We consciously know that our elevated nervous system is responding inappropriately to life's circumstances.
But how do we get ourselves to understand that IN THE MOMENT? When the nervous system is already elevated? That is the tricky part.
Does it have to be tricky? Or can we break it down and make it simple...
Let's do that. Let's make it simple.
Even when things feel really elevated, we can still find our calm by using some very simple self-talk…
And we don’t need anything other than ourselves, our own inner-dialogue, and some self-compassion.
In order to truly grasp that concept, however, we need to first understand some really simple foundational information.
The first piece of information: When your nervous system is feeling elevated and you are feeling triggered, even mildly triggered, unless there is a true emergency, there is ABSOLUTELY no reason for that kind of a response.
Do you ever think of that concept when you are feeling triggered/when your nervous system is over-reacting to stimuli? Like really think about how it does not make a lick of sense that your nervous system is reacting as if there is true endangerment to your life?!
It could be as simple as somebody cutting us in line at the grocery store. A person making an obscure comment on a social media post. It could be a loved one’s opinion. A smell wafting by. Anger on the face of a person in a show we are watching.
These are all common life circumstances that we do not need to have any kind emotional response to!
Yet our body and limbic brain take over and all of a sudden we are experiencing the same types of sensations that we would in a true emergency.
It is bonkers!
Yet we rarely question it because we have been conditioned to feel that it is a normal part of the human experience.
And on one hand it is! Well, it shouldn't be, but since have all experienced it, and because it is a common occurrence, it just seems like part of how we live life.
It is as if it is unavoidable. Like it's just how 'life is supposed to be'. Or that’s it's just ‘being human’.
Well, I would like to say that I believe we can choose to experience life in another way.
I would like to say that we all have the right to challenge our bodies’ inappropriate responses to every day stimuli, and that if we do, we could end up having a deeply empowering experience.
When you feel triggered, do you ever think, “This is a response that should be reserved for emergency situations. And although this may be a stressful situation, yes, we can all agree that life isn't perfect...it is not one that warrants this level of stimulation within the nervous system. This response is really exaggerated and over-the-top, and I can tell because I can feel stress hormones. Stress hormones have no place in situations such as this. This is a situation that would warrant some emotions such as frustration, anger, sadness, etc. but not the release of stress hormones. Those should be reserved for specific situations (like being chased by a lion), but not ones like this (situations like 'this' might even be what most would call very stressful! I want to make sure I am very clear about that. and also clear that even what most would consider very stressful situations should NOT come with the release of stress hormones). Sure, I have ___ going on right now, and yeah, that feels frustrating, maddening, saddening, etc. etc. and I deserve to feel validated in having human emotions towards this situation. (Validating yourself is really important!) But this kind of response, it is exaggerated, inappropriate, it is WAY over the top (yes...even if the situation is very difficult!)…but I can choose another way. I can choose to pause, take a deep breath, and instead of react….I can choose to respond. Responding means thinking before I assume. Taking time before I judge. Pausing before I feel anger or frustration. Thinking of what ELSE could be true in this moment instead of the knee-jerk reaction my protective brain WANTS me to experience. I have a choice in all of my responses to situations and stimuli. I have a choice, and I am empowered by that thought.”
You can then follow that dialogue with talking about what stress hormones are and how you have the ability to calm them relatively quickly (if that piece helps you as well)….
It could sound like this:
“I know that stress hormones do not feel great, but thankfully, they metabolize in my body within 20 minutes, so if I can calm everything down emotionally, I should feel much calmer in less than 20 minutes. Because 20 minutes is the amount of time it takes to entirely metabolize the stress hormones, so even in 10 minutes, I should feel much much better! That is such an encouraging thought. So I just need to talk myself through the most uncomfortable part of this for a few minutes to get my prefrontal cortex more activated, and to get the nervous system to settle by trying to think rationally.”
When we talk in detail about what is going on in our body and why, it gets us to see our nervous system’s inappropriate response more sensibly.
We can then, if we want to, encourage ourselves to think differently about the situation using some more targeted self-talk…
“So I just need to talk myself through the most uncomfortable part of this for a few minutes to get my prefrontal cortex more activated, and to get the nervous system to settle by trying to think rationally. Rationally is, like I said before, where we can think about what ELSE is true before we come upon a conclusion. Like, what could this situation be teaching me? How can I use this situation to show myself how much inner-strength I actually have? Can I pause here and breathe-and show my nervous system that there IS another way to react---I mean RESPOND---in seemingly stressful situations? Could I use this as an opportunity to practice all I have learned instead of just believing my nervous system and falling into the same old patterns I have fallen into for months/years? Yes I can. Even if I don’t feel it is possible, I can take a tiny step towards getting better at this. A tiny step would just be a few seconds of saying something like, ‘I can choose another way. I can choose another way. I am not at the mercy of my nervous system. I am strong and confident. I can do this.’”
Take the time to talk yourself through a situation where you can feel the stress hormones being created…and instead of believing the panic that your body and protective brain WANT you to believe, take a second to pause. And then respond rather than react.
The release of stress hormones should be reserved for situations where there is a true emergency. But due to the way our
You see? Even when things feel really elevated, we can still find our calm by just using some very simple self-talk…
About The Author:
My name is Tessa Malcarne. 8 years ago, I healed from numerous ‘mysterious’ (or ’invisible’) health conditions that I had experienced since childhood.