Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) coordinates an awe-inspiring range of activities such as breathing, digesting, oxygenating, metabolizing, immune system functioning, sensing, and moving, all without our conscious mind needing to understand or control these processes.
One of the key functions of the ANS is the coordination of our automatic response to threat, allowing us to quickly and without conscious thought act to maximize our chances of survival in life-threatening situations. Sometimes life-threatening events or ongoing traumatic situations (such as abuse or neglect) can overwhelm our nervous system, especially when they occur when we are young children without the right kind of support from a caregiver to help us regulate our overwhelm. In these situations, three things can happen in our neurology:
- Whatever responses and strategies we used that were successful—that is, those responses that allowed us to survive—are reinforced in our autonomic nervous system. This means that, in the future, we will tend to automatically use these same strategies when we perceive we are in a similarly threatening situation, even when our perception is mistaken and we are not actually threatened. Our autonomic perception of what is actually threatening and what is not can become significantly impaired.
- There is a disruption in the connection between the primitive, emotional, and thinking areas of the brain.
- Due to the overwhelm and lack of support at the time of the experience, we are unable to fully integrate the enormous amounts of energy produced or “complete” the sequence of activation. This undigested excess energy is isolated and stored within our system so that we can continue to function. We then form protective mechanisms to keep ourselves away from the overwhelming sensations and feelings associated with the trauma, and the energy remains stored until such a time that the right conditions are present for that energy to resolve and integrate, or until there is a breakdown in the integrity of the system.
Over time, symptoms and conditions will begin to arise due to the repression of the unintegrated energy and the disruption in our brain connections. We call these conditions diseases, disorders, and illnesses. It has been estimated that 80% or more of all health conditions are related to autonomic nervous system dysregulation. I consider autonomic nervous system regulation to be the foundation of health. Not only do many health conditions resolve with ANS regulation, but a settled nervous system is necessary to move into deeper healing and transformative processes.
Due to my personal journey, my particular area of interest is in working with depression, anxiety, bi-polar, and conditions related to unresolved trauma. In addition, ANS regulation can be very helpful for the following:
- Before, during, and/or after surgeries, ER visits, and dental procedures, especially when anxiety is present
- Auto-immune & inflammatory conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Celiac Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Type 1 Diabetes, Asthma, Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Ulcers, etc.
- Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Migraines
Note: Autonomic Nervous System Regulation sessions require active participation on your part. The main goal is to support you in coming back into relationship with your body’s innate healing intelligence and empower you with the knowledge, skills, and tools you need to regulate your own nervous system.
Interested in delving deeper? Check out my reference page here for books, videos, and schools that will take you as far down the rabbit hole as you want to go.