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How to Send Your Nervous System a Healing Signal of Safety

September 27, 20236 min read

You know what the MOST important contributor to your health is? 🤔

The autonomic nervous system. 😳

The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) controls our heart rate, what hormones your glands secrete, and it even sizes up the state of alarm in your body and then coordinates a response. 🚨

A traumatized nervous system is volatile, overwhelmed, and hyper-reactive. It has learned to perceive everything as a threat, which means that your nervous system is constantly pushing you into a "Sympathetic" state - which you may know as "Fight, Flight, or Freeze". ⚠️

"Trauma causes people to remain stuck in interpreting the present in light of an unchanging past."

- Dr. Bessel van der Kolk

To stave off this over-protective defensive mechanism you need to send your body signals of safety so that your ANS, and the rest of you, can find peace and finally calm down!

While having an overactive nervous system can make life more challenging, please allow me to inject some hope into your day. If your nervous system was trained to be over-active, you can retrain it to react appropriately, or even to remain calm when the world is trying to tell you to be anxious.

There are several tools and resources that are easy to access and deploy in those moments you need help coming back to a "Parasympathetic" state, what we call "Rest and Digest". Today we are going to talk about three of them, but if you spend any time online you will be able to find more. My goal today is to give you resources that are easy to use, but will have a lasting impact on your emotional state.

Are you or your child feeling stressed, anxious, inflamed or otherwise unwell? Join me today as we find out how to send your nervous system a healing signal of safety. Let's start with the easiest one: Breathing.

Breath work

Did you know that the way you breath can have a profound impact on your emotions? Maybe you've seen an old movie where a person had a panic attack. The people around them would inevitably tell them to sit down, tell them to take a deep breath, and then they would give them a paper bag to breathe into. Did you ever wonder, "Why the paper bag?" When a person becomes panicked they take short, shallow breaths. Deeper breathing will slow the heart rate and start the process of returning a person to a parasympathetic state. Using the paper bag would allow the person to see how quickly they were breathing, and it would also allow them to try to "fill the bag" with each breath, giving a visual clue of breathing rate and depth in one handy tool.

A breathing exercise that we use in the Miller house is one that is also used by the Navy Seals, called Box Breathing. I'm not going to say the Navy Seals started using it because of us, but it does seem a little coincidental that we BOTH use the same breathing technique. You can make your own decision. Anyway, as you take your breaths imagine that you are drawing a box on a piece of paper. Each edge of the box takes 4 seconds to draw. Now, as you begin at the first corner, breathe in for 4 seconds, then hold your breath in for 4 seconds, then breathe out for 4 seconds, then hold it for 4 seconds. If four seconds seems too long, try 2 or 3 and see if that works better. Each set of 4 sides is one box. Begin by doing 4 sets, or boxes, and watch as your peace of mind gradually settles in.

If you want some simple tools to keep you on track to do this simply: Try the Breathly app. It's free and is a handy resource to walk you through it. You can also save this handy YouTube video.

Earthing or Grounding:

When we think through our day it is remarkable how little our bodies comes into contact with the earth, especially compared to the almost constant contact our ancestors had. We wake up in a house that is constantly showered in electromagnetic radiation and that is separated from the ground by concrete. Before we leave the house we put on shoes, typically with rubber soles, and ride around in a car with rubber tires, then go into a building with a foundation that, once again, separates us from the earth. Even in our back yards most of of us are constantly wearing shoes.

Grounding, or earthing, is simply the act of connecting our body directly to the earth. This could happen by 15 minutes of walking barefoot in the grass, or swimming in a natural body of water. When we connect our body to the earth we benefit from the back and forth movement of electrons that helps to remove free radicals from our bodies, and brings us into electrical balance. Since our bodies run on electrical impulses the effects could be... radical. Most people immediately say they, "Feel better." They report improved sleep, lower anxiety, reduced pain, and overall better health. For something with such a low price-tag, and that is so easily accessible, it would be a shame to miss out on its health benefits.

Safe and Sound Protocol:

We have discussed the electrical impulses running through our bodies, and the effect that electrical regulation has on feelings of well-being. But sometimes, despite our efforts with grounding and breath work, our nervous system can get "stuck" in old pathways of stress and anxiety. When this happens a gentle "push" can restore our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) to a state of peace. This is where the Safe and Sound Protocol comes in.

The Safe and Sound Protocol, developed by Dr. Steven Porges using his Polyvagal Theory, uses specially crafted music to send cues of safety to your nervous system, allowing you to get past the "stuck" and bring healing to your body. In brief, daily sessions you will listen to music as you go about your normal routines. Some people like to listen while they go for a walk or take a few minutes to color or draw. So, in a way that does not cost more time in your schedule, and you get a much needed prescription for soothing your ANS and experience the peace you have been longing for.

While each of these three tools are beneficial, much like your toothbrush, they only work when you use them. I would like to encourage you to find time in your schedule to practice a breathing exercise, to make time to connect to the earth, or to schedule a quick call so I we can find out if the SSP protocol is right for you or your child - to help bring peace into your heart and mind, so your body can truly begin to heal.

🎥 Watch the full video here:

return to joysafe and soundpolyvagal theoryfeeling anxiousfight or flightoverwhelmedsadnessstressed to the maxangerirritabilityinnervoicerelieving stressADDADHDautismauditory processingnervous systemchronic illness
I help moms of children with special needs, return to joy by simplifying their everyday lives so that they can spend time making memories with their family instead of worrying over all the things.

Amy Miller MS, SLP

I help moms of children with special needs, return to joy by simplifying their everyday lives so that they can spend time making memories with their family instead of worrying over all the things.

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