I wish the entire body of work of healing trauma and nervous system regulation could be summed up easily on one page, giving you every itsy bitsy detail, method, technique and theory needed, such that if you just followed IT, and only IT, your life would miraculously improve.
I wish that magical page could effortlessly melt away all anxieties and pains, while angels sing melodic hymns in the background, which spontaneously lead you to calmer and more zen-like states…
Truth is, in my 20+ years of professional and personal experience, this just ain’t possible!
BUT what can happen is an outline of some key benefits, that when experienced and lived daily (even when there are high levels of stress), become clues that one is a little more healthy and regulated in their nervous system physiology.
Think about this for a moment: We tend to only study the bad!
This idea to outline some of these benefits that indicate good nervous system health (regulation) came to me when I was reminiscing on a lecture one of my mentors, Kathy Kain, gave. It went something like this:
“We know a lot about what happens to a human system when it is sick and unwell. What we know less of is what happens in a system that is healthy!”
She’s so right! Think about it…we are so good at pathologizing and looking at what is wrong. Maybe we should try, instead, to look at what we want to move towards and then ask the question: what must happen to get there?
So with those words of experience from a woman 30+ years into her craft, here’s a list of what we, as nervous system specialists, know a healthy human system is like when it’s fairly free from anxiety and way more calm.
A healthy human system tends to:
- Come down from stress naturally.
- Go to sleep peacefully and wake-up in the morning feeling rested and refreshed.
- Absorb healthy nutrition for all the cellular needs (think about cells in your gut sucking up the good vitamins and minerals) and also excrete toxic waste products (um, poop!) with ease and frequency.
- Repair and regenerate your cells and body tissue at a harmonious speed that isn’t too slow and isn’t too fast, but is JUST right for your own unique needs.
- Think and create with crystal clear focus and not always be stuck in a ‘brain-fog’.
- Be productive in the projects, work and tasks you do on any given day.
- Steer away from harmful people who create chaos and strife in your life.
- Parent with greater ease, better boundaries and more empathy (even in those really tough times)!
- Engage in meaningful relationships that nurture and provide safety for you.
Perhaps we can reverse engineer from this list and consider this a starting point in our quest for not just individual and familial healing, but global healing for humankind as a whole.
If you find the bulk of these benefits are not happening for you, then there is a good chance your nervous system is living in what we call survival stress chemistry (think of the fight/flight response pumping out adrenaline and cortisol all day long, or the freeze response being so hardwired that to feel nothing is the norm).
When we live in those survival modes (also known as stress physiology, or stress chemistry) it usually isn’t just during one moment in the day, it is pervasive in our biology (chemical level), which impacts ALL aspects of our lives pretty much all the time.
Research shows chronic early stress, or having a system that’s not wired in a healthy and regulated way from the start, will impact not just our physical health, such as our digestion, immune system and heart health, but also will propagate the ailments of the emotions and mind that are associated with high alert and/or severe shutdown.
This means even though we might experience mental or emotional pain, it is rooted in our body’s physiology and how we were wired from the start to handle stress, which is usually a clever combination of being somewhat anxious and on guard (fight/flee survival energy), or, shutdown, depressed and numbed out (that freeze survival energy).
Early chronic and toxic stress will also impact our capacity to trust others, move through resistance, set clear, healthy boundaries and be in our true creative genius.
That is a lot of impact for one system that is off kilter, isn’t it?
The remarkable news? (Yes, there is good news here!)
We have this thing called a nervous system, and this system is what neuroscience calls plastic. This means it is amenable to change and growth. Hence the term, neuroplasticity.
So when you work at restoring nervous system health and healing via the lens of neuroplastic healing (when sequenced properly), many of those nine benefits listed above start to happen naturally.
And who doesn’t want that?
If you’d like to learn more about neuroplastic healing, and how to build more regulation and resiliency, then check out my free online resources and paid programs, which are all accessible via my site.
Suggested vlogs to compliment this article:
Educate The Chaos || Regulation Before Relaxation
Why getting ‘calm’ isn’t enough || Neuroplasticity + Healing Trauma
How to harness the power of neuroplasticity. A train track metaphor.