Lopa van der Mersch: Trauma Recovery, the Vagus Nerve, and Adaptogens
Updated: Mar 19
“My experience with burnout personally is that it can be much more of a spectrum. It’s not an on/off switch. It’s an unfolding relationship to our energy,” explains Lopa van der Mersch, Founder and CEO of Rasa, the adaptogenic coffee alternatives revolutionizing people’s relationship to their energy. Lopa’s burnout came during a tumultuous stretch of time where she experienced a series of traumatic events that caused intense dysregulation of her central nervous system.
In 2015, Lopa left a cult, fell out with her family, had a health crisis, lost a loved one and had a baby by emergency C-section. Her time in the cult left her with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and that combined with everything else impacted her central nervous system. She learned about the importance of healing the polyvagal nerve as a part of her trauma recovery process. Through healing her relationship with her central nervous system, she also healed from burnout. She recommends exercises that help heal the vagus nerve and incorporating adaptogens into your diet to help build your body’s defenses against burnout.
Tune into today’s episode of FRIED. The Burnout Podcast for a conversation with Lopa van der Mersch about the impact of trauma on burnout. Learn about the vagus nerve and how you can heal trauma to your central nervous system and gain valuable insight into the world of adaptogens.
“It’s easy to want to look at an event or a period and say, ‘Okay this is when it started, this is when it ended.’ My experience with it personally is that it can be much more of a spectrum. It’s not an on/off switch. It’s an unfolding relationship to our energy. I see things through the lens of energy quite a bit myself. When that energy is at a certain level of depletion and brutalness, and exhaustion and exasperation and all of that. That’s sort of what I characterize as a quality of burnout. I’ve had some that came with a lot of trauma and some that is just I’ve been working too hard and being a mom and not sleeping well. Sometimes those go together too. You’ve got the healing from the Complex PTSD and that is going on with the rest of the stuff that would burn you out anyway. And then you’re like, ‘How the fuck am I supposed to do all of this?’” (3:21-4:30)
“If you were to ask me my one word to describe society, it would be ‘inhumane’, because it’s just too much.” (5:05-5:13)
“PTSD is often from a singular event. You get in a car accident, it can be wars and things like that. It’s a more isolated event. Complex PTSD is the result of trauma that happens, it can be micro traumas, it can be a whole spectrum of traumas. It gets into the wiring of your nervous system because it happens over such a consistent period of time. It causes this overarching alertness in your nervous system. It’s kind of always bracing for when that thing is going to happen again.” (22:30-23:25)
“For a while I was like, ‘Maybe this is who I am now. Maybe I’ve just changed and I kind of suck.’ Not being super gentle with myself in those particular moments.” (29:06-29:22)
“What we need to really look at in our lives is what are those systems we’re participating in and taking for granted. Take that bigger stock and say, ‘Why can’t I have the life I want? Why couldn’t I have the support that I need?’ There may be really valid reasons that you can’t, but could you even take one millimeter of a step in that direction. Maybe you can’t get childcare 3 days a week or something so that you can have more time for yourself, but maybe you could start trading with a friend every other week. We get blinders on sometimes around the structure of our lives. It’s really good to take those opportunities to kind of zoom out enough to see it more clearly and see the ways that we are complicit in our own downfall.” (50:12-51:13)
“You just have to do the next easiest thing and then celebrate that. That dopamine response will start to encourage you to keep going on that upward spiral.” (54:50-55:02)
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