Kieri Olmstead, MS, LMFT

January can be a time of new beginnings and resolutions. It can also be a time of bitter cold down to your bones that doesn't seem as much to do with the temperature outside as it does the mood in your mind. 
 
The first three months of the year are frequently referred to as "crisis season" in therapist forums and group discussions. We are all too familiar with the heaviness that comes after the holidays. This year is no different and actually can be all that much more heavy because of Covid-19, politics and social upheaval. 
 
If you're finding yourself struggling a bit more this year know that you are not alone. With the pandemic wreaking havoc the majority of 2020, our population has seen an increase in depression rates, anxiety and divorce. As we begin to approach the one year mark of Covid-19 we have small signs of hope with the vaccine and we are growing weary. Finding ways to re-regulate your nervous system and do some deep self care are going to be the best ways to cope. Remind yourself that we are playing a long game here and the best thing to do is focus on what you can control and not on the things that you can't. 
 
So, here are some tips to help you regulate:

Activate Your Vagus Nerve: the vagus nerve serves as the body's superhighway, carrying information between the brain and the internal organs and controlling the body's response in times of rest and relaxation.

  • Cold Helps: Splashing cold water on your face or taking a cold shower stimulates the dive reflex which is associated with stimulating the vagus nerve. You can also achieve the same effect by holding a ziplock bag filled with ice cubes against your face and holding your breath. Or submerge your tongue in cold liquid.
  • Humming - Humming or making a "vooooooo" or "ommm" sound stimulates the vocal cords and facilitates long, slow exhalation.
  • Valsalva Maneuver - Exhale against a closed airway by keeping your mouth closed and pinching your nose while trying to breathe out. It increases the pressure inside of your chest cavity, thereby stimulating your vagus nerve.
  • Massage - Even gently massaging around the carotid sinus located on the sides of your neck can stimulate the vagus nerve.
  • Slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Engage in positive social relationships.
  • Spend Time in Nature - especially on a day with sunshine.
  • Mild Exercise.
  • Meditating.
  • Delete Social Media Apps from your phone.

If all else fails - call your therapist. If you don't have one make an appointment at NFC. We can get you where you need to be and that may just be in my office. 
 
Be well, NFC family. 
 
Kieri Olmstead, MS, LMFT
For more follow me on Instagram @simple_empathy or visit my website: simpleempathykc.com