Chronically Living and how to make the most of it

Brain-Based Wellness with special guest Elisabeth Kristof

May 17, 2021 Kelsey, Elisabeth Kristof Season 1 Episode 47
Chronically Living and how to make the most of it
Brain-Based Wellness with special guest Elisabeth Kristof
Show Notes Transcript

This week my guest is, Elisabeth,  the founder of Brain-Based Wellness. We talk about the importance of functional neurology when it comes to health, mental health and overall wellness.
In this episode we talk about:

  • functional neurology
  • what Brain-Based Wellness offers
  • how this approach can help chronic illness warriors

Guest Bio:
Elisabeth Kristof is an expert in using applied neurology to move people out of pain, unwanted behavior and stress response. She is the founder of Brain-Based Wellness, a revolutionary online platform that trains the nervous system and body to resolve old patterns, improve performance and increase well-being. Elisabeth is a certified applied neurology practitioner who has been in the fitness and movement industry since 2007. She works with entrepreneurs, athletes, leaders and creatives to improve resilience, manage stress and regulate emotions through intentional, science-based brain training. Her research and work with hundreds of clients taught her that healing and change must occur in both the body and the mind, that each body, mind, and nervous system is unique, and most importantly, that with the right tools, we are all capable of healing.
Follow her on Instagram @elikristof
Check out: https://brainbased-wellness.com/

Kelsey Harris:

Welcome to the chronically living and how to make the most of it podcast. I'm Kelsey Harris, a chronic pain warrior here to inspire hope and strength to the spoonie community, get ready to lift each other up and find ways to live the best life possible. Hey, everyone, welcome back to another episode of chronically living, I am really excited to have another guest on this week. I have Elisabeth Kristof today from brain based wellness. And she's going to talk to us about the importance of well, the brain and, and all the things that we can do with it, and movement and exercise and just a whole bunch of stuff for us to think about when it comes to wellness in general. And then also, you know, when we're thinking about our chronic illnesses, and chronic pain is specific specifically. A lot of this stuff really makes sense. And I really just hope you guys keep an open mind and look into this. And, yeah, let's get started. Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining me. So you're going to tell us about brain based wellness, which is very fascinating. So I'm really excited for today.

Elisabeth Kristof:

Awesome. Thank you for having me. I'm really happy to be here.

Kelsey Harris:

Awesome. So I'm really curious. Can you tell us what got you into this health and wellness type of work?

Elisabeth Kristof:

Yeah, so I have been in the movement industry pretty much my whole life, I was a mover my whole life. And I think without even understanding it, through my childhood and through most of my life movement was what saw me through really difficult times and kept my nervous system regulated and allowed me to process things. And though I didn't have that framework to see that at the time, I intrinsically understood that at the level of my body and have always been a big believer in movement and in teaching others movements. So I had a couple of Pilates Studios here in Austin, a teacher training program and online platform. And in around 2015, we were developing our teacher training program, and I knew that I wanted the brain to be a big focus of the program, I understood at the time that there's no real separation between our brain, our body and our nervous system. And it's not like you have a hip flexor that is deciding on its own to stay tight, right or that pain is something that your shoulder, you know, your deltoid is like I'm I'm going to create pain, all of that comes from our brain. And then it works as a system to, to move that through the body. And so I started studying applied neurology with an institute in Arizona called z health education, and using applied neurology, for athletic performance, and for pain management and clients. So getting people out of pain and making them better movers and giving them more strength by training their nervous system, as well as their body. And so I did that for many years. And then my life went through a series of events where I was under a tremendous amount of stress, I lost the business, I had to dissolve my business partnership, and we'd been in business for 12 years. And so I lost a lot of my identity and community with that and there was also a lot of financial stress. And I was engaged to a man who got very severe and, and somewhat deadly cancer around his heart right at that same time and went into being a full time caretaker. And it was just a very scary time where we never knew if the floor was gonna fall out from underneath us and we weren't getting a lot of sleep and living in the hospitals and, and I was just under a lot of stress. And I began to experience really severe outputs of my own Nervous System pain and and almost blacking out feigning at times binge eating, and I was able to look at myself through this lens of applied neurology that I had been studying for movement for so long and, and really began to understand that our nervous system drives so much in our lives, not just our athletic performance, but our behavior, our general sense of well being our ability to sit still and be present and to meditate and, and so I began going down a long healing path of learning how to train the nervous system and use somatic processes to move stress and emotions through the body to heal myself. And then in my work with clients to help them resolve unwanted behavior, pain, and to really just kind of level up their lives without going into burnout or dysregulation of their Nervous System. Right?

Kelsey Harris:

Okay. Yeah, really. Um, I mean, they amazing story like, really sad part obviously which but if you took it like in a way that inspired you to keep to do something with it, right, as opposed to like a lot of people, it's like, okay, like I give up and you've done something with it, which I think is really cool.

Elisabeth Kristof:

Thank you. Yeah, I feel like, there is an opportunity, right for another level of awakening every time we have one of those moments in life where life falls apart, which which happens sometimes. And for me, it was, though it was it was it was very painful. But it was also a time of real awakening. And I poured myself into research. And I was able to start looking at myself through a lens of curiosity and trying to understand why certain things were happening. And then when the pandemic hit, me went into quarantine, I knew, intuitively, or maybe just logically, that a lot of people were going to be facing the same kind of dysregulation I was they were going to lose their financial stability, they were going to have tremendous health, stress and health concerns. And that's when I decided to launch the platform in the business to give people these tools for self regulation tools to train their nervous system tools to process stress through their body. Because I think that the outcomes can be very severe if we don't have the tools to help our body and our nervous system deal with these things.

Kelsey Harris:

Mm hmm. Absolutely. And, like, I'm working at what I'm in training as a psychotherapist, and a lot of what you're saying is really resonated with me. And what I see in clients and like, even how I work with clients, even though it's more of like a psychological perspective is there's definitely a lot of overlap here,

Elisabeth Kristof:

they go really well together, right, combining some of that cognitive work and behavior change work with also making your body feel safe enough to be able to do that work and to be able to implement some of those changes. It can be a really beautiful combination that allows people to actually experience quite powerful change without moving into too much threat.

Kelsey Harris:

Right? Yeah. Okay, so tell us like what brain based wellness is.

Elisabeth Kristof:

So brain based wellness is a virtual platform. And it basically is a training system that puts your nervous system and your brain at the center of everything. So whether that's our movement practice, or a meditation practice, or behavior change, or mindset coaching, there's, we're always learning different ways to train the nervous system to be more resilient. So a lot of what I do is train people, very practical exercises that they can use to make their visual system function better, or the balance system inside of their inner ear, or their interoceptive system, which is, you know, the system inside of you, that gives your brain signals from your body about what's going on inside relays information from your guts up to your brain, and then also their body mapping system, their appropriate septic system. So I'm trying to always make people have better inputs of information coming into their brain so that their brain can do its primary job with more ease, which is making predictions to keep you alive. And so if the quality of the information coming in, is more reliable, more accurate, than our brain feels safer on a second by second basis and the stress load that the nervous system is under is reduced. And then you get less of those unwanted outputs outputs like pain, dizziness, migraine, fatigue, even dissociation and shut down because you're on a physiological level, making your body feel safer.

Kelsey Harris:

Right. Okay. So and then there's, I know, you've got like different elements there. So there's like the physical like the I think you've like cardio and Pilates and stuff like that. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Elisabeth Kristof:

Yeah, so we go live on the site every day we meaning me. I go live on the site every day with all the members and we practice movement together, because that's my 10,000 hours of expertise is movement and movement choreography and trying to create really intelligent movement programming that moves the body through all different kinds of angles and rotations. Because I really believe that the brain needs novel stimulus. And that movement is really, really important for our brain health. Our motor cortex has a huge impact on our frontal lobe. And if we want our brain to stay healthy, we are meant to move so I teach movement on the site, and we move together and community live and then there's on demand as well. And then we have some small group neuro coaching classes as well, where I work with people who have disordered eating and that's called food freedom and we combine a lot of behavior change with Nervous System training and somatic processing of emotions through The body and also self regulation tools like what things can we do that help your nervous system and your body feel better right that second, so that you can interrupt the normal cycles of behavior that you're trying to move out of that maybe you've relied on for self regulation for a long time? And how can we give you something else? So that you can stop that behavior and, and still regulate your nervous system?

Kelsey Harris:

Right. Okay, that makes sense. I'm curious about the somatic processing of emotions. Can you tell us more about that, I'm just like, I'm interested.

Elisabeth Kristof:

So one of the things that I learned as I was going through that difficult time, was it really pushed me into doing a lot of research initially, actually, to help my my partner at the time, because he also had PTSD. And then he had developed this cancer, and I was trying to understand what was happening in his body, and why there was such a high threat response that I could see in his nervous system all the time. And so I started reading books, like waking the tiger or the body keeps the score and really understanding that everything we experience in our mind, we also experience in our body. And that while we are our higher order thinking systems may have ideas that they want us to be able to achieve. If we don't process events and emotions through our bodies, we are likely to get held back by a body that is dysregulated. And holding on to a lot of old stuff. So I in our somatic processes, we do a neuro somatic reset on the site every week, where we give gentle stimulation to the vagus nerve, which is a really important cranial nerve that helps regulate your autonomic systems like your heart rate and your digestion and also just your parasympathetic response, which is your calm and respond response. And so we do stimulation for cranial nerves that's very gentle, combining it with some breath work, combining it with a little bit of body mapping or sensory stimulus, just creating stimulus that our body likes so that we are leaving that our with a really well regulated nervous system, and creating this sense of safety and well being inside of the body. And then we also do some somatic map flows, where, again, I'll use either applied neurology, like body mapping exercises or joint mobilization to move people through what may be their body's stress response, after certain situations, getting release of the jaw getting release of like startle reflex, where your spine rounds forward and your shoulders rise up or your hip flexors tighten up, like what can we do to move your body out of that state so that it's now sending a signal to your brain, that you're safe that you're not under threat? So it's kind of a bottom up approach to making you feel better, so that then you can react differently.

Kelsey Harris:

Okay, yeah. Cool. So I get like, I find this all super interesting. And he like it's so it's all basically, you're just trying to change the brain, the way that it's it's getting given getting information and dealing with it. Right? Yeah, so I'm sure most of the listeners are wondering, like, how is this gonna help them with their health?

Elisabeth Kristof:

Yeah, so it's our nervous system is much more important than we might think. And that we're taught a lot of times, we all have this really intelligent, well designed system inside of us our nervous system, which sort of is our operating system. And so your nervous system controls so much the tension in your muscles, your inflammation response, your you know, if you wake up in the morning, and it's just the same day all over again, right? It's not, there's nothing imminent happening that day, but you feel that sense of your heart is racing a little bit, or you have tightness in your chest, and racing thoughts in your mind, all of that is, is an output of your nervous system. And so our nervous system and our brain are always changing, they're super malleable, and they will change in response to the stimulus put in. So if I want to create a different sense of, of being inside of my body, if I want to wake up with energy and not feel like I'm waking up, already in threat, already startled. And then also if I want to not experience chronic stress in my body and elevated heart rate, high inflammation, digestive issues, all of that can be achieved by training your nervous system to function better and to be in a more regulated state more of the time. And that doesn't mean like a flatline state but to be able to oscillate a little bit better between You're sympathetic, which is your fight and flight and your parasympathetic, which is your common response. So to keep those waves a little more even, and to make that oscillation a little bit better, so that you're not getting pushed into these dysregulated states, where you are then going to experience outputs of your brain when it doesn't feel safe. So again, like pain, for instance, when our brain and our nervous system are under too much threat for too long pain is a signal of your brain, it's an action signal to do something to keep you safe. So if there's been too much stress, for too long, your brain is going to use pain is a behavior change tool to get you to take smaller steps to work out less to interact with the world less and to have less stimulus coming in. And if you want to get out of pain, you have to train the nervous system, so that your brain can then change that output to one of performance instead of pain and allow you to have better range of motion more strengthen your muscles to be more present to have more cognitive skill.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah, okay. I like that. Because it's interesting, I was just talking with a colleague the other day about, you know, how anxiety feeds chronic pain, which feeds anxiety, which feeds chronic pain, like the anxiety part of it, feeds it more than anything else.

Elisabeth Kristof:

It's a loop. And so a lot of what I aim to do with my clients is to give them these really practical tools to interrupt the loop. So that, you know, if there's certain tongue exercises that their nervous system responds really well to our eye exercises, they can when they feel those initial signals of their threat loop starting, maybe it's a little bit of pain in their left knee, or some tightness in their jaw instead of just pushing through it. Until you get to that place of extreme anxiety and a lot more dysregulation, you can stop right then and be like, Okay, my nervous system and my body are speaking to me, I need to do something to to make my brain and my body feel safer, what are some tools that I can use, and maybe that's going for a walk, maybe it's taking a hot bath, maybe it's doing some tongs, circles, and you interrupt that loop, and the more you interrupt it, the better you get at interrupting it before you get into those states, because what we do we get better at that's a neurological principle too. And so if we keep pushing past, the quieter signals into the louder, more severe signals that our body has to send us, we also get better at that we can get better at creating pain, we can get better at creating anxiety. So we're learning to stop and have practical ways to interrupt that so that we are more regulated more of the time.

Kelsey Harris:

Right? Yeah. And then like you said, practice, like, this isn't something you do once a year like fixed, right, you have to continue to rise.

Elisabeth Kristof:

That's right, I tell people to think about it, it's like working out, it's like training your muscles at the gym, except it's training for your nervous system. And it doesn't have to be a huge amount. You can do it in as little as like five to 10 minutes a day, or you know, a couple of minutes spread out throughout the day, like in between your zoom meetings, do something that makes your nervous system calm down in between, you know, your morning and your afternoon when you're starting to get tired, do something that makes your nervous system feel good. But it does need to be habitual. And so you can start with a minimum effective dose just a little bit and start to weave it throughout your day. And the better you feel, the easier it is to do it. But it's it is it's a it's a training system that happens over time.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah. Okay, cool. So what kind of clients do you work with them?

Elisabeth Kristof:

So a lot of my clients are pretty hard driving, mostly women, some men who often are entrepreneurs, or creatives or social activist and they really, they push themselves hard to create a big life that they want. They're at, they're performing at a high level. But a lot of times they come to me in a state of depletion and burnout. And it's they feel super frustrated because they've built this big beautiful life, but they can't feel the pleasure of it. Or they want to level up their life in certain ways. And they keep getting held back and it feels like they're being held back by their body by injury, by pain, by migraine. by extreme fatigue and, or even like unwanted behaviors that are self regulation behaviors, like binge eating, and then they they're used to. They're used to handling it all with their mind and their intellect and they can't and it's frustrating. And so what I do is then work with them to help them learn how to bring their body and their nervous system onboard so that they can feel pleasure and have joy and be able to rest at night and show up how they want to in the world without getting held back by nervous system. That's just under too much threat for too long.

Kelsey Harris:

Mm hmm. Okay, yeah, that makes sense. Um, can you give us an example of a client success story?

Elisabeth Kristof:

Yeah. I mean, a really archetypical client of mine, her name is Molly. And she is very passionate. She's very passionate about her life, her family means everything to her. And but she's also she wants to do really well, at her career, she's worked her way up the ladder. And she's been building a big life for a long time. But she would always get shut down by migraines. And it was starting to rob her of her time with her little baby, and with her husband, and eventually got to the point where she was having some vision disturbances as well, which to me is like a huge red flag that your body and your nervous system are saying, like enough. And so we started working together. And she did one of my small group neuro training courses called energy creation. And we start just by creating safety in the body doing a lot of respiration training, a lot of Vegas nervous up regulation, and she's been working with me for about a year and a half, she hasn't had a migraine sense. Her she does not have panic attacks anymore. And she's been able to continue to build a career and like be present with her kid on the weekends. And then we've also done a lot of behavior change, work, looking at old beliefs that don't serve her like beliefs that you have to be strong all the time. Or that self care is like this indulgent thing that, you know, isn't important. And it's kind of selfish. And so how do we bake those new beliefs in to the body and the old brain as well as into the cognitive mind, so that she can create a space for herself and be able to heal in the way that she needs to to have the relationship that she wants with her husband, to show up for her daughter the way that she wants, and to have the career and the life that she's that she's seeking?

Kelsey Harris:

That's awesome. Yeah. You've kind of mentioned a couple, but what are some of the coaching and classes that you offer? Cuz I know you offer some one on one coaching, and you have a bunch of different classes as well?

Elisabeth Kristof:

Yeah, so the the classes on the site are mostly movement based. But we do do applied neurology training twice a week, we do those neuro somatic resets and then applied neurology that's training the visual system, the balance system inside of the inner ear and the body mapping system. So again, you're just getting better and better information into the brain. So the brain is feeling safer all the time. And then in the small groups, what we do is we do applied neurology, we also do a lot of somatic processing, and do EFT work like EFT tapping and belief work. And even subconscious reprogramming, it's a longer like a nine month program to really create substantial change in somebody's life, whether that's they've been binge eating their whole life or stress eating, or again, they're being shut down by chronic pain or migraine, or something like that, that is a little bit more of a process and an undertaking. Those are for the small group coaching and those we meet bi monthly. And then they also have access to the site and voxer access to me, and it's pretty high touch, very tight community of people. And we just create a new baseline way of being in their nervous system so that they can get out of this stuff that's been holding them back.

Kelsey Harris:

Oh, really cool.

Elisabeth Kristof:

It's a lot of fun. I really like I love it every day.

Kelsey Harris:

That's awesome. I can tell like you're very you can tell passionate you are about it. So it's really cool. And I like again, like there's so much overlap with psychology. So it's really like even for me when I work with my clients. Like I often do suggest movement activities between sessions as well as it's like their homework, right? Because it's it is so helpful.

Elisabeth Kristof:

Yeah, it's really important. I just, I think I'm passionate about it, because I understand how hard it can be to want to implement these behavior changes or to get out of trauma responses, or depression or anxiety and feel like you understand everything so much in your, in your prefrontal cortex in your high order thinking systems, but you just can't get there. And so I think linking the two and getting some of that stress of looking at that stuff and trying to change that behavior to be processed through the body is is a really important piece or it was for me anyway in order for me to be able to really get past some of this stuff, it had to I had to bring my body along with me.

Kelsey Harris:

Right? Okay. So I've had a lot of holistic practitioners on the show. And I'm just wondering like how you feel this is different from other holistic approaches?

Elisabeth Kristof:

Well, I th nk any, anything you can d that's holistic is good. And I think everybody is drawn to t eir own form of healing. And so hatever people find that resona es with them, I think is great. I would say the difference betwe n brain based wellness is the type of applied neurology that I do is really typically sed for athletic performance and or pain. there's not v ry many people out there that us it for behavior change, that us it for mindset coaching. And I think that the brain based ellness community, in general i a very growth oriented commu ity and the stuff that we do in erms of training the nervous sys em, and the neuro somatic re ets and combining all of that ith the movement, there's just the way that it's all combined i pretty different from other pr ctices. And it is a ve y, very integrated approach to healing that is not only i cluding movement, or e otional processing, but also jus really practical Nervou System t

Kelsey Harris:

Hmm, yeah, cool. My favorite thing to ask all my guests is like, how do you inspire your clients to make the most of their lives,

Elisabeth Kristof:

I have a belief that everybody does the best they can at the level of their nervous system. And so I think that the best thing I can do to inspire them, is to give them tools that empower themselves, to heal their nervous system deficits to heal, what is driving them into those unwanted behaviors or into those patterns that they can't get out of. And I think that ultimately, they're the ones that have the power to do the healing themselves. And I just have to, I just have to point them in the right way and give them the education that they need. And when people have that education, and they can become their own expert of their own nervous system, then that gives people hope, where it can feel like there's not at certain points. And so I feel like just the education is really how I inspire people and giving them a different framework to see behavior to see their lived experience and to know that healing and change is possible at this other level that maybe they just haven't seen before.

Kelsey Harris:

Yeah, yeah, like that. I think it's also important for everybody listened to like, remember that sometimes change is slow. So like you said, You've like worked with one woman for like, a year and a half? And like, it's not overnight thing, right?

Elisabeth Kristof:

No, it's not, I feel like it has to be quick. So change at the level of the nervous system is instantaneous. So we can always like, assess and reassess if something is moving them in a positive or negative direction. But those patterns are also really deep. And you've been going through that your whole life. And so we can make you feel better pretty quickly. But then you have to keep doing it and keep resetting that baseline in order for lasting change to occur. Absolutely.

Kelsey Harris:

Cool. Is there anything else you think we should know about brain based wellness?

Elisabeth Kristof:

No, I think that I would just love to, to see people. on my site, I have a free applied neurology one on one course, if you go to my website, which is brain based dash wellness calm, and you can learn there how to assess and reassess how things are affecting your nervous system, and learn a couple really learn a couple high payoff drills that have been beneficial for a large number of my clients so that you can start to implement them throughout the day, and see what a difference it makes for you.

Kelsey Harris:

Awesome, I'll link that in the show notes as well. And do you have any social media that we can follow you on?

Elisabeth Kristof:

Yes, you can follow me on Instagram @elkr stof K-R-I-S-T-O-F. And then everything else is really just through the website. And that's the best place to to just try the work you can try to three weeks on the site live and you can try that free applied neurology course and just try it on and see how it feels for your body for your nervous system. And if it makes a difference for you because again, I think everybody's nervous system is so unique and what appeals to people may be so different. So I like to give people the opportunity to to try it on for themselves.

Kelsey Harris:

Right, awesome. Well, I feel like I learned a ton of stuff today. So this is great and stuff that I can take with me personally but also like professionally so really cool. Awesome. Thank you so so much. Yeah, thank you and everyone listening, just keep on making the most of it.

Elisabeth Kristof:

That's right.

Kelsey Harris:

Thank you so much for joining me today on the chronically living podcast. If you love this week's podcast, please subscribe, rate and leave a review. Until next week, stay strong