This past year you may feel like you have been alternating between stressed-out anxiety and disconnected depression. While some of us have enjoyed not dealing with the crunch of getting everyone out of the house on time in the morning, there have also been fewer opportunities for social connection, joy and the excitement of new things. When you get adjusted, we are helping you neurologically move out of both stress and depression.
The experiences of anxiety, depression and connection represent the three neurological states according to Porges’ polyvagal theory. You may have heard the term polyvagal theory. It is starting to become more commonly used in yoga, psychotherapy and also by people posting on Instagram.
We used to just talk about being in the “fight or flight” stress state or in the opposite “rest and digest” peaceful state. But after this year I think we can all recognize that there is a third state, which is the disconnected and isolated state. (It doesn’t yet have a cute name, but I trust it will soon!) This third state is neurologically referred to as the dorsal vagal state.
There are three things to know about the states our nervous systems occupy. The first is that it’s pre-cognitive. This means that our nervous systems have already decided how we will respond to an external stimulus before we even become consciously aware of it.
The second is that it’s self-reinforcing. This means that if you feel safe, you tend to sense more safety in your environment and if you feel threatened, you’re more likely to detect threats in your surroundings. Your brain develops habits and routines. If you have been stressed or depressed for a while, your brain tends to stay in the state it is used to.
The third is that, even if you have a habit of one particular state, all three states are available to us at all times! We have the capacity to shift between them. But if you have been stuck in one for a while, you may need some help getting out of it.
The reason you feel greater peace, ease, and grounding following an adjustment is because we’re helping you get out of the anxiety and disconnect states. We are working with the nervous system. We are teaching your brain new adaptive strategies! This helps you better respond to life’s stressors from the ventral vagal (the peace and joy) state.
The more we train your nervous system to take on a dominant ventral vagal state, the more likely you are to rely on this adaptive response in the future! That is why over time people report feeling more relaxed and more peaceful after an adjustment. If you are a new patient, it may take your body longer to “learn” how to get back into that state. But if you have been getting adjusted for a while, you probably notice you relax into peace more quickly than you used to. That’s your Ventral Vagal system in action!
If you are feeling like your energy is low, you are not as engaged in the world as you would like or that the anxiety of the world reopening is more than you can manage, please reach out! There is a lot we can do to help your body shift into a peacefully energized state.