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#write28days of Nervous System Regulation: Day 26 – Threat

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation: Day 26 – Threat

Welcome to day 26 of #write28days! If you are just joining in, you can find a full list of what has been written by me so far here. Each day of February we are writing on a topic, guided by a list of topic words chosen by the organizer. Today’s topic word is threat, which lends itself very well to the topic of nervous system regulation!

The nervous system responds to threat in one or a combination of the following ways, some of which you have probably heard of, and some which might be new to you:

Fight – your sympathetic nervous system activates and pushes out adrenaline so you can fight the threat. This doesn’t necessarily mean punching/kicking, it can also be staying and fighting with words, and feeling high anger.

Flight – also from the sympathetic nervous system, this is used when you don’t think you can fight, and so either flee the space, or if not, feel very fidgety and trapped, kind of like a “pre-flight”.

Freeze – Freezing is organized primarily by a different part of the nervous system, the dorsal vagus nerve and a spike in the parasympathetic nervous system activation. This is when you feel threatened but feel frozen in place and cannot act. You might collapse, or feel heavy, dissociated, or unable to access words or emotions.

Fawn – used when the first three aren’t available to you for whatever reason. Often is common in people raised in toxic homes. Fawning is trying to over-give your way into safety – trying to be overly helpful, over-agreeable, doing whatever it takes to keep your “attacker” happy so that they don’t hurt you physically or psychologically.

and I’ve also heard of other “F’s” like flag and flop included in the above, but these four are pretty universally accepted now.

I found this helpful chart on a Facebook post that explains them side by side:

If you have had a long period in your life where you needed to use the above techniques, you may find that you are “stuck” in one or more of them.

This is when brain retraining practices, like I have been describing in other posts, become helpful.

You’ll never avoid threats completely in your life, but with conscious practices you can train your nervous system that you are OK, and it will return to a healthy baseline instead of getting stuck in fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation: Day 25 – Problem

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation: Day 25 – Problem

Welcome dear ones to #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! Today’s focus is the word “problem.” We all have enough problems, don’t we?

Well let’s turn it around a little bit.

First, YOU are not a problem, no matter what anyone in your life might have inferred. You are a MIRACLE and a blessed soul.

I’m the last person to espouse toxic positivity (e.g. blowing off someone’s issues by telling them to look on the bright side) but at the same time, we can’t let our problems get the better of us, or we become unable to function.

I’ve read that it’s the resistance to our problems that causes the stress, and while I’m not sure that is 100% true (or the only issue), I do know that it does contribute.

One of the techniques I’ve learned is a kind of “awareness and acceptance” of my current problem, and mental or physical state.

Let me try to walk you through it a little bit. My exact technique changes depending on my location, mood, and energy, but I’m learning perfection isn’t necessary, the attempt is enough.

When I notice I’m feeling anxious or having an increase in symptoms, I stop, breathe slowly a few times, and tell myself, “not helpful!” or “stop” or “pivot!” to the story that is usually swirling around in my brain about my anxiety or symptoms. You know, things like, “I can’t do this,” or “Oh no I’m dizzy again I must be getting worse!” or “Everyone hates me guess I’ll eat some worms.” 😉

I’m not saying “stop” to the actual bodily feelings, just the mental story associated with those feelings.

Then, as you are experiencing the symptoms or difficult emotions, breathe slowly and deeply and say a few times, “I am here” or “I am here now in this,” or “I’m feeling _________ and I’m here for it!” After this you are supposed to do a visualization practice to raise your emotions to good ones, but I am still pretty bad at doing this, so won’t include it here. 🙂 I find just the first two parts of it – the awareness that I’m struggling and then being accepting and calm about it is helpful in itself.

Here’s how it worked for me a few weeks ago when I tried to go shopping for something at the supermarket. I have a supersensitive nervous system right now so this isn’t an easy task — with the noise, bustle, smells, and bright lights of the store — but I needed something and I wanted to see if I could do it. So I did OK for a few minutes but soon felt more dizzy, strange, and overwhelmed. I slowed down, breathed more slowly, and said, “Pivot! Not helpful!” in my head. “Nervous system, we are OK, this is a supermarket not a war zone.” I continued to breathe, and said in my head, “I am (breathe) here now (breathe) in this.”

Then I noticed I was still anxious so I decided to remind my body that anxiety and excitement are exactly the same thing, just the story you are telling yourself changes. So I said to myself, “I’m here in the supermarket buying something! This is awesome! I never get out! Look at all these cool snacks here in this aisle! I’ve never seen these cookies before! I am dizzy here in this great supermarket, and I’m here for it! I’m going to experience it and experience it well!”

Long story not short enough, I made it through. I continued to be a bit dizzy and overwhelmed but it did not devolve into a situation I couldn’t handle.

Do you have anything you do or tell yourself when you are in a moment of struggle? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation: Day 21 – Adore

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation: Day 21 – Adore

Welcome to #write28days of nervous system regulation! Today is day 21 and I can’t believe we are three weeks in! 3/4 of the way done and only 7 more days to go. Today’s focus word is “adore”

When I think of the word adore, the first thing I think of is God. Today we use the word for such lesser things – “Oh, I adore those shoes!” LOL – but I think it’s true deep meaning is only appropriate when applied to God.

In fact, the 2nd definition of “adore” in the Oxford dictionary is “worship, venerate”.

Here is my thought process on how this applies to nervous system regulation. When we adore, worship, venerate God, we (should, hopefully, eventually) see Him as he truly is – our loving protector.

We can have a deep soul rest when we understand fully that our loving God is in control.

When we rest fully, we heal and feel safter. Felt safety is the key to nervous system regulation.

My two favorite passages on this –

All of Psalm 91 which starts:

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,[b]
    who abide in the shade of the Almighty,
Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress,
    my God in whom I trust.”

And Psalm 23, especially –

He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.


Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
    my cup overflows.

These bring up such a feeling in me of God as the perfect loving Father, and I look up to him in adoration as his sweet little girl.

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation: Day 18 – Tiny

#write28days of Nervous System Regulation: Day 18 – Tiny

Welcome to #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! It is day 18 and today’s word is TINY!

How does “tiny” relate to nervous system regulation? Well, regulating a constantly DYSregulated nervous system is best done in baby-steps, and baby-steps are tiny. 🙂

Your nervous system really likes when things stay the same. When things change, it puts itself (and you) on “red alert” – the amount of “alert” will depend on the amount of change, how unexpected it is, and the amount of dysregulation in the nervous system.

So it is a best practice to only change things by a small amount – like as little as 1% or less of change, if you want your body to accept and regulate to this new amount of “whatever.”

For example, if you start a new practice of sitting in silence and observing your body sensations, if you have never done this before, start with one minute, not 15. A few days from now, add another minute, not 10 or 20.

Now, if you are normally quite regulated, this may seem ridiculous. But if you are chronically dysregulated, your body sees everything as a threat. You don’t want your new soothing practices to be misinterpreted as threat just because they are “different.” It truly is best to start off very slow and go up slowly, as hard as that can be sometimes. (Says the person who went from not walking to walking a mile in the freezing cold within a few days and paid for it for over a week, LOL. Learning my lesson here!)

Over time, you will get a sense of the needs of your nervous system. You may be able to go faster, say, with stretching than with eye exercises or visualizations. If you are having a hard day you may need to move back to a smaller practice. Trust your intuition on toning it down for the day.

Size matters, and tiny is the name of the game here. 🙂

#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 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 – 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.

I’m small and it’s OK

I’m small and it’s OK

The new year is here and as usual, I have big ideas.

Grow my blog! Lose all the weight!  Be the best wife, mother and homeschooler EVERRRRR!


After almost a half century of life, I also know myself.  The first week of January I will be all gung ho, spend all the money, do all the things…and I will crash and burn before Martin Luther King Day rolls around.  I will, very quickly, come face to face with the fact that I am small and I need God.

Looks like I’m not alone.

From Emily Freeman’s book Simply Tuesday (referral)

(Jesus) constantly turned to his Father in everything refusing to hold his own glory, walking as the most dependent man who ever lived.  And now the Spirit of the most dependent man who ever lived has made his home in us.

If it’s good for Jesus, it’s good for me.

There are so many ways our smallness shows up in mothering and homeschooling, especially when you are introverted and sensitive. Heck, just the sheer amount of talking at me here on a daily basis is enough to make me cry!

I think many of us were taught in various ways, mistakenly, how big we are. How we were expected to fix others, to make them happy.  Unfortunately, that never really worked, did it?  We were told we had God’s job and it was impossible for little us, although we tried. We were shamed for being small, and I know I still carry that inside me like a lump of hot coal.

Instead of forgetting or running from my own smallness, what if I chose instead to look it in the face, to settle down into the place where I am, to notice what is happening around me on my ordinary days? What if these small moments are the very portal into experiencing the kingdom of God? I believe they are — and if we miss them, we miss everything. We run right by the kingdom’s doors, and no matter where we go, we have missed the door that leads us home.

I’m not saying I, or you, shouldn’t have goals and dream dreams. I think they are important. But let’s embrace our own smallness, our own small moments:

…reading to your insatiable toddler (extra points for the same story over and over), feeling your heart swell to the vision of your child on stage for the first time, explaining long division, explaining long division again, spill wiping, laundry doing, staying up late listening when your body is screaming for your bed, burning dinner, and laughing to family jokes over take-out.

This is it. This is the kingdom of God. Right here in your midst.

I’m slowly coming to grips with my own smallness. I’m small, and it’s OK. In fact, it’s beautiful.

Belonging, or just fitting in?

Belonging, or just fitting in?

I was just watching videos from The Light of the Moon Cafe, where they talk about struggles with food. They really get us highly sensitive people over there.

In one of the videos Dr. Johnston was talking about how many people, especially women, will accept fitting in as a substitute for really *belonging*.

Fitting in: “when you abandon who you really are in an attempt to look like and act like and think like and feel like what you imagine how others want you to look and think and feel and act.”

Belonging: “feeling a kinship, a connection to others while you feel a connection to your true self.”

As children we are wired to *need* to belong, but sometimes our families of origin or friends aren’t emotionally healthy and don’t want us to belong, so we settle for fitting in, as our small (and older!) bodies crave connection of whatever kind we can get.  Of course, if we are only fitting in and not belonging, we realize deep down something is missing.   We are highly sensitive and can usually perceive the tiny hints that others miss.  We know something is “off” even though everyone around us says everything is fine.

When we speak up about this in unhealthy families, it doesn’t turn out well for us.  This is when we start thinking there must be something wrong with us. This is when we start numbing ourselves with food, with perfectionism, with addictions.

Why did my mom abandon me? Why did my father get upset when I said I was hurt by something he did? Why isn’t mom talking to me now? I don’t remember doing anything wrong…it must just be me. It must be who I am. I’m not good enough to be loved and cherished.

There’s more good stuff on the website so I won’t, and shouldn’t, summarize the whole video for you (I was watching the free Soul Hunger Video Series on the sidebar).

Oh but that “fitting in” vs. “belonging” — what an eye opening moment. Now, I have understood the difference for a long time, and have probably been studying attachment since I was in college taking psych classes (i.e. in the dinosaur ages, LOL). But hearing it said this morning made me realize how often I *still* do this.

Still settle for fitting in. Still think there is something horribly wrong with me.  Still think I’m unlovable so I might as well just fit in, at least then people will stop arguing with me and trying to prove themselves right (and me wrong).  It hurts less this way.

But does it? Does it really? In the moment, yes.  But deep, deep down, you know it doesn’t.  I know it doesn’t.  A lifetime of pretending to be someone else so that you can be loved and kept and safe catches up with you. You wake up at 35, or 40, or 52 and wonder who you even are, and why is there this huge empty hole where “I” should be?

The claiming of my “self” has been difficult and painful and I still don’t even really know what I’m looking for, but every tiny gain of reality has been worth it. It’s almost like I actually feel a tiny puzzle piece click into place. I realize now if people don’t know me, even if they say they like or love me, they don’t *really*, because I have never shown them who I really am. They like (or don’t!) the “fake girl” – the nice girl, the calm girl, the helpful girl, the girl who doesn’t know how to say no.

I hope I can get to “real me” some day before it’s too late.

Life Update

Life Update

Ok, so I’ve updated you all on what we are doing homeschooling wise this year (which has morphed even since writing that, LOL – added a Spectrum Language Arts workbook for ds to cover some holes in the easiest way possible for us).

Now I’ll dive into the crazy that the last few months have been.  Warning: long and whiny.

I guess the biggest news is that my mother passed away right after Christmas. Back at the end of August she had an incident with her heart/lungs that put her in the ICU for about a month. She was very near death but fought and rallied, and after getting a tracheotomy was sent to a specialized rehab in another state to help her wean off the ventilator, which she did. Moved back closer to home to finish “rehabbing.”  She finally got fed up with living at rehab and was close enough to being able to be released so they fought to go home.  She really struggled being home though, and was on her way back to rehab with my father  when she passed away.  She had very severe scoliosis for the last few decades of her life and it impinged on her lung and heart function. She finally just couldn’t fight anymore.

I’m not grieving in any way I’ve ever heard of.  I’m most definitely a complete mess and falling apart in ways I haven’t felt since my most severe bout of post-partum depression,  but my thoughts don’t seem to be normal “grief thoughts.”  I’m just going to leave it at that because saying any more would probably get me labeled a heartless monster. Maybe that is what I am, who knows. 🙁

In other news, my son’s been struggling with side effects of his rheumatoid arthritis and it’s medications, so we have added a few other drugs and are changing around some others. Have I mentioned that I’m a crunchy mama and that having to give my son these horrible things just kills me?   Natural things weren’t working, although a neighbor is going to talk to me about a few other things I might be able to try.  I’m not going to try anything until all our medications are switched and settled in because I need to see what reactions are coming from what.

He’s developed uveitis which is inflammation of the eye. It is somewhat common in juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It can cause scarring which leads to blindness. Luckily we caught it early and he has started on steroid drops to help it. They are working for now.  He had to take them every two hours at first and now he’s down to 4 times a day which is much better.

He’s also developed a rash that looks like psoriasis. Again, not uncommon in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, as psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition.  He’s on methotrexate (a chemotherapy drug, which they just increased because of the eyes) and Enbrel (what they call a “biologic” – it’s a tumor necrosis factor inhibitor that can help JRA sufferers) which is helping his pain and swelling, but apparently not good for his eyes or skin.  Increases in his methotrexate turned him into Crazy Boy instead of my nice calm boy. Really not that bad, but I didn’t put two and two together until the optometrist mentioned something about his behavior. “I can see they increased the methotrexate!” LOL  OMG is *that* why he hasn’t been able to listen to me all week?  Mmmm, hmmmm, yup – this is just what he was like when he first went on it, and I had forgotten.  (Blocking out the trauma, LOL)

So we are being switched off of Enbrel to Humira (another TNF inhibitor with a different pathway).  Good news, we only have to inject that one once every two weeks. Bad news, it hurts like the seventh level of hell.  My son is already very sensitive and needle phobic.   I’m terrified of needing to do this to him.  It’s going to be ugly.  I’m so tired of ugly.  Luckily we have at least a week to wait because his shot is due today and we haven’t received the Humira yet, so we’ll give Enbrel.

One good thing is that since Humira should work on his eyes and skin, we can eventually *potentially* move off of the methotrexate, which is giving him awful stomach aches. Don’t get me started on the fact that his pediatrician and his rheumatologist disagree on what to give him for the stomach aches.  “Prevacid can’t possibly help”…yeah, well, it’s working, if even just psychologically, so imma keep him on it for awhile, M’Kay?  Unless you want to come hold him while he screams because his stomach hurts so bad doc, go right ahead. 😛

Rereading all this doesn’t sound like much, but the two together, on top of normal (i.e. difficult) life around here and just being “full up” all the time, I’m clinging to sanity by the thinnest of hairs.  I’m binge reading fiction just to keep my mind off things, while everything else falls apart all around me.  And then I leave the house and put on my usual fake smile for everyone so everyone thinks I’m doing so well.  But it’s like I’m actually about a foot outside of myself.  I can feel myself “leaving” – I can now turn it on at will.   But it’s exhausting. You’d think it would be easier, but it takes a lot of energy.

And I think it’s why I’m not grieving normally.  I’ve spent the last very many years being “outside myself” when with my parents because it was not safe to “be me,”  so there was no real relationship because I’m not really there. Some other girl is there.  Some happy, helpful, emotionally stable chick that morphs to be whatever you want if I can see you are not a safe harbor for me. Nope, definitely not me, LOL.

OK, I’m going to stop before I say something I’ll regret, insert a few random pictures that make me happy, and call it a day.  Thanks for reading.  I’m hoping now that I’ve gotten this off my chest I can go back to more normal posting because you’ll understand the backstory.

Love to you all.

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