Polyvagal Tools to Play With

Here are seven tools with directions for polyvagal regulation that can be practiced in public, along with indications for which states they are most beneficial:

When in Fight/Flight state…

1. Box Breathing:

Inhale deeply through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four, then pause for a count of four before inhaling again. Repeat this pattern several times. Box breathing helps to calm the nervous system, making it especially effective for regulating the heightened arousal of the sympathetic state.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

Start by tensing the muscles in your toes for a few seconds, then release and relax them completely. Work your way up through each muscle group in your body, progressively tensing and relaxing, from your feet to your head. Progressive muscle relaxation helps to release physical tension and promote relaxation, making it beneficial for the heightened arousal of the sympathetic state.

3. Mindful Movement:

Engage in gentle movement practices such as tai chi, qigong, or simple stretching exercises. Pay attention to the sensations in your body as you move, and synchronize your breath with each motion. Mindful movement promotes relaxation and helps to regulate the nervous system, making it beneficial for the social engagement state.

When in Shutdown or Freeze states…

4. Grounding Techniques:

Engage your senses by noticing five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Grounding techniques help to bring awareness to the present moment, which can be particularly beneficial when feeling disconnected or overwhelmed in the freeze state.

5. Self-soothing Touch:

Lightly stroke your arm, gently squeeze your fingertips, or place a hand over your heart. Pay attention to the comforting sensation of touch, which can help regulate your nervous system and provide a sense of safety and calm, particularly in the freeze state.

6. Humming or Chanting:

Softly hum a soothing tune or repeat a calming mantra to yourself. Focus on the vibration and resonance of the sound, allowing it to reverberate through your body. Humming or chanting can help to regulate the nervous system and promote a sense of calm, particularly in the social engagement state.

7. Grounding Through Body Scan:

Begin by focusing your attention on your feet. Notice any sensations you feel in this area, such as warmth, tingling, or pressure. Slowly move your attention upward, scanning each part of your body, from your feet to your head, without judgment. Pay attention to any areas of tension or discomfort, and allow them to soften and release with each breath. This body scan helps to ground you in the present moment and reconnect with your body, making it particularly beneficial for navigating the freeze state.