Like many of you, I’ve been using all my tools and practices to "regulate" my nervous system while staying as engaged with the world as possible over these truly horrific and heartbreaking past few weeks. I used to think nervous system "regulation" meant staying calm, but the more I come to understand about our nervous systems, the more I realize that calm is not necessarily the goal.
Here are some definitions of the word "regulation":
"rules made by a government or other authority in order to control the way something is done or the way people behave"
“to control or maintain the rate or speed of (a machine or process) so that it operates properly.”
It's not particularly surprising to me that it can be complicated and confusing to tend to our nervous system when one of the primary terms we've been taught to use to relate to our bodies sounds a lot like domination and control.
When our nervous systems are "operating properly," they are not always calm. When our nervous systems are "operating properly" they are (correctly) attuned to perceive and respond to the truth of what is happening in our environment. Sometimes our systems are (correctly) activated and ready to mobilize and fight for someone's safety, sometimes they are filled with the sensations and expressions of grief or anger or joy, sometimes they are collapsed and numb. And sometimes they are calm and still. If your nervous system moves through a range and a rhythm (credit to Deb Dana, LCSW who coined the term “rhythm of regulation”), know that your nervous system is working beautifully and responding so well to the reality of what is happening in the world.
If you have fallen out of rhythm and are getting stuck in one of these states, this is a reminder (mostly for myself but here you go) that "self-regulation" practices are for sure helpful to shift nervous system states but can have serious limitations. It doesn't really matter how much or what type of breathwork you do - most bodies will never feel completely safe when they are all alone. Instead of closing your door and doing your breathing exercises solo, this is an invitation to go hug your partner or your friend or your dog or a tree and take some deep breaths with them. Our nervous systems need each other ♡
p.s. I would love to practice yoga with you! Check out my free practice bundles HERE.