A Deeper Look at Self Regulation

 

Here we are, amidst yet another historical time in 2020… would it be too much to ask to not live through something historical this year? Ha ha, but in all reality, I’m ready for it to slow down—but for some reason, I’ve felt guilty slowing down.

If you're anything like me, here's your permission: slow down. Stop, even. Take a break. Take a breath.

Between an election, a pandemic, constant debates, and more, our nervous systems are on overdrive. You might find that you’re getting forgetful about things, you might find that you’re getting emotional over things that typically wouldn’t get to you (full disclosure, I cried during an Allstate commercial the other day), you might feel exhausted all day long.

I'm here to tell you that those experiences are normal.

There’s nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to “pull it together” or be strong in front of your friends and family. It’s okay to breakdown. This is new, this is foreign… we are all adjusting.

Because of this adjustment period, it can be very tempting to engage in social media debates, and before you do, I invite you to pause. Ask yourself the following questions before responding to that post or sending a DM:

  • Am I feeling defensive?
  • Do I feel the need to prove or teach something?
  • Am I trying to be right?

A lot of us are having a difficult time self-regulating (hence the reason we are feeling tired, emotional, irritable—basically, not feeling ourselves). And, I’m here to tell you: not all hope is lost, there’s amazing thing our nervous systems do—they can sync to other people’s!

Have you ever been drawn to someone’s energy, or felt like you were in a really funky mood until you saw a good friend who gave you a hug and then all right was restored in the world? That’s their nervous system down-regulating yours. Pretty rad, right?

Now, this can also go the other way. If you’re not feeling grounded, and get sucked into someone else’s heated presidential debate energy, it can be incredibly destabilizing. We can feel our fight or flight kick in and react in ways we never thought possible.

It’s more important now than ever to slow down, practice some self-care, and breathe. Perhaps we turn off the news and take an evening stroll around the block. Maybe we logout of Instagram for the evening and call a close friend.

We need connection now more than ever. Be the nervous system that can down-regulate someone else’s. Bring the energy to the world that you seek—and watch in awe as it reflects to you.

 

So, carrying on with that. I wanted to talk a little more about the breath! The breath is a secret tool in our toolbox that can help us SELF-REGULATE! How on Earth would we be able to co-regulate others when we aren’t grounded ourselves?

The breath can tell our nervous system when we’re safe. Think about the last time you were frightened; odds are, your heart rate increased, you started taking shallow chest breaths, and you might have begun to sweat. That’s normal! When our nervous systems detect a threat, our fight or flight is engaged and we’re ready to confront or run.

So, knowing that we can up-regulate ourselves by breathing a little more quickly (yes, up-regulating has its benefits too… we just shouldn’t live in that state), how can we slow it down? How can we tell our nervous system that we’re safe and that it can chill out?

 


Box Breathing

The idea here is to inhale, hold, exhale, hold for the same count. Meaning, inhale for 6 seconds, hold the top of that inhale for 6 seconds, exhale for 6 seconds, and hold the bottom of that exhale for 6 seconds before repeating. Box breathing is super effective, and if you’re concentrating on counting, there’s also a meditative aspect to this breath-work!

Elongate the Exhale

This is a great cue to the nervous system that we are safe. Think about the last time you let out a long, relaxing sigh… If I had to guess, it was much longer than your inhale preceding the sigh.

Add Gentle Movement

As you’re breathing allow for gentle movement to occur. This could be a stretching practice like yoga, or something as little as rolling your shoulders back into a more comfortable position. This breath-body connection will help deepen the practice and allow the body (and nervous system) to relax into it!

 


The best part about these practices? They can be done anywhere! Next time you’re about to head into an important meeting, have a difficult conversation, or notice your anxiety levels rising—take a quick pause and focus on the breath. Nobody needs to know you’re doing it, and it can be your secret power that sets you up to have more productive, grounded, and regulated encounters!

 

 

 

MEET LINDSEY

Part coach, part counselor, part content creator. Here for you from movement to mindfulness.

CrossFit Level 2 // MFT Trainee // Breakfast Burrito Connoisseur.

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