In 2022 the phrase Nervous System Regulation became a buzz phrase especially in the coaching world. But what is Nervous System Regulation?
Whenever we come up against situations in our life our body has a tendency to react. This can be in response to good things happening or bad things happening. And depending on what is going on, our body is sophisticated enough to respond in different ways and sometimes without us even knowing what is going on.
Think about a time when you felt angry. Do you remember how your body responded, or how you felt? When I experience anger, my body tightens and feels tense. It also feels hot and as if I’m on fire. This is because it is in it’s fight, flight or freeze mode. Now think about a time when you were really happy, maybe celebrating something. How did your body respond? How did you feel? When I feel happy, my body feels soft. It also feels warm, but it’s not the same as when I feel angry. These are just some of my nervous system responses.
So how can regulating your nervous system help you get what you want? Regulating our nervous system takes practice. This is because many of us have been raised to survive and so our instincts and body responses tend towards survival. We are trying to keep ourselves safe. When we come up against things we haven’t experienced before our body can go into survival mode to try and keep us safe. But it’s not just a one time thing. Our body is doing this on a constant basis, going through waves of response depending on what is happening around us. When we are feeling heightened emotions it makes it difficult to go after what we truly want because we are more concerned with what we need to survive in that moment.
That brings me to your desires and how having a regulated nervous system can help you achieve them. When your decisions and actions come from a place of feeling safe, they will be more aligned with who you are and what you truly desire. If your decisions and actions are coming from a place of ‘trying’ to keep you safe, they will be more aligned with survival and not necessarily what you desire but what you need.
Let's take an example. You have seen your dream job advertised. This is something you are passionate about and if money was no object, it would be something you would jump at the chance to do. But let’s say that money is an object. And has always been an object because you grew up in a household where money was strictly monitored and only ever spent on essentials. Experiencing that as you grew up, has maybe made you very money conscious. You may have made sure that you have a well paying job so that your bills and expenditure are covered and then some. But the job you currently have is unfulfilling and draining.
Do you still apply for your dream job? Or do you stay where you are?
If you don’t have a regulated nervous system, chances are it will be the latter. Because the responses in your body will be coming from the experience you had when you were growing up. The feeling of there not being enough. The feeling of not being able to spend money in the way that you wanted. The feeling of only being able to buy the necessities. The way your body reacts and then tells your mind what is going on will have you staying in your unfulfilling and draining job.
However, if you have a nervous system that is regulated, or you know how to regulate your nervous system when experiencing challenging situations, you will most likely go for your desire and apply for your dream job. This is because your body is not trying to keep you safe. Your body is allowing itself to feel desire. It is not scared of going for something that is going to take it out of it’s comfort zone.
Learning about where your thought processes and decisions are coming from and in relation to your nervous system are a game changer.
When I first set up my coaching business I was still working in my 9-5 corporate job. I kept thinking about quitting and being a full time entrepreneur. But there were things I felt I didn’t know or have confidence in. There were things that kept me in that job even though it was stressful because it was easier than moving out of my comfort zone. What I know now after going through a 6 month Nervous System Leadership Programme was that my decisions were based on keeping me safe. I didn’t take risks because I was worried about keeping other people happy. My baseline is to hide because when I’m hiding, I feel safe. Keeping myself in places where I could ‘hide’ kept me and my nervous system feeling safe.
Putting myself out there in my coaching business was not allowing me to hide. I was someone who didn’t even like taking selfies and here I was recording video content to build my brand and business! I was sharing my experiences and life lessons to help and inspire others, but it meant a level of vulnerability I wasn’t used to. It was uncomfortable and so my nervous system started to run the show. My ego joined in and began to self sabotage. It showed up in the sneakiest of ways. Ways I didn’t even notice because there was a part of me believing that by sitting in my feminine energy I was regulating my nervous system!
I’m someone who has operated from my masculine energy for my entire life. I am organised, productive, focused, a real ‘do, do, do’ kind of person. But when I started learning about operating more from my feminine energy, my nervous system was overjoyed! Here was a way to self sabotage. Telling my brain that it was acceptable to take an afternoon off because I felt a little tired was keeping me from doing the things I needed to in my business and my personal life. I wouldn’t ever call myself lazy, because I was operating from my feminine energy, right? But these afternoons off became a regular occurrence and I soon had to admit to myself that it was my nervous system and Ego at play, rather than actual tiredness! Keeping my nervous system unregulated and letting it run riot with it’s friend Ego, meant that I wasn’t going after my desires. I wasn’t trying to achieve the things I really wanted for myself. I was keeping myself hidden and safe.
So now I’m working on those responses and becoming more and more aware of when I am in my hiding mode. That’s when I know my nervous system needs some attention and regulation. That’s when I know there is a story I get to attend to in order to bring myself back to a state of neutrality so that I can make better decisions. Decisions that will lead me to what I want in life.
And even though regulation of our nervous system is key, it is also important to look at the reasons and situations that have given way to an unregulated nervous system in the first place. There may be limiting beliefs at play because of situations that have occurred in the past and we have coping mechanisms which help our nervous system regulate itself. Until we look at those beliefs and the coping mechanisms we will never be able to move out of survival into safety.
As part of the Nervous System Leadership Program I took part in we were asked to read the following book: ‘Call of The Wild’ by Kimberly Ann Johnson. It takes the reader through their own inner landscape and shows them how to recognise and work with the nervous system so they can start to truly trust themselves. You can purchase the book by clicking on the link below.
The Nervous System provides us immense insight into how we operate and where our decisions and desires come from. Once we know this, we can see whether what we are desiring is true or whether it is being desired to fulfil some level of safety or survival in us. Understanding our nervous system and its responses can help to align us with what we truly desire in life.
If you would like to know more about nervous system work please feel free to email me with your questions.