“Being human means being creative.” –Jackee Stang
Jackee Stang interviews board-certified psychiatrist, neuroscientist, co-founder of Apollo Neuro, and Meet Delic speaker, Dr. Dave Rabin. Apollo Neuro is a wearable device that uses gentle vibrations to help the body respond to stress. Dr. Rabin has been studying the impact of chronic stress in humans for more than 10 years. Furthermore, his research focuses on non-invasive therapies to improve treatment-resistant illnesses. Jackee and Dr. Rabin explore the importance of touch, safety, and boundaries.
“Being human is a wonderful blessing. What we’ve been taught is that it’s a curse.” –Dr. Dave Rabin
We need touch as much as any other sense, especially in regards to our stress response. We possess the ability to adapt, face the unknown, and use hacks such as deep breathing and meditation to take care of ourselves. Sleep and touch are essential in order for our bodies, which are “so brilliantly designed,” Jackee reminds us, to function optimally. In these uncertain times, Jackee and Dr. Rabin talk about how to tap into our own innate ability to generate safety for ourselves.
Instead of being afraid of the unknown, we can view the current situation to connect more with ourselves and foster our inner power in the pursuit of growth. “What we do not know,” she continues, “we cannot control.” That fact of life, which applies to much more than this coronavirus, can often send us into emotional places that trigger fight or flight or throw off our rhythms more deeply than we are taught. In this episode of Delic Radio, Jackee and Dr. Dave Rabin serve up a thoughtful discourse about tapping into our own power, and practical tips for navigating stress during this time.
Jackee: Friends. Hi, hi. This is Jackee and you’re listening to Delic Radio. You can find me online @iamjackeestang on Instagram. I’m showing my age. Instagram is my social media mode of transportation. That’s Iamjackee J-A-C-K two Es, J-A-C-K-E-E Stang, S-T-A-N-G. Iamjackeestang. But more important than that is today’s show.
Yes, you guessed it. We are in the times of pandemics. Hello, COVID-19. COVID-19, in case you haven’t heard, is a coronavirus. One of several types of coronaviruses. I am not a doctor, but I have been listening to many in the last several days, and weeks actually, and it turns out that the scariest thing about COVID-19 is the unknown.
Well, it’s brand new. What we don’t know, we can’t control. Surprise, surprise, we can’t actually control most things, but with science and technology, we can actually create things that help people stay healthy from things like new viruses. Also, it tends to spread quickly and we’re still learning every day about it, but the infection rate, it seems to be pretty alarming.
People are on high alert. Countries are shutting down, putting people into mandated quarantine, which sounds scary, but also is super logical, and the more we can stay away from each other in these times of transmission, or in places where this thing is being communally transmitted, the quicker we can stave off and starve out the COVID. We got to starve it. Right?
I’m here in Los Angeles with my partner and husband, Matt, and we’re at the beach with our puppy, Snoop Dog. (Singing) and we are quarantining ourselves with very few exceptions. Luckily for us, Delic is a remote company. Many us have lots of experience working remotely, but shout out to all those people out there who don’t have experience working remotely and you’re freaking out. Totally understand
Shout out to all of the production people in the world who are also not working right now because large events are being canceled or postponed. We had to postpone our first and inaugural event, Meet Delic. It is now August 8th and 9th 2020, downtown LA. Go to meetdelic.com to keep up with that while you’re at home. Why don’t you go to meetdelic.com and check out our amazing lineup of speakers? Same speakers, same location, more fun, and really after this time of solitude, it’s going to be super important that we get out there and congregate again because we are human. If nothing else folks, we are human. As I talked to our guest today about a few hours ago, one of the greatest things about being human is our ability to adapt. Our ability to be creative. However, in case you haven’t noticed our culture, our species is in another crisis. A loneliness crisis, a crisis of depression, and a lack of wellness. Not just physically but mentally and while it could seem terrifying that we’re now mandated to be alone for an extended period of time so we can kill this virus or make it tired. Perhaps it’s a time or an opportunity for us to find ourselves.
Since we can’t go outside, why don’t we go inside? The Delic way. What is your way of going inside yourself? What are you going to do in this time of solitude to regain awareness for who you are and how special you are and your powers of adaptability and really feel all the creative juices in your body again?
On today’s show, we have good, a good friend of ours, Dr. Dave Rabin. Dr. Dave is an MD and Ph.D. He with his partner, Kathryn Fantauzzi has started Apollo Neuro. Apollo is a wearable device that helps regulate your heart rate by simulating human touch, which there couldn’t be a better time to talk about tools like this because we will be limited from touch for a minute.
It’s beyond this pandemic, beyond this crisis, and we will get beyond it. We still have, like I said a few moments ago, a crisis of a lack of human connection and Dave and I talk on today’s show about that. We talk about how most of us were not taught that human touch. We were not taught how to touch outside of sex, right? We weren’t taught the importance that touch can have on lowering your stress response, the importance of setting boundaries.
We go into that. We go into things that you guys can do in quarantine or in solitude to help lower your stress levels because the key component here, going back to creativity, is that we can’t really tap into creativity unless we’re relaxed. Most of us, I don’t know about you guys, I’m like rarely relaxed, but you can be damn sure that that is a state I am constantly trying to get back to, okay because when I am relaxed, I’m never more creative. I’m super happy, I’m grounded, I feel me. I feel human. I don’t want for anything. I am happy and present in the moment.
We talk a lot about how we got here. How did we get to a point where we’re just, the average person is constantly in flight or fight? We’re constantly mistaking triggers for the lions that we used to run away from in nature, and I know this very well. So much of my work in psychedelics, and just interpersonal counseling, and my professional experience is tapping into my own personal trauma and creating space for myself to re path those neuropathways. To retool the parts of my brain that think and mistake a loud sound, for example, someone shutting a door loudly, or my husband sometimes drink Saturday’s bottles that crack in a certain way that makes me feel like I’m about to be eaten by a giant bear, okay.
It’s not accurate. I’m not actually going to be eaten by a giant bear, but it feels like it in my body because I have 30 plus years of constantly training myself that that’s what’s happening. If we can take a pause and find tools and mindfulness techniques to create space so that we can see the trauma, take a look at it from a different angle, and then start to create these different neuropathways so we can get to states of relaxation so that we can be creative. So that we can fucking be awesome and solve real-world problems.
Great conversation with Dr. Dave today. Yeah, that’s about it. Stay diligent in your self-work in these hard times. Really try your best to find things to be grateful for in every moment and we will get through this together.
Jackee: We are currently talking at the precipice of the US COVID-19 or in other words, a new coronavirus outbreak and the potential lockdown of the entire country, which is, I hope that’s what is about to happen. This crisis, breeding fear of the unknown, is highlighting what we already knew to be loneliness and stress-related epidemic in our culture. What’s been going through your head in the last couple of days as you watch this unfold?
DR: As a psychiatrist and healthcare professional, I see our weaknesses coming to the surface and the challenges that we face as opportunities to improve and see our blind spots when we’re willing to see them. A lot of what we focus on is doing things in the community for others. This highlights opportunities to heal ourselves and focus on ourselves as much as we can to optimize our resilience so that when something like this happens, we are not as likely to get sick. Chronic stress over time makes us ill. It makes us more susceptible to illness. We can now measure this with something called heart rate variability, which is the rate our heartbeat changes over time. We want it to be beating different times between each beat because that shows that our bodies and minds are quickly adapting to the situations around us. Chronic stress, regardless if its emotional, mental, physical, legal, financial, etc., decrease HRV by boosting up activity in our fight or flight system. I feel this in myself.
I already overworking myself to the point where I’m more likely to get sick, but now, there’s an illness threat. I’m recognizing that I need to take more time to focus on myself, my own personal health, not just strengthening my mind but also translating that all the way down into my physical body. We’re up against a tough situation, and we don’t know how it will unfold.
Jackee: The not knowing, I think causes a bunch of stress for people. Let’s talk about stress for a minute outside a pandemic. So much of my personal work is trying to figure out how to hack my own stress because I totally believe that stress kills. My mom has multiple sclerosis and high stress runs in my family. Lots of really traumatic things have happened in my bloodline. We believe that stress caused her to get multiple sclerosis. Now, we can’t prove that, but stress definitely exacerbates her MS symptoms. I bring that up because I’ve lived with stress my entire life. I had gotten to a point where I was so used to processing it that I was stressed and didn’t even know it. If you don’t know it, you can’t correct.
Dr. Dave: The first step is how do you listen to your body and how do you listen to your signs of stress when they come, so you can do something about it that’s constructive or productive to help you feel better. Some of those signs might be anger or frustration where you start to feel your heart rate go up, your breathing gets faster, maybe you start to sweat, your hair stands up on the back of your neck, or you hear grumbles in your tummy. The problem is we’re not taught to listen to those signals. Those signals are extremely important, particularly the emotional signals. What we’re taught to do in our society is to ignore those signals, sweep them under the rug because we’re too busy to deal with them in that moment. We’re not taught to take the time to come back to those things later. They compound to the point where we’re stressed out so much because we haven’t resolved the core issue that we’ve forgotten what the core issue is in the first place.
Jackee: Where do you begin to even get familiar with your own stress?
Dr. Dave: We need to take a step back, first, and evaluate what is good stress versus bad stress. Good stress is stress in the moment that pushes us to achieve our best. Bad stress is stress over time that continues daily or moment to moment every day that starts to prevent us from sleeping. It starts interrupting digestion. It starts to change our day sleep and wake cycles, it starts to make us irritable with our family members and our friends and our partners. We start to isolate. Sometimes we exclude other people from our lives that we used to associate with before.
We have a lot of irritable bowel symptoms can come from chronic stress, very commonly reproductive symptoms. Sexual dysfunction is extremely common and I think one of the most common ones that we don’t think about nearly enough as an early sign of being too stressed out is creativity. You know what works when we’re stressed, when our bodies perceive that we’re running from a lion or our heart rate variability drops to the floor to get us out of that perceived threatening situation, and we don’t need to be creative or reproductive or digestive or any of those things. We need to get out of that situation as quickly as possible so that we can be safe so that we can start reproducing and digesting and being creative.
But what happens is on a chronic basis, for example, in many corporate work environments, right? Many hospital work environments where we need people, we rely on people’s creativity to think of creative solutions to very complex problem on regular basis, the environment itself is inhibiting our ability to tap into our own creativity.
That’s where techniques like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, general health practices, using things like Apollo, which is a technology that I developed at the University of Pittsburgh to help with these kinds of issues. All of these techniques combined provide us tools that can help us to relate to stress in a much healthier way, and channel that negative energy into productive outcomes.
Jackee: I love that you used to run away from the lion analogy because that’s where our stress responses come from. How did we get from physically running away from a lion so we don’t die, which is a great stress response, to feeling that intensity every single time we’re triggered in our life?
DR: Our body changes what we perceive a lion to be. A lion is a representation in our minds of something that is threatening. Even though 99% of us have never engaged with a lion ever, we still know that that is something to be afraid of. Our typical survival threats that we would need to worry about are air, water, sleep, food, and predators. In the US in particular, and in some countries, we are blessed to not have to worry about that much, if at all.
The body and the brain don’t know the difference a survival threat from a lion versus a survival threat from an email, a project we have to turn in, our kids screaming, or traffic. Ultimately, our bodies and our minds are made in a very simple way. Fear ensures our survival and the safety system can turn on. The safety system makes sure that we can do all the things we need to thrive and have a good life; reproduce, creativity, digestion, rest, energy conservation, immunity, and making sure that we are able to maintain our immune systems, and regulate inflammation effectively to fight off illness. All of those things are triggered by the safety response system.
DR: When we’re not surrounded by lions or lion-like threats, real survival threats, we start attributing threat to other things that are not actually threatening. This is what we call misappropriated threat. It’s not unique to people with mental illness. Almost every single human on the face of the earth does this because most of us haven’t been taught how to tap into our own innate ability to generate safety for ourselves. Those would be deep breathing techniques, self-touch, soothing touch from others, yoga, stretching, even thought cognitive techniques like gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, self-love. The four pillars that are common to Buddhism, Hinduism and tribal plant medicine in Peru, all of these are ancient strategies that can help quickly rebalance that fear response system to center us back into our bodies, help us regulate that fear response.
Jackee: We are so busy that we never have the time to sit with ourselves to teach ourselves these techniques. The stress compounds over time. What a unique time that we are in; a quarantine. We’re forced to sit alone with ourselves and hopefully learn something. While sitting alone with yourself and feeling self-love seems to be paramount to a healthy human existence, we’re not very good at it because we have so many opportunities for distraction.
DR: We never taught the importance of it, and so we haven’t been prioritizing it for many years. When you’re already stressed out, it’s difficult to engage with these techniques.
People do feel very significant loneliness. We already live in a society where human touch is not as frequent as it should be. Touch is one of the most important emotional inputs for us to feel healthy, fulfilled, rewarded, and joyful.
Science is showing that human touch is essential for the release of oxytocin, dopamine, and other positive hormones that help us build relationships with each other but also help us feel better ourselves. It’s going to be critical for us to evaluate this as we move forward. Touch is one of the main things that increases activity in the parasympathetic rest and digest recovery nervous system and decreases activity in that threat system. In the next few months, we’re going to see how many people are suffering from the absence of touch in their lives.
Jackee: How do we address the people who are at home and not getting any touch? What is that going to do to the psyche, the collective psyche?
DR: We’ve already seen it in our society a lot. You don’t need to look far to see people that are lonely or not connected enough to people around them. Growing up in America in the time that I grew up, me and many of my male friends, we all sought out each other for companionship, but we were looking for closer, more intimate, more emotionally relevant relationships with people. They were hard to find.
We have a stigma around non-sexual, intimate touch. Somebody rubbing your back is nonsexual intimate touch. That is something that we can all do for each other at any time. We’ve forgotten that. It ends up taking a toll on us where we become irritable, anxious, or we don’t feel safe or lovable. There are a lot of people out there who don’t feel like they are lovable because they never received soothing touch or loving touch as children. This is unfortunately really common.
What happens is, in exchange, we seek alternatives to being touched. We seek substitutes. Some of those substitutes are anything from paying somebody to touch you to drugs or self-medicating to take away that restlessness. Soothing touch is something you can get for free from your loved ones. It’s incredibly effective to help us settle down our stress response system, decrease our sense of fear, increase our sense of safety and wellbeing. We need to make close human interaction and soothing touch a central part of our society from early on. It needs to be taught along with empathy. Sharing needs to be taught. That will keep us together as a society and a culture.
Jackee: I use psychedelics to relax my nervous system enough so that I can talk about my trauma and process it. Boundaries are something that’s been coming up in my ketamine treatments for example, which I just wasn’t taught.
DR: The other way to think about it is respect. It’s having respect for ourselves and respect for others as if they are equal. They also have their own set of wants, desires, and needs and things that they have as their boundaries with the hope that they will respect you in the same way that you respect them. We’re taught almost to ignore ourselves, to ignore signs from our bodies. In some ways, we’re almost taught to think that we’re not okay and that we need things outside of ourselves to make us okay. But the ultimate source of our power comes from within us. We weren’t taught to respect that, our boundaries, and what magical things could come from that place. Being human is a wonderful blessing. What we’ve been taught is that it’s a curse.
Medicine teaches about the treatment of the “human condition”. The human condition is what Western medicine refers to as our waking reality. That’s a pretty dismal view in my opinion. And I think part of that is that we’re constantly clinging to the stability of the moment. Going back to what you were talking about before again, this idea of understanding what we can control around us and what we can’t control around us, and then also understanding that as we spend more time thinking about things we can’t control, it only makes our anxiety worse. So that is actually one of the major sources of anxiety is spending time dedicating precious resources to things we cannot control. They’re outside of our realm of control
But if we spend time thinking about those things enough … and one great example of that is stability. So the whole world is changing around us all the time. Our cells in our bodies are changing every moment. So technically, there’s no such thing as stability. If we spend, that word doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t, at least not in the context of our life. It’s made up. It’s a made-up concept. So if we believe that we can seek stability or we’re constantly should be seeking stability, and then we’re doing all these things in our lives to establish a sense of what stable life means, then we’re forgetting about our most important skill, which is actually adaptation. It’s the ability to adapt to whatever comes at us knowing that the world is always changing, accepting that stability is not a thing, it’s just made up.
And that our skill is not to maintain stability or to train ourselves to maintain the status quo, our actual skill set is to utilize our creativity as best as possible to make ourselves into fundamentally adaptation beings, we are adapters. That is why we created the world we’ve created, is we’ve overcome every single challenge that has faced us as a species. And so ultimately, when coming back full circle to this idea of touch, if a virus came around that said … and the conclusion of the virus was, “Hey, we shouldn’t use our eyes anymore because if we use our eyes and we have our eyes open looking at the world, then we’re going to get sick, or we could potentially get sick.” And I think people would buy that conclusion.
I think people would say, “All right guys, wait a minute. Let’s try to figure out some way to overcome this challenge of not being able to use our eyes anymore in this time.” With touch, touch is kind of ignored a little bit, but touch is just as important for our emotional health as our eyes are to our physical health. So for us, it’s really important to think about this virus issue, which is just the beginning. I think of this as a warning sign for what might come in the future and hopefully it’s not worse, but we really don’t know. And I think taking this as a warning sign to say, “All right, how do we figure out how to overcome the challenges that this is presenting to us now? How do we.
On the challenges that this is presenting to us now that how do we use this as a teacher to help us figure out how to become more adaptive and do whatever we can to overcome this so it doesn’t happen again. And so that we can still continue to maintain our good quality of life, our closest with our loved ones, our ability to have soothing, loving, touch on one another and our ability to spend time together. These things that make our lives so good shouldn’t go to the wayside, we should figure out how to make sure that they continue to exist for us.
Jackee: Yeah. So what is … So let’s talk practical. I have to say too, I love bringing back to life the idea that everybody is creative, that being human means that you are innately creative. And I think that’s because we’ve compartmentalized creativity in our society to be left for a certain type of genre of a person or certain work. I think most anybody just loves the idea that they’re creative and they-
Dr. Dave: [crosstalk 00:47:13]-
Jackee: They light up with it because that’s what we are, like all thrive off of the idea of creating.
DR: It’s so deeply ingrained, it’s almost in our genes.
Jackee: Absolutely. So how do we … Okay. So we have this giant hurdle of teaching each other, but teaching ourselves first, it sounds like A, how to love ourselves. That it always comes back to self-love. How to touch ourselves. How to touch ourselves first. How to receive touch in a safe environment so that when we’re receiving it from external sources like a human, another human being, we’re not triggered. How do we reteach ourselves that touch is not just subject to sex or sexual advances or whatever, it’s not forbidden? How do we do that?
DR: Well, I think that there are a couple of ways to do it. I think that the most important way to acknowledge is that we are creatures of habit, and we learn things by doing them. So part of the reason why we have come to the point we’ve come to is that, with managing stress in this conversation that we’re having is that we’ve been practicing being stressed out for a really long time. We’ve been practicing not having touch being a critical, essential part of … A loving touch being a critical and essential part of our lives for a long time. It’s part of our lives for all of us, but it’s not necessarily tape playing the role that it should be or that it needs to be to maintain our health as best as possible.
And so what happens is as we practice those patterns, we become really good at those patterns. As you said earlier, we can sometimes even forget that we’re doing them, they become that in training. So I think where all of this starts in terms of retraining ourselves to do this is gratitude. And I know that might sound silly, but thinking about gratitude as a skill, just like building muscles in the gym, just like building a smarter memory by practicing memory exercises or reading, gratitude is a skill that we can all practice every moment of every day. That is an ancient, it’s never awake. That’s an ancient skill that has been passed down in through Buddhism, Hinduism, through tribal medicine communities in South America and Africa and Australia. And they all kind of converge to this idea that to retrain our brains from trauma, to retrain our brains from fear, we first have to be grateful and express gratitude for the fact that we have the opportunity to learn from these experiences.
We have to be grateful for the opportunity to make mistakes. We have to be grateful for the opportunity to take a breath, to be able to wake up and live another day, for the opportunity to receive a hug, for the opportunity for somebody to hold our hand. All of these opportunities, even the opportunity to rub your own body. To give yourself a hand massage or a foot massage, these kinds of things are very simple and they seem inconsequential or inconsequential, but what we’re really talking about is retraining the brain. And I think the best evidence for this is when we start to look at the work of people like Eric Kandel, who’s a neuropsychiatrist who won the Nobel prize in 2002 for discovering how learning and memory work in the brain.
And he showed us without a doubt, and part of the reason why his work is so well regarded is that he showed without a doubt that this practice makes the perfect pattern of training the brain and training the body is true not only for us, but it dates all the way back, probably over 300 million years to see snails that only have three neurons in their whole brains. We have maybe like what? 100 million neurons, maybe more. So tons and tons of neurons. And these animals only have three neurons are engaging in the same training patterns and the same patterns of memory formation that we are without any of the complexity of our brains, which makes us realize that learning is little simpler than we thought and the ability to overcome some of these issues we’re talking about. Like for example, by practicing gratitude, just waking up every day, speaking of practical things, waking up every day and just writing down gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, and self-love.
The four things that the Buddhists and the Hindus and the tribal people all over the world have talked about for thousands and thousands of years. Just by writing these things down, it keeps it in our minds throughout the day, and then you write them down again before you go to bed and it keeps it in your mind at night and you keep doing this. And as you do it, it’s really that simple, our brains start to rewire. If you want to think about it that way in terms of neural connections, we start to rewire connections around how we are interpreting our world. So instead of thinking, the best example is instead of thinking why me. And I actually, there’s an amazing one of my favorite podcasts that I ever did, which is, of course, no competition to this, but it was a very unique conversation because it was with a patient of mine who has depression, who wanted to share.
And he has a podcast called Life is a Festival, you might’ve heard of it, and he interviewed me on his podcast, which I’d never done before. And he talks about how his process of working with me as his psychiatrist has helped him so much to overcome his stress. And it’s fascinating because of gratitude, he talks about using gratitude as this ability to intercept negative thinking. For example when you [crosstalk 00:53:27]-
Jackee: Oh my God, so much. Yeah, yeah, go ahead.
DR: So much, like you wake up in the morning and you’re like, Oh God, why me? Why do I have to do this another day? And instead you just immediately bring the thought to mind of, I am so grateful for being able to have another opportunity a day. To be able to wake up and try this again, like let’s see what happens, you don’t know what’s going to happen. And that is a life changer for people, that simple strategy, which then leads into breathwork because then the next thing you do is you start practicing being grateful for your breath and being grateful for being able to take a breath at any moment. And then each moment you start to practice this over time, it rewires the brain.
Jackee: Yeah. So for me, gratitude is a clutch. So for those of you who learn to drive on a stick shift like I did, Oh, I miss it so much, the clutch is like your best friend. If you get in a bind, if you’ve shifted improperly if you need to do something quickly, clutch, left foot clutch, boom, you’re like in neutral, you’re safe. And for me, I mean I work in the health and wellness, is one of the early team members at Bulletproof, and gratitude was always a conversation amongst us and the things that we pushed out into the universe and it never, it didn’t connect with me back then. It didn’t connect with me until I got to a point with my anxiety and depression where it was a necessity for me to find tools to try all of these things that people keep talking about, even if it didn’t feel good in the beginning, because it doesn’t, it didn’t for me at least.
DR: Like the first day I practiced gratitude, I didn’t miraculously change anything, but as you said, practice over time starts to rejigger and to reform those neuropathways, and so you eventually do start to feel relief and it doesn’t even have to be like in the morning necessarily. I catch myself tend to be throughout the day. Well, I’ll have a negative thought come up, and then I imagine that clutch, that gratitude clutch and I’m like, you know what? I’m going to fucking push this clutch right now and the more I do it, the more it just jogs me out of the dangerous pathways of negative thinking. And it works man, it might sound cheesy, it sounded cheesy to me for years, even when I was working in that kind of a field, but as somebody who suffers a lot from negative thinking, gratitude is very useful.
Yeah, absolutely. And I think we’re like, as you said, we believe what we’re taught to believe, if we’re taught to believe that we’re supposed to suck it up all the time, we’re supposed to suffer then [crosstalk 00:56:27]-
Jackee: Oh yeah, that’s the Christian way.
DR: Christian, it’s in Judaism to some extent-
DR: In doctors, in healthcare professionals, in military, in elite athletes. There’s like this culture of sucking it up. And I think what happens is that teaches us to in some ways ignore the importance of these ancient tools and skills like gratitude which allow us to be better and to suck it up more effectively when we need to. It’s not that we’re necessarily supposed to suck it up all the time. Suck it up as a skill that is important to have available to you for the times when it’s really important to suck it up. Then there are a lot of other times where it’s a lot more important to acknowledge our emotions and allow the balance. It’s all about the balance, right? It’s not just about being stoic all the time, it’s about being stoic when we need to be and sucking it up where we need to be to get what we need to get done, done.
And then when we’re done with that and we can come back into our restful recovery zone, we actually are able to allow our bodies to rapidly enter that safe recovery state and engage this creative, naturally creative, adaptive, fulfilled, loving part of ourselves that we all have built into us. But I think [crosstalk 00:57:47]-
Jackee: Yeah, good news everyone, we all have it.
Dr. Dave: Yeah, I think that’s the good news. The good news is that there’s hope for all of us, I think a lot of the culture that we’re in is a lot of hopelessness/sadness, it’s a lot of suffering and it goes on and on and on to the point where we believe. Sometimes not always we believe that we’ve lost hope for charge, change [inaudible 00:58:07]for improvement, but there really is hope. The hope is that thanks to all these incredible discoveries in neuroscience over the last 50 years, we now have the ability to understand how we can literally through our own actions, through our own thoughts and our own interpretation of our own feelings to literally shift the outcome of our own future. What could be more powerful than that?
Jackee: I don’t know when I can tap into that what you just described, the sky’s the limit really and so it’s creating an environment where you can get tap into that, that mind state that body state, whatever more often because once you’re there it’s undeniable it’s euphoric even. And so let’s talk about touch again because I love touch and yet it’s kind of a foreign thing to me. But I do know that I love receiving it in safe situations, but let’s talk about stress. Okay? And how touch can actually change your body’s stress levels, like what’s happening in the body when that happens?
DR: I love talking about this because I think it’s so cool because the body is so brilliantly [inaudible 00:59:29] designed.
Jackee: It really is. Shout out to the body by the way, shout out to the grand design that we forget we’re like, “Oh, we’re in this fucking body.” And I’m like, and I’m just going to go on a side tangent real quick they’ll come back to touch. I was talking to Matt the other day, my husband and I was like, “I’ve discovered the cure for my acne.” I’m 35 years old and I’ve had acne my entire adult life. And he’s like, “Oh yeah, what’s that?” And I was like, literally I don’t wash my face. And he’s like, “Yeah, I don’t know if that’s going to be, if you’re going to be able to sell that.” But the point is, what was my point there? Shit, I had a point Dave.
It was about, Oh yeah, that the body is designed, at least my body, right? My body is designed to kind of figure out whatever bacteria that causes acne, figure it out on its own. You just have to like leave it be for long enough and not continue to wash it or put new shit on it or whatever. I’m not recommending people don’t wash their face. I’m just saying that’s what works for me. And so shout out to the body. Okay. Coming back to touch. Go for it.
DR: And so I think the body is incredibly, brilliantly designed. It functions in an incredibly efficient way it’s the most efficient thing other than mother nature that we’ve ever come across as a species. And so I think to your point your body has figured out how to cope with that particular stress in a way that other people don’t necessarily figure out as easily. It doesn’t mean they’re not capable of it, it just means that they don’t necessarily overcome that particular challenge as easily or as in the same way as you do. And so what I think is interesting is looking at touch, looking at breathing, touch and breathing work in exactly the same way. So when you think about being in a stressful state, what happens in stress? Your heart rate goes up, you start to sweat, your sympathetic nervous system activity goes up. So the activity and our fight or flight or freeze response in our nervous system, which is singularly responsible for getting us to survival to safety. That’s a single most important thing about this nervous system. And that can be activated by any perceived threat.
So not just real survival threat, but a perceived threat. Anything we believe to be threatening even on a small level. And so ultimately what happens is when you take a deep breath in that moment, that’s an intentional breath and you show yourself that you can take in that deep breath and you can feel the breath and divert attention, precious attention, resources to the feeling of the air moving into your mouth and into your nose and down your windpipe and into your lungs. Even for those brief moments that that’s happening, it sends an instantaneous signal to the brain that you’re safe enough to pay attention to your breath, right?
So if we were running from a lion in that moment, we would not have the time to intentionally take a moment to pay attention to our breath. We would have to be running to that lion or in some kind of immediate panic escape mode. So the body has these fundamentally incredibly built systems that are always working, that can help us immediately divert resources towards a safety recovery response, which is why breath and touch are so important. So touch works the same way. So the idea is that when you’re stressed out and you’re running from a lion … If somebody touches you, nobody, probably nobody would even think to touch you. They’re going to get help you get you out of the situation or get themselves in that situation. But if somebody takes the time to touch you in a loving way and then you have the time to actually feel it and enjoy it, then that’s sending from the moment that you start paying attention to it, it’s sending immediate signals to your brain. It says that you are safe enough to take the time to diaper attentional resources to this touch or this feeling of this breath.
And that’s exactly how Apollo works. It’s the same idea of helping remind the body that the body is actually safe and that you have the time to pay attention to this stimulus. So you don’t need to have your fight or flight system ramping up out of control right now. And it instantly calms itself that which is actually something that we discovered in the lab at the University of Pittsburgh when I was doing the original scientific work on Apollo. We discovered that this was something that is a very old biological technique that has been used in biofeedback for the last seven years but even before biofeedback, it was used in meditation, mindfulness practice and yoga for many years before that, thousands of years.
Jackee: Tell us what Apollo is.
DR: So Apollo is a wearable that we developed with the University of Pittsburgh. I would actually say out of my research at the University of Pittsburgh it’s the wearables developed by Apollo Neuroscience which is a company that my wife and I co-founded together from the research that I did-
Jackee: Shout out to Kathryn
DR: With my team. Yeah and I should say none of this would exist without Catherine because well I have much of the science background and the medical background of our team. She is the major business background and funding background of our team and me. And the management and really execution, bringing things all the way through from start to finish, from idea to a real product. And so we’ve been working on this since about 2014 and then we started making the product in 2017 and the product is a small wearable. It’s about the size of an Apple watch or old Apple watch that you could put on your ankle or your wrist. Some people wear on their arm. It actually works anywhere on the body and it delivers very specific patterns of vibration that we found that the University of Pittsburgh can reliably induce the body into a state of calm within two to three minutes. That effectively is just like taking a deep breath or somebody you love holding your hand or giving you a hug.
As a psychiatrist, I saw my patients were struggling with these safety response issues and stress response issues from trauma. No matter what their diagnosis was, I saw this pattern between all of them. They could have ECSE they could have depression, anxiety, OCD even some psychotic disorders. Many of these people ADHD, they would all get, or substance use disorders. They all get worse with stress and there’s usually one or multiple stressful incidents that make their symptoms that started out and their symptoms. And when you ask them why they don’t feel they can get better, it’s because they say they never feel safe on the whole, these people don’t feel safe.
And when you look at their bodies, their bodies show those signs of a lack of safety. They show high heart rate, high blood pressure oftentimes quick response to sweat, racing thoughts, poor sleep, food and digestion irregularities, immunity issues, difficulty recovering from illness. All of these things are signs that the fight or flight system had been too high for too long and that the recovery system, which governs all those things has been shut down for too long because the body is perceiving a continuous threat. And so Apollo was developed so that we could give somebody, our patients, our clients, something that they could take out of the office, but we really developed it for everyone.
It’s something that can be used at home. They could use a lot of the knowledge that we’ve taken from neuroscience and from psychotherapy and it’s like psychiatry and psychology and meditation and yoga and deep breathing and biofeedback and music and all of this combined into one technology that people can take with them on the go. That can rapidly help bring the body into a meditative state or a state of recovery, balance, safety through our sense of touch without us really having to do anything. Because as you said earlier, when we’re stressed out, entering these stages really, really, really hard and that’s been written about quite a bit. And so this helps bring us into a state of calm very rapidly within a couple of minutes when people use it under stress in particular and that increases our ability to perform under stress. It increases our ability to adapt to stress in our clinical trials at boosted heart rate variability and performance under stress.
And so we’re seeing that by people use it but then that our theory about how deep breathing and touch is true because or seems to be true because when we designed a technology based on that theory and we put it out to the world, it’s having the effects that we predicted that we would have based on the theory of the neurobiology. And so now we’re now able where we have I think about 3000 or so units in the wild right now until we’re now able to start taking a step back and looking at how are these affecting people on a much bigger scale? I think we have about 2000 case studies so far, but that’s going to increase dramatically over the next few months, years, et cetera.
And so Apollo is a very exciting tool that can help support all of the things that we’ve been talking about here, particularly for people who have never meditated before or who have never had a really good gratitude practice or a deep breathing practice or who have never experienced a sense of fulfillment or calm or loving touch. Apollo is particularly useful for people like that. And I can only imagine that as we move forward into the next several months that people with Apollo who are quarantined, who are socially isolated, who are suffering from the same things that we’ve all been talking about with this virus outbreak, pandemic. That though people with Apollo will have a much easier time than those without, because not only does Apollo help supplement some of the body’s needs for touch, but it also helps… But boosting, providing human touch, boosting parasympathetic activity, boosting heart rate variability is all predictive of enhanced immunity and enhanced ability to fight infection and overcome illness. So I think over time it’ll be fascinating to see what the potential for this technology is in the world.
Jackee: Oh, I think so too. Just hearing you describe how it acts or what it’s replacing, it made me think of okay, the next time I’m in a situation with a human being where I can see that I’ve triggered them, what would happen if I just reached across and put my arm, my hand on their shoulder or put my hand on their arm? It might be too soon for stuff like that, but cool to have a technology like this that kind of behaves in a similar way. Right?
DR: Right. Because I think that as you were saying earlier, as we’ve been talking about, we’ve gotten to a point in our society where we’ve practiced being, many of us, have practiced being disengaged from touch for so long. Or only exposed to negative touch, which is a much worse problem that we don’t necessarily remember how important is for us. And so we isolate ourselves from people because we believe we can do it on our own. And so I think especially for those people, but going back to what you were saying, I think with consent and with the relationship established, reaching out and putting your hand on somebody’s shoulder who’s having a hard time or is anxious, maybe even about something that you said or did is an extremely effective strategy. But the problem is that we’ve… A lot of people have been trained or practice social isolation.
And so that behavior without consent or without the establishment of touch boundaries with that person can also sometimes trigger that person into a higher anxiety state. And we don’t necessarily know that in advance unless we ask. And so I think Apollo provides a unique alternative to… It’s not a replacement for touch. It’s definitely not a replacement. There’s no replacement for human touch. And I will be a hundred percent clear on that. There is no replacement for human touch. We need it really badly and we need it as much as we need to see and taste and smell and hear. But there are things that we can do to help us get back into a state of normal social, relationships, normal comfort with ourselves, comfort with our own bodies, feeling safe in our own skin. That’s what Apollo is really powerful tool for because when we feel safe, it opens up our creativity. It gives us access to our adaptability, our real smarts, our intuition, everything that makes us great and everything that everyone loves about us comes out when we feel safe, not threatened.
Jackee: Oh absolutely. I wish that for the world. I wish that for myself and I’m working on that. But I wish that mostly for the world because even if half, even if 30%, I don’t know, even if a large number of people could regularly feel safe, what beauty would come out of our species. I can only imagine and…
DR: I have no doubt.
Jackee: Yeah, and safety, the safety, this thing, safety, safety, safety. It just really comes constantly back around. I mean, my work is in psychedelic education, and we have very few agendas when it comes to psychedelics or psychedelic culture except for safety. Our one rule is don’t harm anyone much, much less yourself. But I think learning how to be safe, and it’s something that was coming up for me too when you were talking about consent. That’s another giant hurdle because I think there’s this, again, I can only speak to my experience, but if somebody… A few times people have asked me, can I touch you here? Like on the arm, right? In a non-sexual way, just in a social way. Can I touch you on the arm? And that always to me just feels weird. Even receiving that question kind of like ruins the touch experience for me.
DR: The spontaneity.
Jackee: Because I’m like sure.
DR: Yeah, I agree with you. I mean the spontaneity is great, right? But I think that’s what, this is one of the hurdles we have to get over right now is at this time, especially when we’re around new people, for me, as a psychiatrist, particularly in the role that I’m in, I have to ask everyone, is it okay for me to touch you on the hand? Is there any place that you don’t… I typically don’t touch my patients, but if someone’s having a really hard time, I’ll put my hand on their shoulder, or their hand. A normal, normal empathetic-
Jackee: Human things.
DR: Human interaction. Right. But we’re actually taught not to do that. We’re taught not to physically engage with our patients as doctors unless it’s during a physical exam. And I think that that is really detrimental to our patient’s wellbeing when we could have a profound impact, with very minimal and healthy touch experience, that we’re modeling for them as something that can then understand how to do on their own. That they can understand that, hey, when this doctor who I barely know, asked me if he could put his hand on my hand when I was feeling bad or talking about something really stressful or negative, and then he did and then I instantly felt better. And then I was able to overcome what I was struggling with. That is modeling for them how to do it on their own. And also how to do it for others. And the more that they do that, then the more natural it becomes and then we don’t have to ask as much anymore.
Jackee: Right. Exactly. Exactly. We’re in the mode where we need to practice. We’re new at this, we’ve forgotten how. Let’s get back on the horse, let’s practice. And then it can be spontaneous and we can be in a flow state and you get, you can read the room without having to ask. You can get a sense. Just using our energy forces. I can tell if somebody doesn’t want me near them without having to ask. But not everybody is kind of tuned into that. So, okay. So considering when we’re talking and what’s going on in the world right now with the Coronavirus and quarantine, what are some practical things that people can do while they’re at home to pay attention to their stress, to mitigate their stress?
DR: Good question. I think that the things that we can and should be doing, going back to what we were talking about earlier, this idea of control, is that we need to really bring it back. This is the time to bring it back to the self. This is the time to really, not in a selfish way, but a really to bring our focus back to ourselves, and our own ability to focus on what we can control and how we can… What things we can actually tangibly do to maintain and improve our own health. So without dwelling on it too long, having a regular sleep and wake cycle is critically important. We talk about this in a recent article on the Apollo Neuro blog. If you go to Apolloneuro.com you can check out some of these tips in much more detail, but having a regular sleep and wake cycle and good, what we call sleep hygiene, is absolutely critical to improving our health and our recovery.
The reason I bring up sleep is because sleep is a fascinating part of our lives. That takes up a fairly substantial chunk for most of us, that we all feel generally we can all agree is pretty important. That said something like 30 to 60% of Americans on the average day will report that they are not sleeping well. And they don’t feel rested or they even believe themselves to have some form of insomnia. And what that has been found to be due to, at least from what we can tell for the most part is anxiety and stress about people thinking about stressful things from the day before, about the next day, or stressful thoughts about why they can’t sleep and everybody else can. Which is clearly not the case because most people don’t think they’re sleeping. And all of these kinds of thoughts impair our ability to feel safe enough to fall asleep.
And so what sleep is a great learning example for us because sleep is the most vulnerable that we ever are in our lives. So on a regular basis. When we’re asleep, our eyes are closed, our senses are turned down, we’re completely unaware of our environment around us. We sometimes when we’re REM or deep sleep, we can be paralyzed physically for a brief amount of time. We’re not necessarily aware of what’s going on in our immediate physical environment. So to allow ourselves to be able to have a good restful sleep, we have to build on those safety techniques we were talking about earlier. So again, some of the most tangible important safety building techniques. Because if you feel afraid, we’re not going to be able to sleep. The body has built-in strategies for preventing us from falling asleep when we believe there’s a bear lurking or a lion lurking outside our camp.
Jackee: Yeah man, you to be ready to run away from the lion.
DR: Exactly. And so the trick is remembering to constantly, to interpret, are these thoughts that we’re having in our brains… One of the tools we use that I love is, is it true? Is it useful? So when you have a threatening thought come into your head or any thought for that matter, that comes to your head for it to be worthy of your time, the first test that it should pass is, is it true, and is it useful? If it’s true and not useful, then there’s not really much of a point in thinking about, it or allocating any precious resources to it. And you can kind of acknowledge it, the thought or the feeling and kind of let it go. That’s the practice of mindfulness. And so this kind of plays into that practice.
DR: And then the next step would be, is it not true, but useful? That doesn’t really happen. Right? So typically it has to be true and useful for it to be worthy of our time as a thought or feeling. If we discard every thought that popped into our head that was not true and not useful, we would be a lot happier just from the get-go.
Jackee: Oh, I was just thinking that. I was just saying that’s going to get rid of like 90% of my thoughts.
DR: Yeah. Right? And it’s really simple. It’s like these cognitive tasks, these cognitive strategies are incredibly simple. That one I love from cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT, it just needs to be practiced. I think the next one is gratitude. Practicing gratitude, which we call, which is the foundation of the four pillars, which is what we talked about earlier. Gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, and self-love. Really practicing those not to others. Practicing to others is great, we should do that. But focusing on practicing them towards ourselves, practicing gratitude for ourselves, for being us, being for being who we are, being grateful for being who we are again today, being grateful for taking a breath. Practicing these things as much as we can. Even if it just means writing down those four words first thing in the morning and first thing at night, or last thing at night before you go to bed.
DR: That is enough to keep those things in our minds and helps us be present and helps us be more healthy in terms of our thought alignment. So it helps us keep track and allocate more resources to things that we can control. We can control how grateful we are. We can control whether we forgive ourselves or others, we can control how patient we are with our experience in the sense of compassion and allowing the situation to unfold as it will. And we can also be in control of how and where we show love, right? So all of these things are things that we can control in any moment and thinking about them immediately empowers us, which allows the healing process to amplify in intensity. And to get stronger and stronger and stronger over time. And the recovery process, in turn, to get stronger and stronger over time.
DR: On the contrary, if we spend that same amount of resources and time focusing on things that stress us out and make us uncomfortable, or things that we can’t control, or things that aren’t useful or true to us, then ultimately we will be practicing feeling like shit. And it’s not… It’s that simple. In terms of the basic strategies to build the foundation. Once you build the foundation, everything else gets easier from there. The other thing that I would say since we’re talking about touch, is touch each other, touch each other at home, touch each other with your friends in a non-sexual intimate way. Don’t isolate, don’t ignore each other and over time, you will feel a lot better.
Jackee: Beautiful. Touch each other. Doctor’s orders. Dave, this has been so useful. I mean, in all of my work in talking about sleep and the importance of sleep and sleep hacking, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that it’s difficult… You’re having difficulties falling asleep because you don’t feel safe. That’s so simple and easy to sink your teeth into and like, oh, okay, now I have a starting point. Now I can… Because we all want sleep. People want sleep. Like they want chocolate like they want sex. So you’re like, okay, well how do I get there? Oh, I got to make myself feel safe. How do I do that? Well, these ten things I have to practice all the time until it starts working.
DR: Exactly instead of… If you think about it when you’re lying in bed, like we all have done, and you’re thinking about why can’t I sleep and everybody else can? Or what is wrong with me, I am not able to sleep right now? Right? You’re instantly turning your frustration of not being able to sleep inward on yourself, which induces a sense of the threat that comes from your own body.
DR: So if you instead think, I am so grateful that I can lie in my bed right now. Right? And take a break from work or however you want to frame the gratitude. Right? But you say, “I am so grateful that I’m able to just be in bed right now.” I am so grateful that I can slow down my breathing the way that I breathe or I think I breathe when I sleep, which is also a great technique to help people fall asleep is if you breathe slowly, like slow box breathing.
It can be like four seconds in. It could start like four seconds in, then hold for four, four seconds out, hold for four and then increase the amount of seconds in each cycle every time. What happens is the body thinks that it’s okay to enter into a sleepy state because of the safety cues from the breath. And so it slows your heart rate, it slows your thoughts and that gratitude for the breath that you’re able to take. Every breath compounds into radical safety that helps you fall asleep instead of spending all that time thinking about how you can’t. Does that make sense?
Jackee: 100%. I’m practicing now. I might fall asleep. Getting super relaxed, man. Oh well. Okay. So in closing, people should go to your site, Apolloneuro.com to check out the amazing Apollo Neuro device, which I love, love, love. And also the blog that you mentioned about tips on how to reduce stress in this COVID quarantine. Is that correct? Where else can people find you?
DR: So that’s perfect. I think if you go to the Apollo Neuro blog, you’ll get the best access to all of our tips for if you have an Apollo, how to use Apollo to optimize your resilience and your recovery and your immunity. And then also if you don’t have an Apollo, how to optimize your recovery and your immunity with sleep and breathwork techniques. And we actually list out the specific bulleted instructions to try to break it down and make it really easy for people. Because I know how hard this was for me, and how hard it is for me to teach people this because I do it all the time. So we really tried to break it down and make it as easy as possible. And that’s a great reference for people. If you want to find me or reach out to me, you can find me at Dave Rabin on Twitter or at Doctor David Rabin on Instagram. And I also have a website for my clinical practice, DoctorDave.IO and you can check that out and reach out to me through that website or through socials.
Jackee: Yay, also, I almost forgot to mention you will be along with Katherine, your partner in Apollo at Meet Delic in August. Super stoked about it.
DR: Yes. I cannot wait. It’s going to be an incredible event. Thank you so much for doing it.
Jackee: Oh listen, it’s going to be fun. I’m excited. Who knows what’s going to happen with… It’s like public events, right? That’s kind of the first thing that went during this COVID quarantine scare scenario. But they’ll come back and we are resilient as a species and we will live again. And I think we’ll be more mindful. I hope that we will be more mindful as we enter into this new phase of whatever comes next.
DR: Yeah, I mean, I think that, as you said so eloquently, and I think as we were talking about earlier, this is an opportunity for us to see what we’re missing. And then bring those things into our lives. Clearly there are a lot of things going on that make us feel out of control because we have not practiced our best skill of adapting. To be able… What we really… This is the light bulb going off for me and I think for a lot of people. Or that should be going off ideally, is that we need to not, we need to divest from this idea of stability and really invest as many resources of our own and of our communities in adaptability. And into sustainability, and making sure that we’re creating our lives and our world as a world that we want to live in and we want our kids to live in, and our grandkids to live in, for a very long time.
And I think that that is absolutely within reach for us. It’s going to be a little bit of work and it’s going to be a little bit of admitting mistakes or maybe a lot of admitting mistakes, but it’s absolutely doable and it just takes us getting on the same page to make it happen.
Jackee: Absolutely. All right. Thank you, Dave. You’re the best.
DR: Thanks, Jackie. I really appreciate it.