Mainstream Microdosing: How Psychedelic Mushrooms Can Change the Landscape of Everyday Wellness (Without the Hallucinations)
Psychedelics - psilocybin “magic” mushrooms, LSD, MDMA/Ecstasy, ketamine, ayahuasca, etc. - are having a renaissance right now. There is amazing research on treating everything from complex PTSD to treatment-resistant anxiety and depression. Psychedelics are being used to help terminal cancer patients come to terms with the end-of-life experience, and there’s a promising indication that they’re highly effective in addressing addiction.
But what about the rest of us?
At present, there isn’t clinical research for the huge majority of us that have day-to-day, “manageable” anxiety or depression, who experience burnout, or who have done a lot of personal development through things like therapy or coaching and are still feeling stuck. And still, that hasn’t stopped many individuals from exploring microdosing psilocybin mushrooms as an option to address these extremely common issues.
There are a variety of benefits to large-dose experiences, and on the flip side, there are also bigger risks. The reality is it’s not right for everyone. More importantly, there are many people who simply aren’t interested in going through the process of hallucinating their living room carpet coming to life in order to address their mental health.
So where does that leave us? Let’s take a quick look at what psilocybin mushrooms are, and then dig into how microdosing can help you
You might be familiar with serotonin as a “happy” chemical. It’s a neurotransmitter that helps regulate everything from mood to gut function. Psilocybin looks an awful lot like serotonin, so when we have psilocybin in our system, it acts like serotonin. This is why people experiencing a large-dose trip often describe feelings of euphoria, bliss, and a sensation of being one with the universe.
One of the most interesting things about psilocybin is that it seems to act on all areas of our brain, not just one area. This is also why people on large-dose trips can experience synesthesia, the ability to “see music” or “taste colors”. Parts of our brain that don’t normally get to talk to one another can, for a short period of time, communicate directly. In this state, it’s easier for our brains to make new associations or break old habits. This is called neuroplasticity, and it's one of the reasons psilocybin is so effective at helping people make life-long changes to their mental health or day-to-day habits.
What the hell is microdosing and why should it matter to me?
Like all other substances, different amounts have different effects. One glass of wine might not affect you much, but a whole bottle may get you quite drunk.
Psychedelics are no different. While large doses start at around 1000 milligrams (aka - 1 gram), a microdose is much lower, usually between 100 to 300 milligrams. Some people might need less, some a little more, but the dose is meant to be low enough that you don’t feel effects like changes in vision and don’t experience hallucinations
So if I’m not riding a unicorn down a rainbow, is it even working?
The important thing to be mindful of when we’re utilizing psychedelics at any dose is that if we truly want to get the most benefit out of the experience, we still need to do the work. This work is referred to as integration.
What is integration, and can I do it on my own?
Integration is the process of exploring habits, patterns, and insights during and after psilocybin exposure. The neuroplasticity that psilocybin induces can last for several days to several weeks depending on the dose. It’s in that time that we can make positive changes, whether it’s how we handle ourselves during an argument, how we talk to ourselves in moments of stress or anxiety, or even reducing/stopping drinking or smoking.
Integration is best done with a professional. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Similarly, we also have things we know about ourselves that are obvious and blind spots. Sometimes we’re aware of the area of our life that needs attention but lack the skills or resources to address it.
Will psychedelics help me if I don’t do the integration work?
Just taking mushrooms and going about your day may make you feel better temporarily, but as the psilocybin moves out of your system and you come out of the period of neuroplasticity, you’ll lose that effect. While they’re referred to as “magic” mushrooms, there’s nothing that can replace the effort needed to understand how your brain is wired and to consciously choose to function differently. However, psychedelics can lower the barrier to that process.
How do people who are interested in microdosing go about it?
I may sound like a broken record, but the best thing you can do is find a professional in the psychedelic space. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their background and history. Taking psychedelics at any dose requires good support and it’s incredibly important you work with an individual that you can trust, who is familiar with harm reduction, and who puts your needs first.
Is it legal?
Some companies operating out of decriminalized areas in the US and Canada are able to ship them, though that also is often not legal and may present its own issues. If you do acquire ANY substance from a source other than a dispensary, there are in-home testing kits that can check the purity of various drugs to determine if they are pure or laced. If you’re interested in understanding more, it’s best to discuss it with a professional.
How can I learn more?
The internet is a great place to start. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (https://maps.org/) has fantastic information, as does The Third Wave (https://thethirdwave.co/). If you’re interested having a supported microdosing experience with a solid foundation of education, I offer my signature course, Breaking Through: The Architecture of Conscious Microdosing, throughout the year (https://www.theburnoutwitch.com/breakingthrough.html). It provides a four-week educational series with the option for an additional four weeks of personal microdose coaching in both group and private settings.
Psychedelics don't have to be scary. You don’t have to have a bad trip or even a big trip. With the right support, you can find a way to utilize psychedelics gently while completely transforming your life.
You may have read the title to this article and thought to yourself, “Wait, was I just re-directed to The Onion?” Nope! Tarot cards have a fascinating history and surprisingly practical day-to-day use for many individuals. Stick with me here.
Scholarly research indicates that the first tarot decks were created in Italy in the 15th century. At the time, it was essentially just a game and not the divination tool it’s often used as today. In the late 18th century, tarot was popularized by the French occultist Jean-Baptise Alliette after he assigned more expansive meanings to the cards and started using them to give readings. In 1909, publisher William Rider connected with a tarot reader by the name of A. E. Waite and artist Pamela Colman Smith, and with their powers combined they created the Rider-Waite-Smith deck that is still known as one of the premier and foundational decks for many readers.
Over the last 50 years or so, tarot has become increasingly popular, with many artists and individuals creating unique decks and giving their own spin to the cards’ various meanings. Each card corresponds to an archetypal figure or a specific life circumstance. There are 22 cards in the Major Arcana (numbered 0-21), and four full suits from Aces to Kings in the Minor Arcana, typically referred to as some variation of Wands, Swords, Cups, and Pentacles or Coins.
Now that the history lesson is out of the way, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of how this can be useful for you even if you have no background in reading cards or any interest in reading for others. These cards make for excellent prompts as a part of mindfulness practice.
I’ll often recommend that individuals choose a card of the day to think on, or as a journal prompt. Our brains can often be pretty non-stop; they are pattern-matching machines that LOVE stories. This means that anytime something is confusing or missing details, our brain naturally tries to fill in the gaps. It may fill in information that’s completely wrong if there isn’t enough context or clarity, often to the detriment of our life, relationships, and sanity. We’re also very good at distracting ourselves or focusing myopically on irrelevant details as opposed to seeing the bigger picture.
Tarot cards can provide some of that missing context and clarity. Pulling a single card, or several - referred to as a “spread” - forces your brain to think outside the box by presenting it with ideas and possibilities that it may not land on naturally when left to its own devices of looking for the same patterns over and over again. For example, perhaps you’re trying to figure out what to do in your relationship. Maybe it’s not terrible, but there’s been a bit more arguing lately. You’re putting in what feels like a lot of effort, but it’s just exhausting. Neither of you are particularly happy.
Now, let’s say you pull a couple cards; you happen to get the Four of Cups and the Hanged Man. The Four of Cups is about contemplation, discernment, and internal growth. The Hanged Man is not about death, in spite of what the name implies. Rather, it’s about reflection, moments of pause, and looking at a situation with fresh eyes or from a different perspective (the graphic is usually a man hanging upside down). What this little two card spread could be telling you is, “Go inward - BOTH of you - and don’t rush to a decision that doesn’t need to be made right now. You may not be looking at things clearly.” Perhaps you’re so focused on the relationship that you’re failing to nourish and love yourself. Where are you abandoning yourself and your own needs in favor of your partner or the relationship? Look at things from your partner’s perspective - are you meddling, trying to control things a bit too much, or micromanaging? This spread suggests that there’s no hurry. Take some time to put your primary focus back on yourself. Decide what you want for your life, and then bring that back to the table for conversation when things are a little more clear.
Tarot doesn’t judge you, it just asks thoughtful questions. It’s like a neutral third party that helps get you out of your own head. And the cards are open to interpretation! Perhaps you asked the previous question and got the Three of Swords, a card about sorrow, heartbreak, and deeply hurt feelings. This does not mean you’re heading for a break-up, but it could mean that you and/or your partner are in a lot more pain than you’re letting on. It may be something as simple as, “If you keep going like this, the relationship will end. Something has to change.” That change could be breaking up, sure, but maybeit’s having one of the first open, honest conversations with your partner, allowing you both to feel simultaneously vulnerable and safe with one another, thereby making the relationship stronger. It’s all in how you think about that card or spread.
Tarot cards aren’t here to tell you what to do, and they won’t guarantee how your future will play out. They’re here to ask questions of you, to encourage you to think for yourself, and to explore the deep, rich, fertile soil that is your inner garden. And you don’t need to be a pagan or esoteric to find them useful. Anyone can benefit from a good thought exercise. Tarot can help you know yourself better in incredibly intimate ways. So what questions are you going to ask?
This article was originally posted for Ellevate Network and Medium in June 2022: https://www.ellevatenetwork.com/articles/11863-the-practicality-of-tarot
As a kid, I often hated boredom. As an adult? Not necessarily. Comedian John Mulaney summarizes this beautifully. “Kids don’t like that, kids always want to do stuff. Kids get angry, they go, ‘Aw, we didn’t do anything all day!’ But you ever ask an adult what they did over the weekend and they say they didn’t do anything? Their. Faces. Light. Up.” Too real, John. Hashtag relatable.
Nowadays, my boredom actually takes two forms. One form is what I call healthy boredom, and it’s the sensation of waking up and feeling completely rested. Physically, yes, but also psychologically and spiritually. Maybe I have a largely empty day to fill – or not fill. I might read, bake, meditate, or simply lie in a sun puddle with a snuggly cat and do absolutely nothing. That lack of agenda doesn’t stress me out further or make me feel unproductive. Healthy boredom is elusive to me, like a rare and endangered bird, or a Shamrock Shake.
The other boredom is what I refer to as my burnout boredom, and we have long been adversaries. This is my “I’m going to sit my ass on the couch and watch 12 hours of Celebrity Ghost Stories because I can’t face doing the 4 dishes in the sink” kind of boredom. Boredom marathons that happen every night after work and at least one full day on a weekend are an indication that I have devolved into burnout.
It took me a long time (read: 18-ish years) to understand that I was burnt out. I thought that the way I was going about building my business was the way everyone did it. That’s the idea I’d been sold. I bought into it fully, and I’d struggled building my integrative medical practice. I did all the things, wore all the hats. I didn’t understand that my boredom, this all-consuming evening & weekend apathy, was the result of being the acupuncturist and the insurance biller. The functional medicine practitioner and the administrative assistant. The hypnotist and the marketing team. The continuing education student and the CEO. The breadwinner, the chef, and the maid. At one point, about three years in, I burst into tears, wondering if I’d ever feel passion for life again. I loved my work, but I still felt absolutely hollow and utterly bored. I’d had passions – playing music, going to concerts, dancing, traveling – but I was too consumed by boredom to engage with a single one. My body had started to give out on me. I had horrible exercise recovery and would easily injure myself from mild activity, or need a nap after a workout. My digestion wasn’t great, yet I spent absurd amounts of money at restaurants and cocktails bars because I was too emotionally exhausted to cook healthy food for myself, not to mention the fact that I enjoyed the sensation of a good cocktail (or three) sanding down the rough edges of my stress at the end of the week. My weight was stagnant because stress + takeout + vino + no exercise is a wildly unhealthy formula. All this resulted in me being horribly depressed. I was sick, physically and emotionally, and my boredom was both an indication andproduct of that. In reality, my boredom was the only reason I was still surviving. To push myself any harder would have likely broken me.
In July of 2019 a company I contracted with suddenly altered their referral policy without notice, cutting the number of clients I was seeing per week in half and gutting my business. I’d spent years throwing every nanogram of energy I had into growing my practice and I finally snapped. I was afraid I’d have to shutter it. I reached out to a friend & colleague who’d run spectacularly successful acupuncture practices in Europe and asked for advice. Her other specialty was burnout coaching, and she kindly and patiently explained that I was severely burnt out. She shed clarity on my circumstances, and with her help I began to heal. I started working with a functional medicine colleague to address my physical maladies. It was through this process that I realized my burnout boredom was my body’s way of saying that I was pushing myself too hard, crossing my own boundaries, not holding my boundaries with others, and generally abandoning my own needs, wants, and desires. I still experience burnout boredom from time to time, but it’s no longer an adversary. It’s a friend, gently nudging me, telling me that it’s okay to spend a day watching shows about other people’s ghost stories, as long as at some point I come back, using the tools I’ve acquired through burnout recovery to return to my own story.
This article was originally published on Thrive Global on 18 February 2021: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/boredom-or-burnout/
There’s rarely a day that goes by in my practice without a client inquiring about which vitamin/mineral/herb/insert-supplement-of-the-week-here I would recommend. The reality is that I do not recommend supplements indiscriminately or based on the “latest trends.” I don’t have a problem with supplements; I use them all the time with my clients, and take several myself (I’m not just the president, I’m also a member!) But just like medications, they need to be used at the correct time and in the correct way, with the best understanding possible as to why someone might need them in the first place.
When specifically addressing burnout, treatment needs to be comprehensive. The physical causes of burnout are as individual as the people experiencing them. If someone has leaky gut or their 24 hour cortisol rhythm is out of whack, a gratitude journal and the power of positive thinking won’t fix it. To fully heal burnout, we need a combined approach that addresses both mindset and individual chemistry. This is often why supplements are so appealing to individuals who are burnt out; the promise of quick resolution of physical symptoms like fatigue or insomnia feels like a lifeline when we are drowning.
We think of supplements as safe because they frequently don’t require a prescription, but the stark reality is they need to be monitored closely. Melatonin is a hormone. Certain vitamins and minerals can build up in our bodies to toxic levels if we’re not supplementing consciously. We hear individuals and companies say, “if your energy is low take X!” or “if you’re having trouble sleeping, just take Y!” But herein lies the problem: an individual may not have an issue that is rooted in an imbalance of “X” or “Y” and taking one of those indiscriminately could make their burnout symptoms worse.
So what’s a person to do? Seek professional help. A functional medicine practitioner, naturopath, or osteopathic physician is an excellent place to start. These individuals can run lab work to check your levels, but interpret it in such a way that you only supplement that which is critical, and only for as long as is absolutely necessary. They’ll also be more inclined to look for underlying sources. For example, do you have leaky gut? That could be preventing you from absorbing vitamins and minerals efficiently, whether you’re getting them from food or supplementation. In that case, the leaky gut should be addressed so that the nutrients you’re getting are actually being absorbed into your system.
If you can’t access an integrative professional, booking an appointment with your primary care physician is a good first step (and many osteopathic physicians are PCPs so that’s a great way to cover both bases). Explain your symptoms and ask for a general blood panel that includes vitamins and minerals. If anything turns up on the labs and your provider suggests supplementation, make sure that you schedule a follow up with them in a couple months to run your labs again. This will ensure your levels are neither too low nor too high.
If someone is trying to sell you on the idea of taking certain supplements for the rest of your life, do not walk, run to a second opinion. Barring a genetic condition or a lifestyle/dietary choice that prevents you from consuming vitamins and minerals in their natural state (mostly, though not always, through food), you should eventually be able to get all your necessary nutrients through a comprehensive, whole foods diet. Supplementing can be an excellent way to address burnout recovery, but it must be done consciously and is best pursued with professional help.
This post was originally published on Medium via Ellevate Network on 31 March 2022: https://ellevatentwk.medium.com/why-you-cant-supplement-your-way-out-of-burnout-f8541299948c