I spent my sunday at a workshop based around Fear. Not the most popular way to spend your sunday but personal growth is kind of my love language.
Fear. It doesn't look the same for all of us does it?. For you it's maybe a tight knot in your stomach? Or the restrction across the chest that constricts the breath. It can also look like a surge of anger that rushes up and makes us hurtful to those on the recieving end. It can be that voice in your head telling you that you don't need to do the thing you wanted. You have done enough.
Ah Fear. This is you in your most clever disguise. The voice that lulls and soothes you like a gentle wave. Keeping you safe and secure.I see you
So what the hell is going on behind all of these sensations and why are we having such a variety of physical and mental reactions?
I'm hoping by now you have heard of "The mind- body connection". This can be related back in a physical sense to one little bundle of nerves that connects our brain stem to all our organs. The vagus nerve.
It's the pathway of communication between the brain, the nervous system, and the gut (also known as the gut-brain axis).
In short: the vagus nerve IS the mind-body connection.
Meeting those old ghosts
The vagus nerve is also the key in healing from trauma and creating overall wellbeing.
When we have unresolved trauma, the vagal tone becomes weak.
Having a weak vagal tone means we don't recover from stress quickly + are "stuck" in nervous system fight, freeze, or shutdown. This can lead us to respond with anger and lashing out to push people away or to going into emotional avoidance- Commonly known these days as "ghosting".
It is the physical explanation behind , the knot in the stomach, the tightness in the chest, the cold ice of fear around the heart.
So if you remember the Ego? That big brother I told you about here. The Ego is the reason why this nerve gets stimulated. The times the ego told us we were unsafe. Again and again until the nerve began to weaken.
So we want to re-wire this system in order to relax the body response....and most importantly let the ego know that we are good now! We don't need this excessive protection . We are all grown up now!
Solutions really can be simple
Solutions begin with-
1. Mind body movement: yoga, Thai chi, Qi Qong. Whatever movement connects the breath intentionaly to the body.
2. EFT (tapping) My favourite is Brad yates on YouTube . This is a method to re-wire the messaging of the subconscious mind and release old programming to stop that retriggering of the vagus nerve over time.
3. Meditation: with committed practice, meditation has been scientifically proven to expand grey matter of the brain within the pre-frontal cortex. Put simply this means that expanding this area of the brain allows for quicker problem solving and allows for a wider range of emotional regulation. It also has the added bonus of seperating us from our thoughts so we can be less attached and therefore less "triggered" by them. So you won't feel as inclined to bite the head off your partner when he simply forgot to fill the dishwasher. You are learning that this isn't a "sign he doesn't care about your feelings" etc.
4. Grounding techniques: using sight, sound, smell to "ground" into the present moment. With practice, the body and mind re-learn safety/security + can recover from that over protective state quickly.
My favourite maths problem
A strong vagal 'tone' is associated with emotional stability, low inflammation, a feeling of wellbeing, + improved bodily function. This equals, less reactivity/defensive behaviours, better digestive function,better focus and concentration, improved immune system, less pain etc. Whoo hoo right?
With more research being conducted on this area, Vagal tone stimulators are now being inserted in hospitals, but we know that modern medicine takes a while to catch up with "alternative" methods. The good news is you can work on healing your own vagal tone with daily commitment. It seems too simple to work right? Nope! That's the magic I so long to teach.
I like to call it the only maths formula I ever understood!
Follow your nose
I love to use my oils for this practise too as you remember those little receptor sites that connnect our sense of smell to our emotional centre? Yep those nerve endings are all in play here too. Taking deep belly breaths using your favourite essential oil really makes an impact.
Whatever technique works for you. Promise yourself you will do it. If you fall down and get lost. Try not to beat yourself up. That's just the ego up to it's old shenanigans! Try again tomorrow.
You'll get there. I promise.