I have been sending out sporadic email tips to my clients and friends who are doing neuroplasticity-based recovery programs. I am trying to send the emails more often, and to write shorter tips, and it occurred to me that some of them might make good blog posts. So, here is today’s. Enjoy!
Those of you with dog training experience will recognize this tip because it’s something that animal trainers use a lot.
There are two ways to handle unwanted behavior: Management and training. This applies to all animals and humans, but when doing neuroplasticity-based recovery, I treat my brain as the “animal” I am training.
Management prevents the unwanted behavior from happening in the moment but does not affect future behavior. Management is good for when you don’t want to practice the undesirable behavior. It might also be useful when there are safety issues (such as if you are working on balance and you want to have control over when, how, and where you fall).
Some common examples of undesirable mental “behaviors” are ruminating on symptoms, worrying, replaying a recent unpleasantness, or predicting a negative outcome about something you’re doing. Ideally, you’d want to do some form of retraining when you notice these cropping up, but maybe that’s not workable in the moment because you can’t concentrate or you’ve been training for the last four hours and you’re fried.
In this case, redirecting your thoughts in some way that is NOT practicing the behavior won’t necessarily rewire your brain, but it will keep your brain from practicing the behavior more, which is good management. Management strategies could include reading a book, watching TV, asking a friend how THEY are (so you are focusing on them, not you), or doing any mental task that requires focus (such as playing a musical instrument, writing, training your dog, reading to your child, playing Lumosity, etc.)
Training is the process of changing future behavior.
Training is what “rewires” your brain and changes your neural pathways. Training is what brings about recovery. Depending on what neuroplasticity program you’re doing, training might mean doing the DNRS Limbic Retraining Steps, doing yoga, meditating, walking, etc.
Daily life requires both management and training. We do not live in petri dishes. The ideal is to train. Whenever possible, turn to training; this will bring about faster results.
However, if there are times you simply cannot train, look to management. Here are some examples:
- If you’re practicing balance, and you feel unsteady, and you can’t train balance right now, sit down so you don’t practice falling down and feeling scared.
- If you’re practicing DNRS to recover from MCS, and the exposure is too overwhelming, leave the situation that is challenging for now so your brain doesn’t keep rehearsing reaction.
- If you’re experiencing anxiety or PTSD symptoms, connect with a person or animal to help you feel grounded and calm so your brain doesn’t keep practicing anxiousness.
- If you’re feeling rageful and ruminating on a past injustice, call someone who is having a hard time and offer them support (and focus/talk about them, not yourself!).
Happy training! (And happy management.)