Recommended Reading From the Healthcare Athlete

An understanding of the principles and application of Polyvagal Theory provides the mind-based and body-based skills to promote health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.

For the opportunity to reflect on this article and earn CE/CME credits, see the instructions below.  Check out all past articles which are also eligible for reflections and CE/CME credits.

The Practices of the Healthcare Athlete is a polyvagal informed paradigm to leverage our biology in the pursuit of health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.  The application of the principles of Polyvagal Theory provides a comprehensive and unified approach to integrating our mind and body through an understanding of how our nervous system functions.  This is common to all humans and while the context for these articles is within the healthcare field, this paradigm applies equally across all domains of life.

In addition to providing a foundational and fundamental understanding of how our biology responds to our experiences in life, the principles of Polyvagal Theory can also be applied in order to develop mind-based and body-based skills and strategies which can be implemented in order to leverage our biology towards the promotion of health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.  The knowledge, application, and integration of these concepts within our daily routines have been described across the articles to date in this series.

The purpose of this article is to identify and provide an overview of the more foundational articles to date in the series.  This serves as both an initial reading list for new readers and a review of the fundamental aspects of this perspective for longer-term readers.  The articles listed are by title and are in reverse chronological order.  All articles can be found both on the Substack, The Healthcare Athlete, and the blog on my website,

Practices of the Healthcare Athlete: This article provides an overview of the background of the Practices of the Healthcare Athlete, including the mind-based and body-based skills and strategies that are trained in order to pursue health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.  The rationale for training these skills is described.

Deliberate Practice of High Performance Skills: The necessity for deliberate and intentional practice of skills and strategies to promote the objectives of the Healthcare Athlete is described.

Technology Applications for the Healthcare Athlete: There are many technologic devices which can support and contribute to the development of health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.  This article provides an overview of those devices which are directly integrated within the Practices of the Healthcare Athlete.

Polyvagal Theory: The mind-based and body-based skills and strategies advocated within the paradigm of the Practices of the Healthcare Athlete are polyvagal informed.  This article provides an introduction to Polyvagal Theory and a description of the foundational principles underlying the theory.

Application of Polyvagal Theory for Sustainable High Performance (co-authored with Michael Allison): Implementing polyvagal informed principles within the domain of sustainable high performance provides additional insights that are important in this pursuit.  Michael Allison, who first applied these principles within this domain, co-authored this article describing the means by which a polyvagal informed paradigm can significantly contribute to the pursuit of sustainable high performance.

The Polyvagal Perspective on Healthcare Professional Burnout: There are important insights regarding the critical issue of healthcare professional burnout which emerge when this topic is considered from a polyvagal informed lens.  These considerations can promote actionable strategies to help address this topic.

Recovery is Crucial for Health, Wellbeing, and Sustainable High Performance: The elements of recovery and the rationale for its necessary inclusion within daily routines is discussed in this article.  Without an adequate recovery routine, it is not possible to consistently perform at a high level, particularly over an extended duration of time.

Why Integrate Polyvagal Informed Skills and Strategies?: It is important to contemplate the added benefit of incorporating the polyvagal informed perspective within an already busy schedule. This article discusses how this paradigm can be a significant and necessary addition to all of our lives.

The Social Engagement System in Sustainable High Performance: An important element to the embodiment of the polyvagal informed paradigm is the social engagement system.  This impacts not only ourselves but all those around us.  An understanding of the principles underlying the social engagement system is essential in order to be at our best for ourselves and to positively impact those around us.  (Also see the related article co-authored with Mathilde Shisko entitled The Power of Voice for Healthcare Professionals).

Training the Nervous System: This article provides a description of the means by which we can train our nervous system such that we can leverage our biology in alignment with our goals and objectives and promote health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.  The process of training our nervous system is an essential element to living a polyvagal informed life.

Flow State and Polyvagal Theory: Flow state is largely considered to be the optimal state for human high performance and there is much discussion regarding how to access this state.  This article provides a polyvagal informed discussion of flow state and strategies to optimize the state through application of the polyvagal informed mind-based and body-based skills and strategies.

Polyvagal Theory Provides the Final Piece to the Puzzle: The principles and implementation of Polyvagal Theory provide the foundation in the pursuit of health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.  This understanding also informs the means through which the often discussed mind-based and body-based skills of high performance impact our biology.  This article provides the link between the polyvagal informed paradigm and the pursuit of health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.

Changing the Culture of Healthcare From a Polyvagal Perspective: There is frequent discussion regarding the necessity of changing the culture of the healthcare system.  Additional important insights related to this issue emerge when contemplated from a polyvagal informed perspective.  This article discusses these issues and provides additional insights into the process of sustainable culture change when applied with a polyvagal informed lens.

Leveraging our Biology Towards Living the Life We Want: We all want to accomplish our goals and objectives and ultimately live our life to the fullest.  In order to do this, particularly while promoting health and wellbeing, we need to leverage our biology in alignment with that which matters most.  The principles underlying this conceptualization are discussed in this article.

The Vagal Break: An important aspect in leveraging our biology is the ability to increase and reduce the energy in our system and extent of our mobilization in alignment with the task at hand.  The more we are able to exert this influence within our biology, the greater will be our ability to perform at our highest level.  A crucial aspect to this ability is the vagal break, which is described in this article.

Don’t Believe the Hype: We are all aware that our mind is very powerful.  It can develop stories and narratives which can result in significant physiological changes, impact our outlook, affect our decision making, and alter how we perceive all aspects of our experience.  This article discusses the important impact our physiology has on the function of our mind and provides insights into how we can use this understanding to optimally understand and work with the explanations and stories developed in our mind.

Polyvagal Informed Training is More Than Self-Care: The self-care industry is ubiquitous in our society.  Much of it, although not all, is based on quick fixes and hacks which may provide short term benefit but are not durable.  The polyvagal informed skills and strategies provide the ability to leverage our biology in a sustainable fashion that supports our health, wellbeing, and performance.  This article distinguishes between many of the self-care quick fixes and the durable benefits provided by the polyvagal informed paradigm.

The Polyvagal Informed Toolbox: This article discusses the concept of the various mind-based and body-based skills and strategies which comprise the foundation of a polyvagal informed life.  By developing as many skills as possible, we have several tools at our disposal for the various situations we may encounter.

Peak vs Sustainable High Performance: Understanding the subtle, yet important, distinction between peak performance and sustainable high performance is an essential element, particularly amongst those whose performance careers extend over long durations of time.  This article discusses this significant difference.

Flexibility and Resilience in the Nervous System: It is critically important to understand the fundamental goal at the heart of training the nervous system.  This is not to avoid all instances of dysregulation.  Rather, the objective is to develop flexibility and resilience in the nervous system such that we are able to encounter high demand and high consequence situations while maintaining ventral vagal stabilization and efficiently recover following such scenarios.  This article discusses the importance and necessity of this objective.

    It is hoped that this reading list will be informative and beneficial for all readers of this series as well as providing a foundation for future articles.  The polyvagal informed paradigm of The Practices of the Healthcare Athlete provides the necessary mind-based and body-based tools to promote health, wellbeing, and sustainable high performance.  These principles apply across all domains of life.  

    The CE experience for this Blog Post / Article is powered by CMEfy – click here to reflect and earn credits:

    This experience is powered by CMEfy – an AI-powered platform that directs learners along a pathway to capture reflections at the point of inspiration, point of care. Clinicians may earn CME/CE credit via ReflectCE, the accredited activity portal. Learn more at

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.