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There is a simple, yet powerful way that I practice reminding myself who I am.
To be grateful for everything I have in abundance.
It started on one of those days when my nervous system was slipping into a dorsal vagal shutdown.
It was a normal summer day in India, and I had logged into work online after finishing a scrumptious breakfast. About 30 minutes into my routine, something had triggered me, and I immediately felt a huge pull toward the ground. I just wanted to collapse like a piece of cloth and lie down.
Now you would think it was sudden but in actuality, my body had started showing signs of fatigue long ago, and I kept working on it, but something I read triggered me, and there I was having a flashback.
The polyvagal theory refers to three branches of the vagus nerve, which are responsible for freeze, sympathetic responses of flight and fight, and the complete state of self-awareness, safety, and security.
In the dorsal branch of the vagus nerve, shutdown or freeze-or-faint occurs through the dorsal branch of the vagus nerve. This reaction can feel like the fatigued muscles and lightheadedness of a bad flu. When the dorsal vagal nerve shuts down the body, it can move us into immobility or dissociation. In addition to affecting the heart and lungs, the dorsal branch affects body functioning below the diaphragm and is involved in digestive issues.
In that state where my body had started to slump and severe fatigue had set in, I decided to devise something that I could reach out to easily to help me back up.
I wrote a note to myself on a small piece of paper. It said, “I deserve abundant kindness.” I left it in my journal, and it brought me joy. I continued doing it every day.
Another note said, “open me,” with a set of messages inside: “You are beautiful. You are kind. You are grateful, and you are loved.”
What this did was help me breathe a little and slowly pushed me away from slipping into a state of dissociation. It helped me to feel my feelings again. I started leaving notes at different places around the house and also places I would look often.
The notes had simple messages like these:
I am beautiful
I am grateful
I am enough
I am abundant
I am my true, sweet self
I am safe
I am protected
I am secure
I am kind
I am grateful for everything I have in abundance
I also tried another version of the same gratitude exercise by listening to my own recorded voice when I was in the ventral vagal state. Whenever I feel as if I am slumping down into freeze mode or I am in a prolonged sympathetic flight-or-fight mode, I go to those places and find the notes.
It’s one thing to look at your wall and see these messages, but it’s another thing to find them in places that are not so obvious. I know I am doing the best I can every single day. I am mindful about being gentle with my sweet, loving self, and at times when I am not, I need these reminders the most.
The best part about realizing your trauma and starting your healing journey from an informed eye is that we will always come up with new ways of growing and how to keep it going.
And this goes into my list of sweet things I do.
Gratitude is a great way to be present and handle triggers; to replace your protective parts like anger, emotional eating, or substance abuse with actual healthy habits that make you feel safe—even when you are feeling your feelings.
It is a great way to realize that there are going to be good and bad days and that is okay. Writing those notes made me realize the anatomical nature of my sweet self.
May you fall in love with your sweet self.