Deb Dana: Befriending Your Nervous System

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June 16, 2020

Deb Dana: Befriending Your Nervous System

Deborah Dana June 16, 2020

How well do you know your nervous system? Deb Dana is a clinician and consultant specializing in complex trauma, and is the coordinator of the Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. Her work at the Kinsey Institute is focused on using the lens of Polyvagal Theory to understand and resolve the impact of trauma, and create approaches that honor the role of the autonomic nervous system. With Sounds True, Deb has created a new audio program called Befriending Your Nervous System: Looking Through the Lens of Polyvagal Theory. In this podcast, Deb offers an introduction to the human nervous system, how Polyvagal Theory informs our understanding of the nervous system, how to manage the state known as “dysregulation,” and more.

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Becoming an Active Operator of Your Nervous System

Deb Dana, LCSW, is a clinician and consultant specializing in using the lens of Polyvagal Theory to understand and resolve the impact of trauma and create ways of working that honor the role of the autonomic nervous system. Her clinical publications include The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation and The Polyvagal Flip Chart: Understanding the Science of Safety, and her Sounds True publications include the audio program, Befriending Your Nervous System: Looking Through the Lens of Polyvagal Theory, and her new book Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory.

In this podcast, Tami Simon converses with Deb Dana to offer listeners a practical understanding of Polyvagal Theory and how we can begin to decode the language of our body for better health and better relationships. Tami and Deb also discuss the dorsal, sympathetic, and ventral states of our nervous system; the gifts of becoming “anchored in ventral”; neuroception, your nervous system’s way of taking in information to assess your safety; curiosity and the capacity for self-reflection; the importance of self-care; co-regulation as a biological imperative; why self-regulation is especially critical for therapists and other helping professionals; music and nature as healing resources; the practice of self-compassion as a means of “getting our anchor back”; and more.

Deb Dana: Befriending Your Nervous System

How well do you know your nervous system? Deb Dana is a clinician and consultant specializing in complex trauma, and is the coordinator of the Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium. Her work at the Kinsey Institute is focused on using the lens of Polyvagal Theory to understand and resolve the impact of trauma, and create approaches that honor the role of the autonomic nervous system. With Sounds True, Deb has created a new audio program called Befriending Your Nervous System: Looking Through the Lens of Polyvagal Theory. In this podcast, Deb offers an introduction to the human nervous system, how Polyvagal Theory informs our understanding of the nervous system, how to manage the state known as “dysregulation,” and more.

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5 Tools to Create More Space in Your Mind

Busyness, distraction, and stress have all led to the shrinking of the modern mind.

I realize that’s a strange thing to say. Most of us don’t think of our mind as something with space in it, as a thing that can either be big or small, expensive or claustrophobic.

But just think about the last time you felt overwhelmed, stressed, or out of control. Chances are, you might not even have to think that hard. You might be experiencing that state right now as you read these words.

What happens in these moments? 

First, our mind wanders. It spins through all sorts of random thoughts about the past and the future. As a result, we lose touch with the direct experience of present time.

Second, we lose perspective. We can’t see the big picture anymore. Instead, it’s like we’re viewing life through a long and narrow tunnel. We become blind to possibility, fixated on problems.

Put these two together and you’ve got the perfect recipe for eradicating space in the mind. The landscape of the mind begins to feel like a calendar jammed with so many meetings, events, and obligations that these neon colored boxes cover-up even the smallest slivers of white space. 

So it could be nice for our partner, for our kids, and, mostly, for our ourselves to consider: how can we create more space in the mind?

Here are five tools for creating mental space. If you want to go deeper, check out my new book with Sounds True on the topic called OPEN: Living With an Expansive Mind in a Distracted World.

1. Meditation.

You’ve no doubt heard about all of the scientifically validated benefits of this practice. It reduces stress. It boosts productivity. It enhances focus.

That is all true. But here is the real benefit of meditation: it creates more space in the mind. To get started, try it out for just a few minutes a day. Use an app or guided practice to help you.

2. Movement.

So, maybe you’re not the meditating type. That’s fine. You can still create space in the mind by setting aside time for undistracted movement.

The key word here is “undistracted.” For many of us, exercise and movement have become yet another time where our headspace gets covered over by texts, podcasts, or our favorite Netflix series. 

There’s nothing wrong with this. But it can be powerful to leave the earbuds behind every once in a while and allow the mind to rest while you walk, stretch, run, bike, swim, or practice yoga.

3. Relax.

When it comes to creating headspace, we moderns, with our smartphone-flooded, overly-stimulated, minds seem to inevitably encounter a problem: we’re often too stressed, amped, and agitated to open.

Relaxation – calming the nervous system – is perhaps the best way to counter this effect and create more fertile ground for opening. When we relax – the real kind, not the Netflix or TikTok kind –  the grip of difficult emotions loosens, the speed of our whirling thoughts slows, and, most important, the sense of space in our mind begins to expand.

How can you relax? Try yoga. Try extended exhale breathing, where you inhale four counts, exhale eight counts. Try yoga nidra. Or, just treat yourself to a nap.

4. See bigger.

When life gets crazy, the mind isn’t the only thing that shrinks. The size of our visual field also gets smaller. Our eyes strain. Our peripheral vision falls out of awareness.

What’s the antidote to this tunnel vision view? See bigger.

Try it right now. With a soft gaze, allow the edges of your visual field to slowly expand. Imagine you’re seeing whatever happens to be in front of you from the top of a vast mountain peak. Now bring this more expansive, panoramic, way of seeing with you for the rest of the day.

5. Do nothing.

Now for the most advanced practice. It’s advanced because it cuts against everything our culture believes in. In a world where everyone is trying desperately to get more done, one of the most radical acts is to not do — to do nothing.

Even just a few minutes of this paradoxical practice can help you experience an expansion of space in the mind.

Lie on the floor or outside on the grass. Close your eyes. Put on your favorite music if you want. Set an alarm for a few minutes so you don’t freak out too much. 

Then, stop. Drop the technique. Drop the effort. Just allow yourself to savor this rare experience of doing absolutely nothing.

Nate Klemp, PhD, is a philosopher, writer, and mindfulness entrepreneur. He is the coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Start Here and the New York Times critics’ pick The 80/80 Marriage. His work has been featured in the LA Times, Psychology Today, the Times of London, and more, and his appearances include Good Morning America and Talks at Google. He’s a cofounder of LifeXT and founding partner at Mindful. For more, visit nateklemp.com or @Nate_Klemp on Instagram.

Thomas Hübl: Alchemizing Individual, Ancestral, and C...

Visionary teacher Thomas Hübl is leading the way toward a new era of trauma healing on the individual, ancestral, and collective levels. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Hübl about his new book, Attuned: Practicing Interdependence to Heal Our Trauma—and Our World, and his unique synthesis of mysticism, science, and the world’s wisdom traditions. 

Give a listen to this deeply inspiring, deep-end conversation exploring: Presence and the alchemy of the past in the now; the concept of relational coherence; post-traumatic learning; avoiding presence as a way to protect oneself; attunement versus numbness; our interconnected nervous systems; ethical development; privilege and responsibility; increasing our ability to remain grounded; the power of feeling met; global witnessing groups; bringing love to the edge of a conscious universe; the three-sync process for becoming more aware of your body, emotions, and mind; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Matt Gutman: Conquering a Lifetime of Panic Attacks

28% of Americans will experience a panic attack in their lifetime. Some researchers say that number is closer to 50%. Renowned ABC News correspondent, Matt Gutman, never felt afraid when assigned to active and dangerous war zones. Yet when he had to speak on live television in front of a viewership of 9 million people, the seemingly unflappable reporter suffered intense panic attacks that nearly cost him his job. To help anyone whose life has been impacted by this often misunderstood mental health challenge, Gutman shares his personal journey in No Time to Panic

In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Gutman about the book and the hard-won insights he brings his readers, exploring: The importance of destigmatizing panic attack disorder; conventional and alternative healing modalities; “retiring the drill sergeant” (aka managing the inner critic); excavating unresolved grief; how panic disorder can metastasize into other psychological issues; physical threats vs. social threats (and how we tolerate them); the evolutionary purpose of anxiety; how vulnerability is often the first step toward healing; the paradox of welcoming your panic; psychedelics and ego transcendence; the power of mindfulness and meditation; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

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