How to manage our nervous systems, and find safety and connection for better mental health
Audio only version
Deb Dana, LCSW, is a world-renowned clinician, consultant, author and speaker who has successfully put into practice Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory (PVT), making it accessible and beneficial to hundreds of thousands of people around the world by developing therapeutic practices based on PVT. Deb has a busy career training therapists around the world on how to bring a Polyvagal approach into their clinical practice, and also works with agencies and larger systems to explore how to incorporate a Polyvagal perspective into organisational culture to make them safer, happier, and healthier places to learn, work and function. She is a founding member of The Polyvagal Institute, a consultant to Khiron Clinics, and an advisor to Unyte. She is the author of several books, including her latest Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory and Polyvagal Practices: Anchoring the Self in Safety.
In this fascinating interview for The MindHealth360 Show, Deb discusses how the state of our nervous systems is essential to our mental and physical health and our daily energy regulation, and how we can understand and manage this state throughout the day using tools and techniques based on Polyvagal Theory. She talks about the hierarchy of the nervous system – from the ventral vagal state (social engagement, which is essential to health, growth and restoration), to the sympathetic state (fight-flight), and finally to the dorsal state (freeze, collapse) and how each one relates to different adaptive behaviours and pathways of neuroception, further influencing our nervous systems. She tells us of different strategies to move more quickly and easily from dorsal or sympathetic to ventral states so we can find calm, connection and healing in our lives. She also discusses the impact of loneliness; her “glimmers” of ventral activation (gone viral on Tik Tok) that we can use to self-regulate; and tells us how different peoples’ nervous systems require different interventions to find their way back to the ventral pathway which is essential to healing; as well as the importance of following the “intuition” of our nervous system. If we could all put Deb’s healing work into daily practice and better manage our nervous systems, our inner and outer worlds would be happier, healthier and safer places to live.
- The three tenets of Polyvagal Theory: how hierarchy, neuroception, and co-regulation are essential to understanding how the nervous system functions and thrives
- How the sympathetic nervous system, and the dorsal and ventral pathways of the parasympathetic nervous system, create states associated with fight or flight, shutdown or freeze, and safety and connection
- How the nervous system can get “stuck” in the sympathetic and dorsal states, and strategies to help us return to the ventral pathway to find safety, security, and connection for health, growth and restoration
- How the Inside, Outside, and Between pathways of neuroception inform how our nervous system perceives the world
- How different strategies (such as music, nature, scent, breath) may work for different people’s nervous systems to help them return to ventral vagal states
- How we can use “glimmers” and “savouring” to find and extend moments of ventral vagal healing in our daily lives
About Deb Dana
Deb Dana, LCSW, is a clinician, consultant, author and speaker specializing in complex trauma. Her work is focused on using the lens of Polyvagal Theory to understand and resolve the impact of trauma in our lives.
Deb’s work shows how an understanding of Polyvagal Theory is applicable across the board to relationships, mental health, and trauma. She delves into the intricacies of how we can all use an understanding of the organizing principles of Polyvagal Theory to change the ways we navigate our daily lives. Deb is well known for translating PVT into a language and application that is both clear and accessible – and for her significant contribution, pioneering Rhythm of Regulation® methodology, tools, techniques and practices which continue to open up the power of PVT for professionals and curious people from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life.
Deb has a busy career training therapists around the world in how to bring a Polyvagal approach into their clinical practice, and also works with agencies and larger systems to explore how to incorporate a Polyvagal perspective. She is a founding member of The Polyvagal Institute, a consultant to Khiron Clinics, and an advisor to Unyte.
Deb believes that we all benefit when we have a basic understanding of the ways the nervous system works and learn how to become active operators of this essential system. Following this passion has led her to offering workshops in partnership with groups and communities outside of the clinical arena – and bringing the Polyvagal perspective to the ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, experiences of daily living.
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