When faced with a danger, stress, or distressing situation, we are meant to move into and out of a stress response. But many of us are actually STUCK in a stress response, making it difficult to feel calm, creative or connected. So if you feel blessed but not good, maybe it’s because you’re nervous system is dysregulated. Listen in to this episode to hear who I think are the best scriptural examples of fight, flight and freeze responses, and for 5 simple practices you can start today to help your nervous system to get to regulated.

This podcast episode is brought to you by my 90 minute workshop: Creating more connection by understanding nervous system basics. The link to sign up is in the show description.

Mental Illness

In D&C section 45 verse 31 it says: And there shall be men standing in that generation, that shall not pass until they shall see an overflowing scourge; for a desolating sickness shall cover the land.

In his October 2021 General Conference talk entitled Addressing Mental Health, Elder Kopischke wondered if the “desolating sickness” mentioned in this verse might include mental illness. I find it a very plausible interpretation of the verse.

In the book The Myth of Normal by Gabor Maté, the author says, “I will make a case that much of what passes for normal in our society is neither healthy nor natural, and that to meet modern society’s criteria for normality is, in many ways, to conform to requirements that are profoundly abnormal in regard to our Nature-given needs— which is to say, unhealthy and harmful on the physiological, mental, and even spiritual levels.”

What happens to an individual when the environment is unhealthy and harmful on the physiological, mental, and even spiritual levels?

Nervous system dysregulation

Our bodies were not meant to cope with this level of unhealth and dis-ease long term, so we create coping mechanisms to do our best, which results in getting “stuck” in a defensive posture.

Defensive postures can look different depending on the person. Each person has a history that leads them one way or another based on their nervous system’s snap judgment of what will bring the most safety and is within the individual’s level of capacity.

Fight

For some of us, that looks like the defensive posture of fight.

This could be physically fighting like punching, kicking, etc. Or it could be a default to yelling or forcing their way.

This makes me think of many people from the scriptures, the first of which are Laman and Lemuel who wanted to kill their father and brother anytime things got difficult.

Flight

For others of us, the defensive posture looks like running away.

Never following through, physical or emotional withdrawal.

Jonah is the prime example of the flight response. He wanted so badly to not preach to the city of Ninevah that he ran away to the ends of the seas, where he was swallowed up by a whale doing the Lord’s bidding, only to be spit back out on the land he ran from.

Freeze

When fighting or fleeing aren’t available, the defensive posture could better be described as curling up in a ball in a freeze position, allowing whatever life throws at them to do it’s thing.

Feeling hopeless and despair because there is nothing that can be done.

Alma the Younger literally went into a coma-like state, a state of physical shut-down before his big awakening.

Facing Stress Head On

We are not meant to be in a defensive posture chronically. We are meant to move in and out of stress responses as needed, but to spend most of our time in a creative, connected, calm-aliveness place.

When dangers arise, instead of fighting, running away or shutting down, we face the threat head on, using the resources at our disposal.

Young David, who fought and killed Goliath might be the best example here. He was confident in himself and his God, thought through his process and exhibited courage in the face of his enemy. (This is different than Laman and Lemuel, because their fighting wasn’t from courage, but cowardice in not wanting to do the hard things the Lord had set before them.)

And of course, our Savior Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of staying regulated in the face of great stress. Connected to His Father, calm as a sheep to the slaughter, and for the joy that was set before Him, he faced the greatest stress than mankind would ever face.

Because of his capacity as half-God himself, He never moved into a dysregulated state, he never got stuck in a defensive posture; in fact defensive, is one word that never describes the Savior.

He knew who He was, He knew His purpose, and He moved forward with faith and courage.

While none of us can claim divinity the way He can, we can all learn to carefully expand our ability to stay regulated in the face of stress or danger, or to seek the necessary resources to tend to our dysregulation.

We all will become dysregulated from time to time, but what I’m learning is that we don’t have to stay there.

We can learn how to be in stress, and how to move back out of it. But so many of us are “stuck” in a defensive posture, fight, flight, or freeze.

If any of this is resonating with you, first of all, know that there is hope! It is possible to learn how to regulate! I am a living example.

Five Ways To Support Your Nervous System

  1. Spend time connecting with yourself every day. This could look like participating in an activity that you love, fulfilling an unmet desire, journaling to yourself, putting your hand on your heart and just being with yourself, or talking to yourself kindly.
  2. Start to notice sensations in your body. Most of us stuck in dysregulation are very disconnected from our bodies. What does it feel like and where do you notice it when you get hot or cold? How do you know, exactly, when you need to use the bathroom? What does thirsty and hungry feel like to you? If you experience chronic pain, describe it. Where is it in your body? How is it? This takes practice, so don’t get discouraged if it’s difficult at first.
  3. Start honoring the healthy urges that come from your body. When you are thirsty, get a drink right away. Don’t let yourself get too hungry before you eat; and don’t let yourself get too full before you stop eating. Don’t hold your pee! Go right away. If you need to cry, watch a sad movie. If you are getting overstimulated in a social situation, excuse yourself. And if you can, when you have the urge to express yourself, do it! Dance in the kitchen, sing in the car, speak to your partner about your concerns or pleasures.
  4. When you feel activated, it usually looks like anger, frustration or anxiety, move your body. Energy likes to be metabolized through movement. When you feel shut down, this usually looks like hopeless, helpless, depressed, or ashamed, seek something that feels good, and give yourself space and time as much as you can. My favorite is heat: heating pads, hot showers or baths, warm drinks, soups, or stews, sitting in the sun, etc. Heat is a beautiful physical resource for our bodies.
  5. Breathe. Slow down and breathe whenever you think to. Breathe when you feel overwhelmed. Breathe when you feel stressed. Breathe when you feel like you just can’t for one more minute. Breathe when you’re sad. Breath is where our bodies and spirits meet. And the in-breath and out-breath together speak Yah-Weh, the Hebrew name of our God.

If you feel blessed, but not good, maybe your nervous system is chronically dysregulated.

I’m holding a 90 minute workshop on understanding the nervous system in order to create more of that calm, connected, creative space in our bodies and with the people we love.

I will cover the basics of the nervous system, trauma responses, and attachment theory to help participants understand how to create more connection in their most important relationships. It’s today at 1 pm MDT, but if you sign up after the workshop, you’ll receive the replay. The link is in the show description.

Last thing, before I send you off: This is a new podcast and I think it has the potential to do a lot of good in the world. If you would like to be a part of my mission of helping people feel better with a Christian perspective, please leave the podcast a review.

I would love to continue the conversation with you! What makes it difficult for you to feel good? Please let me know by emailing podcast@denitabremer.com or come find me on Instagram or Facebook at Denita Bremer.

That’s enough for now, and so are you!

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Cello music is written, recorded and produced by Jacqueline Walker.

This podcast is recorded by me, Denita Bremer, and produced by Denita Bremer Studios.