How Regulated is Your Nervous System Right Now?
6 points to honestly check-in with yourself on how you are REALLY doing.
It has happened to all of us. One stressor after the other and all of a sudden we feel paranoid about something we would never think about normally. Or we feel more sensitive and triggered. Or we fall for a scam. Or we shout at our dog. Or…
It’s normal, we all get dysregulated at times. So what does ‘dysregulated’ actually mean?
It means a Nervous System that feels under threat and has lost its capacity to regulate its fear response. In human terms: It means feeling unsafe.
The funny part is that sometimes we can be dysregulated and not even notice for days, months, years even. We call that burn-out, or stress, or PTSD even.
And if we have a lot of people around us suffering from the same affliction, we might start calling it ‘normal’. And that my friends is a slippery slope down the path of delusion, paranoia, and unkindness.
So it’s good to pause every now and again and check-in with ourselves, how ‘regulated’, meaning happy and human do we actually feel?
Here is a checklist to help you see if it’s time to take better care of yourself
How is your sleep? Can you fall asleep easily and do you sleep peacefully? Do you wake up refreshed? Or is your head busy with ‘stuff’ keeping you from properly resting?
If you are not sleeping well it means your system is more stressed than is healthy. It means your NS is in overdrive, trying to process the input of information you received that day but can’t make sense of it, which feels unsafe. If our world doesn’t make sense, how can we rest at night? Anything can happen at any moment, we have to stay on alert. Hence no sleep.
It happens to all of us sometimes of course, but if it’s an ongoing thing maybe you need to have a look at what makes you feel unsafe.
My suggestion here would be: Don’t use your phone for at least an hour before going to bed. Don’t use it first thing in the morning. Instead: dim the lights, put some gentle yin yoga music on, cuddle with your human or non-human friend or listen to something that brings you back into your heart. Take time to unwind before bed. It makes a huge difference.
2. Groundedness/In touch with the Body
How grounded do you feel right now? If you don’t know what that means think of how you feel after one day of sitting in front of the computer and how you feel after a good dance or hike in nature?
Grounded means feeling alive and connected to your physicality. It means being in the here and now. It means being at ease and trusting that you can respond to your environment moment by moment. It means a willingness and capacity to move in free and spontaneous ways. (like dancing and skipping and playing).
If you are feeling alive you are also feeling some sense of pleasure and enjoyment. So how much pleasure is there in your body right now? Or is your head spinning with thoughts/ideas/emotions, and your shoulders are tight? Which brings us to the next point:
If we are connected to our bodies it naturally follows we are connected to our needs. Right now: how do you feel? And what do you need?
If you do feel stressed, are you aware of what you need in order to release some of that tension?
People who know how to regulate their NS, are in touch with their senses, able to track when they are going over their limits. They are able to get up from the desk and shake or do some exercises in order to bring themselves into balance. If they are triggered they are able to take a pause and track what’s happening inside themselves. If they feel vulnerable and shaky they are able to reach out to a friend and ask for a listening ear or a hug.
Taking care of those needs gives an immediate sense of relief and relaxes the NS. It makes us feel safer and less alone. The world starts making a little bit more sense again and feels less threatening. It becomes less about the stories and more about simply being together and the enjoyment of that.
So how well are you taking care of your needs? When was the last time you had a hug? A cry? A laugh? A simple moment of just being?
Curiosity implies openness. When we are regulated, that means we feel naturally safe, and therefore able to stay open and curious. We are designed to digest new information and put it together in novel ways, enhancing our ability to make sense of the world around us and find solutions that benefit all.
If, however, you find yourself unable to stay curious when hearing or reading another perspective (one that probably widely differs from your own), it means you are being triggered. A trigger is a sure sign that some part of you feels threatened. You are being challenged in your perspective and identity, and you start feeling unsafe.
If the other side was right, the ground on which you are standing is starting to shake, which means your identity would have to change in order to integrate this new perspective into your own. Hence, we cannot even allow ourselves to see the other position. We close down our natural sense of curiosity. We resort to anger and into blaming and shaming. We perceive ourselves as personally attacked and often feel a victim.
So track within yourself, do you get triggered easily right now? And if so, can you track it further to which part feels under attack? What do you need to come back to safety?
5. Empathy/Kindness/Open heart
If we feel safe in ourselves, it’s easy to put ourselves in the shoes of another. Despite all the stories of ‘the survival of the fittest’ (which is really quite outdated), humans are actually programmed for empathy. We love helping. We love feeling. Just remember how good it feels to be generous and kind. Seeing that smile of gratitude on someone else’s face feeds our soul and nourishes our hearts.
When we feel safe, one truth becomes apparent:
You are another me, cleverly disguised as you.
We are literally one. Sure we have many differences, but we all share the same neurology, body, and heart. We all live on this planet. We all want to feel safe. We all want to be happy. But only when we feel really good (regulated) in ourselves do we have access to truly feeling this.
And this is also where insight and compassion come from. When watching or hearing someone being irrational, negative, or lost in paranoia and hate, you don’t react or get triggered, you simply understand it’s a dysregulated NS, another suffering human being.
You don’t try to meet them with logic (because you remember that that didn’t work for you either when you were in that place),
you don’t shame them or blame them,
you try to make them feel safe,
by showing them that you feel them, that they are not alone. And that there is another way.
Seriousness is a sign of too much tension in the body. Really.
If life is too much right now, if you are too worried about what’s happening in the world, if your furrow of worry on your forehead is getting too deep, it actually only means you haven’t released some access energy.
Yes, sorry, no matter the amount of how serious you think life is, it will actually never justify you getting all stiff and rigid about it. It just doesn’t help.
I know some feathers are being ruffled here, reading this: what, how dare you suggest I could just laugh at what’s happening? People are dying, the world is collapsing, climate change, poverty, the government, the AI etc.
Yep, I get it. It’s tragic. Disastrous. Painful. So much suffering. And…
also really funny. Absurd. Hilarious. Comic. Ridiculous.
Do you get it?
There comes a moment when we cannot hold this amount of tension any longer and we simply have to let go. Surrender.
We realize that so much of the suffering we have been experiencing actually comes from our own holding on, our own trying to control, molding the world into our limited perspective of how we would like it to be.
When we mature into seeing that we cannot hold on, that that actually hurts us, we release. We release with laughter. Laughing at ourselves for believing that we were ever in control.
It is the best medicine. Try it.
From that kind of release, new energy, and with that new perspective, solutions come. With laughter, we are willing to surrender our own limited perspective and to see the bigger picture. But first, we have to be willing to let go.
So when was the last time you had a good belly laugh?
Sometimes it’s really hard to see ourselves clearly. Especially if we are in the midst of emotionally charged situations. Looking around Social Media, I see a lot of amygdala’s fired up into a frenzy.
Can’t blame anyone either, as we are really in a collective shit-show of epic proportions, but the question is what are we going to do about it?
There is no shame in being dysregulated. The shame is in pretending that we are not and calling it ‘normal’.
If we are really worried about others and what’s happening in the world, let this be where we start from: taking care of ourselves first, regulating our Nervous System, so we feel grounded, open, connected, light, and above all kind. And then reminding others how to do the same.
So we all remember what it means to be human on this beautiful planet.