Deb Dana on Befriending Our Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory

gender nonconformity kids

While Polyvagal Theory has come up in conversations with guests past, including Dr. Mona Delahooke and Seth Perler, this episode is the first one dedicated solely to exploring this powerful theory. And to guide us through it I’ve brought onto the show Deb Dana LWCS, a clinician, consultant, and author who is known for being a translator of Polyvagal Theory, which was developed by Dr. Stephen Porges in the mid-1990s.

In this episode, Deb Dana gives us a primer of the key points of Polyvagal Theory, and in doing so, explains the ways in which it can support how we parent our differently wired kids. Deb explains the nervous system pathways, why co-regulation is essential to our survival, what befriending and listening to our autonomic nervous system looks like in practice, and the benefits of having a breathing practice. We also talk about why these concepts can change our relationship with our daily life, even if our circumstances stay the same, and explore many of the concepts included in her wonderful book, Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory.

As you’ll hear, this conversation blew my mind open in unexpected ways, and since we first recorded this conversation, has continued to impact the way I parent and move through the world. I hope it lands for you in an equally powerful way. 


About Deb Dana

Deb Dana, LCSW is a clinician, consultant and author specializing in complex trauma.  Her work is focused on using the lens of Polyvagal Theory to understand and resolve the impact of trauma, and creating ways of working that honor the role of the autonomic nervous system.  She is a founding member of the Polyvagal Institute, consultant to Khiron Clinics, advisor to Unyte, and developer of the signature Rhythm of Regulation Clinical Training Series. Deb is well known for translating Polyvagal Theory into a language and application that is both understandable and accessible for clinicians and curious people alike.

Deb’s clinical work published with W.W. Norton includes The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation, Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection: 50 Client Centered Practices, the Polyvagal Flip Chart: Understanding the Science of Safety, and the Polyvagal Card Deck: 58 Practices for Calm and Change. She partners with Sounds True to bring her Polyvagal perspective to a general audience through the audio program Befriending Your Nervous System: Looking Through the Lens of Polyvagal Theory and her print book Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory.


Things you’ll learn from this episode

  • What the nervous system pathways are and the three states we can be in
  • Which aspects of our nervous systems are innate or “hardwired” versus rooted in nurture or life experience
  • Why co-regulation is essential to our survival and examples for ways in which we constantly do it naturally
  • What befriending and listening to our autonomic nervous system looks like in practice
  • What the benefits of having a regular breathing practice are
  • The benefits of sighing


Resources mentioned for Deb Dana and Polyvagal Theory


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Episode Transcript

Debbie Reber  00:00

Tilt Parenting is proud to partner with Fusion Academy this season. Fusion Academy is a private, middle and high school with one on one classrooms to meet students exactly where they’re at academically, socially and emotionally. Learn more about the most personalized school in the world and how they’ve changed the lives of thousands of families, including mine at

Deb Dana  00:23

The key ingredient for kids is to have regulated adults around them. And that’s really the challenge for us is, the grown ups in kids lives is how do I anchor in regulation so that I can be regulated and offer that safe, predictable welcoming energy to my child.

Debbie Reber  00:50

Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host, Debbie Reber. If you are a regular listener of this show, you’ll be familiar with Polyvagal Theory as it’s come up in multiple interviews, including those with Dr. Mona Delahooke and Seth Perler. But this episode is the first one dedicated solely to exploring this powerful theory. And to do that with us. I am thrilled to be talking with Deb Dana, a clinician consultant and author who’s known for being a translator of Polyvagal Theory, which was developed by Dr. Steven Porges in the mid 1990s. In this episode, Deb gives us a primer of the key points of polyvagal theory and in doing so explains the ways in which it can support the way we parent our differently wired kids. Deb Dana explains nervous system pathways, why co-regulation is essential to our survival, what befriending and listening to our autonomic nervous system looks like in practice, and the benefits of having a breathing practice. We also talk about why these concepts can change our relationships to our daily life, even if our circumstances stay the same. Before we dive into this interview, here is a little more about my guest, Deb Dana, a licensed clinical social worker uses the lens of polyvagal theory to understand and resolve the impact of trauma and create ways of working that honor the role of the autonomic nervous system. She’s a founding member of The Polyvagal Institute, and developer of the Signature Rhythm of Regulation clinical training series. She is the author of several books on Polyvagal and the nervous system, including the one we’re talking about today, Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory. I just loved this conversation so much. As you’ll hear, it kind of blew my mind open in unexpected ways. And since we first recorded this conversation, it has continued to impact the way I parent and move through the world. I hope it lands for you in an equally powerful way. Before I get to our interview, I’ve been busy working on some new free resources for members of the tilt community, especially to those who are newer to this journey, looking to deepen their awareness and understanding about showing up for their differently wired kids. If that’s you, I’d love for you to check out a brand new resource that just went live this week, a free 10 Day video series called 10 Things You Have to Know When Raising a Differently Wired Child. In this new series, I’m sharing the 10 most important things to know otherwise known as things I wish I’d known when I first realized I was on this path of parenting a neurodivergent child to get this free series, just sign up at and you’ll get the first video right away. I hope you find it useful. Again, that’s Thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with Deb Dana.

Debbie Reber  04:01

Hello, Deb and welcome to the podcast.

Deb Dana  04:04

I am really happy to be here and to meet you and to dive into a conversation.

Debbie Reber  04:10

Yeah, me too. This is a conversation I’ve been looking forward to and was thrilled when you accepted my invitation to come on the podcast. I know you’re interviewed a lot. So I want to just start with your personal why. And if you could just tell us a little bit about the work that you do in the world.

Deb Dana  04:26

I like that my personal why, yeah. It’s a thing I’ve been reflecting on recently because, you know, I’m 69 and I’m at that place where I’m trying to decide what is it that I want to bring out into the world and my passion is really for helping people understand how their nervous system operates so that they can begin to become active operators of it. Because the nervous system is at the heart of every moment in our lives. And I think in the world we’re living in right now, a regulated nervous system is a path forward to healing individual and community well being. And it feels like it’s a time to, to really be offering how I look at this work to others. So I suppose my personal why began in the clinical world, I’m a clinician, and began, you know, wanting therapists to be able to help their clients in a different way. And now it’s expanded to oh, can we help reshape the world perhaps, so that it’s a safer place for people to live?

Debbie Reber  05:37

I love that mission. And it is so timely, you are known as a translator for polyvagal theory, which I love because it is complicated. Even reading your book, which we’ll talk about today, I was telling my child, I have to keep going back and rereading these paragraphs, and you’re breaking it down in such an accessible way. But it’s a complicated theory, and just concept, and it’s something we’ve dabbled in here on the show, Dr. Mona della hook has been on a couple times, and I know her work is very rooted in Polyvagal Theory to talk about your book, what were you hoping to do through anchored and the subtitle is how to befriend your nervous system using Polyvagal Theory.

Deb Dana  06:18

And we should give a beautiful round of sending gratitude to Stephen Porges, you know, my dear friend and colleague, who is the developer of polyvagal theory, and he and I were actually talking earlier today, and you know, just really marveling on his creation, right, which, which is then allowed us, as people, as clinicians, as parents, partners to understand how we are human and in a different way, which really, I think, is the gift of polyvagal theory. And for me, I think, you know, writing anchored was to bring these three organizing principles that I talked about neuroception, hierarchy, co regulation, out of the therapy, office and into the family, home and everyday life. Because this really is, I think, the foundation of how we move through the world. Those three, Steve has lots of principles in polyvagal theory. And I, I think, you know, these three to me really feel like the important ones. So you and I just met a few minutes ago, and our nervous systems are getting to know each other. Right. And that’s what happens moment to moment in our lives. And understanding how that happens. If we start with neuroception, just for a minute that our nervous systems are communicating through this biological experience. Right, our brains are then bringing some logic to the experience. But it’s an embodied experience we’re having and it’s happening all the time, inside our bodies, in the environment we’re living in and between nervous systems. And I think if we just understand that to start with, it’s pretty profound, right? It’s a powerful experience, because I can feel into my own experience and go, Oh, I’m feeling a little on edge. And then I can go back to neuroception. And say, well, neuroception is, it is feeling some signs of danger in one of those pathways. Which one is it or maybe all of them, and I can begin to look at those pathways and do something with them. The same is true, if I’m feeling really, you know, welcomed, which I am with you at the moment, and I could stop for a minute and think those three pathways are getting a welcome. What is it? Right, because when we know this about ourselves, we can begin to use that information wisely. Right. I think that’s a missing piece of information. For most of us, we don’t think about this biological conversation that’s going on.

Debbie Reber  08:55

It really is such a game changing concept. And you talked about the pathways. And in my last conversation with Mona, we talked about the nervous systems and the pathways of our kids, which she talks about the red, green and blue pathways, but could you describe the pathways as you’ve explained them in your book?

Deb Dana  09:14

Yeah, so you know, the neurosynaptic pathways and then we have the hierarchical pathways. And I think Mona in the red, green, blue, I can’t remember colors, is talking about the hierarchical pathways. So let’s talk about the neurosceptic pathways which we touched on first, the nervous system is always getting information from inside our body, outside in the world around us in between in the connection with other nervous systems with other humans right or or even with pets, right with our mammal pets. We get that so that inside outside between is always bringing information, but because it’s neuroception we don’t listen to it unless we tune in it unless We invite our brain to pay attention in a certain way, then we can tune in, which is, you know, like, oh, so what is going on in this moment, and you might take a moment and just listen in those three pathways to listen inside your body and what is going on. Right? It’s, it’s, it’s late morning for me is we’re doing this and, and I just had a second cup of coffee a while ago. And inside, it feels very warm and relaxed. So for me, it feels safe inside. Other people might have a different experience. And then outside in the space here, sitting into listen, you know, does it feel like a welcoming environment? Or is it a bit of a warning in your environment, and then the between, right in between, and for people listening it can, the between can happen because our voices are, are reaching out, right you and I get to also see each other, you know, which adds that other between but even the people who are just listening, there’s a between happening. So that’s a neuroception of three pathways. And when the signs that we get our welcomes, we then move to a certain place on the hierarchical pathway. When they’re warnings, we move to one of the two survival states. And that’s where Mona’s might be, you know, red, yellow, green, what we want to talk about is at the top of the hierarchy is what is called ventral and then the first survival state, we go to a sympathetic fight and flight. And most of us know that pretty well. And the third, the third state, the other survival pathway, is what is called dorsal. And it’s a place of shutdown, collapse. Right, so we have these three states, and depending on the signs from neuroception, we’re then taken to one of those states. So we get that conversation between neuroception and hierarchy. And I think that that’s a lovely thing to understand, that it’s our neuroception that then drives us to one of these states. And so, again, when we’re in one of these states, we have certain thoughts, feelings, behaviors, stories that come alive. And they’re very different, depending on which state we’re in. And I think, again, for moving through the world on our own understanding, Oh, I’m in more sympathetic anxiety at the moment. And so the story that my brain makes up around that is one about the world not being safe. If I’m in ventral feeling, okay, regulated, organized enough to make it through the world, the story my brain makes up is, oh, it’s interesting to explore today. And if I’m in dorsal, that other survival state that you know, where I’m in collapse, shutdown, disconnection, the brain makes up a story that says it’s hopeless, don’t even bother, right. And what’s interesting to remember is that nothing in the experience is different. The experience stays exactly the same. It’s my nervous system state that brings these different stories, behaviors, beliefs, feelings to life, right? So when I’m working with people, what I like to say is I can’t change what happened to you. And I can’t necessarily change what’s happening now. But I can change your relationship with it, because I can help you find the state of regulation, that opens a different story up. And I think that’s really, again, some of the powerful learning we have from this theory.

Debbie Reber  13:35

Yeah, again, it is such a different way of looking at things and understanding our responses, our kids’ responses, I want to talk about co-regulation. But before we talk about that, I guess I’m wondering based on our nervous systems, and knowing who the audience for this show is, we have kids who often spend a lot of time emotionally dysregulated may have pretty intensely wired nervous systems. And so I’m just wondering, is this something that we’re born with? Is this mostly nature? Is it part nurture? Like, what’s really going on there?

Deb Dana  14:08

Yeah, that’s a great question. I think we come into the world, perhaps with sensitivities. But what the research tells us is that our nervous system is shaped by our lived experience, so that could be a nature / nurture. There’s a lot of research that tells us that we can reshape our system. And that’s really why I’m a therapist to help people reshape their systems. Why I want to bring this to the world is because I want people to know you’re not, you’re not locked into the patterns of protection that you’re experiencing right now. You can build patterns of connection and the world can feel different can look different for you. So for kids who have more sensitive nervous systems, right, whether it’s the neuro diverse community, or the population I worked with were kids who grew up in dangerous family systems, dangerous worlds, abusive experiences, and their systems are shaped by those experiences as well. And the lovely thing is that over time we reshape those systems, right. And the, the key ingredient for kids is to have regulated adults around them. And that’s really the challenge for us as, as the grown ups in kids’ lives, is how do I anchor in regulation, so that I can be regulated and offer that safe, predictable, welcoming energy to my, my child, for me, it’s to my grandkids or to the children around. And the thing I would love to say is that none of us are anchored and ventral all the time. Right, it’s not possible to do that. And so if you’re a parent, and you know, you’ve reached the point where you just cannot hold your anchor and ventral know that you’re not alone, right happens for all of us many times a day, we leave and come back, and it’s not the getting pulled out of ventral out of regulation, that’s the problem. It’s if we get pulled out and get stuck in dysregulation, right, if we can’t find our way back to regulation, so the goal is to find ways to return home, I call it home to ventral, right, and when we’re with our kids, help our kids begin to create their own pathways back to regulation, right, and it’s challenging to do challenging for grownups in the world we’re living in right now and then challenging for kids, because they’re just learning. I think the nervous system inherently knows how to take us back to regulation. I do believe that I think it’s built into our systems. But often, we have to uncover those pathways, and then walk those pathways often so that they become well worn pathways. And, you know, with the kids that I see, and even thinking about my grandkids, you know, they get dysregulated, and they can’t find that pathway back. And it’s up to some adults in their world to be regulated and say, let me help you find the pathway back. Right, then once you get on that pathway, you can begin to see the system coming back to regulation. And, you know, we have to be patient with that process.

Debbie Reber  17:26

In thinking about co-regulation, I wrote down that you said in your book, without co-regulation, we can’t survive. And even just reading that really blew my mind. Because in this work that I do, being the parent of a neuro divergent kid, first of all, co regulation, it feels like kind of a new concept to me. And then in the context of, Wow, this could be really cool. Like this would be a nice to have, well, if we can co-regulate with their kid that would really help them calm their nervous systems, but to read that it is essential for all of us for survival. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Deb Dana  18:02

Yeah. And I think it’s important to talk about because in the world we live in, we talk about self regulation all the time, right? self regulation is what everybody’s trying to teach and, and reach for. And yet, if we only self regulate and can’t also co regulate, we can’t experience well being right. And in the developmental order of things, we really need to learn co regulation with a safe other first, and then on top of that, self regulation then emerges. And for many, many people, that’s not the case, it’s done in the opposite way for all sorts of survival reasons. So yes, co-regulation is a biological imperative. We need it to survive and to thrive. And we sometimes are in relationship with people for whom co-regulation is very challenging, right, and then our experience on the receiving end of that is often a move into some sort of survival state because the expectation our nervous system has is that we’re going to reach out all of reach back. Right. And for many, many of us, that doesn’t happen for all sorts of reasons. Right? I use my personal experience with my husband, Bob, who had a stroke seven and a half years ago. And so his capacity for reaching and offering for reciprocity changed and has not returned to what it was and my nervous system still has that experience of feeling. You know, the wound, like the missing, and then my brain can come online and say, Oh, it’s not that he cares any less for you, but he can’t respond the way he did. But on a biological level, we have this expectation of give and take back and forth ebb and flow. Right? And so for so many people, that doesn’t happen, and then we have to see where do we find the co-regulation You need, so that we can offer what is needed to another person. Right. And sometimes we look somewhere else, so that we have enough inside ourselves to offer until the other person or the child is able to reciprocate in some way. And I find that with parents and kids a lot when a kid is, you know, it’s just not ready yet to be in that reciprocal relationship, or as wired differently, and the reciprocity looks different, it feels different. I have to help the parent figure out how to find what you need, so that you can feel fulfilled, and then you can get what you’re looking for in this other relationship and relationship with your child. So there are lots of ways to find co-regulation and in the work with couples that I do, I tell people, we don’t usually find it all in one relationship. It’s just not the way we’re built. It’s multiple relationships that fit all of the things we’re looking for.

Debbie Reber  21:02

I’m wondering, too, I live in New York City. So my child and I are often on public transport. My kid takes a subway to school, lots of people, lots of different energy. So when we’re talking about co-regulation, is is that something we’re constantly doing, especially kids, maybe who do have more finely tuned nervous systems?

Deb Dana  21:22

Yes, yes. Always, because you’re through neuroception, you were always getting those cues, right. And then the work is to, you know, sometimes become more aware of the cues and sometimes have a filter for the cues. There’s both ends of that continuum, where maybe I’m walking through the world, and I’m oblivious to the cues I’m not, they’re not rising to the level of my awareness, or maybe I’m walking through the world, and I’m getting bombarded by the cues, and I can’t make sense of them or turn the volume down on them. So both, both are true. And, you know, we talked about co-regulation, we also co-dysregulated. And we see that all the time we see I’m surrounded by people who are anxious or panicked. And my nervous system, you know, follows them along, because it’s just too much for me. And so I enter a survival state as well, we see that often, when lots of nervous systems are dis regulating the same time that co-dysregulation happens. So yeah, and I was just thinking if you’re talking about your child who writes a subway to school and that I live in Maine, right? No subways, no, no, none of that, I’m like, wow, that would be an interesting experience, you know, for my kids and my two granddaughters walked to school, right? It’s like, they just walk a couple blocks in their school and thinking, that would be a very different nervous system experience, right to be around so many other nervous systems regularly. And then you know, by the time your child gets to school, their nervous system has had to meet a whole bunch of challenges. And the challenges can change every day. It’s unpredictable. You never know who’s going to be on the subway with an unpredictability is really challenging for our nervous systems. So I can begin to understand what it must be like when your child gets to school. And then when we think oh, and then when you get to school, you’re then have to create connection with another group of nervous systems. And we have a teacher or more than one hopefully, but at least one adult who then has to try and navigate how is she or he the regulating influence for all of those nervous systems, we begin to see the complexity of bringing our beings together in this way.

Debbie Reber  23:39

You’re making me want to move to the country.

Debbie Reber  23:44

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Debbie Reber  24:31

And now back to the show. So your book, you share a lot of strategies and methods for helping to get your ventral vagal system back online. One of your chapters earlier on is called Learning to Listen and you talk about befriending your autonomic nervous system so that we can really start to know what it feels like when we go offline. This is an area of challenge for so many of my listeners because We are often triggered by our kids’ behavior, and then we struggle to co regulate. So what is learning to listen really look like?

Deb Dana  25:08

Yeah, if we look at the world through the lens of the nervous system, we’re really being asked to be responsible for our state, and then be responsible for what we’re putting out into the world from that, from that state. And, you know, finding regulation coming there and anchoring, there is the goal, but it’s very hard. And what I love to tell people is that it’s the micromoments that are what we need to start with. It’s not a great big, like, I’m going to stay regulated for the entire day today. Nope, I’m not. First of all, I’m not I can’t. And second of all, that’s not what I need. I need to notice the micro almost, that’s where I would start. So the moments when you feel okay, enough, at some, somewhere I started talking about ventral vagal okayness it’s not Zen bliss, amazing. All of that. It’s just okay, I’m okay. In this moment. I can see my way forward, I can engage with the world. I’m organized enough to feel okay. And that came from my clients, they would say, oh, okay, right. And then I was like, that’s beautiful. And I, you know, I called those micro moments glimmers. Right. And so we’re looking for glimmers, because when you find a glimmer, your nervous system has this experience of Oh, okay. And then you’re nervous neurobiology starts looking for more, right? So I’m always looking for ways that we can make it easy for us to achieve more regulation, because I think parents especially have so much on their plates, you know, to say, so, add this practice to your day, you know, they’ll look at me like, Are you kidding? Where would I do that? Right? And for many of my life clients, the same is true. They’re just trying to survive the day. So how do we make things easy? So, you know, glimmers are a way that it’s easy, because they truly are all around us, but we missed them. So it might just be you know, as you wake up your eyes, say, Oh, I’m gonna, I’m gonna see if there’s a glimmer on my path today. A glimmer. That’s it. Because truly, once you start seeing them, you will begin to look for more. And some of the common places to find them are nature, right. So it can be actual nature, or it can be images of nature, it does the same thing to our nervous system. And music seems to be all around us. Art, and some sort of movement. Movement brings some ventral because we humans are made to move, we just are were made to be moving through the world, and so that they’re these tiny moments, when everything feels something settled inside. And it’s like, oh, okay, that’s a glimmer. So look for those. Right, it’s a reminder that in the midst of this challenge of your daily life, your nervous system also has the capacity to bring you a micro moment of regulation that I think is so important when we’re working in in, we’re in the midst of a dysregulated kid who’s had a meltdown. And I just can’t right to know that that is true. And I also have the capacity wired into my biology to notice a glimmer, right, I can’t in that moment, because I’m way too dysregulated. But to come back and remember, Oh, this is a both and I think both and is so important for all of us as we try to navigate connecting with others.

Debbie Reber  28:40

Oh, my goodness, you shared so much there. First of all, I love the concept of okayness. Because I think a lot of us judge ourselves for not showing up in the way we think we need to or that our kids demand of us. And then we are not compassionate with ourselves and going down that road makes it even harder for us to kind of get back to the parent that our child needs. So I love this idea of okayness. And also within that, just to be clear, I think this both and is so important, because we tend to think or even before I read your book, I was like so the goal is to really live in this ventral vagal state and it’s not right, that’s not what we’re working towards. So what are we looking for?

Deb Dana  29:23

Well, the goal is to know when I’m there and know when I have been pulled away from there. And again, the nervous system needs compare and contrast experiences. So I don’t know I’m there unless I know what it’s like to not be there, right? That we need both of those. And so the goal is to know when I’m there when I can pull it out of there and have tools that helped me get back there. That’s the goal. Right? So we call that a flexible nervous system, one that can then be regulated can dysregulated and can come back to regulation. That’s the goal for our kids too, we don’t want to work. It’s to always be in this place of regulation and calm, right? We want them to be able to navigate the challenges, to dis regulate and come back to regulation. And as we do that more and more, we build resilience, that’s what resilience is. It’s just regulating and coming back to regulation, if we look at it through a biological lens, that’s resilience, and, you know, if I can be resilient and help my kids be resilient, that’s a beautiful thing, because they are going to face challenges that will dysregulate them, we all do. And to know that they have some tools to find the way back, you know, the ordinary challenges of every day and, and then when we meet extraordinary challenges, we, you know, we go find a good therapist who can help us create some more pathways, right. But my goal was to help people be able to navigate the ordinary, and even some of the extraordinary challenges of daily life without needing a professional but meeting other people who understand the world in the same way, which, you know, we come back to co regulation, I think, it’s in speaking this language as a family, and then, you know, with other families and with extended families, with friends so that we share this common way of understanding how we’re human. And when I look and I see a child over there who I don’t know what it is having a meltdown, I can have compassion, because I understand what’s happening in the nervous system. And I can offer something to the parent, perhaps even if it’s just a smile, you know, those smiles, we share, like, Oh, I’ve been there, you know, I’m not judging you. I’ve been there myself. That’s because my nervous system knows what that’s like to be in that situation. Right. And I think that’s a beautiful thing that can happen. We can create connections, even, you know, remember neuroception sends messages, I don’t even have to say anything, I can share that understanding with another just through a look.

Debbie Reber  32:00

So profound. I want to kind of wrap us up. But I did want to ask, you talk about the power of the breath as a way to get us back online. And I was wondering, I know it’s a great strategy for in the moment. But doing this as a regular practice, can we also kind of front load our nervous system by doing that work?

Deb Dana  32:18

Yes, and I love front loading, I tell people, you need to be proactive about this. Because in the moment, you’re never going to be able to reach for your resources, because you’re too far into survival. Right. So all of these things we want to practice when we don’t need them, right? Because then we begin to build that capacity and breathing is one of those breathing is an autonomic nervous system experience. So it means that if we manipulate our breath, we can begin to shape our state. The caveat I would offer is that we have created breath patterns for our nervous system has great of breath patterns in order to keep us either away from traumatic material or keep us away from things that will dis regulate. And so as we change our breath and play with it, we just want to be careful, because we’re altering the pattern the nervous system has created to keep us in a certain place. So that said, yes, we want to practice and the thing that I find the easiest is to talk about sighing because we sigh, spontaneously, many times a day. So it’s something that just happens, right. And we can intentionally sigh because the research says that saying interrupts and begins to reset just briefly, both our thoughts and our biology. So it’s a brain body experience of resetting. And so we sigh. I love to say and when you invite somebody to, you know, okay, let’s just say with frustration together, it’s kind of fun. It brings a little sort of, oh, yeah, that was a good one. So we sigh in frustration, all the time. And sometimes that can just reorganize that chaotic energy a bit in sympathetic anxiety and anger that we have. If we sigh when we’re hopeless or sigh when we’re like giving up it brings a bit of energy back in. And then I love the size of relief and contentment. When I found my way back to ventral oh, let’s just celebrate this with a sigh. Right? So I think people love signing it seems like a fun thing to do. So I do it with my grandkids. So Oh, come on, let’s all sigh and you know, and they pick which kind of size so then we can play around with it. So, you know, and I didn’t write a ton about breath practices because there are so many people who are doing really brilliant breath practices, and lots of breath for kids books that are written so you can find the one that fits and I guess I would like to say that our nervous systems have a comment about things when we say these are the five things to Try on this is where I started making personal menu. So I want you to make your personal menu because I kept getting in my inbox five things to survive social distancing at the beginning of the pandemic. And there was like three of them. my nervous system said, No, thank you. I won’t work. And one of them was a maybe a one was a yes. But I thought, Oh, is there something wrong with me? So the answer is no, there’s nothing wrong with you, right? There’s just your nervous system saying, yes, no, or maybe. Right. So when you pick up a book that has breath practices, it might work for you, but you want to explore with the person you want to try it within See, how does your nervous system respond? Right? If it’s a yes, go ahead. If it’s a maybe experiment, if it’s a no, go find a different one. Right? And there’s no, there’s no judgment in that. Right? There’s no right or wrong way. Here, there’s the way of each individual nervous system. And so play around with finding the resources to create your own resource menu. And families have a great time creating resource menus, they actually create menus, you know, get very creative and write their menus, and they all have their own. And, you know, I’m going to pick from, you know, Category A and B today. And somebody else says, Oh, why don’t you try my one over here. I mean, it’s just a fun way to begin to play with how we’re all we work in these three organizing principles: neuroception, hierarchy, co regulation, but within those principles, we all have our own pathways. And I think that’s really lovely to really honor, right? My pathways is different than one of my granddaughters’ pathways. So we have such fun with that, because they’re just so different. And it’s kind of fun to think about that. And she’ll say, I’m gonna do this. I said, Well, I’m not doing that. Now, that would not work for me, I’m gonna do this. And she’ll say, No, thank you. Right. So it brings some playfulness into what I think is a really powerful learning that we all are trying to deepen our connection to our nervous system. That’s the listening piece. Tune in, right, your nervous system sends you information. And sometimes we think about an instinct or gut feeling, right? That’s your nervous system, talking to any symptom. And in the clinical world of the medical world, we have symptoms, right? If we think about that, another way, this symptom is your nervous system, trying to tell you something. So if you look at your kids, and what’s happening, their behavior or their symptoms, and think, oh, their nervous system is trying to be heard. Let’s see how we can listen. That’s where we want to go.

Debbie Reber  37:40

So good. And I just have to go back to what you said about sighing because when I read that, it just already changed something because I’m assuming or thinking this may be common for my listeners, the sound of our kids saying is like fingernails on a chalkboard, like, this kid isn’t ever happy. And they’re negative. Like, we have all these stories about what their sighs means. And I heard Asher do a big sigh the other day, and I was like, Oh, that’s a great release.

Deb Dana  38:12

Right? Isn’t that a beautiful experience? I love that. And maybe you even said that out loud? And then that brings attention. Oh, right. Because yes, our brains make up the story when somebody sighs around us. So now that you have the information that sighing is a reset of the system, your brain has that context will make up a different story, just like you did. When after side. Absolutely. That’s really when we understand the science underneath things. We see it differently, which is what we’re trying to do. So yeah, let’s sigh away. absolutely.

Debbie Reber  38:45

I will happily do that. So before we say goodbye, I just want to remind listeners, Deb’s book is Anchored. Actually, you’ve written many books, and you have a lot of resources to share. So I’d love to hear where listeners can connect. But the book that we’ve been talking about is Anchored: How to Befriend Your Nervous System Using Polyvagal Theory. How else can listeners learn about you and the resources that you offer?

Deb Dana  39:10

Yeah, come to my website and take a look around it’s And there’s a lot of free resources, recorded meditations, all sorts of things you can find. And I will say to your listeners in early 2023, there’s going to be a mapping series for curious human beings, which is what I like to call my non clinical population that that will be on the website because I really do want to reach out to just everyday people who are trying to figure this out. So yeah, come visit.

Debbie Reber  39:43

I will definitely be checking that out. So thank you and listeners. I’ll have links to all of this in the show notes and I’ll update the show notes when that is available as well. So gosh, Dana, thank you so much. My mind is a little blown right now. So I just appreciate you are such a good translate either of this I feel like I have a whole new, deeper understanding of, you know, Polly bagel and it’s going to just change the way that I show up or even just look at the world and not just my kid or my partner but the world. It’s incredible work. So thank you so much.

Deb Dana  40:18

I have to say that that just warms my heart because that is what I hope happens for people that it changes the way we see the world.

Debbie Reber  40:29

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