What is hyper and hypo arousal?
Firstly, In case you missed the prior window of tolerance blog post here is a quick recap on what hyperarousal and hypoarousal are:
Hyperarousal is when your sympathetic nervous system kicks into overdrive and has too much arousal. Your sympathetic nervous system is made up of your fight, flight, or freeze response.
When you have a history of trauma or if you have been diagnosed with PTSD, you may recognize this as one of the main symptoms of PTSD.
Working with those who have experienced trauma, I’ve learned many are aware of the hyperarousal state, but not as aware of what hypoarousal is. Hypoarousal is also known as the shutdown response. This is when you do not have enough arousal because your parasympathetic system is overloaded. As a result you can feel shut down, numb or frozen.
You can be triggered into hypoarousal by thoughts, feelings, and memories reminding you of past traumatic experiences, as well as by present day triggers that can trigger past traumatic experiences.
What are ways to cope with hypoarousal & hyperarousal?
- Drink from a straw
- Drink warm tea
- Practice meditation
- Do a Progressive muscle relaxation exercise
- Listen to biolateral music
- Go for a slow walk
- Mindfulness of your posture: lengthen your spine & deep breathing.
- Hold an ice cube
- Use aromatherapy with calming scents
- Practice grounding by activating your senses!
- Name every detail for one object you can find
- Try paced breathing
- Stand up if your sitting
- Do some jumping jacks, walking, running, dancing
- Try to stand on one foot
- Lay down on the floor and rock your knees/legs from left to right.
- Dual awareness statements: i.e “I am in (place). It is (date). And I am safe.” Example: I am in my house, the doors are locked, it is 8/6/22 and I am safe.”
To conclude, it is beneficial to learn how trauma affects your nervous system. As shown above it will help to learn coping skills for all arousal states.
Blog Disclaimer – These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.
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