Understanding your nervous system, what states it tends to default towards, and what it needs at any given time can make a great difference to your quality of life this New Year. Creating a Nervous System Toolkit can support you as you have more growth-promoting experiences.
Our nervous system is consistently filtering information from our environment in the background of our everyday life. Poly-vagal theory proposes that the vagus nerve helps the body process information, with 80% of that info being communicated from the body up to the brain. This helps the brain determine the level of threat we're facing.
Depending on what your body has experienced throughout your life, your nervous system may default more towards a dorsal vagal state of shutting down, a sympathetic state of hypervigilance, or a ventral vagal state of flow. Instead of moving through all three states, you may default to a certain state no matter the circumstance.
For example, if you tend to experience more depressive-like states, you may default more towards a dorsal-vagal shutdown or freeze states. If you tend to experience more anxiety, you may default more towards a sympathetic or fight/flight/fawn states. If you tend to experience flow and social engagement tendencies, you may default more towards a ventral-vagal state.
Whatever your default, creating a Nervous System Toolkit can help you navigate challenging states. It can become a highway towards greater ease. You can create it all at once or you can take your time gathering each piece. Do what serves you. Here are the 12 pieces I invite you to gather:
Physical Toolkit: Grab a box, a notebook, or even your phone/laptop notepad to create a tangible Toolkit. Which option will be most easily accessible in a time of need? Pick that one.
Default state: Notice what your nervous system default tends to be. When you're in that state, what can help you communicate safety to the body? Design your Toolkit based on what can help your body feel physiologically safe.
Environment: Pick a corner of your house/room/apartment/car or a coffee shop. What place do you already have positive associations with? Note it down in your Toolkit.
Nutrient-dense food: Depending on your default state, it can be hard to remember to eat. What's a simple, nutrient-dense meal that you enjoy? Note it down and keep most, if not all, of the ingredients in the pantry at any given time.
Water: Considering that water is so important to our overall wellbeing, is there a water bottle that you can get into the habit of carrying with you wherever you go? Think of the Toolkit as an opportunity to consistently get back to basics to help your body feel physiologically safe and comfortable while navigating growth.
Sleep: Is it possible to have a simple winding down routine? For example, grabbing a cozy blanket, keeping comforting reads on your side table, or petting a furry friend. Note it down.
Connection: Pick one person you can call when you need to talk things through or simply be on the phone with as you self-regulate. Who might that person be? Safe co-regulation is vital to self-regulation. Put their name in your Toolkit.
Visual grounding: Pick one visual cue that can help you feel settled when feeling shut down or anxious or can help you maintain a flow state. For example, a photo of a symbol that brings you comfort, a quotation on a post-it note, or a colour you find soothing.
Auditory grounding: Pick one auditory cue. For example, a soothing playlist, a guided meditation, or background noise that helps you settle.
Kinesthetic grounding: Pick one kinesthetic cue. For example, how can movement support you? This can include going for a walk, a Yoga class, or even creating a craft/painting/journaling.
Practice makes possible: Note down all of the above and practice using your Nervous System Toolkit when you don't need it. That way, you can start to create patterns of behaviour, which will be easier to tap into when you do need them.
Reminder: Place the Toolkit somewhere where you can see it, remember it's available to you, and easily access it when you need it.
For coaching support on living into your purpose while befriending your nervous system instead of overriding it, book a Discovery Call with me!