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The Accrescent Podcast Ep. 147 Are You Making This Common Mistake with Your Nervous System?


Are You Making This Common Mistake with Your Nervous System?


Episode Summary

In this solo episode, you will learn about common misconceptions surrounding the nervous system, focusing on dysregulation and activation. Leigh Ann talks about the nervous system’s role in stress responses, emphasizing that dysregulation or activation isn’t inherently negative but a protective evolutionary response. Differentiating between chronic stress and temporary stress responses, she explains the detrimental effects of prolonged dysregulation and the importance of recognizing when stress responses are appropriate and healthy. This episode will encourage you to reevaluate your view of stress responses and begin advocating for self-compassion and understanding rather than immediate downregulation.

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Hello, welcome back to The Accrescent podcast. I’m your host Leigh Ann and today I wanted to spend some time talking about some common misconceptions when it comes to the nervous system, dysregulation, activation, some of the common things. I feel like I’m seeing a lot on social media lately that I think would be helpful to talk about and understand from a bit of a different lens.
But before getting into that, as always a little bit of housekeeping. First, I just wanted to start with a quick reminder, a couple of reminders actually that my private Evox clients, those sessions are booking out pretty far in advance. So if Evox is something that you’ve been interested in trying, I encourage you to consider booking an appointment in advance.
That way you have a time slot. You can always choose to hit pay later. You don’t have to pay for it. Now, if it’s getting booked in advance, what I, what I’ve been wanting to communicate is. I allow booking up to four months in advance. So if you go online and you’re trying to book a session and it’s showing that there’s none available, that means that all of the sessions within the next four months have been booked.
But every single week new ones open up. Because another week out from that four months will open up as we pass. So continuing to check in if you’d like, if you’re looking for that appointment. The other option that I recently released to try and help provide more consistency with appointments for those who are interested is the EVOX packages.
So with the EVOX package, if you purchase a package, you will get priority booking as well as a
So that is another option if this is something that you’ve been wanting to try and you really don’t want to wait and you also want to ensure that once you get that first appointment, you’re going to be able to get consistent appointments after that as well. The second thing I want to share is. Stay tuned.
I don’t have too many details on this just yet, but come April, I will be launching my very first online course, online workshop that I am so, so, so excited to kick off and get started. The workshop is going to be hosted. live through my new online platform, the uplevel lab, as I said, much more details to come, but I wanted to throw that little tidbit out there to look for that, look for information for that in the coming podcasts in upcoming email newsletters.
It’s something that has been on my mind from the beginning from years ago, wanting to branch into Online teaching and sharing information to a broader audience and it’s exciting that that is So near, um, to, to becoming a reality. So more information to come stay tuned. So with that, I want to get into today’s topic, which is looking at the nervous system.
And for those who work with me one on one, even for those of you who’ve been longtime listeners of the podcast, you’ll know that the topic of the nervous system is one that comes up fairly regularly, especially in the work that I do, because the nervous system, the system. state of our nervous system dictates so much of what is happening, not just mentally and emotionally, but even physiologically within our body.
And there is so much wonderful information on social media, online, about dysregulated nervous systems, how to regulate your nervous system. And one of the things I feel like I have been seeing is a misconception that often emerges that. Any type of nervous system dysregulation or activation is bad. And we want to avoid that at all costs.
And if I am dysregulated, I need to get myself regulated as soon as possible. And I want to spend some time sitting with this, dissecting this and explaining a bit of my perspective on this and. Hopefully it’s food for thought for all of you. So I’ll give a quick quick once over. Although I’m sure that many of you Again, who are longtime listeners are fairly familiar with the nervous system by now, but the nervous system dictates our stress responses and there are four main stress responses that we are aware of fight flight
I’ll briefly, those two can, those four can get categorized into two main categories, hyperactive or hyper arousal, fight and flight. Those are more active, high energy states. And then hypoactive or hypoarousal, which is freeze and fawn, meaning those are more low energy states of kind of numbness, shutdown, dissociation.
So when I’m talking about nervous system dysregulation, I’m referencing one of these four states. Something has happened in the world around me. Maybe I. Got a bad phone call. Maybe there’s a deadline at work. I need to meet Maybe I almost got in a car accident and whatever it is. I’ve gone into a stress response.
I am in a state of Dysregulation or Activation and I’m in one of those four states fight flight freeze or fun where this becomes important and what I want to start to dissect a little bit more is again, this rhetoric that Dysregulation or Anytime I’m in a state of dysregulation or anytime I’m in a stress response, it’s bad.
And I want to just nip this in the bud right now. Our stress responses are not inherently Good or bad. They are here to protect us. It’s an evolutionary Physiological biological response that we have developed in order to protect ourselves So at the core of a stress response is The mind trying to protect us.
It’s my mind has perceived a threat And in order to respond and protect me from that threat, it’s going to create one of these stressed responses to better be able to protect me from it, whether it’s fight, flight, freeze, or fawn.
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being in these states It’s not inherently bad if I’m going into a little fight into a bit of flight freeze fun. It’s not It’s not something that needs to be avoided at all costs, and the moment I’m in one of these responses, I need to immediately try and get myself back into regulation. They can be very useful, and I think what I want to distinguish here is when we find that we are chronically in a stress response, it’s when we find that we are chronically in a stress response.
Meaning it feels like I am just perpetually in fight or flight. I am perpetually in freeze or fawn. Yes, that’s where there is cause for concern and wanting to look deeper. Because we are certainly, our bodies were certainly not made to chronically be in a stress response. Our bodies were made to, when danger was perceived, create a stress response.
And then once we were safe from that danger, We go back into regulation. We go back into a state of rest and digest, what I like to say, calm and composure. But I think so often this. modern world that we live in, many, many of us are actually perpetually in states of dysregulation. We’re perpetually in stress responses and that can become detrimental long term to our mental health, our emotional health, and even our physiological health.
Because when we are in those stress responses, the body is Again, ultimately perceiving that we are in danger, and when the mind has perceived a threat or a danger some of the other functions of the body don’t become as important or as high priority in that stress response, meaning the nervous system might become.
It downgrades some of our digestion, downgrades some of our memory processing, it might uptick some of our hormone production, or shift the hormones that it’s producing, and in the long term there can be a whole uh, physiological cascade that starts to result from that chronic, chronic stress. So yes, this is what we want to start to distinguish here.
If I am perpetually in a stress response and many of us can feel this where we just feel perpetually frazzled, anxious, nervous, angry, or we feel perpetually frozen, numb, neutral, dissociated. If that’s the case, certainly we want to do some of the work around, okay, what is creating this stress response in me?
Is there past unprocessed unresolved trauma? Is there present unprocessed stressors or misalignments that need to be looked at and adjusted? To allow my body to shift out of these stress responses. But what I want to point out is that in many, many ways, these stress responses are very healthy and normal.
And in fact, we want and need them to be present at certain points in our life. And this was really helpful for me to understand because it can exacerbate the stress response if Something happened. I got a little bit anxious, but then all of a sudden I’m anxious about being anxious because my mind starts going, Oh no, I’m in a stress response.
I’m getting dysregulated. I’m getting activated. This is bad. I need to get out of this as soon as possible. And in fact, all of that worry can exacerbate it. More than is, is necessary and might also lead to some emotional bypass of were, you know, I was experiencing something and in an attempt to immediately downregulate myself, I blew right past.
Just whatever I was feeling in that moment, just so that I could, quote unquote, you know, regulate myself again. What are some instances where a stress response is healthy, normal, or important? Some of the ones that come to my mind immediately are, for example, let’s say I’m in a car accident. And I need to get out of the car as fast as possible.
I need to call 9 1 1 as fast as possible. That fight flight stress response is pumping out adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, which gives me a boost in energy, sometimes even a boost in clarity. I can move quicker. I can think really fast. I can make things happen really quickly. My pain receptors are dampened down so that if I am hurt, I’m still able to do what I need to do.
This is maybe one of the more extreme instances where we start to understand how those stress responses can be really impactful. It gives us tools and resources we need to be able to survive that experience. This can also happen, for example, in a near death experience. Maybe it’s not a car accident. Any kind of near death experience where I am in extreme danger and all of a sudden I have this energy, this mental clarity, this ability to just do what I need to do to get out of that situation or survive that situation.
Again, an extreme example, but one worth noting, right? If I’m in a car accident, yes, we don’t want to be running around screaming like a chicken with our heads cut off, but we also don’t want to be just sitting in the car like, oh, Everything’s fine. I’m okay. I don’t need to do anything. No need to call the police.
It’ll all be okay, right? We do want to have some level of activation to be able to respond appropriately and do what needs to be done. I think other scenarios where it’s really healthy to have some level of activation might be, I’m thinking of a recent example for me, which is I sent in an application to something really, really big and exciting that would be so life changing if the results were to go the way that I’m hoping they will.
And I was incredibly anxious submitting this application the whole morning, leading up to it, a few hours after submitting it. And at first I was like, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I’m so anxious. What do I do? And then I just paused and I was like, no, this makes so much sense. Of course, you’re a little anxious.
Of course, you’re a little nervous. You’re submitting an application that should it be accepted? Your whole life will change. And that’s big and that’s something worth considering that’s not minor and my body wants to prepare me for that life changing information so that should it come, I can do what I need to do to start to change things to be able to adjust to this new big life change that might be coming.
And in being able to walk myself through that, I found that even though the anxiousness or the nervousness was there, it was actually accompanied in a weird way with a piece. Yeah, it’s here and I feel a little hyperactive and I feel a little bit nervous, but this is normal. This isn’t bad. This doesn’t mean something’s wrong or something’s wrong with me.
This is a completely normal reaction I am having to a life experience that I know will pass. Now, Where the discernment and I think the finesse starts to come in is if after, you know, an hour or so that anxiousness hasn’t passed and it’s lingering and lingering and lingering, then yes, I might want to step in and start to go, okay, hey, mind, body, spirit, what do we need to do to feel more peace about this so that I’m not.
In a stress response in a state of dysregulation for Hours or days after the event
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There’s two main ways that chronic stress and unprocessed trauma affects our nervous system. One is our window of tolerance gets so narrow, meaning we can go into a stress response so much faster. quicker and easier than a healthier, more agile nervous system. But the second way that chronic stress and unresolved trauma can affect the nervous system is when we are dysregulated, it can take so much longer to get back into a place of calm composure safety.
Meaning let’s say you almost got an accident on the freeway and a healthy nervous system, you know, maybe. 10 minutes, 30 minutes after that experience, once it was over would be able to go, okay, the danger has passed, we’re safe, we can go back into calm and composure, but a more chronically dysregulated nervous system, that person might find that they are in one of those four stress responses for the rest of the day, maybe even the rest of the week in some more extreme cases.
And that’s where we do want to be wary. That’s where we want to start to step in and go. If the stress response is lingering long after the stressor or the threat has happened and been resolved, then maybe we do want to bring in some of those nervous system tools, regulation tools, and or that deeper processing to understand what’s going on consciously, subconsciously in my body that is Allowing the stress response to persist maybe longer than it should.
But in the short term, if I’m having a bit of a stress response to something that happened in that moment, I actually think being able to meet ourself in that place, acknowledge, Ooh, I’m nervous. I’m feeling a bit anxious about this. Yeah, that’s normal. That makes sense. This is a big thing. This is something to be a bit anxious about and actually just, Acknowledging Witnessing those emotions, that experience, without immediately trying to change it.
Because I do think in some ways, and this is super nuanced, but I do think in some ways, immediately trying to regulate ourselves. You know, in that moment of submitting that application, if I had just immediately tried to be like, okay, no, everything’s fine, calm down, do my nervous system techniques. I actually think in a way it’s.
It’s dismissive of myself and the emotions and the experience that I was having versus being able to go, yeah, Oh, I am feeling nervous. It’s a bit uncomfortable. I don’t love it. I feel a bit jittery. I feel a bit hyperactive. Here’s some of the thoughts coming up for me, but just meeting myself there in that place.
And not immediately trying to take myself to a different place. And what I find so often, which I think sometimes feels counterintuitive, is not trying to immediately change the response. is sometimes what ultimately changes the response. Meaning, when I don’t try and immediately regulate myself, I’m just meeting myself where I’m at.
I’m acknowledging it, validating it, witnessing it, going into dialogue with that nervous part of myself, the anxious part of myself, whatever it might be, and just letting it be. Not trying to immediately change it. I actually find that sometimes that is the quickest way to get back to regulation and not always It’s not always the case because sometimes it persists and I might need to over time maybe 30 minutes later Take myself on a walk, do some nervous system regulation techniques, put on my Apollo wristband, which I’ll link down below, but this is really important because I, I see it in social media, I see it in comments people are making, or in conversations people are having with me in person, with my clients, that there just sometimes is that misconception that we need to avoid dysregulation or activation at all costs.
And if I am in a stress response, I need to get myself out of a stress response as fast as possible. And I don’t necessarily think that that is always the case. So I hope this gives you some food for thought. As always, mull these things over. Look at your own life as I do. And, and kind of start to ask yourself, is, am I doing some of this?
What do my stress responses look like? Do I feel like they linger longer than they should? Am I trying to immediately down regulate myself if I get stressed? Can I make room to witness and honor my experiences a little bit more before immediately trying to change things? Nothing I say is prescriptive.
Nothing I say should be taken as the final word on anything More than anything, I love to share my experiences. I love to share what I’m observing and thinking about and mulling over myself. The, the things that I myself am working through. So that you can do the same. You can take some of these tidbits of information, insight, perspective, and then decide what resonates or doesn’t resonate with me.
Experiment with some of these things and see what ultimately starts to work or resonate for you. So thank you so much for tuning in today. I hope this was helpful. I love getting to do some of these shorter solo episodes. Like I said, just to share where I’m at, some of the things I’ve been excited thinking about experimenting with lately, there is much, much more to come from all of this, and I’m so glad you’re here.
I’m so excited for all that’s to come in these next few months, but until then have a great rest of your week. Happy Monday. And until next week.