I want to break down in really simple terms what each nervous system state needs or wants. This will help you be able to identify what state you’re in and what to do about it.
Today, we are going to talk about what each nervous system state needs. Each nervous system state needs or wants a different thing.
And I want to just break this down so that it’s really simple for you so that you can start to recognize what state you’re in and how to meet yourself in that state. I think this will be a pretty short and sweet episode because I just want to be very direct.
So the first nervous system state is that active response, that like stress response, the fight or flight, it feels like I got to get away or I got to fight. And what it needs is for the energy that has been introduced into your body to be able to fight or run away. It needs to be metabolized. That energy needs to be metabolized.
And the main way we metabolize active energy in our bodies is through movement. I have nine different ways. These aren’t all movement, but these are my favorite ways to metabolize or get support for that active response. The first way is really simple. Just rubbing your hands together, just palm to palm, rub your hands together.
And if you don’t like that, ’cause some people don’t like the tactile feeling of that, you could also shake your hands or you could shake your whole body. Just shake your whole body, shake it out, shake it out. I just also wanted to say that my nervous system doesn’t typically go to an active response. It doesn’t go to flight or fight as much as it goes to the freeze, so I don’t have to use these all the time. But when I do, I actually did get quite activated a couple days ago. I use these rubbing my hands, shaking my hands, or shaking my whole body. Those are my go-tos.
The other thing I really like is to rub my hands on my thighs. It gives me something to do. And if I’m sitting at my desk or if I’m on zoom, it’s not very distracting, right? If you want some tools that you can use sort of sitting still, I like rubbing my hands on my thighs. The feeling of my hand against my thigh and rubbing up and down.
The other thing that does require you to get up and move around a little bit is to push against a wall. The reason I like this exercise is because it’s quiet. You can do it like in the middle of the night. Some of my clients will use this exercise if they’re awake in the middle of the night and they can’t sleep and they have some active energy in their body. They will go up against the wall and just push, push, push, and really feel connected to the muscles engaging until you feel a shift.
That’s the point of all of this. We’re looking for that shift in your body that says, Oh, okay. The energy has been metabolized.
One of my favorite things to do, whether I’m activated or not is to go on a walk. If you’re feeling very activated, you might want to go on a run or do some form of cardio. This is a good time to lift weights. If you’re feeling really activated and you need to metabolize some of that energy.
The other thing you can do, and I didn’t think about this till later, but probably actually my favorite, is talking or singing or screaming.
If you have a place where you can scream and you’re not going to startle other people, I recommend that my clients kind of scream into a pillow so that family members don’t come running and say, mom, what’s wrong? But talking or singing or screaming, in particular, talking and singing, are very gentle ways to move that energy.
So if it feels like, you don’t feel like you can move very much, but you want to move this energy, then you can talk or you can sing, or you can hum, or you can do any of these other things.
And then of course, lastly, coaching. I find coaching is very supportive for people who are stuck in an active response. So I invite you to get on a free call with me if that feels like it’s a good next right step for you.
So this next nervous system state is the freeze response. It’s the shutdown. It’s technically an active response, but it feels different than that sort of stress energy that moves very quickly in our body.
Oftentimes it feels like a lot of movement or energy on the inside, but on the outside, it’s like a shell of frozenness. That’s what it feels like to me, at least. And that’s what I’ve heard some of my clients describe. The freeze response needs time and resources. In particular, the freeze response needs heat.
So remember that these nervous system states are actually physical in the cells of your body. So just remember like middle school science class where when something is frozen, such as water. It has less energy in it. It is moving less. And when you introduce heat to the system, it moves more. And that’s when we go from an ice cube to liquid and from liquid to vapor. And so it’s the same thing in the cells of our body. When we’re in a freeze response, the cells are actually moving less.
Something that’s very supportive is heat. Now, what am I talking about when I say heat? It could be any kind of heat, but think heating pads or being wrapped up in some warm blankets. Sunbathing, sitting next to the fire or eating or drinking warm liquid, like soups, stews, teas, those kinds of things. It could be heat on the outside. That’s typically what I go to. I have a heating pad that I got off of Amazon that wraps around my neck and shoulders. And you put it in the microwave and it heats up and it stays warm for about 10 or 15 minutes.
I love it so much. So just look for like a neck heating pad on Amazon for that. Heat introduced from the outside of you or from the inside. That is the primary resource that the freeze response wants or needs. The other one is time, just time and space. So very, go very slow, be very gentle with yourself, take your time on things.
Time and Space
This is where, when someone or something triggers us, we want to create some space between us and them. This, it might not be the flight response, if it feels like you need to run away, but it could also be the freeze response. Because freeze response needs space and time as well as resources.
So what this looks like is sleep or rest. These are other resources. Gentle movements like walking or yoga or Pilates, something like that. Something that you’re going at your own pace. Not high cardio and not lifting weights, not really stretching yourself because remember, the freeze response needs resources.
It wants to conserve resources and it wants to not expend resources. So nothing that’s going to take too much high level energy. I also love journaling and reading and learning. Really, anything that feels good to you is going to be a resource. The other thing I want to throw in here, because of the physical nature of your nervous system is nutritious food.
The freeze response is when we want to grab for the simple carbs. That’s when I probably go to my freezer and get the chocolate chips. But what we really need is really high nutrient food. And then of course, the last thing I will throw in here is coaching. Me personally, my nervous system goes to a freeze response and I have found somatic coaching to be so effective.
Like it was like a breakthrough for me. I did mindset coaching for years, for four and a half years before I hired a coach that worked somatically, and I made more progress in the six months working with that coach than I did in four and a half years of doing mindset. Now, mindset has its place, but for me, because of my nervous system and the things that have happened to me in my past, somatic coaching was so helpful.
Window of Tolerance
There is a third state to our nervous system. This is where we actually want to live most of our time. We want to be able to go in and out of these other states as needed, but we want to spend most of our time in our window of tolerance. This is where we feel calm and creative and centered and connected.
So you can see why we want to spend most of our time and the window of tolerance wants connection and creativity. So instead of listing out things that are connecting and things that are creative, because I think this differs from person to person, I’m just going to ask you what makes you feel connected to your people, to God, and to yourself.
And I’m going to give you a couple ideas based off of my own personal answers. For me, it’s spending time with people. It’s face to face conversations. So that’s like my people, my family. But I would say also spending time with God, which for me looks like meditation and prayer and going to the temple.
And then the other thing, like how I connect with myself is doing things that I love to do. So what do you love to do? What makes you feel connected to the people you love, to Heavenly father, to yourself? And then the second question that relates to creativity is what creative outlets do you love? For me, my business, and especially this podcast is such a creative outlet. I would never have thought of it that way before, but it is a place for me to express myself.
I want to start trying watercolors or sketching or like painting or drawing of some kind. I went through my oldest daughter’s room because I don’t think she’s ever going to come home and live here permanently anymore, she’s a young adult. And so I went through all of her stuff and I found so many sketchbooks, and she didn’t want them, and so instead of donating them I just kept them for myself. Because I have this secret desire to spend more time doing art.
But also, the thing that I do do that is creative is organizing. I have always been someone who loves organizing. So I like to go through my home and get rid of things that we’re not using anymore and clean and just make things neat and organized and have everything in its place. And I used to kind of shame myself for that. But then somebody said, I don’t remember where I got this from. This was years and years ago. Someone said, “you’re creating peace or space. or cleanliness.” And I just, now I think of that in a totally different light. I think of it more as a creative pursuit that really soothes me. And after I clean the kitchen in the evenings, I’m just like, Oh, okay, I can rest now. So I’m not as good at the creative outlets, although my business, like I said, and this podcast and very much.
Working with my clients is a co-creative practice. So there are a lot of ways that I’m creative, but just not the typical ways that we think of creativity, like arts and crafts kind of thing. So really open your mind to different ways to be creative and, you know, depending on what your urges are, like, Oh, I just got to get up and move, or I just really want to just crawl in bed or let’s do some artwork, you can tell what nervous system state you’re in based off of those things. So there’s another little bonus for you in this episode.
That’s enough for now. And so are you, if you liked this episode, I know you’ll love my small group coaching program presence. Sign up before January 6th, 2024 and receive a bonus of six private sessions.
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