Hard to manage emotions? Feeling numb, disconnected or depressed? Trouble focusing? Chronic sense of shame or isolation? Sleep or appetite disrupted? Racing heart or tight stomach? A sensation that something bad is going to happen?
These can be responses to traumatic experiences, and they can occur not because you are weak or flawed, but because of the way your autonomic nervous system is wired to respond to intense experiences.
Our nervous system is in the normal range when things feel calm in body, mind, and spirit, and we can handle daily stress appropriately.
If we feel a disturbance, our nervous system moves into a sympathetic reaction and we want to fight or flee. Thinking gets cloudier, emotions are stronger, it's like the "accelerator" is on. If we become stuck on "on", we can be hypervigilant, hyperactive, manic, panicky, and irritable and experience insomnia and other stress responses.
The "brake" on the accelerator is the parasympathetic nervous system. For example, if our breathing gets fast and shallow when the accelerator is on, we might consciously try to deepen and slow each breath. Strengthening our Parasympathetic functioning lets us balance ourselves and restore our nervous system to the normal range.
Freeze can happen when the accelerator and the brake are on at the same time. Too much of that, and we can get depressed, disconnected, exhausted, and numb.
In Somatic Experiencing work, healthy self-regulation is restored to the nervous system through a variety of tools, including: tracking, grounding, resourcing, and learning to shift and stay. Our bodies are hard-wired to survive, and we now know that our bodies are also hard-wired to recover and heal. Trauma can ultimately hold the seeds of transformation. A balanced nervous system is fluid, available for connection, relaxed, present, and stable.