Anxiety - Anger - Depression - Sadness - Stress - Rumination
Your well-being is linked to your perception of physical and mental safety. Once threatened, your nervous system reacts by releasing hormones, such as adrenaline, in order to prepare the body for fight or flight. This automatic stress reaction has ensured the survival of humankind and is necessary to face an acute stressor. However, chronic stress dysregulates underlying biochemical processes which can change brain anatomy, brain chemistry and gene expression.
Enhanced sensitivity to stress depends on a combination of genetic, developmental and environmental factors. If you have experienced many stressful situations in your life (for example, violence, abuse, neglect, unstable family dynamics, economic problems, etc.), your nervous system may be more easily agitated, interpreting a situation as threatening although in reality there might be no danger. This can result in difficulties regulating your emotions and putting situations into perspective.
The concept of the window of tolerance, first presented by Dr. Daniel Siegel in 1999, illustrates how a person functions well when the nervous system stays within “an optimal arousal zone”. However, chronic stress can lead the nervous system into hyper- or hypoarousal.
A state of hyperarousal is characterized by increased anxiety, anger, irritability and impulsivity. Difficulties in thinking clearly, concentration problems as well as sleep problems can result. Individuals may have a general feeling of being easily overwhelmed and not being able to control their emotions.
In contrast, hypoarousal can be described as a freeze response. A person might dissociate and appear not present, almost disconnected from reality. In this state, individuals often feel depressed, lacking energy and enthusiasm for life.
WHAT TO DO?
A combination of several techniques can help your nervous system to re-regulate in the long run and to revert to the window of tolerance, such as brainspotting, lifespan integration, mindfulness techniques and body awareness techniques.
When your nervous system calms down, you regain a deeper awareness of your physical sensations and, with it, the feeling of safety.