It’s been quite the week, lovely friends. I came back from teaching an incredible workshop in Salt Lake City, and my plan was to blog about that. Instead, I spent the week working with clients and groups both here and back home, where lockdown happened earlier that it’s hitting here. And now I felt like it was time to put some sound nervous system regulation advice in one place. I hope these next paragraphs are helpful and supportive.
To the people who have reached out feeling stressed and out of sorts, especially the ones who feel like they can’t calm down their kiddos. Please remember that these primitive protective responses are there for a reason, and an overwhelming global event and its perceived threat feel incredibly real to our bodies. Be gentle with you, meet each response with care and understanding. You, yes you, are the competent parent for your system. You must be on your own team and act wisely on your own behalf.
The last thing you want is to add judgment, feelings of “not handling this well” and being “not enough” in some way. You are more than enough, and you are also beautifully complex. Some of your complex wiring also needs particular support. This is what people like me spend years in training for – learning how to provide it and teach it.
If you find that you can’t talk yourself out of your physical responses, it’s because the kind of “talking” your primitive wiring understands has a lot more to do with “feeling safe” than “hearing safe”. So language might not work well…but feeling does!
Here are a few simple things you can do right now to support yourself and your family.
Orient to your 5 senses several times a day.
Our senses are the primary way that the brain determines safety. Tuning in to our senses and the body is way more effective that talking as a means of pushing back on the stress response. A few times a day, tune into your five senses.
Use your eyes, head and neck to look around you. Then, as much as you can, engage your vision in seeing as much of the landscape in front as you can, look in the distance, take in as much of the space around you as you can, even through a window. See softly, openly, let colors and shapes come towards you. Relax into seeing. Find beautiful colors and art to observe and enjoy. If you have flowers, look at them, smell them. You can do the same with spices and pleasant smells around your home. Engaging vision and smell is first.
Then sounds, such as bird song and natural sounds are key (look up Gordon Hempton on Youtube for sounds of nature). Play them in the background if there is no nature around to listen to.
Take special time to taste the warm healing drinks and food you make. Eat mindfully. If you enjoy touch, give yourself lots of self massage, and have others at home massage each other, braid each other’s hair, paint each other’s nails, have a make up party, really any kind of grooming kind of touch between people or with your own body is incredibly helpful. Hug long and soft. Use calm and soothing melodic voice, avoid raising your voice, arguing, or speaking in low monotone voice (scary to kiddos). This is prime time for “it’s not what you said it’s how you said it.”
Relax for longer periods of time.
Do something that you know relaxes you for longer periods -20-30 min – at least once a day – a shower, take a bath, meditate, stretch, pray, journal, draw, take walks, ride your bike down a hill…whatever is relaxing, do that at least once a day and use as an opportunity to feel how you know that it relaxed you.
Check in with your breath. Breathing in and out through your nose silently is fantastic. You can also do the 10 step practice from Lois Laynee that helps your cranial nerves wake up and your breathing regulate.
Lights on and then off
Be smart with your light rhythms. See the sun as soon as you can after you wake up and closer to sunset in the afternoon. Spend 5-10 minutes outside doing something in your yard, walk, or just stand and enjoy the warm sun’s rays. Lower all light at home at night, candles everywhere, you know what to do. Get off your phone or make it very dim. Wear the sexy orange glasses you got for Xmas.
Sing and chant
It’s super helpful done in groups, but alone works too. There are plenty of worship songs and sacred songs out there to learn the lyrics to and sing along. Feel the sounds in your body. Have a drum? Add it. Harmonium? Guitar? Pull them out and play!
Alone or with others, dance is magically helpful to discharge stuck and incomplete survival responses. Do it for short periods several times through the day.
Find rhythm in your body
If you have a trampoline, a balance board, Smovey rings, a vibration plate – start your day there, it will greatly support your nervous system. You can shake off your whole body and limbs several times a day. You can also try a regulating exercise program, like my Unstress your body, which is now free to everyone.
Spend time with humans who feel helpful – you can still stay close and have coffee and lunch dates online or on the phone – as you can, smile and use your whole face to smile at them, which gives us humans a sense of safety and connected well-being.
Laugh with others
Laughter is, the best medicine.
Seek out moments that evoke awe – at the mountains, at the coming spring, at human kindness, at your own body, awe is an incredibly helpful emotion to bring coherence in shaky times. Feel awe at you, you are here in this time, we are all here together.