The push and pull of our nervous system in the floaty world of Hydro-ease

Do you ever just sense somethings not right?

Do you ever feel agitated, on edge or just downright uneasy in a certain place?

Have you ever just sat with this feeling and made sense of its presence?

Have you ever felt restless in someone’s company?

Have you ever avoided someone as you know you just feel nervous around them?

This is your bodies way of altering you to a previous threat, that previous threat has left an imprint on your nervous system to remind you of the original danger, as perceived by you.

You see our bodies talk to each other from approx. 6 feet apart, no words, no actions, or gestures just presence.

Polyvegal theory

Back in 1994 Dr Stephen Porges introduced us to the concept of “Polyvegal theory” and he has been conducting research on the topic for more than five decades.

Polyvagal theory made so much sense to me as it explains a core human process that helps us to mitigate threat and support mental health, it highlights the parasympathetic nervous system (the nervous system flowing from the sympathetic nervous system, the brain and spinal cord) and the role their vagal circuits play in the neurophysiological mechanisms related to trauma and trauma responses.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms may be viewed as the product of a reconditioned nervous system that developed during extreme and/or repeated exposures to threat.

Polyvagal theory helps us to understand how an individual’s sense of safety, or danger and threat, can impact their behaviour and overall mental wellbeing.

In this theory Dr Porges introduces us to the 3 main nervous system states, there is the VENTRAL vagal phase, where we are in a state of feeling safe, we feel connected to others socially, we are curious and open. In this state we feel grounded and settled, this is a feeling of “flow” where we are engaged and compassionate with self and others. Ideally this is a preferred state, we can visit the other states as and when needed to drive us to action and keep us from harm’s way.

Then all it takes is one thing for that all to change. It may be a noise, like music or a bang- a smell like perfume or body odour, someone’s tone of voice or choice of vocabulary, body movement or touch or a change of energy in the environment.

Then there is the SYMPATHETIC state, where our system detects threat and we prepare to deal with it, in the way we have taught our system through many experiences of threat activation, and this can present in one of 5 ways. Through the 5 F’s – Fight, Flight, Freeze, Flop or Friend. Fight/Flight most of us are familiar with, for some of us the freeze response will be familiar where we feel we cannot express ourselves verbally or physically as we perceive we are stuck in the moment unable to engage in anything outside our own skin, we feel everything rushing within us and are unable to get it out or express it. Then there is flop, where all our internal resources rush to shut the system down to prevent overwhelm, resulting in a need to lie down, retreat or a in some cases faint, or we begin to fawn over people, always feeling we need to be their friend. We agree with them even if fundamentally our values and beliefs do not align to what they are saying, perhaps we get involved in situations or organisations to “Fit in” all of this is a strategy to seek safety.

Again, all of this serves the system well.

Then we have DORSAL vagal, this is where the body has experienced a huge threat (near death) or many threats over a prolonged period (usually in childhood/early life) this is likened to freeze however the difference is there’s a shutting down on the inside, a numbness a feeling of helplessness an inability to engage emotionally with anything. This can happen after giving birth if it’s been a difficult delivery. This can happen after a death of a loved one where the system closes down in order to get you through, or after witnessing an atrocity the belief is something like, I can’t feel this right now as the emotions attached would be too overwhelming.

Sympathetic and dorsal are equally as important as ventral, however if we activate these states a lot over a short period of time, we run the possibility of getting stuck there, this becomes our way of being, or our preferred operating system robbing us of the joys of ventral where we can be at ease, curious, creative, and connected. Our whole nervous system can then be edgy, we then over produce stress chemicals thus lower our immune response, creating tension in the system, generating feelings of being stuck which physically can manifest as regional or all over body unexplained pain, and we are then given diagnoses of things like Chronic regional pain syndrome, arthritis, MS, fibromyalgia etc.

Imagine having a place to go where you can settle into your nervous system, without the activation of threat, without the need to have the 5 F’s or feel anything for anyone else, only yourself in that moment.

How Flotation Helps

This is where floatation comes in, at Hydro-ease we understand this concept and the huge wisdom the magic salty water can provide for you and your nervous system. Placing your whole system into an environment of rest, repair and relaxation and inviting your nervous system to cultivate somatic awareness, including both interoception (collection of senses providing information about the internal state of the body) and proprioception (perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body) combined with the mindfulness-based qualities of nonjudgement, nonreactivity, and curiosity through focussing on the breath.

Floating offers so much more than just an opportunity to get off the world for a period of time, it offers a healing modality like no other. Floatation is a huge step to recovery, and I invite you to give it a go.

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