Food for Thought: Train Your Brain to Maintain Your Body

October 14, 2020 – Check out more community profiles and other local human-interest stories from the Heart of Bellevue recovery campaign.

Paige Roberts, a licensed clinical social worker, has dedicated the bulk of her career to studying human brain function and the nervous system, and more importantly, how these two processes can uplift or work against each other.

From her undergraduate program to her current doctoral dissertation, Roberts has navigated sports psychology, crisis management, integrative medicine, rehabilitative therapy and trying to tune up fried brains from work fatigue.

Advertised therapy jargon like, “Are you depressed?” does not appear on her website or social media, a distinction Roberts believes can help dispel unhelpful stereotypes around mental health.

“Just looking at [the language] a little more scientifically can make all the difference, as opposed to the labels and stigma that imply, ‘I am this thing forever’ with a permanent verbal stamp,” Roberts said.

For that reason, Roberts named her business Performance Neuro Training, in an effort to destigmatize mental illness and underscore how everyone can benefit from holistic conditioning and therapy that addresses mind and body equally.

Her hybrid office-living room wall, lined with diplomas, certificates, and awards like a scholar’s hall of fame, provides a snapshot of all the techniques and research Roberts has accumulated throughout her career. She has effectively tailored her life – her sleep schedule, diet, exercise and work habits – around optimizing her mental health and habits. She traded coffee for natural sources of caffeine, citing studies on its negative impacts as breezily as one might comment on the weather.

For Roberts, her practice goes beyond common sense – it’s about the certainty and comfort that science can provide to her clients.

During her graduate studies in exercise physiology at Colorado State University, Roberts said she had a moment of clarity that pivoted the nature and motivation of her work.

“I started to realize that it wasn’t that people didn’t know to the choices to be healthy, physically. It was more about the psychology of our behavior and how that was probably more important to change for increasing our overall health and wellness,” Roberts said.

Shortly after, she switched gears and decided to complete a master’s program in social work with a concentration in nonprofit and organizational leadership for clinical environments. Returning to her small hometown, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, she landed a position supporting government assistance programs. But time passed, and eventually Roberts said she became frustrated with the social services system and its structural limitations to offer individualized treatment.

So, at 30 years old, she decided to step away and teach skiing for a year to clear her head.

On the slopes, Roberts said owning her athletic roots helped rekindle her passion for guiding athletes in recovery and others striving for peak performance.

Three target populations make up her clientele: patients who experience chronic illness or have endured trauma, athletes, and individuals seeking overall improvement to quit running on fumes.

“Those last clients come in once or twice a month for ‘tune-ups’ to decrease stress and keep themselves on track,” Paige said.

One medical technique Roberts swears by, low-level laser therapy, uses light emission to stimulate cellular processes and repair injuries. Another treatment method she champions, called “brainspotting,” works by identifying, processing, and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional or body pain, like trauma or disassociation.

Contrary to some popular beliefs, Paige views therapy not as a commitment for life, but as a process to reboot or reframe negative stressors, grief or pain as it crops up.

Her philosophy behind marrying neuroscience and wellness lifestyle coaching promotes a communal need for balance between productivity and happiness, and it would seem fitting that her areas of expertise are sorely needed these days.

“I think people often throw themselves into their work as a distraction from their physical health and emotions by pushing themselves with pots of coffee and other stimulants like high-calorie junk food,” Roberts said.

An influx of information-tech employees in the Pacific Northwest paired with prolonged mental strain from the pandemic brought Roberts to realize that more than a few people are feeling sleepless in Seattle – no pun intended.

Chronic stress and burnout continue to plague workers at increasingly higher rates, and Roberts notes that the compulsive, hyperactive work ethic common in offices today poses a cultural challenge to reinforcing healthier routines.

“You know, it’s tough trying to pull some of the programmers away from their desk after 80 hours a week – it’s difficult,” Roberts explained.

According to Roberts, low radiation signals emitted from electromagnetic fields can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to more serious issues caused by prolonged exposure to our screens. To ensure a restful sleep, Roberts recommends shutting off your phone at night or storing your device in a separate room.

Despite our sleep epidemic and workflow druthers, the innovative edge and competitive attitudes that underpin Pacific Northwest culture are part of what compelled Roberts to launch her practice in the downtown Bellevue community.

“I think I’m really drawn to the driven individuals that are trying to do something that no one else has ever done before,” Roberts said. “That’s kind of the whole energy of this area. It’s in the people who take pride in themselves and, moving out here four years ago, it was refreshing to see people that were very dedicated and serious about their work, their mission, their purpose.”

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