feel their feelings, and heal their nervous system through mind, body, spirit practices.

Welcome to the podcast,

Erika Belanger: Erica. Thank you so much for having me today.

Chris McDonald: Yeah, I'm so excited for you to be here. So can you share more about yourself and your work?

Erika Belanger: Yeah, of course. I used to be a yoga teacher. I'm still a yoga teacher, but I started in this as a yoga teacher, and I found that I was missing time between the inhale, lift your arms up and excel, fold over your legs.

To say all the things I wanted to say and to teach all the things I wanted to teach. So I added coaching to my services, so I had more time with clients because I, from my own journey of being highly sensitive, I was seeing a lot of suffering in that and a lot of. Struggle around it. And when you don't understand why life is so difficult for you, you get into the cycle of self blame and like bullying yourself into change.

And then nothing really productive happens from there. And so I wanted to have time to really be able to help women understand how their system is functioning and that overwhelm and the stress they experience is a result and not a personality trait or like their sensitivity is not a flawed part. Who they are so they can learn to embrace it, but also kind of widen their capacity and their tolerance for the world.

Exactly. And like the world we live in can be intense. Right. So this is the work I do now, uh, a mix of yoga and coaching specifically for highly sensitive women to help them, as you said in your intro, with all the things that sensitive people struggle with. So they live a. Happier life, a bit more easeful and where they can feel calm and confident and in control.

Chris McDonald: So how did you know that you were more

Erika Belanger: highly sensitive? Oh, there was so many clues, although it took me a long time to even know that label existed and like that was a thing. There was clues, like very young, like sensitivity from like sensory overwhelm, like something as simple as like the commercials and the tv.

They felt like they were yelling at me. You know, like when my parents would watch tv, I'd be like, oh my God, this is so intense. Why is it so loud? And I would like ask them to mute the TV and they'd be like, really? Why? Like they didn't feel the aggression that I was feeling, you know? So that's like one tiny example from childhood.

But there were so many ways through my life. Just being overly aware of other people's emotion and what they're experiencing and kind of taking this on because I was lacking the boundary of like, this is yours and this is mine. And like we're keeping that separate, like being really permeable to other people's emotion.

That has really followed me for years in. My marriage and, and you know, my relationship with my parents. And so those are the two biggest thing that I noticed. But there was also this cycle very common of like overstimulation and then kind of a collapse energy of like, I was feeling lazy. I was coming home from work at that time, being a school teacher, coming home from work and like collapsed on the couch for hours.

There was nothing I could really do in my evening. Because I didn't have any, anything left to give and I felt like there was something wrong with me. I was lazy. I was, you know, everybody else were going out or making dinner able to do all these things. So that was another signal, like, I'm not functioning the way other people function.

This seems to be very difficult for me. And I ended up burning out and having to leave school teaching. So those were all little piece that kind of came in together. That build into this sensitivity leads to like a chronic stress and overwhelm illness, and then it goes back into blame and into like I am, something is wrong with me in a way.

I am too much emotionally, like people receive you like, You're too intense and you're too sensitive, like as in, in a negative way, right? Like you react emotionally too much and the other way you feel like none enough at the same time. Like you can't keep up with the world, you can't keep up with everything that's going on.

So it's a weird back and forth between feeling too much and feeling none enough.

Chris McDonald: Yeah, I'm just trying to think about that. So too much and not enough. So yeah. Where does that leave you?

Erika Belanger: That usually leaves you not feeling great about yourself,

Chris McDonald: like Yeah. I wonder what the overwhelm you mentioned too.

Erika Belanger: Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Most highly sensitive people really feel. Trouble, like with their own self-worth and like self-love and self-care because they feel like something is wrong with them. Like, we're always in that cycle of like, something is wrong with me. I'm gonna repress my emotion to be not so intense. And then that leads you into like explosion later down the line.

Because repressing only works for a certain amount of time, right? Yes. Like it never, yes. Works forever. So there's like the coping mechanism that come are not helpful in the long run and they have negative consequences in your life. And overwhelm is one of those things that also brings like the self-doubt of like, I am worthy and I am good enough.

Because you don't see anybody else around you or most people around you feeling that overwhelmed. That comes from many sources, whether it's sensory, it's your own thoughts, it's your. Physical sensations that are overwhelming you, like, there's so many things that come in and that overwhelm makes you feel like you're failing at everything.

You can't keep up again, right? There's this, and when you start to understand that overwhelm is just a natural response from your nervous system. To stress that's been unaddressed. Then you start to take a step back and you're like, oh, okay. Actually my system is functioning just right, like my body is doing exactly what it's supposed to do.

It's moving me into a rest state that is overwhelmed because I'm not taking actions to actually rest, and I'm pushing through my sensitivity and forcing myself to do all the things that everybody else is doing. Detaching from my own needs and then my body pulls a plug and it's like, nah, we're done. You go rest.

Chris McDonald: I love that description.

Erika Belanger: Yeah. When you start to understand that you feel a little bit better and you're like, okay, this is not a flaw, this is not a personality trait, this is like a beautiful way. My system is protecting me. And then you can start to move from there and make different choices if you want to widen your tolerance.

If you want to feel more anchored or grounded, more calm, more

Chris McDonald: confident. I know you said tolerance too, so it makes me think of the window of tolerance too.

Erika Belanger: I guess that's exactly what I'm talking about without saying the words in, in case your nerd listeners didn't know

Chris McDonald: about it. So yeah. Can you, can you share a little bit more

Erika Belanger: about that?

Yeah, of course. So the window of tolerance is this area in your nervous system state where you are functioning. Mostly optimally, you're able to respond instead of react in a fight or flight or react in a collapse, you're able to go back and forth between what life throws at you and respond accordingly.

And then you go back to the state of feeling safe, connected, trusting, openhearted, right? So within the different state of the vagus nerve or the nervous system, you're able to regulate yourself and stay into this kind of zone that we call the window of tolerance, where. Able to quote, unquote, tolerate what happens around you and in you, so you're resourced enough to deal with it in like simple way.

Chris McDonald: Yeah. Yeah. So I think that's important. Resource enough to deal with it. And, and as therapists too, the, we often try to help clients increase that window of tolerance so that they're less reactive. So, but I'm guessing for highly sensitive people that can be a struggle to open that

Erika Belanger: window more. I mean, it's not so much the struggle to open the window is that because you're sensitive, your window is smaller to start.

This is where the struggle is because being sensitive means that your nervous system is more sensitive than average people to the physical input, the sensory input, the social input you receive. So you more easily go into stress, respond you more easily, then go into overwhelm, into the collapse response.

And because that window is a little smaller, it might feel like it's harder to widen it, to catch up with other people because. You might feel like you're behind, in a sense. You're not really behind. It's just that that window is a little shorter. You react more intensely, more easily and more quickly than average people that are not sensitive.

But over time, you can grow your window as big as anybody else and bigger. There's no limit really. Can

Chris McDonald: you be sensitive in some areas as a highly sensitive person and not

Erika Belanger: others? Yeah, everybody is really different into what affects them. Uh, some people are more sensitive, like sensory based, right? So like light or sound or smell or touch are really disrupting for their system.

For other people, that's not really the issue. The issue is more social. It's more like people pleasing and meeting expectations. Catching up with or staying up with the rhythm of everybody else. So it's like this pressure that's coming from your socialization, your family, your culture, your work, your partner, like this is what's really difficult because it's coming from a place of like needing to be accepted, to belong, to be loved, right?

So depending on the source, and depending on your own, you. Story, you will have different aspect of yourself that are more or less sensitive. If you grew up in chaos or if you grew up with parents that were not emotionally available, it's gonna create two different branches. See what I mean?

Chris McDonald: Yeah, yeah, no, I can see that.

And but I wonder too, cuz I took your little quiz online. I didn't get the result yet. Um, she does have a quiz to see how highly sensitive you are. But some of the questions were kind of surprising to me too. Cause the one about hunger, uhhuh hunger cue, so you can be more highly sensitive to hunger.

Erika Belanger: Is that true?

Yeah. So the idea is that when you're sensitive to your sensory input, we have the five senses that are like the common one we talk about. Right? Your side, your taste, your touch. You're hearing and your smell, but there's also like a sense of like, that comes from inside. That's your interception. And that sense for sensitive people picking up on the cues of hunger, thirst, pain, hormonal changes, like these things, we feel them more intensely than other people, meaning we're more sensitive to our blood sugar level.

So if you are hungry as a sensitive person, chances are you get hang. Quickly. More quickly, yes. Than people around you. Like it's more, you're more affected with the effect of having low blood sugar or not being hungry and like with the cascade of stress response that that creates in your body because your level of stress is already up.

Just the fact. Of being hungry and the signal that that sense about survival kind of pushes you over the edge. Where someone, where their window of tolerance is bigger and they're not in a chronic state of stress, the signal of hunger is just gonna be like, okay, I need to eat soon. And it doesn't really ripple into anything more.

Does that make sense?

Chris McDonald: Yeah. Thank you for helping me understand myself better. Yes. Because, yeah, I've always thought something, drama of me too is like I feel intense hunger signals. I like, I have to eat three meals a day or I'm just a mess and it affects my mood and my husband's just like, he can go eight hours of that.

I'm like, how do you do that? I

Erika Belanger: just can't. Yeah. No, me neither. Like if I don't pay attention to my hunger signals, either I get really irritable or I can't focus and I can't think straight and like it's almost taking over. And not in a sense of like I'm being obsessive about food, although I have a history of like eating disorder growing up.

Yeah. But not in that same sense, in the sense of like there's no mental space to continue. To do the things normally, like my system is like sounding an alarm. Like, we need to take care of this before we can continue. Does that count for

Chris McDonald: like, I guess as far as introception, like feeling hot or cold, like being more

Erika Belanger: sensitive?

Sensitive to temperature? Yeah. Uh, I am also like, I moved away, I grew up in Montreal, Canada, and the weather, the winter was like painful. Like literally physically painful for me and I moved away and I live in the Tropic now. Sounds wonderful. And like, oh, tell us there's where you are right now. I live in Costa Rica, like two blocks away from the beach and I enjoy this.

It was like 104 this morning when I checked very, you know, very warm weather. And this feels. A lot better from my body, but I also have to be careful, like I'll burn from the sun quite easily. Right. There's always, yeah.

Chris McDonald: It sounds like a lot, just trying to find that e equal balance of your equilibrium and, and working on those areas if, if you're someone doesn't have sensitivity in every area.

Cause I, I've heard people like what you mentioned socially, like in crowds that. Some people get overwhelmed and have difficulty in crowded spaces, but that never bothered me. So I, I didn't think I was highly sensitive. But that's just one area that doesn't, but I guess there's other areas. Exactly. So, exactly.

So I guess this

Erika Belanger: isn't black and white as I thought. I mean, it's, you can see it as a spectrum, right? Like there's different aspects to it. And a bit like if you look at the autism spectrum, like it's not so much a right to left, it's kind of a. Different areas, right? And you, you can have characteristic in one areas and more in the other, and it kind of comes together to create a total, it's kind of the same with sensitivity.

So when

Chris McDonald: you work with women, do you try to find what areas they need to work

Erika Belanger: most on and Yeah, I think the first step is always awareness and for themselves too, to realize what are the sources of their overwhelm. Because if you don't know the source, then how are you? Act on supporting yourself accordingly instead of just kind of doing a bit of everything.

You're gonna be more successful if you focus on the areas that you need more support in. Right?

Chris McDonald: Yeah.

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Chris McDonald: So what about emotionally are, I guess I'm wondering if highly sensitive people are more prone to anxiety. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Or is it other emotions?

Erika Belanger: I mean, there's a lot of emotions that come from your sensitivity to start with.

You're gonna react more strongly emotionally because of yet that shorter, smaller window of tolerance and your tendency to be in chronic stress state, you're gonna be more sensitive to the sensation of the emotions in your body, like the physical sensation of what that feels like. But also, it's gonna be harder to kind.

Move on from it. So I see a lot of anxiety that's really, really present overwhelm, obviously we've talked about that. And then a lot of shame and like repressed anger because of the challenge that you face and like you're already being told that you're too sensitive. And naturally, as women we're not encouraged to express anger.

Either, like even in general, so even less if we're being told You're too sensitive. You need to settle down, you need to like stop being such, you know, so dramatic and whatever people say to you. So a lot of repressed anger is also something I see a

Chris McDonald: lot. Yeah, that's interesting. So it sounds like there could be a lot of emotions interweaved in there from childhood too, and

Erika Belanger: Exactly.

Anything you haven't express. And is like, has build up over time. Yeah.

Chris McDonald: And I wonder too if, if it's a lot with difficulty accepting yourself as highly sensitive, do you notice that with the women

Erika Belanger: you work with? Yeah. I mean, it's a vicious cycle, right? Like the more, it's like the repression we were talking about.

The more you're told that something is wrong with you, the more you repress your emotions, the more you repress your emotions, the more you feel outta control. When they finally come up to the. Cuz you can't hold them back. So that adds definitely to shame. To self-rejection. To self-abandonment because you're trying constantly to be someone you're not.

And just that adds like that extra stress and pressure cuz you're always on high alert to make sure that you're like acting in a way that is deemed appropriate by the people around you.

Chris McDonald: Because I imagine once people learn to embrace it, that they're gonna feel more of that inner peace too and Exactly.

And be able to acc. Themselves for, okay, well I'm highly sensitive, so I might have to, you know, put headphones on if it's too loud or, or do these other

Erika Belanger: practices. Exactly. The more you know about yourself and the more you can embrace those needs, right? It's about like understanding what you need and giving that to yourself instead of pretending they don't exist and trying to fit into a mold that is not for you.

The more you embrace what you need and your support, your sensitivity, instead of like fighting against it natural. You're gonna become less sensitive. Like there's this like conundrum because you're trying to stop being sensitive and forcing against it. But as you embrace it, you already remove the layer of I'm creating stress for me to fit in and to be a certain way.

And then on top of it, by just meeting those need, you support your sensitivity. So with your example, if you go to a crowded space and you put earplugs. Noise canceling headphones, you are gonna stay in your window of tolerance longer, right? You're not gonna get overwhelmed as quickly or at all if this is a trick that works for you.

And so you're not gonna be reactive, and you might not go in overwhelm and you might not go into shame. So it's like you're slowing down that rhythm just by knowing, okay, I know I'm sensitive, I'm going to a party. It's a crowded space. There's gonna be a lot of music, a lot of people, some flashing bright lights I'm gonna put here, plugs.

And I'm gonna go for a shorter amount. I'm still gonna go, but after two hours I might have enough. And when I feel that I have enough, I will leave. And that's it. And that's okay. Right? So. And that's okay. Yeah. There's, you know, I don't have to to do what other people are doing. So as soon as you give yourself that permission and you embrace what you need, it's naturally becoming more easy.

Yeah. I

Chris McDonald: would imagine it when you're embracing, you're fully embodying that and just saying, this is who I am and it's okay. And that self-talk I'm sure is an important part of this as well. Absolutely. So what are some holistic practices that can help those who are highly

Erika Belanger: sensitive? So I think when we look at it holistically, we have to look at our thoughts.

We have to look at our feelings, and we have to look at our nervous system. And that's going to like kind of include different levels and then depending on your also. Like within my own practice, I would include spiritual practices as well as support. So you really touch kind of all the areas, uh, but if you start with your mind practices that will support you, understanding your train of thoughts and how you create your emotional response, right?

So I believe that. Our thoughts leads to our feelings, and there's so much automation in there that if we're not aware of what you're thinking, then you don't understand why you're feeling a certain way. And it's coming as a surprise where if you start to understand your thoughts, then you can kind of see things coming.

You're like, oh, like this is what I'm feeling because I've been thinking about this. So an example would be all of a sudden you're feeling kind of angry and you're like, Why am I feeling angry? Oh, I was just thinking that he doesn't care about me because he said some words. But I made up the story in my head that because he said those words, he obviously doesn't care about me.

Right. And the anger comes from the thought. He doesn't care about me. So I teach this journaling practice. That is about kind of deconstructing what happens, call a thought protocol, which you do like a brain dump of like the situation, and then you extrapolate in one sentence, what's the context, what the circumstance of the situation as neutral as possible in this case, like he said, words, he said something, and then what's the thought that you created in your head from there?

In this example it was, he doesn't care about me. What's the feeling that comes from that? Maybe you felt hurt, you felt angry, you felt unseen, like whatever it was in your experience. And then from there, over time, we can then look at like, what's the action I take when I feel this emotion? And what's the result I get when I take this action?

So you have like a really clear pattern of like, how do you act and react in the world? So that is one practice. That I teach for managing your thoughts, and then you have to continue into the body. When you know that the emotions you're experiencing are energy and emotion that are just wanting to be, you know, expressed, then holistic practice would include like you have to stop repressing your feeling and learn to express them in a way that feels safe and comfortable for you.

Now, that's a whole kind. Beasts on its own because just feeling can be overwhelming for sensitive women. So you need to kind of create safety from within first. So you might have practices to create safety. I love some grounding practices, some mindfulness practices to reconnect to your body, to reconnect to your environment, maybe orienting practices.

I don't know if your listeners know what those are. I do, but

Chris McDonald: can you, can you share with my listeners?

Erika Belanger: So an orienting practice is kind of to help you move from your environment to your body. And so it's taking inventory of your environment as a way to be like, okay, I am here and now. So one way to do that would be to look around the room and name five things that are blue, name, five things that are square name, five things right.

You're bringing yourself back into the moment and you're like, okay, there's this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and it's kind of getting you out of the spiraling of your experience. So this is the way of doing it. Another way is through your senses to really bring it. Closer to you could be like five things.

You see four things. You hear three things you touch, two things you smell wanting, you taste right. So you're like bring it back into more subtle, into you, into yourself, and then it's like helping you reconnect to your body and you're like, okay. Like when you're at the point of like, what does it taste in my mouth?

Although I don't have food, right? Can I taste my breakfast? Can I taste toothpaste? Can I taste coffee? Is there a taste to. Like saliva, can I, right? So like you're really narrowing your focus and attention, which will help you get calm and then move along into what else you need to do, like to create that safety for you to feel reconnecting to your body is an important step.

So those are two examples of orienting practices that you can do to create safety. Once you feel safe, then giving yourself permission to feel is kind of the next step in that holistic approach. And that will come also kind of in different ways because I don't think we're, we're really thought how to feel our feelings.

Like it's not something that we really know. Like even what that means, right? Like if I tell you like, can you channel sadness and you know, let yourself feel sadness. Most people are like,

Chris McDonald: Especially if you come from a house growing up that you were like, my family, we never talked about feelings or emotions.

Yeah. So, so most people I think, don't get that at home and it's not role modeled.

Erika Belanger: Exactly, exactly. So a lot of what I teach is around that, like, Modeling. What does it mean? Like to express, to feel, to express, and then to not get stuck in those emotions. Right. Because oftentimes when we're sensitive and we tend to be reactive, we think, if I let myself cry, I will never stop.

If I let myself get angry, I'm gonna become the Hulk, right? There's a. If I let myself, there's gonna be a negative consequence because we're not accustomed to healthy emotional expression. Like we don't know what that looks like. So for me, ener, I like to start energetically and kind of get out of the head and help people reconnect to their body in the sense of like, there's no good or bad emotions.

Emotions are just. A movement, a vibration of energy in your body. So meeting that energy for what it is. So let's say you are feeling anxiety. That's an example you brought up earlier. If you're feeling anxiety, we often think I need to calm myself down. But actually this is not super helpful because you're feeling anxiety right now.

If you're just shifting into the other, if the opposite, you're kind of telling your body and your system that anxiety is not okay and anxiety is not welcome, and anxiety needs to be fixed. So there's kind of a first step that I teach people and it's to just. B, with what you're feeling. You don't have to do anything about it.

You have to witness your experience. Just sit with it. Be like, okay, I have a flu in my chest. I feel really warm. I feel agitated. I think this is anxiety. Like can I feel the physical sensations that relate to anxiety instead? Oh my God, I'm anxious. I need to fix this right

Chris McDonald: now. Does it make it a threat more to your nervous system too, if you're just like, oh my God, this is anxiety and I don't

Erika Belanger: want it here.

Exactly. Exactly. You're telling your nervous system. We have a problem and I need to fight this emotion. So you're adding a layer of stress to your system if you are trying to quote unquote, fix what you're feeling because you have the thought that this emotion is not okay. Right. So again, it comes back to like the stories we tell.

So learning to sit with your emotions eventually is really calming for your system because you feel seen, you feel accepted. You feel like who you are is okay. Again, we're coming back to accepting ourselves and our experience of the world, and so energetically and physically, you can do a lot of different things.

I like to go at this with movement, with breath, with voice that will match the energy of anxiety In this example, right? So if you're feeling really anxious, I would encourage a client to. Something physical that resembles that energy of agitation. So it might be a really quick practice movement short, like something maybe you go for a run if that's something you enjoy or you do a really fast kind of vinyasa flow for a few minutes, like a few sun salute, like quite rapidly.

If you do a breath, you might do like a breath of fire or a bellow's breath, which are breath that are a rhythm that are quite fast, right? So a breath of fire would sound like this. Not calming, right? But if you do that first, you're meeting yourself where you are. You're meeting that energy. You're letting that energy be expressed through your body.

Then you can shift into something that's calming or whatever the opposite would be. But first you have to start there, right? So you meet yourself where you are in that energy, you express that energy, and then you call in the opposite. Cuz we. Either wanna stay stuck and kind of spiral out in that anxiety.

We just wanna let it be expressed and then we move on, and then we bring practices that are calming. Now that can look so many different ways, right? Again, it could be a very slow movement this time. It could be more of like just a resting practice, maybe a yoga Nedra or some restorative yoga. Maybe it's.

Cuddles with someone you love. Like this is so good for your nervous system, right? There's so many ways that you can approach this relaxation state, and then we get grounded. So that's kind of the emotional side of it. We have the thought. We have the emotion, and then when it comes to the nervous system, any regulation practices that will help that window of tolerance grow over time, that will help you.

Move in and out more efficiently. That will help you spend more time into the optimal state where you are feeling able to rest, able to digest, able to, you know, have libido, have interest, connect with other trust, open-hearted. Like when you're in that, uh, vagal state over time, that creates like a whole platform to support you.

So those are really like the three aspects that I teach. And then I would. Depending on desire and openness of people, some spiritual practices as well. So that's, for me, it's like the whole holistic approach.

Chris McDonald: Can you talk about the spiritual part?

Erika Belanger: Yeah. Um, for me, spiritual practices within my yoga background, it's a lot of chanting, uh, a lot of mantra chanting, meditation practices, and a lot of practices that are connected to like the things you don't see, if that makes sense.

I've experienced once I had like healed or got my overwhelm control in my life, like on this 3D plane reality, I noticed that in my spiritual practices, I would feel some overwhelm and I would feel some out of control because of all the unknown. Because of all the, you can't see, you can't touch, you don't know.

Like there's a lot of faith, a lot of trust, a lot. Just go for it and see what happens kind of thing. Right. And so working on that level of like, can I do practices that I see a result, even if I don't understand why it's working, can I do practices that affect my connection to something greater, something that I don't see.

So it's not only like connecting to my own body, my own self getting grounded to the earth, but can I also learn to trust and to surrender? And to let go. And that for me comes through connecting to something greater than you connecting to. A power, whatever that word is for you. It doesn't have to be God.

And spirituality is not about like the religious aspect of it, and we don't think that God is like one person in the sky. It's about maybe for you connecting to angelic beings or connected to. Ascending masters or connecting to just the energy of what is divine, what is sacred, what you know. So there's so many ways, like depending on your beliefs and what you are willing to try, but in my own practices, there's definitely a lot of chanting.

This is a way that you show devotion, that you connect to a God figure, that you kind of bow to something bigger than you.

Chris McDonald: Yeah, I've been practicing more chanting too. You know, I, I kind of shied away from it initially with my yoga practice. It just felt weird. I'm just gonna say it un uncomfortable. But yeah, for sure.

And I think it is, most people are not used to doing some kind of chanting percent or doing the ums. At the end of a yoga class, I'd be like, oh my God, why are we doing this? But now that I started to do it more, it feels more comfortable and I think. If therapists listening, ever wanna do it with clients, if they're open to it, that there are some amazing benefits.

I think it gives a connection to the other person too, from what I felt like in a yoga class. If we do, let's just say like three oms, it's like, I don't know. It kind of brings like a divine presence. I can't explain it. It's just that

Erika Belanger: sensation. There's a few things, in my opinion, is that I think expressing through your voice, Like, okay.

From a nervous system perspective, when you vibrate your soft palate, it's calming for your nervous system, so vibrating your soft palate and the sound om, is exactly that. If you think of the letter M, the mm, there's that vibration in the back of your throat, in the upper back of your throat. That alone sends the signal to the base.

You know, your brain to shift yourself into a more relaxed state. So just that. And if you're not comfortable with any chan that might seem spiritual or religious, you could do the letter M and you could inhale and exhale on. Hmm. And you just do a few rounds of breath like that, and you are gonna feel the shift.

Kind of sigh of your body at the end of that. So it doesn't have to be, if you're feeling weird about it, if you're not feeling like connected to what it means and it doesn't feel authentic to you at this point, go with the letter M or go with the sound of shushing a baby that's crying. You inhale and you sh, oh, I like that.

And you do that for a minute or two or three, however long you will feel the difference. You don't need to do that for super long, just. Vibration, we'll do it for you. So there's a lot of sound like that, that you can use. I love the m I love the shush, and I love the v v like a vow, like a V word, V sound, right?

So those are different. You can play with what feels best, so the vibration already helps your nervous system. Then when you come and you connect with someone with your voice, when you match that vibration of energy together, you co-regulate between each other. So you support yourself in relaxation. So the more people that are around you doing the same chant, not only is the vibration of that particular sound enhanced you.

Coming together and supporting each other in that rising of your own vibrational pattern. Thanks

Chris McDonald: for sharing that. I appreciate that. And, and for therapists too that wanna use spirituality with clients, I think that you brought up some good points that it doesn't have to be om, it could be just like you said, M like best sound, and.

And just try it. I think the whole point of this too is just to experiment to see what feels good in your nervous system. And then if you're working with clients too, just offering it as an option, right? And, and just seeing what works for them. But the more we practice these skills, the more it's gonna help with that nervous system regulation.

And hopefully then you can find something that you need that you can kind of connect with.

Erika Belanger: And yeah, and when you start with something as simple as the letter M and you bring that in your life, you could do it in traffic, you can do. Kind of silently when you're working, you're waiting in line at the store.

It could. Mm, no one's gonna hear it around the rumble of the room. You know what I mean? So you can bring those tiny little practices for any moment in your life where you're feeling a little, like, uh, this is a lot right now. Like traffic is a good example, right? Or you're in a meeting on Zoom, you can mute yourself and do a few rounds of.

No one's gonna know, but it's helping you stay present. It's helping you stay open-minded. It's helping you stay mentally like able to process the information. So learning those little techniques once you see the impact it has on you, you might be open to like, what else is there? Like what's the difference now if I do own.

On its own, it has a meaning. It has, right? Like we are adding an extra layer. There's not only the vibrational and the vibrational aspect in the throat, but then there's like, what does this word represents? And as I'm making the sound, what's the energy I'm calling in? And this is what you were mentioning in yoga class, like om is about connection.

It's about unity. It's about becoming one and not being separate. So it's so interesting that you brought, like I felt that connection with other people. This is the goal of this sound of those two letters together, those three letters together, traditionally it's an a u m. So those that bringing in is the intention behind the sound on

Chris McDonald: top of.

So what's the best way for listeners to connect with you so they can learn more about you? So they

Erika Belanger: can go to my website. Everything that I do is there, which is erica blan.com and on social media, Instagram is where I am present and active. I'm pretty much there every day, so it's really quick and easy to send me a DM and chat with me from there.

And as you mentioned, they could go and do the quiz if they want to know how sensitive they are. They might think like, well, maybe I'm a little, like you were saying, like in some aspects I am and in some others I'm not. And from there they will receive practices according to their level of sensitivity.

So it's a good way to start working with me for free cuz you will receive practices in your inbox from there. And then if they feel like they wanna work further, I have group coachings, but now we're in the middle of one or we've started one recently. But there's always one-on-one in the meantime until the next round comes along.

But there's a lot of stuff already on my website, on Instagram for

Chris McDonald: them too. And she has a wonderful podcast too.

Erika Belanger: Yes, that you must, the podcast is on and off your mat podcast. It's a mix of solo episode that I do by myself to teach about these things and interviews with yoga teachers, coaches, and spiritual leaders for any other aspect that I feel they have expertise in, and I wanna showcase their, their work.

And I've had you, Chris on, so if people wanna come and listen to your episode, we talked about yoga for depression. So yeah, there's a lot of good stuff on there. 170 something episodes. So there's definitely a lot of content for them. Yeah, and we'll

Chris McDonald: put all that in the show notes too, in case people thank you.

It so, definitely. Well, thank you so much for coming on the Holistic Counseling podcast, Erica.

Erika Belanger: Such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Chris McDonald: And I appreciate you listener, and have you found this podcast beneficial? Please spread the word. So share this episode with a colleague who might be interested in holistic counseling, and this can help us to further build our holistic community.

And once again, this is Chris McDonald sending each one. Much lay in love. Till next time, take care.

Chris McDonald: The information in this podcast is for general educational purposes only, and is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guest are giving legal, financial counseling, or any other kind of professional advice. If you need a professional, please find the right one for you.

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