As people transition back to a lifestyle that is more reminiscent of pre-pandemic times, the daily aspects of life are not the same. Mixed feelings of anxiety, excitement, and being overwhelmed are common. We feel it in our minds, brains, and bodies. So how do you cope? Listen in to learn body-based strategies for keeping your calm as you re-enter society amidst an on-going global pandemic.
The Polyvagal Theory
Stephen Porges, PhD. www.stephenporges.com
Deb Dana, LCSW https://www.rhythmofregulation.com/
Produced by Jeanne Kolker and Jessica Warpula Schultz
Edited by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Music by Jason A. Schultz
Welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-based mental health podcast. We're your hosts, Jessica Warpula Schultz and Jeanne Kolker. Whether you've tried everything to feel better and something is still missing or you've already discovered the wisdom of the body. This podcast will encourage and support you in healing old wounds, strengthening relationships, and developing your inner potential- all by accessing the mind body connection.
Please know, while we're excited to share and grow together. This podcast is not intended to be a substitute for mental health treatment. It doesn't replace the one-on-one relationship you have with a qualified healthcare professional and is not considered psychotherapy.
Thanks Jess. And thank you for listening. Now, let's begin a conversation about what happens when we take an integrative approach to improving our wellbeing. Well, welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk. My name is Jess. I'm here with [00:01:00] Jeanne, and today's topic is the pandemic. Dun, dun, dun. How do you even talk about something that has been so life-changing, is still life-changing is off the charts, expansive, intimidating as a mental health professional and as a human and isn't even finished yet, right?
Yeah. I'd love to say we are here to offer you answers, but we're not. We are here to. It's a process together what this has meant for our profession and for, you know, for me personally, and you and for humans and, you know, it's still something, even, even in session with a client, we always forget there's a pandemic happening.
Right. And it's like, let's peel the layers back. Or let's like, you know, look at this a little bit bigger and remember there's still. Uh, pandemic life is forever changed. And [00:02:00] I think, you know, when we ask our staff, you know, who, what are they seeing? It's still one of the biggest things that we're treating, but what's tricky about it.
My opinion is like, we're not treating it in a way because people are not thinking about it anymore. Even though, as we'll probably talk about, it's totally still affecting our nervous systems. And I say everybody with the privilege of being somewhat. System is not at threat for this virus in the capacity that I'm still taking several precautions to stay safe.
I don't have to do that. I think we do need to acknowledge that we have had privilege in these last couple of years to be able to. Transition the work that we do to telehealth to be able to protect ourselves and our families. So, you know, just acknowledging that privilege that we, we don't have all of the, the risks that frontline workers do.
And that's been a real, I think, humbling experience for the past couple of [00:03:00] years to agree. Agreed. Well, let's talk about, you know, for me the day the world changed, you know, they ask you, where were you? When? And March 13th was the day. My life changed the evening of March 12th. I know I was on vacation with my hubby early March.
And it was this thing that people were talking about when we flew to go visit face. You know, we brought Sani wipes and things, but didn't really think about it. And then one night I'm scrolling on my phone and I see this article where this, um, doctor I'm sure with communicable diseases, someone wrote a dissertation and it was on Facebook.
You know what I mean? Talking about this pandemic, that's headed our way or this virus and that this phrase, social distancing was going to be talked about a lot. I was like, what is social distance? You know, Unbelievable still yet, even though we kind of knew, and then March 12th, I was in person with people.
[00:04:00] I even met a new client that day and I have yet to see them ever again in person because the world changed March, March 13th, when the schools, right. For me, at least that's where everyone reacted was when the schools started changing things and making, you know, taking precautions. Well, and I remember like the NBA called off their season.
I was like, what? This better? This is serious. You know, that felt, that felt really, um, big and it was pretty scary, you know, like it's threatened. It's threatened our whole business model in the way that we do therapy. It threatened just, you know, personally, like I don't want to get sick. Remember, like, I remember watching the stats like, oh no, there's one person who tested positive and Madison, you know, oh no, we gotta shut down.
And just that fear, you know, I went right into a state of, of real activation because I don't want to get [00:05:00] sick. And it was so unknown. Oh, yeah. And I remember my employers or the companies I was doing contracting for at the time, you know, put out statement like for two weeks, we're taking the precaution and closing our offices and that even felt so extreme in a way.
And I still remember some clients I sat outside and we'd go for walks, but we had still no idea. And, but then the whole cluster F of even insurance reimbursement, where I don't know if I should be talking about this right now, but the legit were insurance companies. Weren't reimbursing to see clients in certain ways, like through phone or through tele-health yet.
And so people aren't getting the care they need because it's not billable, but then we're still trying to figure out how to see people regardless. Right. Because. You know, humans matter more than, you know, billable hours. So how can we make sure in this pandemic that we're still seeing people and then on top of it, how contagious is this?
You know, and, and what, what should [00:06:00] we do or not do? Like, who are we putting in harm's way by trying to, oh gosh, my body still feels that like right now I'm like getting estimated, just talking about it. I know. And, and I remember those first couple of days, I, you know, I sent everybody home to do telehealth and to figure it out and try to make sure everybody's got technology and everything.
And our first couple of staff meetings. After we all scattered and went home, everyone was like, oh, it's I hate this. I hate telehealth. It's so hard. I can't read body language. I can't, I don't have the energetic exchange that I'm accustomed to. And, and it was just a real learning curve for us too, to be able to.
Continue to do this work. And it's interesting how that's changed, how adaptable our systems are because I'm having the opposite reaction. Now, two and a half or two, seven years later, you know, a lot of people are saying, you know, I really like this. I think it works really [00:07:00] well. And I don't really want to leave my little home.
Or I, I'm, I'm perfectly happy doing therapy through a screen and it feels better for my system because I don't feel threatened being out in the world. So it's a really interesting journey that we've been on. Of course, a very tragic journey. Very grim. The so many people who've been affected by this, but I really do think we can talk about a lot of learnings today that we have learned throughout this and that we're still in it to definitely, you know, you know, psychotherapy that was you.
Right. That was an interesting experience. And I'm glad it pushed us into this world of tele-health because like you said, I think in a lot of ways, people love, you know, I have clients who wake up and open their computer and here they are in session. And, you know, I think it's sweet. I love that for in their car at lunch hour.
Um, or, [00:08:00] you know, just even trying to be able to meet from multiple locations, if you're doing couples work or things like that, where everyone can kind of. You know, tune in and check in from wherever they are, which is phenomenal. And I'm very excited because even for, you know, certain mental health conditions like agoraphobia or anxiety or depression, where.
In itself is so hard to get to the office when that's where the treatment takes place to help you be able to get to the office. Right? Like what a conundrum. And now it's so accessible, like truly, and it's even forced like this podcast to exist. Right. Because I always thought it'd be so cool to do something along the lines of.
You know, a podcast or YouTube or whatnot. Did I ever really slow down and like get uncomfortable enough to do it? No, not until there was time and technology and screens, you know, got me at least more comfortable. And I think it gave birth to a lot of [00:09:00] really wonderful things as well, even while, you know, we were suffering.
As a global community. Well, and I think that really shows the adaptability of our nervous systems to, you know, we did go, I definitely want to do a freeze response at first. Like, I can't do this. There's no way this is, I'm just, Nope, this isn't happening. I like to run away from, from threats. I got like a fight response mode was like really knowing that people.
Could you even hear me mad at the insurance companies to blame right now? Yeah. And then, you know, we, we made it work. We got really creative with it. I started teaching zoom, yoga, and reaching people that, you know, In a much broader area than just my little zip code here. And we started to think bigger.
And I think a lot of places did that. I accessed a lot more content, I think, than I would have, you know, had that not happened. Being able to take classes. Um, so many things went online, you know, [00:10:00] it's been, it's been a really, and that way for those of us who really like learning and seeking out new knowledge, I think a lot of.
Did get opened. So it took a while for me to get into that active mode of, you know, at first it was just like, Nope, I'm not, you know what I mean? Anytime I have to learn something new, I fight back right away. Like, Nope, not going to do it. I don't know, I'll make a little note about that to my therapist, but then when, when that opportunity then started to present itself, like, yeah, let's get ourselves out there.
Let's, let's help more people. It can be, can do that with these new technologies. So, you know, we always look for those glimmers, right? As Deb, Deb Dana likes to say those glimmers of vagal regulation. Calm of safety of, Hey, it's not perfect, but I can do it like that's ventral vagal. So when we think about the threat system, you know, we've talked about it before on the [00:11:00] podcast as mammals, our nervous system in our brain shifts between three states, sometimes multiple times a day, where ventral vehicles, where we're safe, we're in the parasympathetic nervous system.
Social engagements online, where we look each other in the eye, we feel connected. We're laughing, we're talking. Uh, and then if there's a threat, we shift into kind of two other responses, sympathetic where we mobilize. So those are our game-changers of flee fight, attachment cry. Fon or befriend. And then if those don't really work and again, the brain thinks of this in like three seconds, not even one second, one millisecond, it shifts into freeze.
Like you talked about, which is kind of like panic freeze. When people talk about. Think of it this way, but when clients are saying I'm so anxious, but I'm stuck. I can't do anything about it. I I'm, I need to like do something, but I'm, I'm just frozen. So [00:12:00] freeze. Right. It's a mix of both and then, and then shut down.
So that can also happen to people kind of that dorsal vagal response. So we're talking about how the nervous system naturally moves back and forth all day long could be like, You're startled by something. Boom, freeze. Okay. I'm safe. I'm back to feeling fine. Your cat jumps in your lap book. Um, I'm just thinking about my cat.
The other day jumped from like above my shoulder, into my lap. So old. I was really proud of her for like giving it a go scared, even cheaper. So to me, but then my nervous system was able to regulate. And that's the resilience that we talk about is therapy. When your system gets activated and mobilizes or, uh, immobilizes by freeze or shut down, how can you get back to that safe place?
And, and that's the resiliency that I think we, at least before when we were talking about this episode wanted to feature and highlight and you brought it up is, you know, our brains are resilient, but also our bodies and their nervous [00:13:00] systems can build that resiliency so that we can. I live in a constant state of fear, which in the pandemic is kind of shoved us all in that place.
Right? Like just the unknowing. I think that's the worst part about the pandemic and the unknown. And I'm noticing I'm still having some of those reactions, even though, you know, we've done everything, we can, you know, gotten the shots where in the mask do you and everything, and you can. And a couple of weeks ago I was, you know, around my sisters, who I had typically.
And very, you know, we're very affectionate family and my sister was showing me something up close and I, you know, I kind of just noticed that her face was really close to mine. And I just had that startle response, like, oh, cover, cover yourself. You know? And I went into an, into kind of a, of the threat response and my sister is a safe person and, but my body did not know that in the.[00:14:00]
And so I thought, yeah, we should maybe talk about this. We should maybe think about how we get our bodies on board with slowly coming back into some sort of sense of homeostasis, some sort of balance. Yeah, because we're entering back in right. Slowly. Some of us have jumped back in into the deep end. Some of us are, you know, dipping our toes, but for the most part, the general population.
Integrating back into, not the way it once was because you know, it never will be, but how do you go out into the world? And, you know, even us as therapists, we're opening in person soon, soon, ish. And I'm still in freeze around that. Like, you know, I've got some things to seriously consider, how do I want this to happen?
How do I make sure my nervous system feels safe as we start entering back into this world of doing this deep, but important, but difficult, but wonderful work of psychotherapy and yoga and [00:15:00] movement. Yeah. It's just a lot to think of. It is, it is because big part of our work. I mean, we're, body-centered therapists.
So a huge part of this is co-regulation, co-regulating our nervous systems and we've shown that it can work via tele-health, you know, I've, I've begun with clients and graduated them in the last two years who have needed the, the tools that we offer. So we know it does work, but there is a different.
Energetic exchange when we're in a room together. And that's what a lot of people have been missing. And there've been quite a few therapists at insight who do have done in person work most of the time for the last couple of years who have assessed their own risk level and taking the steps to protect, you know, with vaccines and masking, et cetera.
So we've seen the, this, this word. Can be very tailored that we can do it [00:16:00] via screens, but we can also, some people just really need that, that in-person co-regulation of the nervous system. And so when we talk about co-regulating for everyone, That means, you know, instead of self-soothing or self regulating, when we're in one of those survival responses of flee or fight or freeze or shut down, it's actually someone else's nervous system helps us co-regulate.
And so we regulate through them like, you know, when you get around so many you go, oh, their energy is just so soothing. Uh, they were co-regulating with your nervous system. If, if you felt a shift. Or if you feel good, but someone walks in and they're in a panic or in a place of overwhelm and you start feeling panicky or irritated or something like that.
That's, co-regulation just going the opposite way. But what we know is in trauma treatment co-regulation is so important and. What at least since remoter [00:17:00] has taught me, is that there's even such a thing as that when we have co-regulation as children that engages our what's called our social engagement system.
And that helps. Our nervous system more easily go back into ventral vagal and to feel safe, even as adults. So people who maybe didn't have an adult in their life that was very regulated or honored their needs to co-regulate. It may be harder to get back into that place of. Regulation as an adult, you know, so for example, one client said to me the other day, and this isn't just that person it's come up so many times and even came up in my sensory motor retraining, the exact phrases.
It's hard for my nervous system to decipher between excitement and anxiety. And I'm like, oh, That system needs more support of being able to flexibly, move back and forth, back and forth. And we can do that in therapy screens, but [00:18:00] yeah, co-regulation when you're literally with the other nervous. It's pretty powerful as well.
If not definitely. And anxiety, you know, that's the big thing. That's what we're talking about really is, is, um, getting our nervous systems to a place where we can manage some actual healthy anxiety, because this is a thing that came up in our last, uh, supervision meeting was how do we. How do we convince or work with our clients to, to recognize that that a little bit of anxiety is, is healthy around COVID that we want to make sure that we are assessing our risks and being as safe as possible, but recognizing.
We can't be a hundred percent safe. We're not going to be bubble wrapped. And I think the pandemic has just like highlighted that it's heightened our awareness, that it is just dangerous now to be outside and breathing another person's air. So we actually have to be, we have to have some healthy. [00:19:00] Stress around this.
Otherwise we're putting ourselves at risk. You know, we can't just be ignorance is bliss as great as that sounds, we know too much now. So how do we manage when people are already kind of wired for anxiety? Of course, those are the people we see are people who are, you know, looking for ways to help deal with some, maybe already baseline symptoms of depression, anxiety, things that come from.
Trauma and disconnection, et cetera. Then how do we navigate that with. Extra layer and start to get ourselves in a place where we can feel safe or at least as safe enough when we're young world. Yeah, I agree. I agree. It's. And it's different for every person. Right. You know, um, that's where I think getting to know your nervous system in your brain and your survival responses and, and, and having that level of [00:20:00] mindfulness to be able to watch yourself and, you know, at the end of the day, Could you talk back, you know, can you reflect back on if someone asked you, like, where did your nervous system go that day?
You know, it's, you know, again, Deb Dana, who she is a social worker, she took what's, um, Dr. Stephen Porges who created the polyvagal theory. She took that into the world of like psychotherapy and in a clinical setting. Uh, she is one of the leaders in the field, but she talks about like the soup, you know, there's all these different ingredients in your soup.
Um, so some sprinkled fight responses, some fleet responses, or some safety or some shutdown that happens, you know, throughout the day. But what was the overall soup? What would you call your soup of that day? And I think that's really important to think about, like, because that then leads into how do you build your life?
Into a place that you're regulated more often, or that you're able to notice when you're getting [00:21:00] dysregulated. And that's a symptom from before. That's not the current experience, you know? And so treating that as well as, as we go back into the world, everyone's going to want to go back differently. And I think that's like the most important thing if I can impart to any listener is really think about, you know, what your nervous system needs.
And don't rush it. Like everyone's different if your coworkers are all back in person, like you said, some therapists are in person for a year, year and a half. My different system could not do that. So that was not even an option, you know? And I could spend time feeling, shame around that and, and have I had to like check it and go, okay.
Is, you know, is that okay? But it was okay. Like that's what I needed. Um, which made me a better clinician. So, you know, for the listeners to think about. What does your brain and nervous system need, you know, overall going back into the world and then take those steps. [00:22:00] Well, and here's enjoy the people that you are trying to see.
That's my brainer. And he skipped to like a, the, if you have a bubble of friends that you need to see just to enjoy them. But yeah, I would say that. Yeah, no, that makes perfect sense. Because social support is a huge part of this. That's the thing that everybody kind of fought against at first, like, well, that's going to be so detrimental to our mental health, if we're disconnected and have to stay distant and it has.
It absolutely has been, but we don't. That's where the work of introspection comes in. This is where working with a therapist or at least, you know, dabbling in mindfulness or meditation is crucial so that, you know, cause you say, oh, you just have to know what your nervous system needs. Well, a lot of people are waiting for us to tell them what their nervous system needs.
They don't because they don't do or don't have the tools to do some of that work on their own. So. And you've heard us talk about it on the [00:23:00] podcast before, and you know, in everything that we send out. It's very important to get to know yourself to do that work, whether that's through a meditation practice or talking to a trusted friend or counselor, there's a great, uh, polyvagal intervention where you map your nervous system.
And I won't do it on air right now, per se, but where someone just kind of calls up a general memory that was. You know, a sympathetic response, like flee, you know, we're not talking like 10 out of 10 trauma here. We're talking about a two out of 10, like recall that, notice what your body's feeling and then kind of write it down, you know, and, and really think about it, like, think about your senses and you know, if anyone's interested.
Um, like find a therapist who can guide you through that mapping even, or pick up a book or listen to a YouTube video or something. And that is even [00:24:00] a way to like really start to like, you know, break apart and, and look at how does my nervous system respond to, you know, when I'm trying to flee or when I'm having a fight response or when I'm feeling shut down and that will help you just notice it more throughout the day.
Then I really liked that. Yeah, it does Tivity to do. I think people well, you know, and I'm speaking from experience, you know, we actually need to take the time to do that and to carve that out for ourselves. And I think I beat the drum of self-care constantly. When I'm, you know, in a session with people.
And I also need to take that advice myself a little bit more often, but we, this is part of your self-care. This is part of how you're going to be able to be present enough to reenter the world in a way that feels at least more comfortable than it has. It feels safe enough to be able to do some of that work and carving out time to map, to map your [00:25:00] nervous system.
I mean, It sounds like a big deal, but you could, you could do that in like a couple of minutes a day, right? Just like paying attention to what's going on, how you react to things, um, spending a little time, just in mindful meditation with it, with an app for five minutes a day. That's that self care, you know?
And when we think about how do we come out of the pandemic and how do we manage our anxiety around this? Well, it is the usual suspects. What are the big things that you're telling people to do? Take care of your body? Exercise it and put good food in it. Get some sleep, do the things that are, that are like the most basic life sustaining things, but, but do them with, with, uh, real mindfulness.
Yeah. I mean the research out there now, some, some there's some research coming out, um, and I can link it in the show notes about how the pandemic pandemic has really effected, you know, our brains increasing [00:26:00] inflammation in our brain, increasing brain fog, even if you never had COVID or things of that nature.
And, and well, yeah, you said it. What are the things that reduces inflammation? Well, moving. Sleep hydration food, you know, um, we can't all magically wave a wand when someone says lower your stress. It's like hilarious. Okay. Frozen. It's so easy. I'll just lower my stress, but can you turn the screen off for like 10 minutes and just breathe and I, or, or put your feet on the floor as you'd like to say too.
If, if the breath is not an anchor point or just it's spring time. Quieting your mouth and watching the birds outside your window and just noticing them, right. Uh, just different things like you, going for a walk forest, bathing, all that, you know, gardening, like Ariana told us a few weeks ago on the podcast.
So those things will even have those physiological effects that [00:27:00] will help us feel more prepared to, you know, reintegrate. I think that's a really interesting point that you brought up about the brain that it's, that the studies are showing that. All dealing with brain fog, whether or not we had COVID, which just think about that.
It's this pandemic, even if we did not get the virus, our brains could be inflamed. I mean, that's startling. and, you know, you know, I think about for all the young ones out there who don't even have vaccines yet, or, you know, entered school at a time where everyone was still wearing masks and, and, you know, same thing goes, right.
Like, can we get. Help them feel the support, get them around some friends and some safe people and, and really share our comb. Right. And we can't share our calm with our kiddos until we're called. [00:28:00] And if your kiddo has social anxiety, let's say going back to school or some separation anxiety, one of the best things you can do is share your calm with them.
And, you know, create that space and give them the tools like, well, let's breathe together. Let's notice the breeze together. Let's color together. You know, how can we regulate together? Yeah. We have to get our brains on board and our bodies before we can help others. And that's, that's where the stress response really does.
With our senses, we take in things from the environment and then that amygdala, that really deep little structure in the brain that the smoke detector detects a threat or not. And I'd say we all have some pretty sensitized amygdalas. I asked him this is that the plural of amygdala? Is it a big delay amygdalas anyway, that's what I'm going to go with.
[00:29:00] But how has that never come up in all my years of lecturing about. It's stupid. Isn't that interesting, especially as you're reading about probably co-regulation at some point, maybe that there'd be more than one amygdala on the room, but I guess science is just focusing on that one. I digress one male, amygdala, I'm sure as well.
I knew we'd get around to the patriarchy somehow in this conversation. I mean, we really should just watch, like the amygdala woman, women is like so different and we don't even know it. No, it's just kidding. I'm sure it's the same traits, how we know that they make the light gets more sensitive, more sensitized, the more stress and trauma that we've experienced.
So. Thinking about what that does, the, this pandemic of us being constantly stressed, constantly sensing threat. And then it's like letting that cortisol, like the flood gates are open. So we're just like getting bathed in stress hormones. [00:30:00] So if, if we're not taking steps to, to calm that amygdala, then it's going to be hard for us to.
Co-regulate those around us, the ones that we're trying to help out and, you know, just keeps us in those heightened state. And we know that excess cortisol does all sorts of bad stuff to our bodies. So what are some of the best ways? What are what's your go-to if you want to say, all right here is a quick intervention for calm and that amygdala.
Um, I would say, well, first one we've already talked about, and it's not quick at all. It's the mindfulness of understanding when your body and brain feel threatened. Really getting to know what your body and brain and your thoughts and your feelings do when you're feeling threatened, because our thoughts will follow the state.
If we're in a fight response, our thoughts will [00:31:00] have little will follow. So they'll feel angry at the world. So if we can bring them back to ventral vehicle, that calmer place, then they'll feel more capable perhaps in the same situation. Something I talk about with clients and I hope I don't mess it up.
Here's me being vulnerable in human because I it's still slightly beyond me is this concept of the ventral vagal break. So there is a break, you know, earlier, when I talked about, uh, anxiety versus excitement, I like to think about a rollercoaster. Two people ride the same roller coaster. One is. Jazz. So excited to be in the front row.
And one is having a panic attack and that's not like, I don't think as much personality based as maybe we used to think, oh, oh, don't be scared. Or I'm braver than you are. I think back to maybe that person's vehicle break is not as strong. So the vehicle brake is this thing that develops [00:32:00] when we're children, especially like everything else in our brain and body kind of grows in our, in our youth.
And it develops through co-regulation. So you've got an attachment figure who sued an overwhelmed child that strengthens this vehicle break. So this part of the nervous system that says, oh, whoa, whoa, whoa. You can slow down the flea response or the attachment cry response. We're actually. Okay. So you can almost imagine, uh, riding a bike down here.
So you're going down this hill and if you didn't have your breaks, it would be petrifying to go down a hill that fast. I think about Midvale Boulevard differ from Madison to go down this huge hilum Midvale. And I always thought about, because I'm a dirty therapist, my bagel break while I was riding my bike, because it would be so scary to just be flying past traffic without any control.
So that. Imagine the handlebar brakes. That [00:33:00] is the brake that turns on that lets me still enjoy it. So when I slowed down the bike enough where it shifts from fear to excitement, like this is really fun. I'm almost like I'm flying. It's pretty there. My vehicle brake is on. So when we talk about the polyvagal states, that call and ventral vagal state is in the forefront.
And the sympathetic fight response is there because we do sometimes need that sympathetic energy to get through a workout or when we're passionate in a conversation or to be slightly aware of the pandemic. Right. But without a break, it overrides the parts of us that feel safe and it drives the bus. So it's like going down the hill without any breaks.
Now, literally that brake controls our heart rate. If you want to think about what's happening in the body. So when that breaks. Is released our heart rate picks up a little bit, speeds up just like if you were on a bicycle. And then when that break turns on our heart rate slows back down a little bit. [00:34:00] So think about that.
If you have a break that's not as strong, your heart rate may be more elevated more times than not, which is telling your brain that you're under a threat of some sort. Cause the reason why. Great picks up in our heart beats faster is to get adrenaline and cortisol, pumping to activate our limbs, to make our pupils widen.
You know, I'm getting tingles in my hands, almost talking about it. It activates everything to fight the threat to mobilize. So the Vago brain turns on and it calms our body down, slows our heart rate, and that tells our brain and we're safe because no one's heartbeat slowly when they're being chased by a tiger.
It just doesn't it. So the way you do that in therapy now. Okay. Thank you for following me on this journey is you can picture anything. That's like a control. So I sometimes use the metaphor, the bike, where a client will visualize putting on the brakes of their bike. And that means their [00:35:00] safety is coming online and the excite, the fear goes to the foreground and background and the control.
Safety is in the foreground. Now, some people also like to envision like a dimmer switch, where you can like slowly turn the lights higher and then lower to match in their vehicle brake turning on and off. Some people like to use a volume knob, turning it up to 11. The excitement of the music is it takes control, turn it down and you feel safer.
And so you can do a breathing activity where you breathe in. On imagining turning the knob up or releasing the brakes on your bike and then breathing out when you put the brakes on the bike or you turn the knob down, cause your heart rate will slightly pick up. When you breathe in and it will just ever so slightly slow down on the out-breath and even doing that for two to three minutes a day, a few times a week, you are teaching your body with that [00:36:00] visualization, how to come to a calmer place.
And then you can use that when you're maybe feeling overwhelmed or. BeltLine. There's a thousand semi-trucks around you. Okay. I'm going to American turning my Denver, switch down, or, you know, putting on those brakes and your brain will start going, oh, I know this, this and increases what we call resiliency of your nervous system.
It can go back and forth easily between a fight or flight response and feeling safe. And that's what I think is really important to practice. As we're going out into this world, that's unpredictable. Unprecedented. Can I say that word correctly and present? Unprecedented. Thank you. So everything's new. How do we function in this world?
It's going to be overwhelming. So let's, you know, practice using our vehicle brake. I like it. I like it because we do want to have a really [00:37:00] robust heart rate variability. We want our, we want that to be able to like rebound to like spike and then to come back down with, without a lot of, um, intervention we want to have.
Pretty good heart rate variability. And I know that, so that, that maybe is a topic for another episode before we, you know, get too in the weeds, but that the sympathetic nervous system really kicks in on the, in breath on that inhale. Think about what happens when he gets startled. I don't know what you do, but I go.
Yeah, so, yep. Yep. Big, big hole inhale. That's the sympathetic nervous system. And then when I, who all right, take a deep breath, exhale. Then I'm getting into my parasympathetic activation. So we want to be able to move between those systems. Yeah. Pretty fluidly in order to, to be able to go out and navigate the world.
And it's by no fault of anyone's, if maybe that break isn't as strong, you know, but the great thing about the brain and the system [00:38:00] is that we can always change it. We can always help shape it. And that's what a lot of the work of polyvagal theory and Deb Dana is a shaping and reshaping throughout our lifetime.
Which I dunno is like the biggest pursuit of all in some ways, but you know, still good work to have. I know it's so complex, but so simple at the same time. Yeah. So what do you recommend though? Jeanie? What is your kind of your go-to with, for people heading back out into this world? Yeah, it's, I mean, it's a mixed bag, you know, like you said, it work, some things work for some people and some people really respond to some people really just like the cognitive, like give me a mantra, give me something that I can say to myself.
The self-talk is super powerful. And since I always like to get the body involved, I like to actually use tap. I think that's a kind of a quick intervention that we can use to train ourselves for the moment so that we don't have to train in the [00:39:00] moment. So it's something we can practice in advance. So with tapping or emotional freedom technique, this is, uh, something that's based on, on meridians and acupressure as it's kind of an energy psychology intervention.
And personally, I like it because I, I like something that I can do. I honestly, myself, I used to actually practice this a lot, like when I was not a great flyer for a few years there. And so I'd have to really give myself a lot of pep talks to get, to be really calm on a plane because the anxiety would, would get pretty heightened.
And it's interesting sidebar. I thought, um, You know, when the pandemic hit and I'm not going to be able to fly anywhere. I have, I had to grieve that I was actually really sad that I couldn't travel anymore. I quit. I can't now I can't wait to get on an airplane. I actually took a couple trips in the last, you know, six months and I'm over the fear of flying.
So. [00:40:00] Awesome. I use tapping to get over the dentist, uh, fear of the dentist, like slapping my slumping, tapping my legs back and forth with a mantra of how I can do things when I'm scared. Truly. I mean, I, I was, I would have panic attacks in that chair, but yeah. Oh, but I'll let you talk about it. Cause it's, it's such a cool technique and I'll just hit it real quick here because we know we do talk about it in other episodes of the podcast, but so.
Tapping requires or encourages that you come up with some sort of statement that acknowledges what you're feeling. So even though I'm anxious, even though I'm scared, even though I'm sad and then some sort of affirmation. So with the pandemic I've been thinking about, you know, even though I'm anxious, I'm safe enough.
Or even though I'm anxious, I'm as safe as I can be. So just some kind of statement that acknowledges that we're telling our body, yes. Anxious anxiety. I [00:41:00] I'm feeling it so that we're, we're facing it. And you know, we're not gonna, we're not going to get ourselves into more of a stress response just by saying it because we're doing something to actually distract our amygdala.
So one of the big benefits of tapping is that it kind of calms that amygdala down. It down-regulates it. And we're also, you know, we're borrowing from, um, Meridian theory from acupressure. I don't know why acupuncture works, but I go and it's magic. I don't have to understand that, to know that it feels my body feels different when I got.
So with tapping, it's just two, uh, two fingers, whichever hand. And you just tap on a few points on the body. Um, there's one on the side of the hand, top of the head eyebrow outer eye under eye, under nose, under lip, and then at the collar bone. And then sometimes we add a little one under the armpit too. So.
[00:42:00] And you can find this on the interwebs all over the everybody go find a cool video. Exactly. And you would just to say your statement and, and just tap gently on those points. So even though I'm anxious, I'm safe enough, even though I'm anxious, I'm safe enough. And so we're, we're tapping on the. And when we think about polyvagal theory, we talked a little bit about that ventral vagal, that more evolved part of that vagus nerve.
We're actually stimulating that it's an interface to face, um, which is the, in the face. A lot of it. Yeah. Yeah. And we're, we're calming that amygdala down. So we're calming down our stress response. And with the tapping intervention, you'd want to kind of gauge how. Amped up, you are to start with, if you're at a 10 out of a 10 on anxiety, then, you know, start the tapping and then go through a few times to see how you're [00:43:00] feeling.
Just like what we were talking about before. I mean, it's a mindful thing. So your breathing is naturally going to slow down your T you know, you're tapping into your container, essentially. You're sensing your body, you're getting in your body and then you just kind of keep that up until you start to feel less anxiety.
I think it's a, I think it's a really good intervention because it's something that requires. Very little training. Absolutely. No. Um, And people don't even have to know you're doing it. Sometimes I just visualize it when I was sitting on an airplane, I didn't really want to just like tap the top of my head about, yeah.
We know if you visualize something often you still fire the same area of your brain, so, wow. Yeah. That's one of my faves. I think that it's, I think it's easy. It's something that anybody can do. And it really does work on those structures in the brain and the body [00:44:00] that that can help us to be back in balance, which is what we're all looking for right now.
The balance is balance is different now. The way that, the way that we used to balance might not work because you know, we're still trying to keep ourselves safe. We still are going to see threats. Like I said, even just seeing my sister's face close to mine felt like a threat. So maybe the balance now is just being able to, to not, not have that stress response around my love.
Or if you do to have your system come back to ventral vehicle and safety more quickly and stay there longer than it used to, right? Yeah. Yeah. It does. The balance does remind me of an Ani de Franco song, lyric, where she says she's a Libra, which I am as well. And she says, it's all about balance, balance, balance.
And. I agree for all of us, not just our Libras, but yeah. [00:45:00] Balance. That's a lifelong pursuit as well, which is a good one. Well, I'm glad we talked about the pantry. Yes, I am too. I mean, it's, it's something that we're still dealing with. And, you know, we, I think a year ago we talked about it. Let's, you know, talk about coming out of the pandemic, but then the pandemic was like, actually not so fast.
Yeah, we're gonna, we're gonna, you know, kind of set you back a little bit. So again, it's ever evolving and I think that is one of the most frustrating things for, for me, especially as I like to plan, I love control such an illusion. I realize that, but I want to know, I want to know what's what I can do and how I'm going to feel safe.
And we don't have that anymore. It's been a lesson, it's been a lesson on definitely how to move through a [00:46:00] lack of control in a way that I had never had before. I learned a lot about myself through this and, and still, and I'm what I need to really feel safe. And. And really holding on tight to those few keystones and, and accepting right, is a fallacy.
It is, it is, uh, it is what it is, but it ain't sent my God. I mean, for the most part. Well, it's been lovely Jeanie. Thank you for being here with us today. Thanks, Jeff. Always enlightening.
Thank you again for joining us on Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-centered mental health podcast. We hope today's episode was empowering and supported you in strengthening your mind-body connection We're your hosts Jeanne and Jess. Please join us again as we continue to explore integrative approaches to wellbeing. [00:47:00] Until then, take care.