Learning to regulate your own nervous system is one of the most powerful tools you can give to yourself because helps you regain control over your own body, which in turn gives you back some control over your life – or at least how you respond to it. A regulated nervous system allows you to function in your day-to-day life and meet the demands of work and family because those things don’t just stop because your husband is a sex addict or because you have been betrayed. Are you familiar with the term “triggered?” It seems to get thrown around a lot these days and is used to describe all manner of emotional and physical reactions. For the purposes of a woman recovering from betrayal trauma and sex addiction, or any human recovering from any trauma really, the term refers to those moments when you encounter a person, place or thing that reminds you of your trauma and your fight, flight or freeze response gets “triggered.” Sometimes these “triggers” can happen at the subconscious level without your even realizing it. Suddenly your heart starts pounding or you start to feel anxious and you’re not sure why. In these moments, take a deep breath and ask yourself why you feel anxious. Did you drive by a place that reminds you of your partner’s betrayal? Or is it what I call a traum-a-versary? That is, the anniversary of your discovery, disclosure or other traumatic event? Learning to identify your “triggers” and to regulate your nervous system will vastly improve your ability to cope with life and there are many, many ways to do it. I could literally geek out about ways to calm your nervous system all day but just to get you started, I am going to share with you my top three recommendations that are each quick, easy and effective: using a mantra/prayer, focusing on your five senses and taking a discharging breath.
Use a Mantra or Prayer
A mantra or prayer is a word of short phrase that you repeat over and over again either to yourself or out loud, as appropriate. You will find that the repetition of it is soothing and gives your anxious brain something to focus on other than the anxiety in your body or the intrusive thoughts in your brain. You may find that you need to say it over and over again endlessly and that is OKAY. Feel free to choose one of these as your temporary prayer/mantra or pick one of your own.
Be still and know that I am God.
I can do hard things.
I am safe. I am healed. I am whole.
Engage Your Five Senses
This is a five-minute exercise that is designed to re-engage your thinking brain when your nervous system has gone off-line. Sit or lie down comfortably, as appropriate. If you feel comfortable and it is safe to do so, feel free to close your eyes and then begin paying attention to each of your five senses, one at a time.Without opening your eyes, what are three things you remember seeing before you closed them? Shift your attention to the sounds around you. What do you hear? Which sounds are far way? Which ones are close? Now pay attention to the taste in your mouth. How would you describe the taste? Metallic or like the tuna salad you had for lunch? Now, bring awareness to your body. How many places on your body are in contact with your surroundings? What about smells? Does this room have a particular smell? Does it remind you of anything?
Take a Discharging Breath
This is super easy and super effective. When your nervous system is dysregulated and you have gone into fight or flight mode, you have too much energy in your body! There are lots of great ways to get rid of it like dancing, bouncing on a trampoline or, my personal fave, scream singing in the car. Or, you can try the discharging breath, which you do by taking a slow, deep inhale in through your nose and all the way down into your belly. Let you belly swell up nice and big like your mother taught you never to do. Then slowly blow all that air out through pursed lips – like you are blowing out through a straw. You can do this over and over again as necessary.Easy, right? You can repeat all of these as often as you need to when you start to notice that you are dysregulated. Also, you might want to check out an article two on polyvagal theory as it is the latest and greatest in terms of managing your nervous system.
As always, comments or question? Hit me up – I’d love to chat!
Until then, xoxo, Jenni
P.S. In case you are wondering, I have personally used all of these. Like..ALOT. They work!