Self-care is important, and, with the internet, there are so many ways to tackle body healing. Put the power back into your own hands and enable your body to do what it does. Your body has all the resources to heal itself. You just have to listen to it. Join your host, Timothy J. Hayes, Psy.D as he talks to the Cosmic Coordinator at Free Range Psychiatry, Dani Dunayczan. Dani is also the host of the Psychiatria podcast and is currently training to become a holistic health coach. Discover her journey and how therapy helped her become the person she is today. Learn more about her podcast and what she talks about. Find out just how much healing has changed and how people are putting it in their hands today.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Self-Care Healing: Your Body Has All The Resources With Dani Dunayczan
Dani Dunayczan is the Cosmic Coordinator at Free Range Psychiatry. She is also the host of the podcast titled Psychiatria. She holds a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience and is training to become a holistic health coach. Her passion for the mind, body, spirit connection, and her unending curiosity guide all that she does. She moved to Salt Lake City, Utah with her partner where she enjoys the sunshine, rock climbing, and hiking in the mountains.
Dani, thank you for joining us here. It is great to see you.
It is great to see you too. It is a pleasure to be on the other end of an interview.
I was hoping you could let us know a little bit about how you got started in the work you do and what drives your passion for it.
Life is not linear. I graduated with my undergraduate degree in Behavioral Neuroscience years ago. I have always been interested in holistic health, mental health, alternative things, and everything that falls into that realm. The question for me has always been, “How do I share this with people? What is the avenue for me to do that?” There are a lot of ways that can look like in the world. Where I found myself is working with this cool organization called Free Range Psychiatry. It is a holistic psychiatry practice. It is all virtual. The website is good. It is FreeRange.org.
I am the Cosmic Coordinator there. That is my job title. I do everything from administrative work, helping schedule appointments to development things, new projects that we are working on, and helping to brainstorm and design. I also get to do some fun stuff with content creation and that being blog posts and my podcast, which is called Psychiatria. That is another big part of what I do. In the next steps for what I would like to do, I’m starting a program to become a health coach that started. That is a new 2022 adventure for me.
As far as how I got into all of this, I have had my struggles with things and have seen people in my family struggle with mental health and physical health. My mom has been chronically ill with an undiagnosed autoimmune-type thing for my entire life. I have only known her since she has been sick. It was seeing her go through all of that, be in and out of the hospital, and all of the mental health struggles that come with that. She has dealt with a lot of depression.
My dad being the engineer that he is always trying to problem solve, fix, and being super stressed out because he was trying to fix another person. You can’t do that. It doesn’t work. I’m an only child. It is growing up, being in that environment, being an empathetic person, feeling all of those things, experiencing that going on around me, and also having my innate tendencies. I started in high school struggling with anxiety.
For therapy to work, you need two things. Someone who knows what they’re doing and someone with whom you’re comfortable.
I have some early memories that I understand as anxiety that I don’t think I did for anxiety at the time. Nobody ever put that language to it. I have this one where I was sitting at my desk in my childhood home and trying to work on math. I was 6 or 7. I’m trying to do these math problems. It was summer homework or something. I’m being so frustrated, feeling like I could not do it. Sitting there was difficult. As I have learned more about anxiety, I was like, “That is part of this whole thing.”
You might even have an anxiety attack.
In high school, after I got into my first relationship, there was a lot of codependency stuff that ran through my family and in me as well. That relationship triggered a lot of those things. When I was fifteen, I decided to go to therapy. The anxiety became something where I knew that I needed help.
What was it that made you decide you needed help? What pushed it from an annoyance to, “I got to get help?”
Honestly, it was a conversation that my mom and I had. Growing up, we are close. I would always talk to her about things that were going on. Anytime something was on my mind, I would go to her and we would talk it through. She was good at wanting to understand and all of that. It came to a point where I was talking to her about what I was feeling. I was worried about all of these things. One time I wrote down all the things that I was worried about at one particular moment and there were 120 things.
There were multiple pages in this notebook. We were having these conversations and she would say, “Don’t worry about it. Everything is fine.” You are like, “I would love if I could not worry about it but that doesn’t seem to be an option.” I remember her saying, “I don’t understand. I don’t know how to help you.” We both knew something from the outside needed to come into this. That was the pivotal moment when I knew that I needed it.
Did you get lucky and find a good therapist right off the bat?
I did. I saw her up until this move. I had been in Michigan in high school. I was born and raised in Michigan and then moved out to Utah. My graduation from therapy with her and this move coincided because of state licensing regulations and stuff like that. I was able to stay with her for nine years or something like that. I credit therapy and that particular therapist with a lot. I learned so much in that time. I would not be who I am or where I am without those experiences.
I tell people, “You have to have two things to have a therapy to work at a bare minimum, someone that knows what he or she is doing and someone with whom you are comfortable.” That is not always easy to achieve. Those who get a good therapist and a good match with their personality and their style on the first go-round are very lucky.
I have heard many stories from friends and people that I have met who found an okay therapist or had a therapist who was telling them bananas things. I feel super lucky. It is because of insurance that I had to go to a primary care doctor first. My primary care recommended me to this therapist. That connection happened to be there. My therapist was new to town at that time, so I don’t even know how my primary care knew about her. It was serendipitous.
You said several times you would not be the person you are and you have learned so much. Are there some key life lessons or truisms that you think you learned from therapy that was different than what had to go in?
Yes. It is some of the more concrete concepts and things that have names. She taught me about mindfulness and introduced me to that whole world. One of the first things she taught me was the box breathing exercise. My first therapy homework was to sit in a chair, breathe, and feel my feelings. For anybody who doesn’t know box breathing, you breathe in for 3 to 5 counts, hold it for that same number, exhale for that same number, hold again for that same number and go in the box.
It has tools like that and also journaling. She got me started in that. That is something that has stayed with me whenever I’m feeling stuck or I have a lot going on in my brain. It helps to get it out on paper. It helps to slow my brain down a little bit to put it into words and then see it there. With whatever I have written out, I always feel different about it after I have written it. Mindfulness too is a part of my daily life. It has gotten to the point where whenever I start to feel anxious or something throws me off balance or off-center, my first reaction is to breathe.
If I could pick one thing, it would be that. Some of the other ideas that she taught me about that I learned in therapy was you don’t like feeling feelings. Given my childhood, everything that was going on and the person that I am, I tended to push things down like many of us do. Anytime something would come up, it wasn’t okay to feel things. I needed to fix it, change it and make it go away. That was something that we worked on for our whole journey together. As I would go through different life experiences and things would happen, I felt like feelings are okay. It is okay to feel them and let them go. It doesn’t mean anything is wrong. That was another big concept.
If we are raised by people who don’t understand that, we don’t learn that. We are not born knowing about our emotions, breathing, or about how the emotional state can provide very useful feedback and information. It is just energy so we don’t have to be afraid of it. If we are not taught that and sometimes we are taught the exact reverse, “Your emotions are bad. Dry it up. We are not going to tolerate that. If you want to cry, I will give you something to cry about.” We then shut it down and cut ourselves off from a useful source of information for navigating the world and relationships.
A lot of people out there and I could benefit from remembering regularly. It is easy for me to put a lot of pressure on myself and be like, “Somebody cognitively told you these things. Now you know. Do it.” If you don’t grow up in an environment where that is a part of what you learn, then yes.
If you have been programmed to believe the exact opposite that your emotions are bad, hurtful, or you are wrong for having them, then there is a whole deconditioning process that needs to happen before you can establish that habit of breathing, checking in, and owning your emotions.
It is a process for sure. It does not ever end. Work is a lifelong thing.
It’s not good to feel the need to fix or push your feelings away. Know that it’s okay to feel them.
Let’s take the last two words off that sentence and I will agree. It is a lifelong process. You are always growing and changing. One of my favorite teachers is Dr. Michael Ryce. Think about how much time you spend learning to use your computer, smartphone, or game system. When they have a revision of the software, you have to adapt. Sometimes you got to take classes to upgrade. Whether you are in electrical engineering or mechanical engineering, you are constantly learning. Why is it different for your brain?
We’re always learning how to be human and live. We’re always growing and changing. That’s what makes us alive.
How did you get into the podcast business?
Honestly, it is something that I have wanted to do for quite a while. I listened to a ton of podcasts in high school like all the classics, anything that NPR did, This American Life and all that stuff. I love talking to people. I’m a textbook introvert. There are schools of thought on whether people are introverts or extroverts. I’m quite happy spending a lot of time alone but I love connecting with people in meaningful ways and having conversations about important stuff, especially stuff that somebody else cares about and is passionate about. It was something that was in my subconscious for a while.
When I got involved with Free Range, Dr. Campbell, who is the Founder and Director of the practice, was always into ways to get this information out there and teach people about all the different tools and resources that we have to heal ourselves. We don’t just have to go to the doctor and get a pill. There are many other ways that we can explore our humanity, grow, heal and do that. There are tools in the toolbox, arrows in the quiver and all that. I proposed to her one day like, “What do you think about me starting a podcast? Here are the things that I would talk about. These are the people that I would want to interview.” She was all for it. That’s how I got into it. It has been incredible.
How long have you been doing it?
I started it in summer 2021.
How often do you do episodes?
The podcast comes out every other week. I would love someday to make it a weekly thing or have it more frequently but that is what I can commit to. I want it to be quality over quantity. This is where I’m putting the value on it.
What is your stated purpose with the podcast?
The podcast is called Psychiatria. Psychiatria is the Latin root of psychiatry, but Psychiatria means soul healer. If you know anything about the way modern-day psychiatry works, they are just ten-minute med checks and not talking to people about everything that is going on in their life. It is so not soul healing. I’m involved in the holistic psychiatry practice and I believe in all of these things. I felt like, “Soul healing is what so many of us, myself included, are looking for and working on. What are the tools and things that we have available to us in the world that can help us on that journey?”
I don’t believe that there is a person or a particular professional that is a soul healer. We do that work for ourselves. My mission with the podcast is to share the information with people in a way that feels human, authentic, and honest. I’m not trying to preach or give answers or solutions. It is conversations and information that can land with people. They can choose how they want to incorporate it or if they do or don’t.
What would you say is one of the more meaningful or surprising things you have learned since doing the podcast from some of your guests?
It is hard for me to pick out things from each episode because my brain lives in Big Picture Land. Through every episode, where a lot of them have ended up is we have to listen to ourselves. I have interviewed acupuncturists, chiropractors, people who know a lot about Polyvagal theory, and massage therapists. There is a lot of bodywork stuff. I did a podcast on Brainspotting, which is super cool.
It is something that was a big part of my therapeutic journey. Underlying all of that is your body has the resources to heal itself. You have what you need. All of these things are trying to facilitate that and help you tap into it, bring it out, teach your body how to use it in this way, or unlearn the conditioning that we might have been taught. The amount of times that it comes up surprises me.
The number of times of what comes up, the healing is all inside?
Your body has all the resources to heal itself. You have what you need; you just have to listen to it.
Yes. All of these different types of practices do have that thread in them, which says something about me and perhaps what I need to learn.
It is also the idea behind functional medicine training. It is also one of the core concepts with anybody who is labeling themselves as an integrative practitioner. It is something that most people would acknowledge that allopathic medicine has gotten away from. The allopathic medicine practitioner has drifted toward thinking that it is the practitioner, medication, or treatment that is doing the healing when it is the body system and energy system that is realigning and doing the healing. Who did you interview about Brainspotting?
Her name is Dr. Melanie Young. She trains therapists to do Brainspotting. That is how I got connected with her. She is fantastic. The episode continues to be one of the most popular episodes on the podcast that has been published. It is cool stuff. Brainspotting is pretty fantastic.
It has roots in EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The more you dig into Brainspotting, the more you understand that its creator, David Grand, talks over and over again. We want to be in the tail of the comet. The patient is the head of the comet, and we want to follow along, trusting that brain and body that are not separate. The brain, body, and energy system and what they are doing will show you where you need to go or what the patient needs to do. It is about following rather than being creative and leaving the patient somewhere.
That is one of my favorite things about it in my personal experiences with Brainspotting. That is something that my therapist would tell me frequently in the Brainspotting session. She is like, “Notice that. See where it takes you.” I also love how simple Brainspotting is. It can get quite complicated, but the concept at the base level is where you look at how you feel.
The complicated part is all the layers of traumas, beliefs, and misnomers that we have lodged in us that we are either using to run away from the problem or are covering up the problem. If I try to think my way to the answer, I’m going to go off into the forest with no path and be lost really quick. If I learn to read what the energy system is showing me, there is the path again.
It is a useful tool to learn to trust your intuition and body in that way.
For a lot of people that get introduced to that work, it is their first training at the fact that 1) They have got intuition, 2) Where is it? How do I tune into it? 3) How do I practice staying aware of that throughout the day in my life? That is radical stuff for most people in the Western culture and mind. Other cultures have been much more attuned to the flow of energy, the body, and the body’s connection with the mind. Here in the Western culture, we have decided to elevate the conscious logical mind to the level of master and forget about that intuitive connection.
We have taken our brains, put them up here, and forgot about the rest of this lovely being that we have. When I interviewed an acupuncturist, we talked a lot about traditional Chinese medicine, and that whole world of thinking is so much in line with all of the things that we are talking about. There are so many fun facts about traditional Chinese medicine that I can pull from the episode. They can treat the entire body with points that exist in the ear.
That is Auricular Therapy.
Some acupuncturists do that. They don’t even touch the rest of your body. They just use your ear. It surprised me a bit how easy it is to transition between going to an acupuncturist, receiving a treatment where they put the needles in different places and do their thing, learning to take that home with you, and using those points and concepts. You can use them as acupressure points. You can press on them or rub them. There are things like moxibustion, which is some material that you light so it gets hot, but it smolders. It is not on fire. You can hold it over different points in your body and heat that one area. I was surprised by the number of ways that we can take that home with us.
One of the easiest ones that are so accessible is the EFT tapping. The person I refer to most often with that is Brad Yates. There is breathwork and acupressure to initiate the relaxation response in the body. When you start pairing that with various negative thoughts, traumatic energies, or stuck points in your emotional system, it is a phenomenal tool.
It is so incredible how many things are out there and how creative we have gotten in all of the different angles that we can come at this healing, putting the power back in our own hands and enabling the body to do what it does.
It is removing the roadblocks to the body healing itself.
That is something that I didn’t quite understand before starting the podcast and having all these conversations. There is a lot out there. It also makes it crazy that so much of the world and many of the messages we receive blatantly disregard that. It is “easy” living in this world and surrounding myself with people that share the same thought processes and beliefs to forget that there is so much of the world that doesn’t have exposure to this, whether or not they would benefit from it or agree with it if they did hear about it. There is so much diversity in the world and all the ways.
What we encourage people to do in this show and the Mindshifter Radio we do is to always choose the filter that shows you the more positive outcome or says, “Everybody is doing the best they can in each moment with whatever resources they have. When there is something that you would label as a tragedy or a disaster, don’t focus so much on that. Focus on the helpers and look for the helpers.” There is always more good going on in the world than there is negative.
There is a lot of negative. This is a big world as far as we are concerned. If all that you experienced was stuck on a newsfeed, the YouTube of your favorite channel, or if the negativity was all there was, this planet and humanity would have ground to a halt or extinguished itself hundreds of years ago. What happens is there is a lot more good going on than there is negative. There is a lot more good that comes out of people in times of need than you are ever going to hear about in the general media.
Positivity is a survival mechanism. Everyone will be better off putting their faith and trust in something positive.
At the bottom line, it is a survival mechanism. If we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t still be around. It is always there. The more we can tune into that, shift our perspective to see that, put our faith in that, and trust that, part of our humanity and the humanity around us are going to be a little bit better off. I hope that someday that shows up in my show that it is empowering and hopeful. If people can even shift that perspective of, “There is hope and light. Good things are going on here,” onto their selves and bodies, that is pretty powerful stuff.
One of my favorite things to tell people is to be gentle with themselves. One of my favorite teachers in that regard is the Jewish, Buddhist, and grandmotherly type, Sylvia Boorstein, who said whenever she is feeling upset, she puts her hand over her heart space and talks gently to herself. She says, “Sylvia, you are in pain. Take a few deep breaths, relax, calm down and then we will look at what is going on and decide what to do.”
If I’m not willing to make the observation that there is more positive going on here than negative and when I tap into that it is going to help me overcome the negative, then I can get swamped with the negativity and buy the narrative that is out there that is so doom and gloom. I’m frequently telling people, “Be gentle with yourself in whatever the situation.” It is going to help you tap into the resources that you have to make a better outcome.
Isn’t it funny when we take a step back and do that one simple action? How it can make such a big difference and how we handle things is wild.
We are creating our experience of life in each moment by where we are focusing our attention. If we shift over to focus on being gentle with ourselves and the positivity, we create a very different experience of life.
I took a six-week course in mindful self-compassion years ago. They talked about how that whole branch of mindfulness is very much focused on those ideas as well. They teach the same thing that you mentioned that Sylvia also does. It is like, “This is hard. Take a moment. It is okay. Give yourself what you need to address the situation.” Taking that moment is so important.
Make it more than a moment. Be generous with yourself.
Sometimes we only feel like we have a moment. I hope in a part of my future work as a health coach and whatever that looks like that I can teach people. It is okay. Don’t take the bare minimum. Take all of the time that you need. That is self-care.
It can seem like we only have the moment. The key to the accuracy of that statement is the word seem because there is only this moment. You can take as many of these moments as you need. I can make it seem like there is no time but I’m just generating that chaos, running around, buzzing, or hurrying inside myself. I’m the one creating it, especially if there is an intense emotion. This means there is a lot of energy moving, which means there is a lot for me to learn and be aware of at this moment, especially when that happens.
It is way too important to panic about. If I have a strong sense of emotion and emotion is energy, energy is information and it is information about my life at the moment, it is important to rush through. I could take that perspective and expand the moments I give myself to be gentle with myself, focus on the positive, and get an entirely different outcome than if I buy the narrative that says, “Hurry. There is no time.”
It is to expand the moments even if you initially feel like, “I only have this one moment. I am panicking and I must address it right away.” It is to be gentle, expand, and breathe into it. The more that is coming up, the more there is to learn.
It is way too important to panic about.
It is interesting how I’m putting myself past these shoes of, “I feel panic coming up about something.” To recognize that is like, “This is a whole lot going on so let’s be with that.” It is quite a difficult skill to learn. At least for me, it has been.
The bigger part of it is not learning the new skill. It is disrupting and deconditioning the years or, for some of us, decades of conditioning that say, “Panic and go with the negativity.” Once that is interrupted, it is pretty easy. I will give you a couple of questions to ask yourself anytime you have a negative emotion. Take a nice deep breath, hold it for a couple of seconds at the top and resist that exhale. It is ten seconds or more. It is a long and slow exhale. Turn your focus inside and ask yourself, “How am I creating this emotion?”
It is the opposite of what the culture teaches, “I’m having this emotion because she lied to me, they insulted me, it is snowing so hard and I may not make it to my meeting on time.” That question flips the table, “How am I creating this emotion?” If that is not what throws the door wide open, then try the question, “What am I making this situation mean? That is the mechanism by which I choose the thoughts that I pour the mind energy into that creates the emotion.”
We tend to put inaccurate meaning onto things. It is becoming aware of what one is doing with our whole autonomy and experience. It is a big thing to come to grips with. We are that much in control of our experiences and lives. You can get into the whole concept of doing manifestation, synchronicity, and all of that. We potentially have a role in where our futures go. Humans are incredible beings. I am always working to find that balance between knowing how much power and autonomy I have in creating this experience. I’m not panicking about that and being like, “I’m going to mess it all up.” I live a lot in those dualities.
Michael Singer talks about how everything we see, every person we interact with, the chair we are sitting on, the building we are in, and all of it began according to our scientists billions of years ago in the Big Bang. All of the molecules, atoms, and everything you see started back then. Everything you are experiencing and seeing has been billions of years in the making in this flow of the creative force expanding.
Don’t take just the bare minimum. Take all of the time that you need. That’s self-care.
Think about how silly it is for this mind that frequently forgets to pack the coffee, briefcase, and things to get to work and has to turn around that this mind is going to say, “This isn’t supposed to be happening,” when it has been billions of years in the unfolding. You balance that with the idea of, “I am a creator but I’m not the creator of the hurricane that swept through town or the traffic jam. I’m the creator of how I experience it and my emotions.” When you balance those two, it gets a lot easier to navigate through your life and focus on the things you have got control over.
We can draw those boundaries for ourselves. Byron Katie has this wonderful way of asking questions about it. It is like, “Is this my problem? Is this God’s problem? Is this the universe’s problem? It is not my problem.” If it is not yours, then it is not yours. If it is yours, then own up to it.
What are you doing with it? If you believe your negative thoughts about it, then you are going to create suffering. If you learn to question those thoughts and see them deeply in all of their distortions, then they lose their power over you. Give me some wrap-up thoughts or mention something about your work that we have not mentioned yet.
I will plug the podcast. I have a lot of conversations that end up being something like this where we talk about life, the universe, and everything. We start on a particular practice and then it morphs into conversations. People who like this will maybe like what I’m doing too. You can find it on Spotify and Apple. It is Psychiatria. Also, I want to say how much fun this has been to have this conversation with you and get to be the interviewee instead of the interviewer. It has been a joy and an honor.
I’m glad you think so. I appreciate you taking the time to share with us. I’m going to try and interview one of your compatriots in Free Range Psychiatry or FreeRange.org. Dani, it is a pleasure. Thank you so much. I look forward to following your podcast.
Thank you. You are welcome. Until next time.
- Dr. Michael Ryce
- This American Life
- Dr. Kendra Campbell
- Brainspotting – Past Episode on Psychiatria
- Dr. Melanie Young
- Episode – Past Episode on Psychiatria
- Brad Yates
- Mindshifter Radio
- Sylvia Boorstein
- Michael Singer
- Byron Katie
- Spotify – Psychiatria
- Apple – Psychiatria
About Dani Dunayczan
Dani Dunayczan is the Cosmic Coordinator at Free Range Psychiatry and host of the Psychiatria podcast. She holds a degree in behavioral neuroscience and is currently training to become a holistic health coach. Her passion for the mind-body-spirit connection and unending curiosity guide all that she does. She has recently moved to Salt Lake City, UT with her partner where she enjoys the sunshine, rock climbing, and hiking in the mountains.