Imagine having a map for your nervous system to guide you from where you are to where you want to be. Our autonomic nervous system comprises three distinct neural circuits, each influencing how we feel, think, and act. Increasing our awareness of our nervous system’s state helps us understand our reactions, deepen our somatic awareness, and foster healing, regulation, and personal growth.
I’m here to help you navigate these three nervous system states: their impact on your emotions, responses, and physical well-being. Plus, I’ll share practical strategies to help you feel more at ease and empowered.
Dr. Stephen Porges introduced Polyvagal Theory in the ’90s, which aids in understanding our emotions and responses. Think of it as switching emotional tracks, like a skilled train conductor. We’ll explore these tracks, and I’ll provide you with useful strategies for a more empowered mom journey.
Understanding Your Autonomic Nervous System
Why is this crucial? It provides:
- Better Reactions: Helping you make sense of your feelings.
- Deeper Connection: Strengthening your bond with yourself.
- Regulation & Growth: Empowering you to manage emotions and grow as a mom.
The Three Autonomic Nervous System States
- Ventral Vagal (Rest and Digest): This state feels safe, calm, and connected.
- Actions: You’ll stay relaxed, think calmly, be present, and maybe even smile.
- In Your Body: Your heart rate drops, muscles relax, breathing steadies, digestion improves, and stress hormones decrease.
- Sympathetic (Fight or Flight): It feels tense, agitated, and ready for action.
- Actions: You might speak louder, get restless, make big moves, or avoid certain situations.
- In Your Body: Heart races, muscles tense, jaw clenches, breath quickens, and your senses sharpen.
- Dorsal Vagal (Freeze/Shutdown): This state feels disconnected, zoned out, and stuck.
- Actions: You’ll remain still, feel hopeless, become numb, and lose touch with your body.
- In Your Body: Breathing and heart rate slow, muscles go limp, awareness fades, and your pain tolerance increases.
Returning to Calm: Your Inner Peace Journey
When you’re feeling off, how can you return to that peaceful state? Here are some quick tips:
- Breathe Deeply: Take slow, deep breaths to shift from fight-flight or freeze mode into relaxation.
- Ground Yourself: Use your senses—touch something comforting, listen to soothing music, or savor a tasty treat to reconnect with the present.
- Practice Mindfulness: Pay attention to thoughts without judgment. It guides you back to calm awareness.
- Seek Support: Share your feelings with a friend, partner, or therapist. Connection is key to returning to Ventral Vagal.
- Self-compassion: Remember, it’s okay to have tough moments. Be kind to yourself and stay patient as you work through them.
Understanding Polyvagal Theory and these autonomic nervous system states equips you to navigate the highs and lows of motherhood. It’s not about avoiding tough feelings but learning to manage them. So, next time you’re feeling off, check if you’re in fight-flight or freeze mode, and use these tips to return to your peaceful Ventral Vagal state.
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