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Polyvagal Theory In Action

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

A client with #cptsd shared last week in our live group coaching program how she used what she’s learned in our #traumainformed coaching program to not loose her shit at work.

She was flooded, being pulled a million directions, and dealing with an annual special event that pushed her to her breaking point.

In the past, when her fight or flight response would kick in, she would walk out on a job or snap at someone and deeply regret it later.

But she did something amazing. She noticed her body was stressed and recognized from our #polyvagaltheory work she was flooded. She stopped herself dead in her tracks and used a breathing tool to #selfregulate and within a minute was able to reach out, connect, co-regulate with a coworker and ask for support.

You may not think this is a big deal, unless you’re a person who gets flooded with #anxiety when stressed. If you’ve been there you know this is a big deal!


Polyvagal Theory was defined by Steven Porges to further describe the "stress response" the nervous system experiences.

Most of us have heard of "flight or flight" or even "freeze" when we are stressed out. But what do we do with that information?

The first thing is to grow our self awareness through practices such as mindfulness and meditation to know when we are being "triggered."

Usually our bodies will know we are "triggered" or stressed before we consciously do, with a rapid heart rate, sweaty palms, confused, overwhelmed, etc.

The second step is to not judge yourself! Especially if you've had trauma, your body is operating it's own show, separate from your conscious thought and overriding years of reading self help books or even "knowing better." So go easy on yourself!

The last step is to implement targeted coping skills depending on how the trigger is affecting you.

If you're feeling shut down, confused, overwhelmed, unable to speak, or "frozen" you're going to need coping skills that ACTIVATE you and get energy moving! Typically you don't want to use coping skills like take a bath or meditate in this stage, because it will just keep your nervous system in the "dorsal vagal" or shut off stage.

If you're feeling more activated (think "fight or flight" response) the goal is to discharge or release the energy. I like to think of anxiety as information the body is giving you and energy that needs to be released.

So if you're in "fight" mode (tunnel vision, feeling defensive or attacking in an argument for example) or in "flight" mode (feeling flooded with emotions, overwhelmed, like you literally want to flee) coping skills that can help you release energy such as dancing, yoga, a brisk walk or grounding skills such as meditation, breathwork, and grounding visualizations work well.


If you found this helpful, leave me a comment! And if you want support in implementing these skills and healing your trauma, reach out to me!

With Compassion,

Cassandra Solano, LCSW

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