As a society, it appears we are simply not coping with today’s work and life demands, and the pandemic has further amplified what seems to be an epidemic of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns in our population. This week on Voice and Beyond, we welcome back to the show Heidi Moss Erickson, an acclaimed performer, voice educator, and scientist who first appeared on the show two years ago in episode no. 35. Since then, both Heidi and I have struggled with the grief of losing loved ones, and in this interview, we speak frankly about the impact of our loss, our grieving journeys as survivors of suicide, and our own personal struggles with anxiety and depression. This is a two-part conversation about healing, the resilience of the human spirit, and shining a beacon of light on these difficult topics, from the perspective of two people who are not healthcare experts, medical practitioners, or psychologists, but rather we speak from a place of experience, neuroscience, and an understanding of biology. Heidi will explain the difference between the brain and the mind, how the two are interrelated, and share science-based information on how we can improve our brain health to optimize our mind health.

It is our intention to give hope to others who are struggling with their own grief or mental health issues; however, I would like to stress that some of the content may be triggering; therefore, if you or someone you know is struggling, we have included links to where you can seek help in the show notes. This episode serves as a timely reminder, as we head into the festive season, to check in and connect with loved ones. Remember, this is part one of a two-part interview with Heidi Moss Erickson, and part two will be released after the holiday season.

Find Heidi Online


Australia – Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636

Australia- Lifeline: 13 11 14 – Crisis Support. Suicide Prevention.

USA – Suicide and Crisis Lifeline call 988

UK – Crisis Text Line -Text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258


In This Episode


1:15 – Introduction
5:59 – Grief and mental health after a suicide loss
15:57 – Mind vs brain
21:08 – Mental health and circadian rhythms
28:39 – Mindset, emotions, and self-regulation
34:14 – Brain health, mindset, and mental health
38:38 – Trauma and lifestyle interventions


Putting yourself first is important because it allows you to prioritize your own needs and well-being, which in turn can help you be more productive, creative, and fulfilled in all areas of your life. By taking care of yourself first, you are better equipped to care for others and contribute positively to the world around you.



Visit the A Voice and Beyond Youtube channel to watch back the video replay of this guest interview or to see my welcome video.

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  00:00

Hey, it’s Marisa Lee here and I have some really exciting news to share with you. Just recently, I launched my performance mastery coaching programme, which has been designed to help a forming artists and other creatives just like you to take centre stage in their lives. Whether you’re mid career and simply feeling stuck, or you’re someone who is just about to embark on your career journey, and need help getting started, my unique coaching programme is for you. To celebrate the launch. I’m currently offering a free 30 minute discovery session, so you can learn more about the programme and how I can help you go to the next level in your life. My first intake is already seeing incredible results. So don’t miss out, go visit Dr Marisa Lee forward slash coaching, or just send me a direct message and let’s get chassis. Remember, there’s no time like now to take centre stage in your life.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  01:25

It’s Marisa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include healthcare practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  02:36

As a society, it appears we are simply not coping with today’s work life demands. And the pandemic has further amplified what seems to be an epidemic of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns in our population. This week, on a voice and beyond. We welcome back to the show, Heidi Moss, Erickson and acclaimed performer, voice educator and scientist who first appeared on the show two years ago in episode number 35. Since then, both Heidi and I have struggled with the grief of losing loved ones. And in this interview, we speak frankly, about the impact of our loss, our grieving journeys as survivors of suicide, and our own personal struggles with anxiety and depression. This is a two part conversation about healing the resilience of the human spirit and shining a beacon of light on these difficult topics from the perspective of two people who are not healthcare experts, medical practitioners, or psychologists, but rather, we speak from a place of experience, neuroscience and an understanding of biology. Heidi will explain the difference between the brain and the mind how the two are interrelated and she will share science based information on how we can optimise our brain health to improve our mind health. It is our intention to give hope to others who are struggling with their own grief or mental health issues. However, I would like to stress that some of the content may be triggering. Therefore, if you or someone you know is struggling, we having included links to where you can seek help in our show notes. This episode serves as a timely reminder as we head into the festive season to check in and to connect with others. Remember, this is part one of a two part conversation with Heidi Moss, Erickson and part two will be released after the festive season. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  05:45

well, I am so excited for today’s episode. Welcome to the show. We have Heidi moss Erickson. Welcome back to a voice and beyond.

Heidi Moss Erickson  05:58

Thank you, I

Heidi Moss Erickson  05:58

feel so honoured to be a two timer. So I need that little badge or something for that. So thank you for having me back. It’s always a joy, as you know, speaking with you,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:07

yeah, yes, we were kind of dangerous to get you I don’t have a badge for you. I’m so sorry. However, guess what’s made its return.

Heidi Moss Erickson  06:22

Oh, my goodness,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:24

that swear jar,

Heidi Moss Erickson  06:27

the swear jar. I’ve been known to drop a few bombs, my apologies in advance if they come out. But you can just stick them right in there. And we’ll be good.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:36

I have to tell

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  06:37

you something funny about the swear jar. I had biscuits in or cookies as you call them. And you can still see the crumbs in the bottom. And I serve them up to my grandchildren. Know me? What’s the switch? Or why the cookies in the switch? Story and you’d have to meet high the ticket?

Heidi Moss Erickson  07:02

Oh, no. Yeah, now I’m going to be known for corrupting grandchildren. That’s great.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  07:07

Well, I’d rather you corrupt them. Anyway, Heidi, I’m going to do the formal intro to start with. So you’re an acclaimed performer, voice educator and scientist, who prefers to describe your you like to describe yourself as a C cup, you hold a double biology degree and a master’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a music degree from Oberlin. You’ve been on the show before and the last time you were here. We talked a lot about neuroscience. But today we’re going to go down a little bit of a different path. And I don’t know where this is going to take us. And I’m just going to let this evolve. But you and I have both gone through a lot since 2021. When we first talked on the podcast, we’ve both suffered loss. We’ve both been going through a grieving process. And first up, I’d like to ask how you are going and how’s your family going?

Heidi Moss Erickson  08:18

Oh, that means a lot. Thank you. I mean, every day is different. And I think, you know, sometimes these lessons of how we go through life and what’s thrown at us is a model for other things like singing every day is different. So I just approach it from where I’m at in that moment. And of course, there are good days and bad days and you know, supporting my family and supporting myself sometimes we can neglect the latter. So I’ve been working harder at that.

Heidi Moss Erickson  08:49

Yes. Do you mind sharing?

Heidi Moss Erickson  08:52

Not at

Heidi Moss Erickson  08:52

all? Yeah, so my stepdaughter who is 18 years old, killed herself about six weeks ago, and she had been suffering from mental health issues for a while. So it is a tragedy when you see a young person have to go through that and just the impact you see this kind of ripple effect where it just the people that are affected by it, you know, I’m sure she would wouldn’t even realise but my daughters are close, obviously my husband and I had my own struggles growing up along those same lines. So there’s almost this kind of resurrection of feelings and things that I had gone through when I was her age. And so those complicated feelings that you just try to unravel to be the best person I can for my family and myself.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  09:47

And it is a process like no other when it is a suicide. Any death is a tragic loss, but suicide it affects people In a completely different way. And for the listeners, I have shared the story before that my first husband committed suicide. I was 26 years old, and I had a five year old daughter, and that I completely shut down physically, where I didn’t menstruate for five years, I went into a deep shock, I developed an eating disorder through that time, I was doing everything I could, above water, I was like that duck that was swimming gracefully. But underneath I was under the water, I was just treading water. I don’t know how I hung on, but also to my mother tried to commit suicide when I was 18 years old. And she ended up in what they used to call back in those days, a mental asylum. There wasn’t the understanding around mental health that there is today. And we’re going to talk about this in a more positive light in a moment. And, you know, for anyone that’s been triggered by this, you know, I suggest you go and seek help

Heidi Moss Erickson  11:10

in the US, you can call 988. That’s just throw that number. Yeah,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  11:15

yes. And we have lifeline here and Beyond Blue. But for my mum, she received sleep treatment, I would go and visit my mum, every day. And that was for two months in this asylum. And people were receiving shock treatment, I saw the impact of all of that as as a teenager. And so I have a, an understanding of what it’s like, and I have come through the other end as a survivor of all those situations. And we all deal with things as best as we can. And today, we’re going to talk about though, the relationship between the brain and the mind and the things that we can possibly do to improve our brain health, our mindset, from a science perspective, and that there are small things that we can do that that can help us. But we need to help develop an understanding of all those things. Yes.

Heidi Moss Erickson  12:23

And I just want to say we were speaking offline about you being a beacon of light. And I think having people like you, and who show that you can come out of this resilient and positive and joyful and still lead a great life, I think is really the take home message. Because I think people who are feeling that way, even in grief, feeling lost, to see that it is like the seasons that you can change and evolve. And as you said, people look at you and I look at you and I just see this radiant being. So it’s just, it’s a testament to you. But I think it’s the model we need in this world right now.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  13:06

Yes. And do you know, everything happens to us for a reason, and as corny as that sounds, and as cliche as that sounds? And I believe those things happen to me for a purpose, and I feel like this is my purpose. Yeah, I feel the purpose here is to serve others, and to help others and to show others that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Yes. And I’ve I’ve had that feedback. And I had that feedback very personally, recently from someone that I am associated with professionally, who didn’t realise what I had been through. And they couldn’t believe that there was a light at the end of the tunnel for them and their grief. Right and watching me and having observed me in life over the last few years without them realising that I had been through what they were going through. It gave them hope, and it gave them a light. Right, so if I can help one person, yes, then I’ve served my purpose and I’ve served my mission. And it hasn’t been a waste of a life. Right?

Heidi Moss Erickson  14:21

Oh, I feel the same way. You’re gonna make me cry in this thing. So we’ll we’ll get to the whole part. I I wrote a very long article. I didn’t think anyone would read it. But it was called taming the black dog on my own experience for that same reason. I said, if one person reads this, and feels hopeful, then I’ve had my life’s purpose. So yeah, we’re going to create another opportunity to hopefully if we can reach one person who may not see the light right now, we’re going to try to warn you know, and I’m not a mental health professional. I should say that right out of the gate. I come at it from background of in neuroscience, but also personal experience and understanding of biology in the brain in the body. But you know, there’s mental health is a different category in the professional sense. So I just want to get that caveat out there. See a professional always? Yes,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:14

yes. And later we’re going to talk about how this impacts in the teaching studio and some of those boundaries between being singing teacher and a therapist as well. Right. We’ll get to that.

Heidi Moss Erickson  15:28

We’ll get to the boundaries. All right, here we go.

Heidi Moss Erickson  15:31

Okay, recess here. We’ve got this, Heidi.

Heidi Moss Erickson  15:38

We’ve got it high five through the screen. Okay.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:40

Yes, yes. And swear jar, swear as much as you like,

Heidi Moss Erickson  15:43

we’re gonna do it. Okay, there we go.

Heidi Moss Erickson  15:47

I did it. Sorry.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  15:52

Rich by the end of this. Okay. So, Heidi? Yes. What is the difference between the mind and the brain, let’s just start with basics here

Heidi Moss Erickson  16:04

diving with the biggies, because this is honestly a debate between neuroscientists and philosophers. And I don’t think they’ve come to a clear conclusion. But how I see it through both of those lenses is the mind is actually if you think of an iceberg, there’s a tip of the iceberg of what you see. And then there’s everything else underneath it. And the tip of the iceberg is very small, comparative to what’s underneath. And I think the mind is what we experience as conscious beings, is what we feel see sense, can think about can ruminate something that has that conscious kind of thought to it. And even the subconscious mind, because it fuels but then there’s all of these operations that are going on underneath that are very complex, that are sort of competing with each other for attention from the mind. And so we can use our minds, to shift attention to things. And I think that is helpful for mental health, I think it’s helpful for physical health is the power of attention, to help our minds get in control, because there’s such a wealth of things in the brain that we can tap into. So

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  17:27

would you call them the brain is the physical structure? And the mind is more like the emotional and the subconscious?

Heidi Moss Erickson  17:37

Yeah, I mean, I’m sure some people probably define it that way. I mean, I think the mind is definitely not something I can hold in my hand, right? It’s this Yes. It’s this essence, that I’m aware of, I’m aware of what I’m saying, or I’m aware of engaging in this. There’s probably subconscious things in that equation. Yeah, so maybe the brain is that physical thing. And it’s all connected. And I think that’s the thing. We sometimes like to separate mind, brain body environment. But I call it the Brain Body environment continuum. Because in this whole, we have different places that we can sneak into, to change or alter or attend to, that can really shape how we think and feel. And I, the biggest thing I want to give is agency to people because sometimes we feel like we don’t have we’re out of control the world feels out of control. Yes. And I think we can use the power of our minds, and our brains as as a unit to sort of take control and have agency in our lives. Because that’s what I think makes us feel powerless is when we feel like we don’t have any agency

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  18:58

100% And that’s probably when I’m at my most anxious in life. Yes. Is is that feeling of not having control and things spiralling and you being the observer, yes. And not the participant in that actual whatever it is that incident that moment in time. So what are the important parts of the brain that we need to be aware of, like those parts that we need to know and understand that need to be healthy and remain healthy from a mental physical and emotional perspective?

Heidi Moss Erickson  19:39

Yeah, I think there’s so many parts again, I’m gonna go back to the whole but I think I like to think of it in terms of we are evolution and sociology are much faster than our biology. So we still are, you know, homo sapien as cave people. And so when you look at The life of that kind of being versus the life that we have now, they’re very, very different. And what we eat is different how we see sunlight basic things, how we take breaks, the amount of stress, the amount of stimulus, all of these things are against our biology. And so I think sometimes when I tap, you know, I think what we can all do is tap into some fundamental things like getting good sleep, that is, number one, we need sleep to function. One thing that can help sleep is seeing natural sunlight first thing in the morning, it can be filtered, when I go out, whether it’s, you know, cold, cloudy, dark, you know, when the sun’s low, but just that any kind of natural light, they do have light boxes that they sell. But there’s a biochemical there, you get this little spike, it goes through the retina, you get this little spike of cortisol, the good kind of spike of cortisol, not the bad kind, which we’ll talk about later. And that sets your brain body for a schedule for your circadian and ultradian rhythms. And I remember when I was most depressed in my life, I was working in a lab and I didn’t even have to leave the building, I could stay I was in New York City, and I could go from my apartment to the lab and never see the light of day. Yeah, and, and then I couldn’t sleep at night, I was an insomniac, I would stay up until two and three in the morning and then get up. And that cumulative effect was destructive in my mental and physical health. So these little things that seem almost hippyish, I’m in San Francisco, but they really have biological merit. And I think that’s the first step is to tap into just that kind of circadian rhythm routine.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  22:00

It’s so true, what you’re saying at the moment, I’ve, I’m into my second week of official holidays, will I’m off my teaching job, I’m on break, so I don’t have to leave the house. And I used to, isn’t still doing my normal exercise routine, walking to the gym, walking to Pilates, trying to go for a walk. But it’s the extent of leaving the house is not the same. And I’m already feeling the difference in my mood. But also, I feel that I’m not walking around as much as I was before I’m not moving around. I’m not having that social connection, that all those things that we need for our mental health. I feel like they have really been minimised, right. And people say, oh, you know, you must be so excited to be on break. But I think, No, I actually need that routine and the structure of work and all the things that came along with it. For my mental health.

Heidi Moss Erickson  23:12

Yes. 1,000%. And you touched on two other things. You know, we talked about getting outside and seeing sunlight, walking, everyone drives or take public transportation. Now there is another element biologically it’s called optic flow of people want to google it, that is part of that calming. And you think of our species, again, we would be hunter gatherers, we would walk from one place to the next and now people aren’t even walking so they’re not getting that optic flow process. And then the third thing you mentioned is social connection. We function in groups. You know, we weren’t meant my sister made this funny joke. She said her she lives in this kind of community and she said her oven broke and she had to buy a new oven but she had months without an oven. She said how crazy it is it is that I live in this development where everyone around me has an oven. Everyone buys their own oven and they cook in isolation. She said I wish I were a cave person where we all cook together and how to each other and raise each other’s kids. And so we’ve become more ice isolationist, which also oxytocin, all of these biochemical markers of what we’re wired to be like have been forgotten sometimes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  24:27

I was interstate recently where I have a second home now I can call it in Melbourne. I live in Queensland and on the Gold Coast, but I purchased a place in Melbourne where I grew up. And I found that I was so much calmer and so much happier down there. So I figured that is my safe haven and my place of joy. And being at home. Here is my workplace.

Heidi Moss Erickson  25:00

The brain is like shifting its set and setting, right? It’s like I know what this is. And that will have a certain chemistry associated with it.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  25:08

You go there. Yeah, yeah, the balance of the two is what’s going to be good for my mental health I feel.

Heidi Moss Erickson  25:14

And that’s good too is knowing thyself, which is another thing is people are very different. We’re neuro diverse. And so some people need more people around them. Other people need a different balance of that. So

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  25:28

and owning it to be aware of it, and just owning it and say, acknowledging, this is what makes me happy. This is what makes me unhappy.

Heidi Moss Erickson  25:39

That’s where the monster comes in. Because there’s no judgement, that’s the thing that has to go is our, you know, my husband used to say, Comparison is the thief of joy. And I think there’s so much comparison in this world, people are looking at tic toc and saying, I wish I had this, or I wish I did this. And I think that’s the other thing that can be detrimental. Because when we compare, we’re not in our presence, we’re in a rumination that is not healthy, because we are not with ourselves and embracing and accepting ourselves. And I think that can tie into being a voice teacher and our students as well as they will compare Right? And how can you shift their mindset from saying, I want to sing like this person or this person, you can use them as mimicry, but embrace their own artistry and identity and voice and have them fall in love with that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  26:40

That’s going to be a discussion for the next part of this session, because we’re going to talk about our role as teachers as well. And that’s where we, I feel that we need to intervene, right. Also make sure that we’re not imposing when it comes to judgement, right.

Heidi Moss Erickson  26:59

Everyone monsters, I just give everyone monsters and think that that that does everything, but it doesn’t. I’m kidding. We

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  27:06

we want to give the monster we don’t want to be the monster exactly in the teaching studio. Okay, so what is the relationship then between the brain and our state of mind these

Heidi Moss Erickson  27:19

questions, I think neuroscientists and philosophers would have a field day. I love that question. I do this little game of attention when I give lectures. And there are tonne of them on YouTube where you know, they do something and you think you’re counting the number of balls, or you’re looking at something and then you completely miss it. And I think states of mind, and it seems like it’s unconscious, but there are a choice. And how that works is we get signals from our body, it’s called interoception, whether we’re aware of them or not, if our heart rate goes up, our brain can ascribe that say, Oh, I’m anxious, our brain can say I just had coffee, our brain can say I’m nervous about something. So we label we construct a mindset based on what sensory information we’re receiving. And that can be as I said, it can be physical, it can be triggered by a location or a person or a task. And we sometimes think that we’re passive in that mindset. And I think the key is to almost be hyper aware of that. I know, when I had severe depression, I would say, you know, I’ve a lot of autoimmune things. That’s what caused my facial paralysis, and I would get a feeling of I am tired, because I have Hashimotos. And I have autoimmune. And what would happen is, instead of just saying I’m tired, let’s rest because that’s what my body’s telling me. I would say, I am tired, I am not productive. I am a terrible person. I should die, right? It’s like, it goes, it goes through this. I mean, I’m, you know, yes, shortening that thing. But it just shows you what mindset is from a physical feeling. When when, or from just a construction of a judgement about a situation. So we are constructors of our emotional experiences. And, and that’s based on, you know, past experience genetics, you know, there’s lots of factors. But the realisation that I was doing that instead of just saying I feel tired and stopping there, and I went through this, it was a well wired pathway that I struggle with to this day, that it’s easy for me to go not to the last step, but at least from I’m not a good productive person, right. And so I think mindset comes from. And maybe if you’re talking about mindset to action, but that’s where that’s the seed of it. And so if we want mindset to do something, or to be positive, I think it’s that idea of being aware of your body of when your heart rate goes up. And if you tend to get anxious, find ways to tap in to maybe calming your heart rate, whether it’s hypnosis, or meditation or breath work to sort of switch that off. Easier said than done. But I do think you could tap into what I call interoception, extra reception, and pro and dissociation. And I find that it’s the balance between those three, if you’re a feeling person, which a lot of us musicians are, we tend to be very creative. interoceptive Yeah, we’re into our own feelings, whether they’re physical feelings or mental feelings very deeply. And that’s what makes us good artists. But there’s a dark side to that ability. And so you know, everyone has a different strategy I found I just do I do cold plunges, I need something so strong externally. And I think that’s where some of my self harm behaviours used to come from. But that idea of something external that’s so dramatic, and I can actually calm myself in that cold water, and I feel better. Now that’s just my personal Yes, biohacking. But, you know, being aware of that can help. And then that shifts my mindset to not go down that rabbit hole.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  31:37

And there’s a lot of research around that. That yes, around the cold showers even having a cold shower for the last few minutes of being in the shower. Those cold baths like the Wim Hof Method. Yes, exactly. That, yeah, there’s so much science around that. Yes, totally. I couldn’t do it.

Heidi Moss Erickson  32:00

I couldn’t do it. In the beginning, either. I was one of those people that like my toe goes in the cold ocean. I’m like, No, thank you. But I got used to it. And it was empowering

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  32:08

really was, there was so many things that were going through my mind when you were describing all of that. One was, it’s almost like in the brain, we have a filing cabinet. And that filing cabinet is full of all the stories, all the experiences, all the learnings of our life. And our mind is the way that we process those, and how we relate to those, and how we react to those, and which story gets pulled out in that moment in time. Exactly.

Heidi Moss Erickson  32:51

And I think that’s a great metaphor for what what happens because people, you know, the conscious thing that we think that we’re reacting in real time. But in fact, everything we do and think and feel is predictive, which means everything is happening before we do it. And and it makes sense. Because we need to be flexible in the world, I need to be able to reactive and have that kind of adrenaline if a tiger is going to come or know what’s danger, or know what safety. And so the brain has a way of collecting information about a situation so that it can make a decision on what to do. So if they’re if I’ve seen a tiger at an intersection before, you know, if I there’s always a tiger there, and I need to run, what’s going to happen is when I show up to that intersection, my brain is going to pull those things and say your heart rate is gonna go up, you’re gonna have adrenaline and you need to run, even if that doesn’t happen, because it’s taking information from those filing cabinets. And it’s all of these connections. And so the challenge is, can you override them?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  34:04

It’s like a brain hack. It is like the ice bath for you the ice shower, the cold pool. Exactly.

Heidi Moss Erickson  34:12

And that’s what I’m saying. We’re there many more ways than we realise to intervene, whether it’s extra receptive or interoceptive to, to rewire something we want to rewire. And I think that’s the hope piece that we are so capable, as humans, to rewire a lot of things that we think are just permanent. And I think that’s another thing our society does is this happens to me, Oh, it happened to me. I have no agency. It’s poor me. It happened to me. And I think that mindset is not a growth, you know, even though fixed and growth mindsets are sort of controversial right now. It’s not a growth mindset. It’s not the mindset that I can change. I can improve. I can get over things that If you can some you know that other people may not feel like they can, but you can, you know,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  35:06

yeah, that’s having a victim mentality is you being stuck in that victim mentality actually doesn’t serve that person or whoever it is that doesn’t serve, it doesn’t doesn’t help for you to get out of that mindset. Yes. Can you have a healthy mind? Yes, without a healthy brain? Or vice versa?

Heidi Moss Erickson  35:29

I would say no, I think, you know, they’re interconnected. And there’s so much research going on right now that I’m very excited about in terms of brain health. That is, that sort of explains it. This is a guy named Chris Palmer at Harvard if people are interested. But it goes back to you know, we we think the brain is disconnected sometimes. But metabolism, whether it’s, you know, physical health and nutrition, and all of that inflammatory issues, people are seeing it with long COVID, the mental the brain fog, the mood. These are all challenges with brain health, right with with the cells in the brain. And we see the neuro degenerative disorders, the cells in the brain are not functioning optimally. And, you know, it’s a complex organ that’s interconnected. So if our brain is not functioning, ideally, it will manifest in things. It could be depression, it could be manic depression, it could be schizophrenia, it could be you know, there’s a million things that have brain, unhealthy brain can have a phenotype, we call it, but the common cause is this, the cells are not happy, and there’s an imbalance and they’re not functioning well. So we need to really understand what brain health is. And there’s not one answer right now. But I think the tide is turning from these kinds of sort of going into what I was talking about the homo sapien thing, the anti inflammatory ideas, and this guy’s talking about mitochondria of people are interested in the micro stuff. So by focusing on brain health, we will translate into mind health, and mindset and just be better humans.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  37:23

How do things such as trauma, a genetic makeup, alcohol and drug abuse or the physical structure of the brain? How did they impact on mental health problems? Oh,

Heidi Moss Erickson  37:38

gosh, and again, these are these are very complex equation. So I don’t mean to summarise, but it’s interesting, you put genetic in there, because a lot of people misunderstand genetics, because there’s two angles to that there is the passing on of a gene from your parent to a child that’s sort of fixed. But there’s another element of genetics called epigenetics, which is how the DNA is sort of coded by different things that affects the expression of things. What trauma or alcoholism or these things behaviours can do to brain health, through epigenetics is that it can alter gene expression in a way that impacts brain health. And so when you have a psychological trauma or physical trauma, you can impact the genetic nature of cells alter their functionalities. Also, that thing can be passed on, there’s studies on epigenetic transfer between generations. So someone who had trauma or was an abuser, you know, those kinds of things, that it’s not at the genetic level of DNA, it’s at this, this epigenetic level that gets transferred. Now that is changeable. But it’s harder. And so I think that’s where the science is going to be really important is, is overcoming some of those epigenetic changes, in addition to just sort of, you know, chemical and other things that are going on.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  39:19

The reason why I asked about the genetic makeup is because obviously, you know, my mother was was, well, yes, I do suffer from anxiety and that can be chronic at times. My girls suffer from anxiety. I have some cousins, yes, who also on my mother’s side, who are also highly anxious, and their anxiety has caused to things like some major gut problems.

Heidi Moss Erickson  39:50

Yes, that’s another thing that continuum between those two, the gut brain connection is very important and that’s new also. And it’s It’s interesting, we’re simpatico on that. Because I have a long lineage of depression and suicide in my own family, my grandmother was on the first clinical trial of tri cyclic antidepressants at Columbia, but she ended up taking her own life, and I have other relatives too. So that’s what started my passion. Honestly, when I was, gosh, 16 or 17, I started diving into, you know, because my parents were very, this is genetic, you know, when I had certain symptoms, you know, you got this from your grandmother. And that made me feel hopeless. Because if someone’s saying you’re born this way, and you can’t change it, let’s just give you drugs, and maybe it’ll help you feel like you’re wet, you have this label on you for life. And that’s sort of why I wrote the article I did is because I am not that label. You know, and I don’t, even if there was this genetic or epigenetic component, it mood disorders are never one thing. You can maybe your IT can maybe skew you that you’re more vulnerable to it. But that idea that you’re doomed, is false. And I think that’s the thing that’s happening in psychiatry now. At least that I’m seeing. Again, I’m not a licenced person. But I see this, the pendulum shifting away from this kind of, you’re this, you’re this, you’re this, here’s a drug, here’s a drug, here’s a drug, it’s much more complex. And we can start with some of these lifestyle, brain health interventions, and not not stopping your medication, but you can’t do one without the other. You can’t not have sunlight, not have a healthy diet not have, you know, have endless stress, and take medications and think you’re going to be better. You need both. You need the lifestyle interventions.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  41:52

Yeah. 100% 100%. And, I mean, I try and do all the right things myself in terms of looking after my mental health. Because I have to, you know, I and I acknowledge that. And, and I know the importance of exercise, I try and eat to an anti inflammatory diet. Yes. Yeah. Sleep, hydration, just social connection. I’m very aware of all those things. And there are times when those things aren’t enough, yes, because there’s something really crappy going on in your environment that you have no control over, because we can’t control other people that are around us, right, we can only control the way that we react. And sometimes, then, right? It’s really hard to do that when you’re in overwhelm. It’s all too much 1,000%.

Heidi Moss Erickson  42:50

And that’s the challenge we face. There’s a great scientist, Lisa Feldman Barrett, who talks about budgets, and I sort of liked this metaphor of a body budget, but it’s associated with the brain where you have this kind of credit debit system. And if you’re depleted, if your budgets low, and there’s something that is going to disturb that budget, like a stressor, you’re not going to be able to handle it. And, and so I really try to make the system so that I am healthier, so that I have a little more leeway when those things that are taking away from my budget, enter the system, but as you said, you know, part of being human, if it were all, you know, candy canes and bonbons, and you know, we wouldn’t be able to experience the joy. So exactly.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  43:45

All appreciate the joy also. Yeah.

Heidi Moss Erickson  43:50

So we think, in a way, what the cold plunges of metaphor for me, is giving myself an extreme stressor, because it’s not pleasant. It’s really cold. And can I control my response to it, even though it is a big stressor? And I think that’s what I like about that kind of isolated experiment. And what it does is when I am having a stressor, that’s a person or a situation. My brain remembers that ability. Because it’s all about prediction. So my brain remembers Heidi, you got through that cold is if I didn’t want to have another square, cold, plunge.

Heidi Moss Erickson  44:40

The swear jar is up. I know I’m bringing it to San Francisco. Yes,

Heidi Moss Erickson  44:44

yeah. So that idea of being able to overcome that is empowering and I think it doesn’t dilute the the impact of what society is throwing at us or the unpleasant interactions that we have to deal with it. Do try to remove myself because I know I’m a sensitive person, I’m hypersensitive. Even on social media, I can like cry if I read something that just, you know, makes me feel bad. And so I have to know that about myself. So I’ll try to temper that, you know. Anyway, so yeah, I get that it’s not easy. It’s not easy. So what your experience you know, is, is normal. And it doesn’t help to say that but if your anxiety is you know, if your budget is like this, then it’s time to maybe see someone and you know, yes, get help that another intervention, or strategy.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith  45:43

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of a voice and beyond. I hope you enjoyed it, as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth, and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow, so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would like to help me, please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode of a voice and beyond.