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. 🙂
Welcome to #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! We have made it to day 17!
Today’s focus is the word “reflections.”
My father bought a boat when I was a teen, and named it Reflections, deep man that he always was – it was a play on the reflections off the water, and him “reflecting” back to his past and his own father’s boat.
There’s a part of the nervous system that “reflects” too – neurons that fire when we observe others, and they are called our “mirror neurons.” An interesting thing is that they fire in the exact same way when we are aware of an action as when we perform it ourselves. It doesn’t have to be visual, we can hear an action that we recognize, and the mirror neurons will fire as if we did that same action.
Mirror neurons are thought to be important to interpreting the actions and facial expressions of others, in imitation and learning, language development, and empathy.
They are also why we feel weird when our parents (or other loved ones) are in a bad mood or have negative expressions on their faces, even as infants. They help us figure out when our caregivers themselves are dysregulated and are either under or over-reacting to things.
These neurons can also potentially be used to help us heal from trauma, as watching someone else be supported and comforted may help us feel as if it is somehow happening to us.
The brain is an amazing social organ!
I collated the information from various journals and articles. I do not have the bandwidth to quote and cite. If you are looking for a place that does that, this is not that blog. 😉
Welcome to day 16 of #write28days! My topic is Nervous System Regulation and trauma recovery, and today’s focus word in the #write28days community is “lonesome.”
Logically, I know that I am “in Christ” and so therefore never really alone. Not to mention the great cloud of witnesses. But let’s talk for a minute about the heart. All the logic in the world does not make me feel close to God. I have heard this can be due to my attachment trauma, and I believe it. (For a great podcast on this see episode 86 of the podcast The Place We Find Ourselves…and as an aside all the other episodes are great too. 🙂 )
With this and the sickness and exhaustion that comes with chronic illness making it difficult to make and keep friends, I know I’m not alone (heh heh) in feeling lonely. I’m going to use today’s topic to share some of the brain retraining programs I have heard of, because most of them contain forums or Facebook groups of the participants. There you can meet people going through the same things you are, and hopefully find some friends of the heart.
The first is Primal Trust. I am in this one currently, and from what I see it is very comprehensive. They have multiple weekly zoom meetings on several topics, a forum where you can ask questions, and Signal app groups of users that discuss the group topics and meet through zoom as well. It is not Christian based and there are a few things that don’t jive with what I believe. They are for the most part tangential to the main program. But there is a concurrent Signal group of Christian Primal Trust members that meet to talk about using the program in a way that works for them. Primal Trust teaches both what they call top down and bottom up brain retraining and trauma resolving practices. (Please see link for explanation.)
I have not used the rest of the programs I am about to list, so I can not speak to their usefulness or contents. I will simply list them. If you know more about them I’d love to hear your experience in the comments!
Welcome to day 15 of #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! Today’s focus word is “beautiful.” What a beautiful word! 🙂
When doing brain retraining it is helpful to surround yourself with beauty. Beauty and awe helps regulate the nervous system and tone the vagus nerve. The uplifted feelings that beauty inspires help retrain the pathways that your brain habitually takes. In this case, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder – you should have or imagine things around you that *you* find beautiful, not necessarily someone else.
Also, forget the “shoulds” here. If you are trying to think of something happy and beautiful, and a favorite toy from childhood comes up and not your toddler (who picked this week to stop napping), think about the toy, please! Ignore the nudges of “I should think of my children or the nice gift my husband gave me.” No, for some reason the toy is bringing you more joy. Go with it!
It doesn’t have to be visual to be beautiful, either. Your soul is beautiful. Your nervous system trying to protect you is beautiful. God is beautiful. Unconditional love is beautiful. Music can be beautiful.
Try to bring up the feelings beauty and awe create in you multiple times a day. Little by little your nervous system will create new pathways and regulate more easily.
Welcome to day 13 of #write28days! We are almost half way there! I feel like I haven’t written this much in my life, LOL. I’m sure that’s not really true but it feels like it… which brings us to our word of the day: FACT.
A large portion of nervous system work is retraining the brain to understand that things that *were* facts in our childhood might not be true anymore. We are now adults that can make certain choices, and care for ourselves in ways we couldn’t as small children.
One thing that I discovered a few months ago is “The Work” by Byron Katie. It is like a meditation, and one of it’s main questions that you think about is, “Is (the thing) true?”
Here is a brief synopsis: You bring up an episode of your life that upset you, like a fight with your husband. Write down the details and how you felt about it. Write it all out, how it felt back then. Then isolate a statement out of your writing/thoughts. Ask the four questions: Is it true? Can you absolutely know that it’s true? How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? Who would you be without that thought?
I know they sound a little…confusing? Out there? But the website has guidance and teaches you to drill down to what you know to be absolutely true, and to find peace with opposing thoughts. You are not really countering things you know to be absolutely true, like “we were in the kitchen” or “he raised his voice,” but the parts that harbor some judgement or opinion, such as “he shouldn’t waste my time,” or things that might be true but we don’t really know for sure, like “his cologne causes my headaches.”
Here is an interesting walk through video about a woman whose statement was, “My brother’s smoking makes me physically ill.”
If you watch the video, you may see that it seems like the woman is being blamed for her symptoms, but that isn’t really what this is all about. It is a mediation, an inquiry, on what we know to be true, finding other possibilities, and coming to peace with it all.
Have you ever done “The Work”? I would love to hear about it!
Welcome to day 11 of #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! Today’s topic is “name”.
I have several interesting stories about my name. They are probably only tangentially related to nervous system regulation, but I do believe that our search for self and becoming embodied can have a lot to do with one’s name and what one calls oneself.
Our names, they are so important aren’t they? In a way they define us – “Oh, that’s Amy!” It’s not Elizabeth or Lisa or Christina, it’s Amy. When someone says our name with love, it is wonderful, but if we have memories of people using our name in hate or anger, it is traumatizing.
My birth mother was told not to name me, and so I started out unlabeled… a nothing. This has bothered me for a long time, like a little stone stuck in my shoe.
I have to admit I have not liked my name over various periods of my life. It is so easy to whine it…AAAAmmeeeee.
At a few days old, my foster family named me Amy, which means “beloved.” When my adoptive family received me, it turns out they had also chosen Amy, without knowing that I had already been named that. So I am twice Beloved.
I did not always feel beloved growing up, but I know that there is One Person that loves me forever – God.
Susan, a fellow #write28days participant, said that HSP in HSPMom stands for “His Special Person.” I just love that so much!
Knowing that I am God’s Beloved is probably the only thing that keeps me from legally changing my name, reinventing myself. I don’t want to forget that.
Do you have a name or nickname that is special to you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Welcome to #write28days of Nervous System Regulation! Like yesterday, I didn’t know what to do with today’s suggested word, which was “crevice.” How about “I’m ready to hide in a crevice after posting 10 days in a row” LOL. No? Ok, how about I post some more recommended books on healing from trauma, brain retraining, healing of “self,” and nervous system regulation. I think that’s better. 😉
Some of the following links are affiliate links.
The following books have come recommended to me, but I either haven’t read them yet or haven’t finished them, so I cannot vouch personally for their quality. If you have read them, let me know what you think in the comments!
From the Amazon description: “[Sensory Defensive Disorder] has generally been unidentified in adults who think they are either overstimulated, stressed, weird, or crazy. These sensory defensive sufferers live out their lives stressed and unhappy, never knowing why or what they can do about it. Now, with Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight, they have a compassionate spokesperson and a solution–oriented book of advice.”
From the Amazon description: “From trauma educator and somatic guide Kimberly Ann Johnson comes a cutting-edge guide for tapping into the wisdom and resilience of the body to rewire the nervous system, heal from trauma, and live fully.“
From the Amazon description: “In Unbound, Lozano shows readers how to…find and close any doors they may have opened to evil influence–and, consequently, Satan’s underhanded strategies. Balanced and full of hope, Unbound is a practical, thorough, and easy-to-follow guide to deliverance and freedom. It also includes practical instruction on praying for others to be set free.”
From the Amazon description: “When Sr. Miriam James Heidland’s life as a successful college athlete proved unfulfilling, she went searching for something deeper and ended up falling in love with Jesus. In Loved as I Am, Heidland shares her struggles—learning she was adopted, battling alcoholism, and healing from childhood sexual abuse—as signs of hope that anyone who desires to know Christ can find him and be loved intimately by him in return.”
From the Amazon description: “This bestselling book examines childhood trauma and the enduring effects it has on an individual’s management of repressed anger and pain. Why are many of the most successful people plagued by feelings of emptiness and alienation? This wise and profound book has provided millions of readers with an answer–and has helped them to apply it to their own lives.“
From the Amazon description: “Do you suffer from spiritual or emotional wounds that are keeping you from reaching that goal? The bestselling book Be Healed is based on retired Catholic therapist Bob Schuchts’s popular program for spiritual, emotional, and physical healing. Incorporating elements of charismatic spirituality and steeped in scripture and the wisdom of the Church, this book offers hope in the healing power of God through the Holy Spirit and the sacraments.”
From the Amazon description: “[Doidge’s] revolutionary new book shows, for the first time, how the amazing process of neuroplastic healing really works. It describes natural, noninvasive avenues into the brain provided by the forms of energy around us – light, sound, vibration, movement – which pass through our senses and our bodies to awaken the brain’s own healing capacities without producing unpleasant side effects.“
From the Amazon description: “Through a series of easy self-help exercises, the book illustrates the simple ways we can regulate the vagus nerve in order to initiate deep relaxation, improve sleep, and recover from injury and trauma.“
Do you have any favorite books on brain retraining and healing from trauma? Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments!
Hello and welcome to #write28days! My topic is on Nervous System Regulation, an important topic for highly sensitive people especially, and all people really. Today’s word, according to the organizer of #write28days was supposed to be “skulk.” I have absolutely no idea what to do with that, LOL! So today I’m going to share my favorite books on the nervous system, regulation, the search for self, and trauma recovery. Tomorrow I’ll share books I haven’t read yet but that come recommended.
The following links are most likely amazon affiliate links.
A little caveat before I begin – I don’t necessarily agree with everything in all of these books, but I find them helpful in general.
From the description on Amazon: “In The Body Keeps the Score, [Dr. Bessel van der Kolk] uses recent scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. He explores innovative treatments—from neurofeedback and meditation to sports, drama, and yoga—that offer new paths to recovery by activating the brain’s natural neuroplasticity. Based on Dr. van der Kolk’s own research and that of other leading specialists, The Body Keeps the Score exposes the tremendous power of our relationships both to hurt and to heal—and offers new hope for reclaiming lives.”
From the Amazon description: “Waking the Tiger normalizes the symptoms of trauma and the steps needed to heal them. People are often traumatized by seemingly ordinary experiences. The reader is taken on a guided tour of the subtle, yet powerful impulses that govern our responses to overwhelming life events. To do this, it employs a series of exercises that help us focus on bodily sensations. Through heightened awareness of these sensations trauma can be healed.”
From the Amazon description: “In The Highly Sensitive Person, you will discover: • Self-assessment tests to help you identify your particular sensitivities • Ways to reframe your past experiences in a positive light and gain greater self-esteem in the process • Insight into how high sensitivity affects both work and personal relationships • Tips on how to deal with over-arousal • Information on medications and when to seek help • Techniques to enrich the soul and spirit“
From the Amazon description: “Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) has been spreading rapidly across the country in the past decade. It is incredibly effective on a wide variety of life issues, such as self-esteem, procrastination, depression, and relationship issues. IFS is also user-friendly; it helps you to comprehend the complexity of your psyche. Dr. Earley shows how IFS is a complete method for psychological healing that you can use on your own. Self-Therapy is also helpful for therapists because it presents the IFS model in such detail that it is a manual for the method.”
From the Amazon description: “Shame is the motivator behind our toxic behaviors: the compulsion, co-dependency, addiction and drive to superachieve that breaks down the family and destroys personal lives. This book has helped millions identify their personal shame, understand the underlying reasons for it, address these root causes and release themselves from the shame that binds them to their past failures.“
The Self – Attunement Workbook by Ally Wise
This is a wonderful week by week program that is available here or through the link-in-bio on Ally Wise’s Instagram account @awakenwithally .
From the Amazon description: “The Best of You reveals a breakthrough strategy to develop your voice, set wise limits, and still be a loving person. For over 20 years, Dr. Alison has integrated faith and psychology to help women reclaim their confidence, find their purpose, and enjoy healthy relationships.”
From the Amazon description: “[In] How to Meet Your Self, [Dr. Nicole LePera] shares an interactive workbook designed to help every reader uncover their Authentic Self. By objectively and compassionately observing the physical, mental, and emotional patterns that fill our days and create our current selves, we can more clearly see what we do not wish to carry into the future.”
Tune in tomorrow where I will share books that are on my “to be read” pile that come highly recommended.
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.
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
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!