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#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 8: Shock

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 8: Shock

Welcome to Day 8 of #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! The chosen word for today was “shock.” I am briefly going to discuss a related idea: Trauma. I’m going to keep it short and to the point, because honestly, it’s a deep topic and it can be dysregulating! And I’m not feeling up to being even more dysregulated today. (*self care high five!* LOL) Nor do I want the same for you.

Lately, the “buzzwords” about trauma is that there is “Big T Trauma” and “Little t trauma”. What they mean is some things seem inherently very traumatic and most people agree that this is so – Big T Trauma are things like going to war, being in a severe accident, a violent crime. It can also be an ongoing situation like domestic violence.

Little t trauma inducing things are less life threatening, but still cause a feeling of helplessness, distress, loss, or fear. Many people who are dealing with childhood trauma are dealing with these things, repeated over many months or years.

I’m going to use my little space here to get on my soapbox and say, I don’t like the Big T – Little t designation, especially when it comes to childhood trauma, because to children who are stuck in families and helpless, little things ARE big things. I feel it still kind of minimizes things to call it “little t trauma.” I mean, a flood of 10 feet can ruin a house just like a flood of 15 feet can. It is still uninhabitable. It is not better just because it was less high. And it’s all very subjective. To me a flooded nervous system is a flooded nervous system, no matter what caused it.

Another problem I have with calling it little t trauma is that people you turn to will minimize your pain if they think it’s not traumatic. Until we teach society that “trauma is trauma” I think millions of people won’t get the true help they need.

But anyway, I’ll give you one example of what I’m sure would be called “little t” trauma from my own life, but one that had an extreme effect on me. I’m going to try to be a bit vague to avoid throwing anyone in particular “under the bus.” I’ll start off by saying I’m adopted, which primed my nervous system to feel insecure in relationships. If the person who should love me the most (my mother) abandoned me, who is safe?? So in my childhood, a family member worked from home. I used to come home from school and go right to my room, because they were working and I didn’t want to bother them. They started getting upset about that and lectured me about saying hi when I came home. OK…so I started doing that. One day a few weeks later I called “Hi _______!” from the door, and they screamed and cursed at me, because they were on the phone when I did that. That event was terribly traumatizing to me (it was not the only one of it’s kind, but it sticks out to me). It set my already sensitive nervous system into overdrive. I was put in a double bind – I was shamed if I didn’t say hello and I was cursed and screamed at if I did say hello. What does a child do with that? It leads to a feeling that *every action* is unsafe, even though if you asked the general public, they would not call being yelled at a Big T trauma. I was a kind, quiet child and so I shut down instead of rebelling, and learned to fawn and people please like a champ.

I believe I brought that into my adult life, and I am working very hard to overcome that now. Step one is, you guessed it, improving my nervous system regulation! 🙂

Well that is enough trauma talk for today. I pray the Lord’s peace and blessings on you all after reading about trauma!

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 7: Ease

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 7: Ease

Welcome to #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! Today is Day 7, and the word of the day is “ease.”

Ease. Not something most people have a lot of these days. Oh, things may seem easier on the surface than in the past – I mean, most of us who are reading blogs don’t have to butcher our own meat, wash our laundry by hand in a bucket, or use an outhouse.

So while many tasks may be easier, I don’t think they have been replaced with ease — the Oxford dictionary defines being “at ease” as: free from worry, awkwardness, or problems; relaxed.

(Hmmmm, free from awkwardness…not sure I will ever achieve that, LOL)

We are not supposed to live a life of ease as in “not working” ever, but neither are we supposed to live a life of mental exhaustion every day.

Today’s culture has replaced community and physical labor with rushing, individualism, debt, and shame. We applaud those who climb the corporate ladder and make fun of rest and play and child-like trust.

But God commands that we rest and Jesus reiterates that Sabbath rest was made for us because we need it. (Here is a great list of Scriptures that talk about rest.)

Rest isn’t just physical rest, though, just as important is a psychological or mental rest.

Unfortunately we often pick things that aren’t *truly* restful to our nervous systems and souls, like mindless scrolling Instagram. (*guiltily raising hand*)

We don’t get enough sleep, often because we crave our “alone time,” without kids. But maybe if you actually got enough sleep and rest, you wouldn’t need that alone time as strongly.

Or we go about rushing from one thing to the next – sometimes so that we can “get to the good stuff.”

“Oh if I just rush through my work I’ll have more time to relax” – but then the rushing created more stress than the relaxing you are doing can make up for!

Here is a good article about why rushing is hard for HSPs.

Also, staying busy and rushed all the time is a trauma response. We avoid being still. (As an aside I am not necessarily recommending the therapist in this article. I know nothing about her, it was just a good explanation of the topic.)

I believe we all need more truly quiet time, rest, and play.

I haven’t figured this all out yet for myself, because after a lifetime of shutting out my own desires and needs, I don’t even KNOW what I like, what I really want, what would help me truly relax. But I know it’s a goal, and that’s a start.

 I *do* know, that God is there for me, and that is probably the most important part.

Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. – 1 Peter 5:7

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 6: Beliefs

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 6: Beliefs

Welcome to Day 6 of #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! Today’s topic is “beliefs.”

Beliefs – about yourself and other people, about God, about your situations or illnesses – all play a huge role in the ability of your nervous system to regulate.

While it is thought that you can’t actually *control* your nervous system and it’s regulatory ability (it is running subconsciously), your thoughts can and do inform your nervous system about your interpretation of your life.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying you are causing a symptom, for example, to appear because of your beliefs. It is not “all in your head” nor have you “caused” your disease or your life problem. But they very much could be caused by a nervous system that is just doing it’s job of protecting you, but may be stuck due to past situations and/or current beliefs. (Of course not every issue – but I’m speaking here of the ones that are.)

What are some beliefs you might have that affect your nervous system?

Beliefs about God and His love and sovereignty and power.

Beliefs about your body – what your symptoms might mean or what your body is capable or incapable of.

Beliefs about yourself, many of which were put there in your first formative years. Do you tell yourself you’re stupid when you make a mistake? Or that you’re no good at X, Y, or Z?

Belief that I am safe/not safe — this one is often very subconscious. You may be objectively safe sitting in your living room, but your body may have other ideas.

A good start towards nervous system regulation is to really think about your beliefs.

Get still and really ask yourself “What is this about” when you feel off, and then listen to what you mind and body are telling you. Even if it sounds weird – just honor that intuition for awhile.

Listen to your self talk and replace negative things with truth: “I’m an idiot!” can become, “I am objectively smart but I made a mistake and mistakes are OK.” “I’m never going to get better” can be replaced with, “I am OK in this moment and every day my body is designed to heal me. I will honor and work with it.” “I can’t do math” can become “I struggled in school because I wasn’t taught in a way that worked for me, but I’m older now and can learn it more easily.”

A lot of nervous system regulation is actually limbic system regulation – the limbic system deals with emotions among other things. You don’t have to believe you are actually in a situation to have your limbic system react to it. This works both for good and for bad. In a bad way, your limbic system can believe you are unsafe even when you are safe, like I described before.

But in a positive direction, you can imagine that you are somewhere lovely like a beach, and if you bring up the emotions and sensations associated with that – warm sun, peaceful feeling, happiness, the smell of salt air and sunscreen, etc, your limbic system with react as if you are there.

Do this on a regular basis and you can train your system to calm down and give it the capacity for more regulation.

What would be your lovely situation to imagine? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 5: Safety

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 5: Safety

Welcome to #write28days where I am writing on the topic of Nervous System Regulation! Today’s focus is: Safety.

The topic of safety is a huge one in nervous system regulation. In fact, the whole reason your nervous system gets and sometimes stays dysregulated is that it feels it is not safe.

Now that is a *good* thing if you are truly unsafe in the moment. I’m not going to list ways that could be — I’m sure you can imagine an instance where your body needs you to make a quick decision for your immediate safety. But today’s stressors are often less in need of an immediate run for safety and are more cognitive stressors: a job loss, a chronic illness, or even too much to do and not enough time to do it. Or it could be that you had severe stressors in your past and not now, but your body is “stuck” in fight or flight. These can all lead to a chronic feeling in your nervous system that it is not safe.

What we need to do, that I briefly touched on in Day 1 of my Nervous System Regulation series, is develop a deep sense of “felt safety” in our bodies.

Who, me?

You may not even know you need this, because you have had nervous system dysregulation for so long, that being in fight/flight is like the air you breathe – it is there all the time and you don’t know any different. I know this was the case for me. I have even learned that in many instances when I *did* feel calm, it was actually me dissociated to such a huge degree that I wasn’t really “all there.” But more about that another day.

This is a good video by therapist Irene Lyon regarding developing a sense of deep safety in your body.

Some things I am doing to enhance my sense of safety

Feeling completely safe in my own skin is something I’m not even sure I fully understand, as I don’t believe I’ve ever felt it. But I am beginning to feel inklings of it. I’m confident with patience and continued practice I will get there.

Some things that help me are:

*Scriptures about and knowledge of God’s power, particularly Psalms 91 and 23, and Exodus 14:14.

*Employing embodiment practices : sometimes simply sitting and focusing on the sensations I feel in my body, sometimes qi gong, or Feldenkrais exercises. I don’t believe everything typically talked about in the qi gong videos, but I just say my own thoughts about God or prayers during those times. Sometimes I just breathe slowly and move about with my breath however I feel like.

*Sitting with curiosity about about my symptoms like I discussed here.

*Slowing down, especially my breathing and internal “intensity”. I have a sticky note on my wall by my door that says, “Slow everything down by 10%”

*Learning about and practicing boundaries. This is not easy and did not make me feel safe at first, but the more my body and self know that I will stand up for it, the safer it starts to feel.

*Being patient with myself. Again, and again, and again.


Because you can sometimes feel worse before you feel better, I recommend you have some guidance or help with this, or at least do a lot of reading on the topic before you just pick a practice to try on the fly.

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day4: Community

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day4: Community

Ah, community. A hot button topic in my life. First off, welcome to Day 4 of #Write28days of Nervous System Regulation! It is good to have you here.

I’m going to get a little personal here, so you know where I’m coming from. Some backstory, as they say. A few years ago, I made a very difficult decision to set boundaries with my family of origin (my adoptive family) that they did not like one bit. It resulted in being cut off. To say it was painful was an understatement – I had just lost my family, again. I believe this is what turned my manageable chronic illness into a severe, and at the time, unmanageable one. And as I laid in bed for months, and then years, my friends quickly fell away. I don’t blame them for not knowing how to deal with me, but it was (and is) still hard. I turned to the internet and FB, only to find a large group of people — people who I thought were IRL friends from long ago — mocking my feelings about a topic of huge personal importance to me (which is unfortunately a hot button topic these days). So I lost them too, because I decided leaving Facebook was more important for my health than staying and having “internet friends”.

But this left me with pretty much zero community outside my husband and children. And I don’t think this is all that unusual among chronic illness sufferers.

Community, I think, can be hard to come by these days, even for healthy people. But, I am told by experts in the field, it is essential for proper nervous system regulation. They call regulating with others “co-regulation” and it is a large part of being a healthy human.

So where does that leave those of us who struggle to find community? I’ll talk about my personal thoughts on the subject, because I am no expert. First, like all brain regulating practices, I know finding and maintaining community is a marathon and not a sprint. People come and go in our lives, and I will find a new group over time. As I heal I can work on connecting again with some of those who fell away, if I so desire.

But a HUGE thing that I need to work on first, is community with myself. Through a childhood fraught with stress, I learned that to lose myself was the only way to survive. Fifty years later, I realized I had no sense of self, I was an empty shell who morphed only to please others. It had always been safer that way, until my body said, “ENOUGH!”

So now I have to learn to meet myself. Who am I, really? And learn to befriend myself, and accept both my light and dark sides. Only when I can become in community with my true self can I properly move out into the world. Then the people I meet will know the real me, like her or not.

I hope you, dear readers, can glean something useful from my little dips into these topics. If you find yourselves too overwhelmed by anything I am discussing, please step back and find a qualified person to guide you through.

Please join me tomorrow, when the topic will be on: safety.

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 3: Fascinating

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 3: Fascinating

Welcome to Day 3 of #write28days where we write every day of February on a topic, guided (if we so choose) by word prompts supplied by Anita Ojeda. This weeks prompts fit in well with my topic of nervous system regulation– today’s word is: Fascinating.

I hope you all know how fascinating I think each and every one of you are, simply because you are human and worthy of my delight, fascination, and respect? Well, I do think that. 🙂

As a (former) psychobiology major and current voracious reader and studier of life, I also know that the human body is fascinating. I am sure, as well, that despite all we know scientifically about the human body, we only have scratched the surface of it. It is even more amazing than we know.

So what does this have to do with nervous system regulation?

When you begin to see yourself with compassion and fascination, you can start to practice one of the tenets of brain retraining – observing yourself with curiosity. What does this mean? Let me give you a few examples. Let’s say you find out your friend was talking about you behind your back. You are upset and feel many different emotions. You feel very worked up. This is a good time to observe what you are feeling with curiosity and NOT judgment. You could wonder with curiosity about just which emotions you are feeling — is it anger? grief? betrayal?–and then accept them as normal reactions. You could notice the physical sensations you are feeling, like a hot face and tense stomach, with an “hmmmm, very interesting” attitude.

Or perhaps you are having symptoms of a chronic illness, which is what brought me personally into the brain retraining and nervous system regulation realm. Symptoms can be very overwhelming and scary to an overburdened nervous system. One step to overcoming that is accepting them with curiosity and not fear: “Oh, my muscles hurt today. That’s interesting. Thanks for talking to me, body. I’m really dizzy, too, more than yesterday. Hmmm. Yes. I see you, nervous system, you are fascinating!”

Now, I understand that this is not always easy. If there is anything I am learning about nervous system regulation, brain retraining, and chronic illness healing, is that it is a marathon not a sprint, and it has many hills and valleys. It is becoming a beautiful and fascinating journey though, and I’m here for it!

I hope you, dear readers, can glean something useful from my little dips into these topics. If you find yourselves too overwhelmed by anything I am discussing, please step back and find a qualified person to guide you through.

Please join me tomorrow, when the topic will be on: community.

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 2: Broken

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 2: Broken

I’m joining Anita Ojeda for #write28days where we write every day of February on a topic, guided (if we so choose) by her word prompts. This weeks prompts fit in so well with my topic that I’m giving it a go.

Today’s prompt is the word “broken.”

How many of you have grown up thinking you were broken? (*raises hand*) That there was something wrong with you? And as your sensitive nervous systems reacted and life became harder and harder were convinced that it was true – you must be broken?

Dear ones, you are not broken. Did you know that when your nervous system “freaks out” it is doing *exactly what it is designed to do* – protect you? That your reactions are natural consequences to what has happened to you in your life and not some sign that something is wrong with you?

That being said, sometimes our nervous systems get a little stuck in the past – although that is a somewhat negative way to explain something that is a natural, protective move of your nervous system as well, and not a sign that it is broken. Your nervous system is designed to run along tracks of habit most easily. This is to your advantage, as long as the tracks it is running on were not set down by repeated trauma that you are no longer in. (And by “trauma” I don’t just mean the big things.) When we are safe but our body doesn’t quite realize it yet because we are moving along neural pathways set down by trauma, we may feel broken, it is true.

The beauty of brain retraining practices, and learning how to regulate your nervous system, is that it can take these natural ways the the nervous system reacts and use it to our advantage. To come into the present and live it with joy. When this happens, our body relaxes, and has the energy to do what it was designed to do, and we begin to heal.

Beloved, you are not a screw up, messed up, broken. A project that needs to be “fixed.” Your body is only trying to protect you, and it just needs to gently, oh so very gently, be shown the way.

Thank you for joining me on Day 2 of #write28days. Day 1 is here if you missed it.

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 1: Wonderful

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation – Day 1: Wonderful

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14

Welcome to Day 1 of #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! Today the prompt is “wonderful” – and I believe that fits so well in describing our nervous systems.

Let me back up a bit since this is Day 1 and describe for you what nervous system regulation really means. A regulated nervous system is not one that is always steady and unfeeling, but one that can return to baseline with timeliness and regularity after a stressor. We do not remain overwhelmed and “on,” nor shut down, dissociated, and “off” for a disordinate amount of time.

One of the biggest helps to nervous system regulation is developing what they call a sense of “felt safety” – a deep knowing, felt by your body, that you are safe, based on both internal body cues and external environmental ones. Therapist Robin Gobbel has an excellent post and podcast that goes deeper on this. It is focused on children but the ideas are globally applicable. As highly sensitive individuals, we often struggle with this sense of felt safety because we are absorbing more input than the average person, and it can become easily overwhelming.

Why wonderful?

Each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made. I took enough biology classes to know that every cell in our bodies is an amazing thing! The way they all work together in systems is nothing short of miraculous. Learning this and knowing it in a deep way helps to create a sense of compassion and wonder for ourselves and others. We begin to hold ourselves in awe instead of listening to that often critical inner voice. This is one step of many in a dance that creates that sense of felt safety in us, the basis of regulating our nervous systems.

Also, thinking about wonderful things is quite helpful in raising your nervous system’s tolerance. This is not “positive thinking” or saying affirmations that might not be true, but taking time every day to imagine things that make us happy. It could be cute animals, our children, a beautiful sunset, a happy day in our lives, or something we just entirely make up. This is not like mindless scrolling of social media or dissociation but a purposeful moment to breathe, calm ourselves, and raise our minds to better things. Directing our minds in such a way is important to teach our subconscious that we are in a place of control and safety, and also to create new pathways that associate a stressful times with a better outcome (the happy feelings produced).

This is just a quick look at what is a huge topic. I hope to write much more on this in the days to come.


Thank you for joining me for Day 1 of #write28 days! Join me tomorrow, where the word of the day is “broken.” (Hint: YOU’RE NOT) 🙂

Write 28 Days – Nervous System Regulation

Write 28 Days – Nervous System Regulation

Tomorrow, the first day of February (can you believe it?), I will be joining in the #write28days blog challenge being hosted at Anita Ojeda’s. We will be posting every day of February on our topic of choice, guided, if we wish, by Anita’s selected daily prompts.

My main focus for the month will be the basics of nervous system regulation, and also retraining after dysregulation — you know, things like feeling anxious, shutting down, or being triggered. The more I learn and experience it, the more I feel nervous system regulation is an essential topic to learn. These practices help us to not just survive but to thrive as highly sensitive people.

As the month progresses, I will come back to this page to post updated links to each days writing. Feel free to bookmark this page for easy access!

Day 1 – Wonderful

Day 2 – Broken

Day 3 – Fascinating

Day 4 – Community

Day 5 – Safety

Day 6 – Beliefs

Day 7 – Ease

Day 8 – Shock

Day 9 – Books

Day 10 – More Books

Day 11 – Name

Day 12 – Decline

Day 13 – Fact

Day 14 – Rare

Day 15 – Beautiful

Day 16 – Lonesome

Day 17 – Reflections

Day 18 – Tiny

Day 19 – Favorite YouTube Channels

Day 20 – Changes

Day 21 – Adore

Day 22 – Danger

Day 23 – Common

Day 24 – Savor

Day 25 – Problem

Day 26 – Threat

Day 27 – Favorite Instagram Accounts (will go live on Feb. 27)

Day 28 – Stewardship (will go live on Feb 28)

All that and a bag of chips

All that and a bag of chips

Late last week my son came home from school sick – turns out it was THE virus. He’s handling it well, but we worry due to the immune suppressive drug he is on. His fever is gone now, and today he woke up and was like, “Can I have a sandwich? Make it filling!” He was finally really hungry after not eating much for days. Yay!

So even though I had little energy and I had just sat down with a hot cup of tea, to kill off whatever germs might be lurking in my own throat, I happily went downstairs and made him a sandwich with all the fixings, cut up an apple, and even found one of those little bags of chips he takes to school and put it on his plate. I was so relieved he was feeling better and that made it easier to ignore my own tiredness and desire for my tea, and serve my son with joy.

I brought it back upstairs to him and realized just how hungry I was at that point. I also remembered my now cold tea. “I spent my last bit energy on my family, as usual,” I thought, a little dejected. “All those stairs. Oh well, I’ll just drink the cold tea and grab something easy.” (And most probably not good for me, I’ll add here.)

*Record Scratch* Wait! Let’s back this truck up. This ^^ above is not the person I want to be, and I am working hard toward right thinking and true self care.

To me right thinking is gearing my thoughts towards ultimate truth, as far as I can see it. Like the truth that I am as worthy of my own care as my son is, even if I’m tired. I was tired when I made HIM his meal, wasn’t I?

There were two main problems with my thinking, as I see it.

First, when I began trying to turn my thoughts around, I initially thought, “OK, stop feeling sorry for yourself” — I got to the “you” and stopped myself. Am I really feeling “sorry for myself”? Or am I just having feelings?? Ladies and gentlemen, it is OK to have emotions, and to feel them. When people tell you to stop feeling sorry for yourself, usually they are just *uncomfortable* with your feelings and want you to move on. I don’t want to be one of those people, to myself or others.

Instead I thought, “What am I actually feeling — what are the individual emotions?” Today I was feeling tired, lonely, a bit frustrated and sad about some things, along with great relief and joy for my son. I realized those feelings were valid considering my situation, and allowed myself to feel them.

Second, I noticed that I always default to “I’m too tired to do anything good for myself, I’ll just do the easy thing.” But when my son said, “I’m hungry!” I immediately had enough energy do complete the task and helped him happily. Am I so worthless that I can’t muster some joy for myself to get me through some lunch making? NO! If it was another family member I would have gone down and made them a nice lunch as well. I am not healthy, and the truth is I deserve at least as good a diet as I make for my loved ones.

So I questioned myself, am I really *too* tired, or am I my usual tired, but also sad and a little lonely, and struggle with self worth? It was the latter, and so I realized I *could* make myself a sandwich, with joy. And I did! A nice one just like my son’s. I also reheated my tea so I could enjoy it.

I didn’t give myself a bag of chips though.

I opted for a cookie. 😉


Are you learning to care for yourself too? What do you find easiest to do for yourself? Hardest? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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