In my last post we talked about the four different states of our self-protective nervous system. And in this post, I want to discuss why getting to know these states is so important.
This is because working at the level of state (Ventral, Sympathetic, Dorsal, and Freeze) is what changes how we feel, the behaviors we have, our thoughts, and how we perceive the world.
And it also changes the way our threat detector (Neuroception) responds to things.
That means instead of getting disregulated all the time, we begin to live our lives primarily in the state of Ventral regulation.
So, how do we do this?
That’s where our Toolbox of Regulating Resources comes in.
Your Regulating Toolbox is filled with tools that help you to regulate when you’re disregulated.
Every time we do a regulating resource it communicates to our system, “Hey everybody, the coast is clear!” which supports us to come into Ventral regulation and step toward the things we are wanting in our lives!
Your Tool Box
Certain types of regulating tools are best to use depending on which Special Ops Team is showing up:
1. When the Sympathetic state (fight/flight) is present, our bodies are mobilized with a lot of energy. This might feel like: anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, burst of energy then fatigue, panic attacks, etc.
The best tools to use in Sympathetic are ones that allow our bodies to move, like: dancing, walking, shaking, exercising, etc.
Create a list of mobilizing things you can do with others and also solo.
2. When the Dorsal state (shut down) is present, our bodies are immobilized with very little energy. This might feel like: apathy, hopelessness, fatigue, feeling shut down, depression, dissociation, not being in your body, etc.
The best tools to use in Dorsal are ones that bring in gentle movement and support us to come back into our bodies. It’s like a bear coming out of hibernation. Things like: feeling the sun on your face, holding ice, smelling something, gentle stretching, texting a friend, etc.
Create a list of things you can do with others and also solo.
3. When the Freeze state (deer in headlights) is present, we must first address the Dorsal energy with small or gentle movement. Once the Dorsal energy is gone, you’ll feel the flood of Sympathetic energy and we address that with movement. Use things off your Dorsal list, then your Sympathetic list (as above.)
Here are some you can do on your own:
- Exercise that serves your body
- Gentle self-touch (self-hug, hand on heart, etc.)
- Art or creating
- Cooking, listening to music, etc.
Here are things you can do with others:
- Being in nature with others
- Spending time with animals or children
- Gentle co-regulating touch (hugs, hand holding, shoulder to shoulder, etc.)
- TV show/movie that helps you co-regulate and attune with the characters
- Calling/texting someone.
What makes you feel safe, good, and present?
Now it’s your turn to add more things to your list.
Write down whatever comes to mind and practice using one thing off your list the next time you find one of your self-protective states arising.
With kindness and belief in your healing,
Sarah Baldwin is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and Trauma Coach who is trained in Polyvagal interventions and is on the training team at the Polyvagal Institute.
She specializes in somatic trauma healing; attachment work, parts and inner child work and nervous system regulation.