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How to Manifest By Regulating Your Nervous System

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Your nervous system plays a surprisingly large role in manifesting your dreams. It can help you feel centered, secure, and courageous as you take on your goals. Or, it can keep you stuck in fear and survival mode, inhibiting your ability to manifest your desires with confidence. In my upcoming book, Heal Your Past to Manifest Your Future: Trauma-Informed Practices to Release Emotional Blocks and Open to Life’s Possibilities, I discuss the role of the nervous system in manifesting at great length. Here’s a quick guide to start feeling safer and bolder as you approach your goals.

Your Nervous System

Your nervous system is made up of your brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Its main function is to send messages between your brain and body. When the nervous system detects a threat, it sends a message to the body to trigger a stress response. This is a largely unconscious process. Before you even realize it, your body might react to something in your environment with a fight, flight, freeze, or fawn stress response.

The nervous system judges threats based on your past experiences, and can trigger a stress response even if there is no real danger. In other words, it’s about perceived threats more than actual threats. A neutral stimulus as simple as a work deadline can make you freeze up and shut down, even if the situation isn’t likely to lead to dire consequences.

Stress responses become a problem when your body constantly misperceives neutral stimuli as threats, and when you get stuck in a stress response cycle, unable to return to feelings of safety and calm. If this happens often, it can feel like you’re living in survival mode. The psychological term for this is chronic nervous system dysregulation. Chronic nervous system dysregulation is a common symptom of trauma. It means that your stress response (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn) is almost always stuck in the “on” position. This leads to feeling easily overwhelmed or discouraged.

Here’s what chronic nervous system dysregulation can look like and how it can impact your goals:

  • Being stuck in a “fight” stress response that makes you constantly criticize or push yourself or others (this might work short-term, but usually backfires)
  • Being stuck in a “flight” stress response that makes you imagine every worst-case scenario, worry, chase people and things, over-work, and try to micro-manage everyone around you
  • Being stuck in a “freeze” stress response that makes you shut down, withdraw, feel defeated, and not take action toward your goals
  • Being stuck in a “fawn” stress response that makes you people-please and spend all your energy nurturing other people’s emotions and goals instead of your own

In contrast, a well-regulated nervous system is flexible and resilient—it allows you to move in and out of different stress responses as needed and quickly return to feelings of safety. It helps you release the constant need for self-protection and enter what’s called a ventral vagal state more of the time. In a ventral vagal state, you feel safe, connected, trusting, open, resourceful, and hopeful.

Why You Need to Expand Your Nervous System Capacity in Order to Manifest

To manifest your greatest desires, you have to change how you react to stressors. Why? Because the process of manifesting change is inherently filled with uncertainty and discomfort. It’s understandable that the familiar feels safe, even if it isn’t or it keeps you small or stuck. And yet, it’s possible to learn how to regulate your nervous system and increase your capacity to tolerate the discomfort of growth.

Over time, you can transform your comfort zone and expand what’s referred to as your window of tolerance. Your window of tolerance is your ability to be present with a potentially stressful experience without getting overwhelmed or shutting down. 

For example, if you want to manifest a healthy relationship after being in a harmful situationship, you’ll need to go beyond what is known and what is comfortable. Rather than jumping back into old patterns (such as texting an ex or ignoring red flags with new partners), you’ll have to navigate triggers and tolerate the discomfort of choosing new behaviors. This is how you open new doors and become an upleveled version of yourself. Without an adequate nervous system capacity to hold space for bigger experiences, you’ll close new doors and return to old patterns.

A  nervous system that’s well-regulated will also help you be more optimistic and hopeful. It’s much easier to believe in and be open to new possibilities when your nervous system is in a ventral vagal state more of the time. You begin to trust that things will work out and that you’ll be okay no matter what. Rather than surviving, your focus becomes thriving. In this state, you can imagine positive outcomes, courageously take action, and confidently wait as things unfold. 

So, how do you expand your nervous system capacity and live in a ventral vagal state more of the time?  

How to Regulate Your Nervous System

By taking care of your nervous system, you’re teaching it how to turn off survival mode (even if it’s for short periods of time) and turn on safety and thriving mode. This will help you keep your anxiety in check as you pursue the goals that are important to you—ensuring that you don’t sabotage your efforts by over-striving, chasing, controlling, procrastinating, or underperforming.

There are many strategies for regulating your nervous system. Explore different tools to see which ones work best for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

If you’re in an anxious, impatient, or agitated state, you can focus on downregulating your nervous system away from fight or flight. Here are a few strategies for downregulating:

  1. Use cool temperature. Splash cold water on your face, drink ice water, or get some cool fresh air.
  2. Prolong your exhales. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4 then exhale through your mouth for a count of 8. Repeat about 4 times.
  3. Engage in movement. Dance, exercise, or shake off the stress until you feel a sense of release.
  4. Co-regulate. Call a supportive friend or pet an animal.

If you’re feeling stuck, apathetic, sluggish, helpless, or hopeless, you can focus on upregulating your nervous system away from a freeze response. Here are few strategies for upregulating:

  1. Use warm temperature. Take a warm bath or drink a warm cup of tea.
  2. Engage in gentle movements. Take a casual walk, do some gentle yoga, or, if those feel like too much, try imagined movement (e.g., visualize yourself ice skating or walking on the beach).
  3. Take a small action. Accomplish one very small and simple task to get moving.
  4. Co-regulate. Call a supportive friend or pet an animal.
Final Thoughts

It’s possible to pursue your goals with more optimism, courage, resilience, and trust. It all starts with learning how to manifest by regulating your nervous system. To read more about modern, trauma-informed manifesting, check out my new book Heal Your Past to Manifest Your Future: Trauma-Informed Practices to Release Emotional Blocks and Open to Life’s Possibilities.

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