The importance of self-regulation of the nervous system cannot be overstated. As professionals, we often find ourselves in high-stress environments that challenge our emotional balance. Learning to self-regulate can lead to better decision-making, improved mental health, and enhanced professional effectiveness. But what happens when we fail to self-regulate? I learned this the hard way.
The Unexpected Incident
In the midst of a busy day moving into a new apartment, I received a distressing text message from a dear friend. She was battling severe health issues and informed me that her condition had deteriorated significantly. The news was devastating, and it triggered an unexpected response in me. Just minutes after reading her message, I felt a sharp, sudden pain in my foot, seemingly out of nowhere.
For the last few months, as her health was deteriorating, we communicated regulatory. Every time she was in pain and had another health scare she would text me and ask for Reiki. An hour or two later she would text me back: “The Reiki helped. I feel much better.”
This time was different.
The track was already outside the building that morning when we got the key. With not enough time to process being in our new apartment I was tired and a bit lost.
By the time the movers left, I couldn’t walk. The pain was too strong. I laid down and shifted my awareness inward.
Upon reflection, I realized that this pain was not due to a physical injury. Instead, it was a manifestation of the emotional distress I felt after reading my friend’s message. As an empath, I had taken on her pain, feeling worse while she felt better.
This is a common pattern among empaths, but it’s not healthy or sustainable. In this vulnerable state, I had failed to properly regulate my emotions, leading to a physical manifestation of distress.
My realization was confirmed when I called my friend a little later and she said: “The Reiki you sent today worked like a miracle. My leg is no longer painful. It’s the first time in days that I’ve been able to eat and walk. I feel so much better!”
The Importance of Self-Regulation
Self-regulation refers to our ability to manage our own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in in alignment with our well-being. It involves controlling our behavior, redirecting negative impulses, and acting in alignment with our deepest values. This process is intentional and comes from within the individual.
In the context of my situation, I had failed to self-regulate. Instead of processing the news and dealing with my emotions, I had suppressed them. This suppression led to a physical symptom—a sharp pain in my foot.
The Role of Co-Regulation
In contrast to self-regulation, co-regulation involves another individual, like a therapist, coach, or even a supportive friend or family member, helping you understand and manage your responses In my case, my husband provided this support, giving me the space I needed to heal, and my two team members – Dawn and Rachel – sent me remote Reiki per my request.
Through phone conversations with my friend, the support of my husband and my team members I was able to reclaim my energy and return some of the energy I took on. This process allowed me to begin healing, highlighting the power of co-regulation.
Why We Need to Self-Regulate Our Nervous System
Self-regulation of the nervous system is pivotal for our overall well-being and ability to effectively respond to stress. It’s a biological process that helps us maintain balance in our bodies and minds. When confronted with stressors, our bodies instinctively switch to ‘fight or flight’ mode, activating the sympathetic nervous system.
This results in increased heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline levels. While this response can be lifesaving in dangerous situations, chronic activation can lead to health problems like hypertension, anxiety, and fatigue. Self-regulation allows us to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as ‘rest and digest’, facilitating recovery and restoration after stress. By learning to self-regulate, we can better manage our stress responses, promoting healthier and more balanced lives.
As a therapist, coach, or healing art professional, self-regulation of your nervous system is crucial for your practice. Working in high-stress environments and dealing with clients who may be under emotional or physical stress can take a toll on you. Without self-regulation, you run the risk of experiencing burnout – emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress.
Self-regulation helps build emotional resilience, allowing you to better cope with the emotional ups and downs that come with your work. With a well-regulated nervous system, you can think more clearly and make sound judgments about a client’s treatment. This clarity helps you stay present and empathetic with your clients, even when dealing with challenging situations.
When you are calm and centered, you can better empathize with your clients and fully understand their experiences and emotions, which is crucial for effective treatment. Additionally, your self-regulation can prevent countertransference, where you might unconsciously start to take on the client’s emotions. Appropriate emotional boundaries maintained through self-regulation can prevent this from happening.
Lastly, your sustained energy levels brought about by self-regulation ensure that you can consistently deliver high-quality care to your clients.
Techniques for Self-Regulation
Here are some techniques professionals can use to self-regulate their nervous systems:
- Mindful Breathing: This practice involves focusing on your breath, which can help calm the mind and body.
- Somatic Practices: These involve becoming aware of bodily sensations and using this awareness to release tension and stress. Read more about my somatic healing approach in my past blog: Beyond Talk Therapy: A Holistic Approach to Trauma Healing
- Meditation: Regular meditation can help calm the mind, reduce stress, and improve focus and emotional well-being.
- Guided Visualization: This practice involves using mental imagery to promote relaxation or positive changes in one’s life. It can be very effective in reducing anxiety and stress. Here’s a Guided Visualization I created, and you can try.
- Connecting with Your Soul: This spiritual practice can involve prayer, reflection, or other practices that help you connect with your inner self and find peace and clarity. You can join my next free 5-Day Challenge and reconnect with your soul.
- Expressive Arts: Engaging in creative activities like painting, writing, dancing, or making music can be therapeutic and help manage stress.
- Crystal Healing: Using crystals and gemstones for healing purposes, as they are believed to emit certain frequencies that can affect the body’s energy systems. This is an excellent online course for healing with crystals.
- Pendulum Dowsing: This is a practice where a pendulum is used to detect energy imbalances in the body and to balance the energy by picking up on subtle energy shifts.
- Physical Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce stress and improve mood.
- Healthy Eating: Consuming a balanced diet can help maintain energy levels and prevent mood swings.
- Good Sleep Habits: Prioritizing sleep can help ensure that you’re physically and mentally ready to handle stress.
My personal experience served as a stark reminder of the importance of self-regulation and co-regulation. As professionals, these practices not only enhance our personal well-being but also improve our effectiveness in our roles. By learning to manage our stress responses, we can promote healthier and more balanced lives, both personally and professionally.
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