Creating a Map of Your Autonomic States

– On a piece of paper, or in a journal, divide the page into three parts, each part representing each of the three autonomic states, or you can do one page for each state, whatever works best for you

Sympathetic nervous system/Dorsal vagal – fight/flight
– Choose a colour to represent it
– Is there an image that might help you to represent this state? It could be anything that represents “fight/flight” for you. For example, an animal, or a storm.
– Remember a time when you felt the sense of sympathetic mobilizing energy moving through you
– Can you identify what might put you into this state? Are there any triggers that you can identify? Name them.
– What does this state look like for you? Are there any physical representations that might help you identify that you are in high activation? For example: Are you fidgeting? Are your shoulders slumped or tense? Is your jaw tense? Are you making eye contact?
– Really try to connect with your body when you have been in this state and what it felt like for you.
– What does your thinking look like when you are in this state? Do you have any recurring thoughts during this state? What are they?
– Were you able to move from this state? What helped you move from this state?
– You might feel a sense of too much energy flooding your system, a sense of unease, perhaps even overwhelmed
– Get enough of it in your mind and body to begin to map it
– Make note of what triggers you might have, make note of what the state looks like for you, make note of what can help you move from this state

Sympathetic nervous system/Dorsal vagal – freeze/fawn
– Choose a colour to represent it
– Is there an image that might help you to represent this state? It could be anything that represents “freeze/fawn” for you. For example, an animal.
– Think of a time when you felt a sense of disconnect, a sense of collapse
– Can you identify what put you into this state? Are there any triggers that you can identify? Name them.
– What does this state look like for you? Are there any physical representations that might help you identify that your activation has moved to a frozen state? For example: Are you able to feel your body or does it feel disconnected? Does it feel like your limbs are not your own? Do you feel like retreating or hiding?
– Really try to connect with your body when you have been in this state and what it felt like for you.
– What does your thinking look like when you are in this state? Do you have any recurring thoughts during this state? What are they?
– Were you able to move from this state? What helped you move from this state?
– Get enough of it in your body and mind to begin to map it
– Make note of what triggers you might have, make note of what the state looks like for you, make note of what can help you move from this state

Parasympathetic nervous system/Ventral vagal
– Choose a colour to represent it
– The sense that everything is mostly okay, the world is safe enough
– What does safety look like for you? What does safety feel like for you? What helps to keep you in this state?

Social Engagement
– Choose a colour to represent it
– The sense that everything is okay, the world is safe for now

– Complete the two sentences for each state…
– “I am…”
– “The world is…”

– What is the body sensations of each state, the behaviour, the thoughts

– Which state do you most often navigate daily living

– Triggers occur when the vagal brake is not able to relax

– Track the states throughout the day

– Use with other crisis and wellness plans

– Use regulating resources with other plans as well

Sympathetic/Dorsal – fight/flight
– What thoughts or behaviours keep me here?
– What moves me out of here?

Sympathetic/Dorsal – freeze/fawn
– What thoughts or behaviours keep me here?
– What moves me out of here?

Parasympathetic/Ventral
– What thoughts or behaviours might keep me here?
– What moves me from here?

Social Engagement
– What keeps me here?

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