How to stay emotionally regulated in a world of stress
In today’s world, we’re constantly on the go. We’re expected to return emails in a day, texts in an hour and instant messages within the minute.
Stress is a constant in daily life. But, there’s also stress from your past. If you’ve experienced a trauma, that event can be impacting you today, without you realizing it. Or, if you are in a tough situation and facing adversity, that also is impacting you more than you probably know.
Do you ever find yourself feeling dysregulated (that’s a fancy psychology word for discombobulated!)? You’re not alone. The good news is that you don’t have to continue feeling that way. You can take back control. You don’t even need a psychology degree! You can learn how to regulate yourself so you can move forward and be present in your day to day activities. You don’t have to let your past dictate how you feel physically or emotionally.
Let me explain….
Your body has a balance system that is working every minute of every day, without you even thinking about it! We are grateful that our heart pumps blood, kidneys flush toxins, our lungs breath in and out–all without a day off, and all while you are busy doing other things.
However, when you are out of balance due to toxic stress, adversity or trauma, your body is also working without you realizing it. Under stress, your body begins to adapt to reduce the risk of further distress or pain.
Your body goes into a reactive state using the “parasympathetic nervous system” which means you are in complete survival mode.
So what happens to you when we’re in survival mode, dealing with chronic stress?
- You become reactive
- You can’t think straight
- You can’t think of the future things
- You have a hard time self-reflecting and can’t set goals
- You become impulsive, irrational, illogical
- You have difficulties in your relationships
No wonder people who are dealing with toxic stress, adversity, and trauma have difficulty in their relationships! Many people feel that they themselves are the problem, but often it’s just your body’s response trying to keep you safe, but ultimately making your daily life and relationships so much more difficult.
Good news! You can learn how to manage these emotional responses in order to maintain wonderful, healthy relationships. This is also something great to teach kids, for when they are overwhelmed and need help calming their emotions and bodies.
So what can you do to snap out of your dysregulated mode?
1. Maintain self awareness by becoming aware of your body
Why focus on the body? Your body is always trying to tell you something. Never disregard the feedback your body is telling you. Your body is connected with your mind and tells you what is going on.
Notice when your palms become sweaty, muscles tense, cold hands, stomach hurts, get a headache, heart beats fast.
“After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system. The survivor’s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their life. This explains why is is critical for trauma treatment to engage the entire organism, body, mind, and brain.”
2. Learn to self regulate
This is done through learning emotional regulation techniques that incorporate mind body connection. If you have a therapist, they can help you create some of these techniques, or you can explore mindfulness tools on your own.
3. Express and explore your feelings and what is creating stress in your life
Tell your story, express your needs, and fears, hurt and pain.
4. Engage in cognitive restructuring. Learn from your experiences. Acknowledge your strength to make it through the situation.
You have strengths and competencies that helped you get through your situation. Now you can move forward in like deciding how to narrate the rest of your life, rather than having your past narrate it for you.
“Trauma results in a fundamental reorganization of the way mind and brain manage perceptions. It changes not only how we think and what we think about, but also our very capacity to think. The act of telling the story doesn’t necessarily alter the automatic physical and hormonal responses of bodies that remain hypervigilant, prepared to be assaulted or violated at any time. For real change to take place, the body needs to learn that the danger has passed and to live in the reality of the present.”