Anxiety is running rampant in our world right now, perhaps more so than at any other time in recent history. As such, it is vitally important that you learn about self-regulation skills as well as gain education on how your nervous system works. Knowledge and practices shared here have the potential to help you feel more grounded, empowered and resilient in the short and long term.
Defining Anxiety and Self-Regulation
Anxiety is defined by persistent, excessive worries that don’t go away even in the absence of a stressor. Accompanying anxiety, are a whole host of physical, mental, and socio-emotional symptoms that can rob you of joy, connection and creativity.
Self-regulation and nervous system regulation are synonymous terms and big buzzwords in therapy.
Self-regulation from a body-based or somatic therapeutic lens refers to the ability to use self- awareness, effective skills and mindset shifts that move you towards a more balanced nervous system.
When your nervous system is in balance, your biology naturally helps you to settle down after a stressful event. A well-regulated nervous system feels like having greater access to joy, curiosity, compassion, openness, meaningful connection and mindful presence.
This image, taken from the Somatic Experiencing website, www.traumahealing.org, shows you a balanced nervous system where your sympathetic arousal system which governs taking action and fight/flight and your parasympathetic nervous system that helps you feel more settled and governs “rest and digest” functions in the body, are in equilibrium.
When stress is in the “normal range,” or in your Window of Tolerance, then your biology is innately wired to help you calm down when you’ve been stressed out or “activated”.
With anxiety, it’s like the accelerator is stuck in “ON,” you get bumped out of the normal range of stress that you can handle and this is where having self-regulation skills on-board can help bring you back into your window of tolerance.
The Importance of Self-Regulation Skills
Resilience. Confidence. Trust.
Because self-regulation skills incorporate awareness of nervous system states of arousal and settling, when you practice self-reg skills, what you’re really doing is building resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from stressors and challenging experiences while gaining more wisdom and empowerment than before the hard event.
In the process of building resilience by practicing self-regulation skills, within your biology, you are also building capacity. If you look back at the previous diagram, the “normal range” of your ability to handle stress actually widens- this is called expanding your window of tolerance. As this happens, the things that used to get you really stressed out or shut down have less impact on your physical, mental and emotional states.
Having more capacity in your nervous system leads to feeling more confident. Period.
As a rule, anxiety often makes you feel out of control, right? The more you learn about your nervous system, the more that you practice self-regulation skills and see the positive impacts, the more trust you’ll have in yourself and your body. When we feel trust in ourselves in a deeply embodied way, we have more room for energy-generating experiences like meaningful connection, joy, pleasure and creativity.
If you’d like a primer on three basic and totally awesome self-regulation skills, click here and check out our blog post. These are three skills that we almost always teach new clients coming into our practice.
Learning Self-Regulation Skills Sometimes Needs Guidance
Anxiety self-regulation skills can be taught. And like any new skill, they are learned more quickly and effectively with the presence of a skilled guide. The ideal support for this experience is a qualified, compassionate therapist.
There is so much love for you here!