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#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) 🙂

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