Every now and then, something in life comes along that is so good that I want to wrap it up in pretty paper with a big iridescent bow on top and give it away to everyone I meet. Neurofeedback is one of those things. Ever since I experienced the strength and joy that came from my brain choosing and owning a new style of functioning, it became easier to enjoy the moment, face fears, overcome obstacles, live my dreams, cope with big emotions and thrive.
After my experience with neurofeedback, I felt God nudging me to head in that direction professionally. But, where would the money come from? How could I possibly leave my family for 10-days and fly across the country with a giant white service dog? Would she sit still during 10-hour training days? What if I got there and wasn’t any good at it? Is my brain truly cut out for neuroscience?
Even though those questions and doubts were there, they weren’t in the driver’s seat anymore, thanks to neurofeedback. Instead of being loud foghorns, they were more like faint background chatter that distracted me without derailing me. I could still choose to move forward with my dreams, and that’s just what I did.
In June of 2019, I found out that I had been selected as a winner of Birchbox’s Future Starts Now Fund. Their $5,000 award would be enough to cover the cost of the Othmer neurofeedback course I needed to attend in order to prepare to serve clients through neurofeedback.
So, it was official. I was going to California and it was time to prepare. I knew I needed to get several things in order:
- Training plan for service dog
- Plan for my own mental health
- Financial plans, in case of emergency
- Childcare details
- Study time
- Flight, hotel and rental car arrangements
- Plans for fun time outside of training.
It was in planning for these things that the anxiety of my own doubts began to quiet even further and I was able to move forward.
Now that I’ve been back from California for a few weeks and I’m gathering funds to purchase my own neurofeedback equipment, I thought I’d share three ways I faced my fears and went after my dreams, in hopes that these things might help some of you, too.
#1: Acknowledge Your Fears and Doubts
Our fears and doubts have a way of popping up whether we want them to or not, sometimes loudly and sometimes softly. One thing about fears and doubts is this: they don’t get softer when we ignore them. Nope. They get louder. No matter how much we might want to push them to the side and put our confident and unshakable face on, until we acknowledge those fears and doubts, they tend to take up more and more mental space.
So, grab a pen or sit face-to-face with a safe person in your life and just get honest about what your fears and doubts actually are. It’s okay. You are allowed to have them. Feeling fearful or uncertain doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do something or that there’s something wrong with you. It simply means that you are a human being doing or considering something new. Go you!
#2: Make a Plan
Just like our doubts and fears begin to lose their grip when we acknowledge them in a healthy way, they lose even more ground when we craft plans that address them. Try looking at your list of fears. Financial fears? Try a financial plan. Safety fears? Increase your safety or self defense skills. Fears about unworthiness? Write out positive truths about yourself and reflect on them. Mental or physical health concerns? Work with your physician or mental health professional. You get the idea– whatever your concerns, fears and doubts might be, address them with a concrete plan.
Having a concrete plan means more than having a vague mental idea about how you might address a concern. It means writing it down, scheduling each little step and action on your calendar and then following through.
One major component of a successful plan is celebrating every single little baby step you take along the way. Make it to your doctor’s appointment? Celebrate! Attend a self-defense class? Celebrate! Work with the service dog trainer? Celebrate! Say your affirmations? Celebrate! You are worthy of celebration.
Having a concrete plan also means being flexible and having grace for yourself. Your plan will need to change as you go. Maybe a financial responsibility comes up that changes how quickly you can save funds. An illness might cause you to miss a therapy session. Maybe it’s going to take twice as long as you thought to learn a certain skill or concept. That is okay and normal! It is proof that you are walking forward with strength and courage. You get to make mistakes and change the plan as you go.
#3 Gather a Team
When we’re overcoming fears and chasing our dreams, it means that we are probably doing new things with great frequency. Don’t try to go it alone. Your doubts and fears are likely to grow and become louder in an environment of isolation. Instead, craft a team of folks that can help you get where you are going and remind you of how far you have already come.
Finding people we trust enough to let them help us can be a real challenge for trauma survivors. Not to mention, truly trauma informed professionals can be few and far between. Maybe consider joining a group, attending daily calls with other survivors, working with a coach, etc. If you’re training a service dog, work with a professional service dog trainer. If you need help with finances, consult a book, professional or support group that resonates with you. Make an appointment to have coffee with a friend once a week. You are worthy of a support system!
Remember that other tools can be part of a support system, too. For instance, maybe HeartMath is helpful for you or you really enjoy Abide Christian meditations. Happify might help you keep a more positive outlook and remember the good things in life. Perhaps you’re a kid at heart and Mightier is more your speed, or you like body positive enjoyable movement from an app like Joyn. Whatever feeds your soul and gives you support can be part of your support team.
BONUS: Remember to Have Fun
While you’re on this big and exciting journey of overcoming fears and chasing your dreams, remember to have a bit of fun along the way. My therapist advised me to plan for seven fun things to look forward to on travel days, like eating in a certain restaurant, reading a certain book or relaxing in a certain place. I also chose to plan other fun outings during my stay in California, like hiking, going to the beach, visiting Hollywood and going to Disneyland.
You are worthy of that same fun, too! Brainstorm ways to have fun and when those fears begin to creep in, focus on the fun things you have planned instead. Think about what you want to see when you go to that amusement park. Pull up the menu for the special restaurant. Find out about any seasonal happenings. Ask other hikers for tips on their favorite trails for a good view.