NICOLE LEPERA: “The more consistently we’re rewarded for, say, doing instead of being, the more now we're suppressing ourselves. We're suppressing our emotions. We're suppressing our actual essence base, our spiritual expression. And the more times we do that, the more disconnection now we have between who we are really inside and the role we're playing, or how we're presenting ourself outside. And the greater that disconnection, the more we're going to suffer and struggle with the depression, with the anxiety, and with all of these things that we're calling diagnoses and symptoms and syndromes. And all of this, in my opinion, comes from not living from ourselves.”
INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started.
AMY PORTERFIELD: My latest podcast obsession is My First Million, hosted by Sam Parr and Shaan Puri. They discuss how companies made their first million and brainstorm new business ideas based on the hottest trends. They recently released an episode with my friend Nathan Barry from ConvertKit. It was called “How to Become a Billion-Dollar Creator.” And I loved when Nathan talked about some of his biggest failures and what he'd do if he had to start over. You know I'm a sucker for conversations like that. You can check out My First Million wherever you listen to your podcasts.
AMY: Welcome back to another episode of Online Marketing Made Easy. You downloaded and are listening to this episode because it caught your attention, and I'm so grateful for that because today's episode is fire.
But before I go there, let me back up a bit. So here we are, March 2022, and I've officially been in Nashville for over a year, which is wild to me. If you followed my journey, you know that it was a little—okay, maybe a lot—rocky in early 2021, right after we moved to Nashville. I struggled with my mental health, and I really had some bouts of darkness. I've had to work every single day to pull myself out of depression and anxiety, and something I leaned on, and still do lean on, has been books, specifically personal-development books that really helped me to examine my mindset. Because let's be honest, if you want to be happy and successful in your business, you must work on yourself outside of your business. Can I get an amen?
So, what does this have to do with my guest in today's episode? Well, her book happens to be one of those books that really challenged me to examine my thoughts and my thought patterns. Her book and her work have been instrumental in shifting my mindset. Her name is Dr. Nicole LePera, a.k.a The Holistic Psychologist, and her book is called How to Do the Work. And if you haven't guessed by now, it's a fantastic read. Dr. Nicole is going to share all about her journey and how she came up with what she calls “the work.” So we'll dive into that. But we'll also talk about how trauma, big or small, interferes with how we show up in our businesses. And we'll talk about patterns that aren't serving us.
In fact, I already recorded the episode with Dr. Nicole, and I shared something that I've never talked about before that has really stuck with me through my entrepreneurial journey, something that I've had to work on over and over and over again. And we get into it in the episode, so I'm glad I shared it with you, because I think many of you might be able to relate to it. But I won't give it all away. Let's just dive in. Please help me welcome my guest, Dr. Nicole.
Welcome to the show, Dr. Nicole. I am so honored that you're here.
NICOLE: I am so honored to be here, Amy.
AMY: Well, I've been excited all week for this show and just, like, a little bit giddy about it because this is the episode that I've wanted to do forever. Now, I'm a big fan of your book. I've posted about it on all of my social platforms, so I don't think my audience is going to be too surprised that I am over-the-moon excited that you're here. And to be honest, at one point you left some comment on social media, and right then I was like, “Oh, my goodness. Maybe I'll be able to get her on the show. I'm going to try my darndest.” And here you are. So, I just think that the fact that I'm a huge fan of your book, now you're coming on the show, we're going to talk about it, I just want all my listeners to know you all are in for a treat.
So, here's what I want to do. I was hoping that we could start just with your story. I want my audience to hear more about you. And a lot of them will already know who you are. A lot of them already have your book. But some of them, you’ll be brand new. So with that, can you talk about your story about stepping into the work and what you do and this movement that you’ve created?
NICOLE: Absolutely. And Amy, I want to, first and foremost, let you know that I'm such a big fan of your work, and I have actually learned a lot from you, consuming your content, back when I was trying to figure out how the hell that I was going to be online, which is very much part of my journey. So little did you know—
AMY: I had no idea!
NICOLE: —that your request to have me is kind of like me coming full circle in a lot of ways because I've looked up to the work you've done and the content you've put out there and helping people to actualize their voice and how to be a voice in a much more public way. So you've been very pivotal in my own journey, so thank you.
AMY: Well, that is a surprise and so, so cool to hear, so thank you so much.
So, my journey, actually, obviously, as many of ours do, started as long as I can remember back in childhood. I was a little human, really fascinated, motivated, curious to understand other humans, what made me similar to the people that I was meeting in my world, what made me dissimilar? Really, I was wanting to understand the human being. On the personal side of things, as long as I can remember, I struggled a lot with anxiety. I was quite literally the little girl afraid of the world, afraid of bad things happening to my family, really painfully shy, afraid to even be out into the world. So that curiosity and I think that understanding of what it is to struggle before very long threw me into following a course or a career in clinical psychology. I really wanted to help others understand themselves and create change in their world.
So, flash forward however many years it is—almost a decade—that I was in training to be a clinical psychologist. I finally opened up a very successful private practice in Philadelphia, started to see a whole bunch of clients week after week. And what I came to realize was I was feeling really, really disempowered right along with my clients because I kept coming up against the one word that would come up in session after session is, “I feel so stuck, Nicole. There's all of this insight. I'm really understanding myself at this really core level, yet I can't create change. I can't maintain new habits. I can't break old habits that aren't serving me.” And being very honest with myself, I saw that same patterning in me. I had been through therapy. I’d been on the other side of the couch. I'd been in my own treatment. I, in my opinion, had some high level of self-awareness, yet I kept finding myself stuck, too.
So I really sought to understand, what was going on here? How could I have so much training, so many tools, and yet this isn't really working for myself and other people? And what I understood was deep diving into a journey, really immersing myself in what at that time was new science, new literature on the ability to create change in both our mind and bodies, I began to really shift the focus of my practice. I was once, the way I would kind of frame it is once working with the mind, understand the mind, create change, think differently, reframe, and change your life, I came to understand that that really wasn’t successful.
So now I dropped into a much more holistic way of working, which first began with me. I was on my own journey of healing. How can I incorporate my body? And what I came to be aware was different levels of dysregulation, of imbalance that I had stored in my body that was keeping me stuck, and because I was able to be so successful in my own journey, I felt very inspired to begin to speak my truth online and to begin to talk about what it was for me and how I began to now, finally, for the first time, create change, which is where I met your work, and I began to study, how do you go online? How do you begin to share your story, yourself, and your teaching tools? And that's, of course, what motivated me to start the holistic psychologist, to begin to talk about different types of healing journeys, much more holistic ones, and to, then, give different types of tools for people so that they could be accessible wherever they were in the world to the components that I believe actually create change.
AMY: Well, I'm so glad that you took this online, because I know you're helping millions of people. And I have to tell you, the reason I picked up your book for the very first time was that when I—so I've dealt with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, and last year I really struggled with it; 2021 was probably my toughest year ever, and I've talked about that publicly. And I have a coach, and I was telling her, I just don't understand how to—I literally said, “What does it mean to do the work?” I kept asking her, “What am I supposed to be doing? Whatever I'm doing is not working.” But I kept saying, “What does it look like to do the work?”
And so here I am, stumbled across your work, which is how to do the work, and I thought, “Well, if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is.” And so that’s how I got into your world. And I would love for you to share with those who are listening about the work. Like, how is the work that you talk about different from other types of therapy or personal-development work?
NICOLE: So what “the work” means to me really is it emphasizes the daily nature of change that change requires. So what I mean when I say that is, I came to realize the reason why so many of us are stuck is that we're not living consciously. We're not showing up each moment anew. We're not in a conscious part of our brain that is actually very powerful, the prefrontal cortex, that allows us to understand the things that don't work, to understand and have this insight, and then to apply it in real time.
Because where most of us are living our day-to-day lives is actually, what commonly has been come to be known as, autopilot. And when we're in our autopilot, we're actually living in subconscious habits and patterns that oftentimes don't serve us at all; that were created, usually for most of us, in our childhood, in our earliest environments; that very much helped us to survive those environments. Though as we grow, as we change, as we have access to more resources and more insight, if we're not conscious in real time, we are going to continue to repeat the old habit. So that's that stuck place that I was really identifying in myself and others, which is I have all this insight, yet in my life, when I want to break this habit or when I want to maintain new choices, more often than not, I'm in that autopilot.
So, what “the work” really means, and this is, I believe, applies to even those of us who are in therapy, who do have coaches, who have a place where we do go maybe an hour a week to work on our transformational journey, whatever it might be, I believe the work needs to apply to life outside of that one hour a week, because again, that's likely where we are dropped into our autopilot. We are repeating habits and patterns that don't serve us. So unless we become conscious throughout our day, change is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.
AMY: So, give me an example of knowing that you're on autopilot, and what are you supposed to do about that? How do you make that change? And I know that's kind of a loaded question, and people need to read the book, but can you kind of give me a little bit of that?
NICOLE: I think what you're asking is really important, Amy, because most of us aren't even aware.
AMY: I don't think I am.
NICOLE: We've been living autopilot for so long, that’s just who we are. That’s just what we think. That’s just how we navigate our day. So autopilot really takes hold for most of us from the moment we open our eyes. And one of the main ways we can know is when we're very repetitive, when our thoughts are very repetitive, when we have the same habit in addition to—especially when, I should say—when we've wanted to create change in those areas, right? So if I've come to the awareness that in the mornings, maybe I want to have some space to have a meditation practice or a moment of silence, yet I can't. So when I have an intention to do something different and I don't, it's usually, again, because I've dropped into that autopilot.
As a human, while we can change, we can create incredible transformation, throughout our lives, we actually don’t prefer to, because there's incredible safety in the familiar habits and patterns, because we get to predict what comes next. And according to the evolutionary part of our brain, which is focused solely on survival, what is predictable is preferable because it's safe; it's familiar. So now we're up against the actual evolutionary drive to stay in familiar habits and patterns, even if we've come to the conclusion, living many different consequences, that we want to change.
So, again, ways to know are if you kind of just feel like you go about your day in a very reactive way, and you come to the end of your day, and you don't really feel like you've been present. I know for me, my autopilot consisted of what I call living on my spaceship, meaning I could have conversations. I would live a whole life in a given day and have very little memory or impact of even the things I did, the conversations I had. I would have very little memory of it. So that's a big marker of a lot of us on autopilot. We’re not present, because our habits are just taking us through our day.
And again, definitely a marker if you've intended to create change and you can't. And definitely a marker if you're very repetitive. You think the same thoughts. You’re always caught in the same feeling. You're always doing that same thing that you want to stop doing. Chances are, that’s a marker of your autopilot.
AMY: Okay. So, for those that are listening, including me, I'm like, “Yes, yes, yes. I can identify a few of those in my life, absolutely.” What is one of the first steps that you take to move out of that autopilot sense of living?
NICOLE: The first step and the foundation for any process of change is creating consciousness, is learning how to be present to what is happening now, to what can then be possible, what I can do differently in this current moment. I don’t have choice unless I’m conscious to what’s present, to what’s here, to what my choices even are. And consciousness begins when we are present, and the we can become present is we can—I give two really helpful suggestions that are kind of back pocket.
The first is checking in with yourself, setting an alarm. We all carry technology, most of us, in our pockets even. Set an alarm on your phone for random times throughout your waking day, to the extent that you'll probably forget you set an alarm for 1:30 p.m. You'll probably forget by the time that alarm goes off. And when that alarm goes off, the first step is doing a consciousness check in, checking with yourself to see how present am I? Am I fully immersed in whatever it is that I'm doing? Am I really having this conversation with someone in front of me? Am I really paying attention to my work, or maybe the television that I'm watching in leisure? Or, as most of us will find, was my attention somewhere else? Is there someone talking to me, and I'm lost in thought? Is the television on, and I'm worrying about an argument that I had, or I'm formulating something I want to say to someone in a text message? How present am I? And when you're not present, as most of us aren't, we really want to teach ourself how to come into presence. And the greatest access point for that is through our senses, really devoting time and just a second, even, of attention into what am I feeling in this moment? What am I seeing? Is there anything that I can touch? Am I sitting on a hard surface? Am I sitting on a soft surface? Am I smelling anything? Can I be in my body in this moment, because in my body is where consciousness can be present? And the more consistently I, then, practice that, the more I give myself opportunity to make new choices outside of that autopilot.
AMY: Okay. That's a good one. I'm cracking up because I put the alarm on my phone during my lunch hour, which is usually this time, but we moved some things around, so you all heard my alarm go off.
NICOLE: Was that your alarm?
AMY: That’s exactly what it is. I give myself just five minutes because I am very much on autopilot most of the time, or at least I realized I was after diving into your work. And so I love that. Just, like, takes you right out of it and takes you right into the moment. It's 1:00, guys, except time your timers right and not on a live podcast, but it does work really well.
NICOLE: The only kind of additional piece that I want to offer here, we come right back into the moment until we drift again. So this is where we have to have that really annoying conversation where I suggest that this is the process, right? This means building on that one moment into two moments, being able to, over time, know how present are you and how present aren't you at any given moment, because it's not like a light switch, unfortunately. If when I come into consciousness, that doesn't mean I'm there now for the rest of the day. I can just as easily slip back into my autopilot within the next, even, five to ten minutes.
AMY: Oh, yeah.
NICOLE: So this is where it's that practice, because what we're doing when we're practicing is something actually incredibly powerful for our brain. We're teaching our brain to fire in a new way. So for those of us who are living most of our life in autopilot, we have so many neural networks that are fired up in the lower emotional part of our brain, where all of those habits and patterns live. And this consciousness that we keep talking about that lives in the more frontal part of our brain doesn’t fire much at all, not consistently, at least. Every time we make that commitment to become present, those moments add up. Every time I fire that prefrontal cortex, that upper, that consciousness-living part of my brain, I'm teaching my brain so that over time, I can, then, live more consciously online because I know that that bridge is vast in the beginning. Especially if you've lived like me, on your spaceship all of the time, you slip right back into that autopilot, if not immediately. So it's really building on those moments so that you can—because I know, probably, listeners are like, “Yeah, Nicole. Live consciously. What are you talking about? It’s so hard.” Over time, you’re actually firing your brain in a new way, making it easier.
AMY: Oh, I love that. I love that there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel. It's not always as difficult as it is in the beginning.
Okay. I want to talk to you about trauma. And I had Gabby Bernstein on the show not long ago, and I asked her this very similar question, but I'm very curious your take on that. Before I ask you any questions about trauma, do you believe that everybody has experienced trauma in one way or another?
NICOLE: I do. I think that there's a much more expanded definition of trauma that applies to the large majority of us. The definition of trauma that I think is much more accurate doesn't actually label anything outside of us at all. The event, historically, we label an event as traumatic. If it passes a certain threshold—abuse or neglect usually fall into this category—then we say that the impact was traumatizing. I’m much more of a proponent of not labeling the event itself, labeling the impact on the person, because what impacts us more and more consistently is when we, in our mind and body, feel overwhelmed. And there's many moments that happen very consistently. For a lot of us, oftentimes in childhood, when we are actually dependent on someone else, our caregivers, to help us not be overwhelmed, help us regulate when we do feel like we're getting to that point of overwhelm, to bring us back, and when we don’t have that, then we've experienced, in my opinion, trauma. So with that expanded definition, trauma is not a concept applied to the event. It’s actually something that we apply to, how have we experienced the event? And then when we include all of the different relationships we've had, environments we've lived in, the large majority, in my opinion, of us have been overwhelmed consistently enough to have experienced some version of trauma.
AMY: Absolutely agree. I’m glad you set that up, because here's my question for you. I think it's easy to compartmentalize and think that trauma in your personal life won't seep into work and negatively affect your performances or your mindset about how you respond to challenges in the work situation as an entrepreneur. But do you find that trauma also shows up in work or entrepreneurial endeavors? This is something we've never explored on the show. But if you do think it does, how can we make sure that we're healing those things so that we can focus on getting our message out into the world and making a greater impact? Because the people that are listening right now are entrepreneurs, and I really do believe that things that have happened in our personal lives, I think that they seep into our work.
NICOLE: Absolutely. Any state of being; any relationship we're in, work included; even a relationship, me to my product of creation, whatever it might be. Me to my business partners, my team; me to someone else, my consumers that I'm interacting with in business, that's still an aspect of me as a human. So if I'm carrying the trauma that I believe lives in our mind and our bodies with me in time and to all of the other relationships that I'm in, of course I'm bringing it into my business endeavors, whatever they may be.
Actually, for some of us, as the overachiever that I have historically identified with, for a lot of us, even our actioning in business, this tendency to want to strive and succeed, not saying it's a negative thing at all, when we're conscious about it, it can be very much something that helps us succeed in whatever our business may be. However, for some of us, that tendency to overachieve, that habit of over achievement, actually is an autopilot setting for us. For a lot of us, if we didn't feel valued as a child, just for being, just having some space in our home, or an emotionally attuned or attentive caregiver just to give us the space to just be, however we are in that moment, me, myself, not having had that very early on, I learned how to get the attention that helped me to feel validated and good as a child. And for me, that was through achievement. So before long, and of course, it's very understandable that, of course, I got the highest degree in my field. I received a Ph.D. because that was my drive to succeed. So even us entering into business and being as successful as some of us are, for a lot of us, that is a habit in our autopilot.
And then, of course, if we have deep beliefs that we're not worthy, that's going to translate into our business. We might not even show up to create the business itself.
And when I was sharing with you my own journey, this conversation very much applies. As a child, not only did I learn to achieve, something else I learned to keep myself safe was to monitor what I said, to filter it, to water it down, namely out of concern for upsetting people. In my childhood, there was a lot of chronic-health illness. There was a lot of active worry a lot of the time. So I learned very young how not to add to that worry, and how not to add to that worry was not to upset my family members with my thoughts, my feelings, even my actions in any given day that I thought would add to that stress.
So what that translated to by the time I was in my thirties was I had a habit, a subconscious, autopilot habit, of filtering everything through that question, if you will, of how will this affect the person I'm going to speak it to? Will this cause worry? Will this cause upset? And if I could imagine a possibility that it will, I won't say that truth. So for me, going back, and how this all applies, in business, as my practice was changing, as I was coming into the awareness of embracing this more holistic model of truth, I was so used to watering it down, to filtering it, I was so afraid on some level of what people would think of me, a clinical psychologist talking about this mind, this body, dare I even say the spirit, the soul, what will this be like for other people? Will it be upsetting to my colleagues? Will it be upsetting to my clients, just other humans on this life journey? How will this be for other people to hear? And what I came to realize, and the biggest part of my journey, was learning how to speak my truth and stand in that regardless of how other people will be.
So a lot of us prevent ourselves from even developing business, even living into our truth of what we want, our purpose, our passion, to create into a business, because, again, we have these subconscious filters. I'm not worthy to speak the truth. I don't have credentials to speak the truth, or whatever it is for us. We water down and filter our purpose, our passion, and ultimately our business, and we don't even give ourself the opportunity to put ourselves out there.
AMY: Ooh. That speaks to me, to my soul. You know, it made me think—I've never talked about this before on the podcast or anywhere, but I went to a place called Onsite. Have you ever heard of Onsite? It's actually here in Nashville. It's a therapeutic retreat kind of center. And I went there. It was group coaching. And one of the things while I was there is they were talking about, what is one thing that as a child you never heard, but you feel as though you need to hear it or you wanted to hear it? I was like, I don't know. I felt really closed off. I didn't know what that was. And then, long story short, they went around, and everyone started to say one thing that they wished they had heard. And there's this one guy that said, “I wish I had heard, ‘You are perfect just the way you are.’” This guy said it, and I just started bawling crying, and I wasn't emotional at all during this retreat, and it just lost it. And in that moment, I realized I had a dad who was really, really strict and gave me all the praise in the world when I was doing big things, doing great things. But when I was just me, there was nothing.
And so now in my work what I realized is if I'm not doing, if I'm not showing up, if I'm not doing the webinars and the funnels and all of the stuff I love to do, but if I'm not doing, then am I even worthy? And so I haven't processed all that, and I don't even know how to deal with it totally yet. But I am aware that I've never been told as a child, “You are just perfect just the way you are. Just for being.” And I think that's very like, whoa. It kind of hit me hard.
NICOLE: Yeah. How powerful, too. And something I want to acknowledge here is sometimes, you know, we are given those messages directly. Some of us might have had caregivers who directly told us all of the ways we’re not worthy or were less than, or we might have heard very negative, if you will, things about ourselves. Other times, it's much more indirect. Like, you were able to attune and pick up on the different treatment that you got from Dad or the different validation when you were performing, doing big things versus not.
And that's something I want to highlight here is as children, for those of us that have children, they're very attuned, attentive, and adaptable creatures, just as we once were. So some of these things, and I think sometimes this is what allows us to, then, expand our definition of trauma because for very many years, I would have adamantly denied any version of trauma in my past because there wasn't any big instances of that abuse or that neglect. And you know, I had a family that stayed together and that had dinner together, geez, almost every night, and my parents were at my games, so, of course, I didn’t have trauma.
However, again, with this much more expanded definition, we're able to understand all of the indirect messages that we're taking in. And the more consistently we’re rewarded for, say, doing instead of being, the more now we're suppressing ourselves. We're suppressing our emotions. We're suppressing our actual essence base, our spiritual expression. And the more times we do that, the more disconnection now we have between who we are really inside and the role we're playing, or how we're presenting ourself outside. And the greater that disconnection, the more we're going to suffer and struggle with the depression, with the anxiety, and with all of these things that we're calling diagnoses and symptoms and syndromes. And all of this, in my opinion, comes from not living from ourselves.
AMY: Oh, yeah. I absolutely agree with that. And I think the more I think about this idea of, if I'm doing, I'm being praised. I'm being loved. I am lovable. I am worthy. Now, when it comes up, when I go to those moments of being present, like you talk about in the book, I ask myself, do I want to be doing this, do I want to do this webinar, or do I want to do this promo, instead of just doing it because I think this is what I'm supposed to do. This is how I am valued. Now I ask myself, do I really want to be doing that? And some of the times the answer is no, and I don't do it. That feels like my truth. That feels right to me.
NICOLE: Yes, absolutely. And what you're saying here, Amy, is I think the shift from disempowerment to empowerment, even if the choice is to still do in that moment, and that shift is made when we make the choice.
NICOLE: So you might and listeners might still go at it hard and have their to-do list and execute their goals and hit those milestones. If you're doing it consciously, if you're pausing and taking those moments to assess, to check in, that will give you the opportunity to make the choice not to. Doesn't mean you will. You might still make the choice, though, again, you're doing so from that conscious presence. And when you're in that conscious presence, you even give yourself the opportunity to say, “You know what? I don't want to, for no reason other than it just doesn't feel aligned,” or “You know what? I don't want to, because I’m exhausted because my resources aren't available to even be able to.” Now you have more information to make a choice that’s more in alignment, even if the choice does look the same to go do the thing, you’ve at least given yourself the opportunity to check in.
AMY: Oh, I feel so much more empowered when I’m like, “Oh, no. I’m making this choice. I’m doing this.” So I totally agree.
If you know me, then you know I'm all about providing helpful step-by-step solutions to online businesses, big and small. So whether you're a solopreneur for one or growing your crew, a HubSpot customer-relationship platform is a powerful tool for running a tight ship. Other CRMs can be cobbled together, but HubSpot is carefully crafted in-house for businesses like yours. Its purpose-built suite of ops, sales, and marketing tools work together seamlessly so you and your team can focus on what really matters: your students and customers. With features like team email, you can turn incoming emails into tickets or send them straight into your shared inbox so no more questions slip through the cracks. You can even take your business to go with the HubSpot mobile app. Learn how to grow better by connecting your people, your students, and your business at hubspot.com.
I want to go back to something you said earlier about how you see that so many people feel stuck, and I definitely have been there. And I was curious if you could give some examples of patterns that are keeping us stuck that might be manifesting in life or work. And what should we do about these patterns so that we can actually see some lasting shifts?
NICOLE: So outside, of course, the number one pattern is what we've talked about already, living in autopilot. If you're not conscious, you will probably be stuck in some area. There will be some habit that was created in childhood that served you that probably by now has accumulated some consequences that no longer serve you. So I think that's a number one one.
I think the second one, right up there, lives in our body. A lot of times we're stuck because of the messages our body is sending to our brain or our mind. For a very long time, we held our brain is all powerful, our mind. And, of course, it is. However, just as much as our mind is sending information to our body—and prime example of this. You sit here. You think a stressful thought long enough, your body will probably go into some version of a stress reaction.
NICOLE: Your heart might start to beat faster. Your hands might get a little clammy. It’s a prime example of your mind affecting your body. Now we have enough scientific evidence and research, for those of us who like that, evidence that our body is sending just as many messages upwards to our mind. And the reality and the bodies that most of us are living in in adulthood aren't calm, regulated bodies. They're actually stressed-out bodies. And some of us have been locked in a state of nervous-system activation for a lifetime because our nervous system runs everything from how our brain works to our organs to our ability to think clearly, to communicate. Our nervous system is our brain, our spinal cord, and pretty much every nerve ending that controls everything we do, from thinking to breathing to speaking to being in the world. And so our nervous system is really core in our wellness, and our nervous system will react and we'll go into a state of activation if we feel unsafe.
The issue that most of us are having is because at one time we did feel consistently unsafe and we did not have that attuned parent to go from overwhelm back into calm, like we were talking about earlier, so our nervous system never calmed, never went back into that peaceful state, and we've gotten stuck in some stage of fight-, flight-, or freeze-type behaviors, really—I mean, if we could extend that out—because, again, if my nervous system is sending those messages that “I'm stressed. There's a threat at hand,” then my mind is going to look for the threat at hand, think about the threat at hand, and then do whatever I do to try to make myself feel safe in those moments.
So the body. the reason why most of us are stuck, the answer lives, and this is why I'm so impassioned about working holistically, for a lot of us, it lives in the messages that our body is sending upwards to our mind. And this is where no amount of logic can shift, no amount of positive thinking can shift the way our body feels.
So going back to my example of a dysregulated body, all I would have professed from the time I was born up until now is I want peace. I'm a hippie at heart. All I want is peace and love, man. However, because so I could think that and intend to have a peaceful, loving existence where there's not stress in my life. However, if my body doesn't feel peace in a quiet moment at home alone or with my partner, my body will be sending that signal that it's stressed out, because it is, because my body was stuck in a nervous-system state of activation. So it wasn't telling my mind it’s safe to feel peace right now. It was telling my mind that no, Nicole, there's a threat at hand all of the time.
So now my body has overridden affirmations, and trying to will myself to just embrace that peace that I want. Logically, Nicole, why you can't? A lot of us shame ourselves at this moment. What's wrong with you? This is all you want. No one's even around you. Why are you stressed out? Yet you're stressed out because your body is stressed out.
So stuck happens. And we need to think about not just our mind, not just powering through what we want and thinking in a different way; we need to include our body on our journey.
AMY: Okay. Can you give me one example of what you do in order to calm the body so that you can see results in this area?
NICOLE: So our body and the health of our nervous system includes all of the choices we make in terms of our lifestyle. So I’ll talk global, and then I’ll talk about in the moment.
Globally, this means making sure you’re getting the nutrients that your body, your brain and your body need to function, right? What do you eat, and how does it make your body feel? Sleep, incredibly important. Making sure that you're sleeping enough every night. A lot of us struggle to sleep, or we don't get in bed, or we get in bed with our gadgets and we're keeping our self up, or we get in bed and we think about all the stressful things, and we don't give our bodies enough opportunity to rest. So how am I eating? How am I sleeping? Am I caring for my body overall? That can be foundational practices to help calm a dysregulated nervous system.
And incredibly, this is the back-pocket one, in-the-moment one, is paying attention to how you're breathing because our breath pattern actually changes when our bodies are stressed out. And usually, when our bodies are stressed out, like I mentioned earlier, our heart rate quickens, our breath quickens, our breath could get really shallow and be in our chest and really quick.
If you're noticing that, and the way to notice, anyone out there listening, you even just put a hand on their belly, put a hand on their chest, and just feel how is the normal rate of your breathing? And if you feel a quickness or an elevation, beginning to practice breathing slower and deeper and from that belly can help calm your nervous system. And again, the caveat here being, this isn’t one and done. For those of us that are stuck in this state of activation, this means retraining your body to be able to breathe deeply, breathe slowly, and breathe from your belly.
And the belly is important because the belly activates our calming nervous system. So it goes from the chest, which means I'm stressed out, to my belly, which means I'm calm. My body is safe. And the more you practice, then, that belly breathing, the more you're sending that signal to your body that it is safe. And over time, that, then, becomes a signal that you'll send to your brain.
AMY: Oh, that’s one that I need to do even more. I feel like that's an easy one. We all can access that at any time of the day, and it takes just minutes to do so. So I'm so glad that you brought that up.
It's funny. I just interviewed, I mentioned Gabby Bernstein. And I asked her what her favorite practice was, and hers was breathing. That was literally the one she brought up as well. So I feel like I'm getting a double dose of that is one area that I could definitely focus on more. So I’m glad that you mentioned that.
NICOLE: I suggest that, too, because, like you said, Amy, we are always breathing. You can do it anytime, anywhere. What I discovered was I never breathe from my belly. I actually struggled to. When I began this practice, I had to practice laying down because all of my posture—and all of this, again, I could go into a whole conversation about posture and how we carry our body and how for me, that hunched shoulders, that rounded shoulders is very much a signifier of that stress, of that nervous-system activation, closing in on myself.
So long story short, I had to practice laying down, and then once I got the hang of it, I could do it in session with people. If I felt my body getting activated for whatever reason, you can begin to use this deep belly breathing anywhere, and it can become greatly impactful, then, anywhere, because in life is when our nervous system gets activated, right? When we start to feel agitated or irritated, or my heart starts to race when I hear something that upsets me, that's the moment where I need to be conscious still, and I need to be calm to be conscious or else I'll be right back in those autopilot reactions.
AMY: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Oh, I’m so glad you shared that. I think it's going to be very valuable for many people listening right now.
Okay. I want to take a sharp turn because, funny enough—I didn't even plan it like this—but you had mentioned earlier about taking your business online. And people struggle with building a business online when they're in the health-and-wellness industry, especially one that is based on deeply personal or, let's say, traumatic work. And so I have a lot of people listening right now in the health-and-wellness industry that are struggling to get their businesses online. So I was wondering, do you have any guidance on what has helped you, as a health-care practitioner, build your business online in an authentic way that feels good to you? What are some of the things that you did that you're so glad have helped you build the foundation you have today?
NICOLE: So, going online, like I mentioned earlier, for me, initially, was an exercise in speaking my truth. I was beginning to watch people have platforms. I wasn't even sure, Amy, kind of what the end product would be, if it would be business or not. For me, it was really an action in empowering myself to have a space where I was practicing speaking my truth. And really, after a very short amount of time, it became overwhelmingly evident to me that what I was sharing, both from my journey of being stuck into my journey of holistic healing, was universally resonating. People from all around the world and my community was growing very quickly. So I was starting to be affirmed that I was saying something that was resonating with people and that was of significance. And people were wanting to, then, work with me, have sessions, begin to update their practices to work more holistically. So then I began to think about, how can I create this into a business? What will that look like, and how will I provide sessions for people, et cetera?
And so before I went on, I should mention, there was a concern, like I said earlier, of how would people react to what I'm saying? So, of course, there was overwhelming support, and then there was other people with other opinions. Some of them were in my field, who had thoughts and their own reaction to what it was that I was sharing. And so the suggestion here is learning how to stay committed and connected to your truth and ultimately your vision in business, because you'll always hear me speak when I talk about the work and healing and learning how to embrace being misunderstood and allowing people to have what I call alternate realities or to perceive me in ways that maybe I don't necessarily perceive myself. And I think there's great value in allowing people to have their difference of opinions, their difference of perceptions, to be different humans, for me to not, as I say it really simply, be for everyone, for this way of healing to not be for everyone, learning to embrace the differences in each of us.
So, what I mean when I say that is staying so committed to—and not tuning out feedback from other people, because some feedback can be incredibly helpful. It's learning how to discern, right? What are you hearing from the people when you're sharing your message, when you're sharing your business, when you're rolling out your programs? Because of course, there can be incredible value in an objective vantage point in someone who's not me, right? And the more consistently maybe I'm getting the same feedback, the more that could be beneficial for me to look at. It doesn't mean just blindly take it because someone else said it. Discernment happens where I can take in feedback from the outside world, and maybe some that might have value, and go back, as I say, to my own home base and try it on and maybe explore for myself, try to separate, say “Can I see where someone might experience this product or me or this business or this message in this way?” ultimately giving myself the opportunity to choose to also just as equally say, “You know what? This isn't feedback that's helpful for me. This might not even be feedback about me at all.” What someone might be perceiving might be based on their own journey, their own wounding, their own subconscious autopilot, and the filter that they're now placing in front of me and my message. So that, then, allows me to do what I call is a deep personalizing, to say, “Okay. I'm not invalidating your truth,” and this is where it can be incredibly difficult.
You can be over there thinking whatever it is that you want to think about me, my program, my thoughts, my beliefs, my way of healing, whatever it is. And I can allow you the space to have those over there, and I can stay securely committed to my vision, to my truth, and to what my purpose and passion and how I want to be in the world. And, of course, all of this doesn’t come overnight. It comes with the self-awareness, the self-knowledge, the learning that discernment, the learning how to take feedback in and then learning that discernment and then learning the confidence or building the confidence over time to keep speaking your truth because it's yours and because you're committed to it and because you're committed to the purpose behind it.
AMY: Okay. We might have to take that little segment and replay it in a different way because I need my entire audience to hear that five more times. No matter what industry you are in, I love that it comes back to what you said, your home base. You've got to know what you stand for, who you are, what you're about, what you're messaging is. And I love that you said, and I could take other feedback and try it on and ask myself, Is there truth to me about this? That was so beautifully said. I'm not even going to regurgitate it, because I can't. We're going to replay that in a few different ways, because that was so valuable. So thank you for that.
NICOLE: Of course. And I will be the first to admit that taking in that feedback and allowing it to be true for you can be one of the most painfully difficult—
AMY: Ah, yes.
NICOLE: —and resisting processes, you know? And I go through this a lot with my partners and my personal life, with a lot of things. And that's what I was mentioning. The more consistently it happens, if you're hearing the same feedback from more than one person, from more than one group of people, because some people ask the question, “How will I even know?” Look for patterns. The more you're hearing that, the more, and again, don't just take it at face value, really go and look for yourself. And like I said, that can be really, then, painful. Be like, “Oh, geez. Maybe they are right. Maybe this is landing not the way I intended. Maybe this is being perceived or communicated or read in this other way,” and that’s really uncomfortable. However, now I have more information to shift, to change, to reformat, to reframe, and to do something different.
AMY: Yes. It's humbling, but, wow. The growth there, it's powerful. So I totally agree with you on that one.
Okay. So I’m glad we talked about that, because there's a lot of people that are building businesses online and really struggling with how they're showing up and what will people think of them or what will people say. So I think that's going to go a long way.
Before I let you go, before we wrap this all up, we are doing this kind of new thing, and we're doing rapid-fire questions. So are you game for me to ask you five rapid-fire questions?
NICOLE: All right. Fire away, Amy. I’m game.
AMY: Okay. Here we go. Okay. Question number one is, who is someone that's inspiring you at the moment, and why?
NICOLE: Hmm. I love that question. I don't have a someone, though I have a big group of someones.
NICOLE: My community, the community of self-healers. So, for instance, I've heard two stories recently of two humans in the community who, as a byproduct—actually, this is the perfect thing to offer right now for this conversation—as a byproduct of their healing journey, have went out now and created their own self-expression in the world, one of whom is a baker and opened up a bakery and is pursuing his purpose and passion in baking and sharing his baking with the world, all kind of as a result of him healing and coming into himself and even locating that purpose and passion and then shifting out of whatever work he was doing previously to follow that.
And someone else is in the more virtual space of the whole Web 3.0 and NFT, who is an artist and very similarly squashed their voice, suppressed their expression, was afraid of what the world would think. And as a result of their healing journey is putting themselves out there and creating their own projects.
So my community inspires me on a daily basis of the incredible transformation that these humans are having in their own lives, and when I see them, go on to live in their purpose and affect the world around them in this way. It just, I'm getting chills, actually, now, even talking about it.
AMY: That’s a good answer. I love that you went back to your community. That's fantastic.
Okay. What's a piece of advice that you've received that has made a big impact in your life? Think about all the advice you've gotten. What's something that you kind of come back to a lot?
NICOLE: I come back to, and it was a piece of advice, and it applies to this idea of multiple reality that I actually received when I was in my clinical training, and it was from a supervisor. And I think I was presenting some client or some case of someone who had anxiety very similar to myself, and the supervisor knew my own personal experience with anxiety. And long story short, when I was presenting this case, I think they asked me some sort of question about my client's anxiety, and I forget what my response was. But a conversation opened up where the advice given at that moment was, never assume, because when you hear someone, especially if it sounds similar—so for me, all I've known is anxiety, and I have a client even say, “Oh, yeah. Me, too,”—I've now assumed that my anxiety and the way I experience anxiety and those of us who have anxiety know that there's a whole range of what anxiety can be for each of us, or how we can feel it and experience it and really the whole of it. So in that moment, and especially when it’s similar, the things that we’re hearing or seeing in the world, it’s so easy to assume. It would have been so easy for me to say to my supervisor, “Yes, their anxiety,” and I probably would have described what mine looked like and not maybe what theirs was like for them at all.
So that piece of advice, not to assume. I'm going to blow this up to scale, which is, we are all so subjective. We are all viewing the world through all of our filters, all of our lenses. We’re all quite literally experiencing the same moment differently. Yet we all have that tendency to assume, to fill in, usually with what has been. We use our past to fill in our present moments. And how this connects to business and multiple reality is that allows us, then, to find what our truth is for us, not to set ourselves up for the expectation that we speak something universal that everyone understands in the exact same way, because that'll never be the case because we're all subjective humans.
So understanding that and living into that, then allows us to, like I was sharing, expand into allowing others to have what their truth is, what their journey is for them, of course, safely and to still continue to live into what your truth and your journey is for you.
AMY: Ah, beautiful. So well said.
Okay. What’s a simple daily practice in your routine that helps you do the hard things?
NICOLE: Oh, gosh.
AMY: I’m assuming you have a lot.
NICOLE: The first one that came to mind, funny enough because it’s a hard thing, that I do nearly every day, I have a cold plunge.
AMY: Oh, okay. Let's talk about this. We’re going to go off a little bit. This isn’t as rapid. This is something that I think I need to do. But what are the benefits of this, this cold plunge?
NICOLE: If you think you need to do it, you’ll think you don’t want to do it the second. That’s why I said it makes you do hard things. So cold, just generally, quickly, why cold?
NICOLE: And this applies to the nervous-system conversation we were having earlier. Cold therapy, doing a cold shower, getting a cold plunge, standing outside when it's cold, all helps stimulate one of the main nerves in our body called our vagus nerve. And our vagus nerve plays an incredibly important role in taking our body from stress back down into calm.
NICOLE: And if our vagus nerve isn't toned, as it's called, or flexible, it—or, let’s make it really simple—if it doesn't have a practice doing that, we get stuck in stress, like we were talking about earlier. So there are daily practices or habits or choices that we can make to help stimulate our vagus nerve. So those of us who don't want to jump into cold things: gargling, singing. Our vagus nerve actually connects up through our voice box here. We can manually stimulate it by doing that. Yoga, oftentimes, helps stimulate our vagus nerve. There are other activities we can do, though cold is one of them.
And the reason why I share this here when you said to do hard things is that every morning, I have a cold plunge. It sits outside. You control the temperature of it. It's very cold, regardless of what temperature it is. I assure you, it's not something you want to do. And my mind, from the moment of when I know I'm going in or I’m going to get in in the next ten minutes, my mind’s like, “Oh, you don’t want to do that. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe today is not the day, for whatever reason.” Fighting me, fighting me, fighting me. Even getting in, my mind’s telling me, “Get out. You’re too cold.”
So, learning how to not only stimulate my vagus nerve while I'm sitting in my cold plunge, it's giving me the moment to overcome my mind—
NICOLE: —to teach my body that my body’s actually—it’s not comfortable in the cold, though nothing has happened yet to me. It's safe in the cold. It's my mind that's telling me that I'm not safe in that moment, not my body.
AMY: That’s why I think I want to do it. This year I've been practicing mind over matter, and I want to prove to myself that I can do things that, like, I'm freaked out doing. And so I love that you do that. And so you try to do it on a daily basis?
NICOLE: I try to do it on a daily basis.
AMY: How long do you stay in?
NICOLE: A couple of minutes, three minutes—
AMY: Wow. That’s impressive.
NICOLE: —usually is my max. I try not to count in my mind because that’s something else I'll do to distract myself.
NICOLE: I just count, but I try not to do that. I mean, thirty seconds in the shower, right before you get out, just turn it all the way to cold. You don't have to be crazy and dump yourself into a cold vat of water to begin with. Those of us who live in cold climates, very gratefully, I do not anymore.
NICOLE: This might mean just going outside with maybe not as heavy of a sweatshirt on for your walk around the block.
Any time we can be cold, not only are we stimulating our vagus nerve, we're giving ourself an opportunity to be mind over matter, to empower ourselves, and actually to see what our body is capable of, because one of my biggest stuck points was—I'll be brutally honest—discomfort of any degree. When my body was a little bit uncomfortable, my mind would race and tell me all of the reasons that I thought were my intuition telling me this wasn't the thing for me to do. So learning that discernment, learning what my body is actually capable of.
My mind, don't get me wrong, Amy, every day is still like, “Get the hell out of this cold water. This isn't fun. Why are you doing this? Stop,” pretty much. However, so the thoughts are still there. What I’ve now expanded, though, is the awareness of what my body can do. I've empowered myself that I could actually sit in there for probably ten more minutes. My body can do that. I, then, make the choice of what I'm going to give in to my mind. But I know my body can.
AMY: I'm so glad you brought that up. I've been wanting to talk to somebody about that and what it does. So, so valuable to hear.
Okay. Final question. We are terrible at rapid fire, but I have—
NICOLE: We tried.
AMY: —we have two more. We have two more. What is motivating you the most at the moment? What's motivating you right now?
NICOLE: I'm actually working on, I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to have two new book projects.
NICOLE: And I'm currently working on the first one that'll come out is actually a workbook.
AMY: Very cool.
NICOLE: So I am feeling super inspired and super motivated. It is called How to Meet Yourself, so it'll be everything pretty much we talked about: how to become conscious, how to begin to witness all of your stuck habits and patterns so that you can begin to create that space for new choices. And it's my first opportunity to put all of this work into a workbook-type entity, and I'm feeling super inspired.
AMY: Okay. So cool. Tell me when approximately we can get our hands on that.
NICOLE: So, we’re looking at a publication date now, if all goes well, which it will, in November, actually. So for the next holiday season, so this year.
AMY: Okay. Cool. And then you have another book?
NICOLE: So there’ll be another book that will come out, hopefully, the following November. That'll be, in terms of format, very similar to How to Do the Work in terms of narrative, daily tools, habits, concepts, all of the kind of things we need for a journey based mostly in our relationships. So it'll be a relationship book, understanding our relationship patterns, all the reasons why we're stuck. And most of us aren’t in fulfilling, intimately, emotionally connected relationships and, of course, giving us the tools to begin to create those in our lives.
AMY: Oh, congrats on both of those. I cannot wait. That’s exciting.
Okay. Final question. Is there a go-to tool or resource you use that helps you in your practice? Is there something that you tend to go to, a go-to tool or resource?
NICOLE: So, I mean, in addition to continuing to build my body's tools and resources, they are becoming quickly my go-to, dropping into my body through my senses, learning how to be conscious in my body, how to use my breath to regulate. So an external tool and resource that I will also add is knowledge, information. I am always reading. There's not anything in particular because I like to read about everything, things that are in alignment with the way I currently think about myself, the world around me, healing in general, and also things that, on the surface, aren’t. I really like to expose myself to all different ideas. And then, beautifully enough, like we talked about earlier, go back to my home base, try them on, apply them in my life, and see what fits or what resonates.
So while I can't give one, I think my more general answer to the external piece will be just knowledge, just really educating ourselves, because especially coming through a system like I did in terms of school, my reading lists were curated. It was whatever the professor gave to me and whatever they thought at that moment. And the reality of it is that I've come to realize is very limited. There is so much new information, evolving information, information that just was never presented for whatever reason out there. And again, this is still a journey in discernment. Learning what information can apply or you can utilize in your own life. And then, of course, learning the information that just doesn't resonate.
AMY: Yeah. Okay. I love that. And I know our listeners will resonate with that. From books to podcasts to digital courses, we really dive in. I think as an entrepreneur, you always have to be learning. So I think that resonates, absolutely.
Dr. Nicole, I am so very happy that you've been here. I want everybody to go get the book How to Do the Work. I will link to it in the show notes. I've already put it on social a bunch of times. I'm a huge fan. I can't wait for your next two to come out as well. But thank you so very much for being here. And tell everybody where they can find you.
NICOLE: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Amy. Like I said, you've really been a really helpful, inspirational human resource on my own journey, so having the opportunity to actually officially connect with you and now your community has really truly been my pleasure.
So, each and every day, for those of you who don’t yet follow, I can be found on Instagram, @the.holistic.psychologist. The Self Healers Circle, our virtual online membership also has an Instagram account, @selfhealers.circle. I have a new podcast called SelfHealers Soundboard on all the podcast platforms. There's a YouTube channel, The Holistic Psychologist, and, of course, my website at theholisticpsychologist.com.
AMY: Fantastic. My friends, go explore. You will not be sorry.
Thanks so very much for being here. I’m so very glad we connected.
NICOLE: Same. Thank you.
AMY: I'm so glad that mental health is becoming more of a mainstream topic and that on an online-marketing podcast, we can talk about it in a way that makes sense for all of us. I mean, I can't even express how much I love that.
I think my most favorite part of this conversation was talking about the fact that it is so easy to be on autopilot. And even when you have a practice of being present, which I do—you actually heard it in the episode when the ringer went off—but that she says this is something that you can easily go back into autopilot, and you have to make it a process and something that you work on over and over again. And I've noticed that I'm just looking for such quick fixes sometimes, just to get out of that discomfort, that I remind myself, “This is a journey. This is a process. I have to keep practicing it.” And I thought that was a really great reminder that Dr. Nicole brought up several times throughout the episode.
So if you resonated with any part of this conversation, I want you to go grab the book or listen to it on Audible. Again, it’s called How to Do the Work. I’ll link to it in the show notes. I know you're going to find it incredibly valuable, and I think you're going to feel less alone in the sense that you're going to hear stories that you can relate to instantly. I also think you're going to feel empowered by the tools and resources that she shares. And I hope you'll share this episode with a friend that you feel could really find it valuable as well, because I think we need to support one another in having healthier mindsets so we can do the important work we're determined to do in this world.
Thanks so much for joining me here today. I'll see you next time, same time, same place. Bye for now.