Although I may not know exactly what you’re going through, based on what I’ve been experiencing, and the many other people I’ve talked to, my guess is you’re feeling some level of angst, exhaustion, and impatience right now. Ami right?
And whether or not you’re feeling those things, what I’m about to share will be helpful either way.
I actually attempted to write this article about a week ago. But as almost everything lately has felt harder to do, and taken longer than usual, (due to the level of deep processing happening on the regular, given the state of the world and everything we’re going through individually and collectively) I never finished it.
But what I was writing was the following:
This week especially has been like Dorothy in Oz. At times like I’ve woken up in a strange land, not sure where to go, or how long I’ll be here 😆
On Monday I felt like old versions of me, old thoughts and ways of being coming up. The only difference was that I was observing it and allowing it, much more than being in it.
On Tuesday I felt exhausted, for no particular reason, and after getting plenty of sleep.
On Wednesday I felt completely unfocused and scatterbrained.
And many nights I’ve felt that angst and impatience, wondering when the next phase of my life will start (even though I know it’s already here in so many ways). My human mind has gotten stuck at times on the things I “can’t” do, because of the limitations we have right now, and the lack of certainty in certain areas of life.
If you’re a sensitive person, you may be feeling all of this more than anyone.
First of all, I hope it’s helpful in hearing that you’re not alone in your experience. I’ve found that with how fast we can move as a culture, sometimes (often 😆) we need reminders to slow down and tune in to what’s going on internally. Maybe this was a helpful reminder for you in both those ways, acknowledging what’s going on internally, and knowing you’re not alone in it.
This year I learned about our nervous system’s Window of Tolerance or Zone of Optimal Arousal. This is the window in which our nervous system feels comfy and at home. When we’re in our window of tolerance, it’s like a sweet spot, where we’re easily functioning, alert, and open to connection. When we’re above that zone, we’re in hyperarousal, and when we’re below it, hypoarousal.
As a sensitive person, it’s more likely that your window of optimal arousal (those horizontal red lines in the graphic above) is more narrow than other people’s, and you’re more easily pushed up into hyperarousal, which can lead to agitation, angstyness, feeling scattered, and on edge.
The reason I’m sharing all of this is because, with everything you might be feeling, knowing how to come back down into your zone of optimal arousal seems more important than ever, for our overall health and wellbeing, as well as our ability to continue functioning and moving forward in in a positive way in our lives.
Bringing ourselves back into our optimal window is called ‘regulating’. This can be done alone (self-regulation) or with others (co-regulation).
You can think of it like a gong being struck and vibrating (that’s our nervous system in the arousal state) and slowly coming back to stillness (that’s our nervous system regulating).
Hyperarousal can look like:
- Fight or Flight
- Highly stressed
- Higher heart rate
- Shallow breathing, and/or shorter quicker breaths
- Feeling like you want to jump out of your body
Some ideas for what you can do do help regulate:
- Listen to soft music
- Take deep breaths
- Take a walk
- Stand on the grass barefoot
- Ten minutes amongst the trees
- Be by a body of water
- Ask for a hug
- Phone a friend
- Pet your pet
Basically, anything that feels calming and grounding will work 🙂
When we’ve been in hyperarousal for too long, we may shift into hypoarousal, and actually swing down below our window of tolerance. Hypoarousal can look like:
- Freeze or immobilization
- Zoned out
- Feeling shut down
- Feeling collapsed
Some ideas to help regulate:
- Jumping jacks
- Push ups
- Brisk walking
Basically, anything that gets your energy moving, and shifts your state. Sometimes even just shifting the position your sitting in can help bring you from hypoarousal back up into your window of tolerance.
My favorite part is that none of these are hard or take very long to do.
As a caveat: none of this is meant to be done obsessively, where you’re constantly checking in on how you’re feeling. If you notice yourself going into perfectionism with it, it’s a good sign to set it to the side, and just come back to what’s going on underneath all of that – that is, what are the emotions you’re feeling underneath the perfectionism
Although I don’t expect myself to feel totally at ease right now (I’m definitely still human last time I checked), I do know that I can take care of myself throughout the day, and support myself in navigating life with a bit of grace, surrender, and even some calm amongst the storm.
As you look over these lists of ideas, it might not seem like you’d be doing much, especially if you continue to swing up outside of your window of tolerance despite the regulating. But, you really are doing a lot by consistently taking care of your nervous system.
If this speaks to you, I’d love to hear from you. Share in the comments below – What have you found to be regulating right now throughout this chaotic, uncertain time?
I’m sending you so much love and strength as you navigate all the challenges life may bring.