Hyper and Hypo Arousal…
Some people deal with this on a daily basis and have no idea how to help calm themselves or come out of numbness. This is where stuffing your feelings and emotions deep down into a box where you suppress them and no one will know comes in. Right? Kidding, but for some this is reality, because if you can’t handle yourself, then how can someone else? Right?
Sounds familiar? I know because I used to do this in my teens. Life was too much, over the top, my emotions/ hormones where running the course and it was game over I thought. I would stuff them down or be distant or even run and hide in shame or guilt for “feeling”. My life was simplistic for the most part and my family didn’t like talking or conversing about feelings either, because feelings were something that was out of the ordinary, they were uncomfortable to talk about and how would you respond? Talking about them or being stern would be seen as acting out and punishment was next. This was ‘the way’ and how things went. Well guess what? I am not a five year-old nor am I a teenager anymore. I now have a better understanding of how to regulate my emotions, as well, I have been studying how to balance out my hormones.
First off let’s get to the definitions.
Hyper Arousal: this is when things are too much and you go over the top with emotions that you have no control over anymore.
Hypo Arousal: is when things are too much you get flooded and start to dissociate. To the point that you start to not hear, see or respond to your surroundings.
In a nutshell, Hyperarousal and Hypoarousal are both unconscious, protective responses to trauma.
Both sound… GREAAATTTT, right? LOL okay there are ways that can help and you can learn to really understand and be aware of your triggers or signs when this is about to happen. Start to, track your triggers and emotions on a sheet if it helps. Then integrate coping skills to help yourself sooth. Again, this is not, to say, it's easy, this is far from it. Everything takes time, especially when you have no understanding or awareness of what to do. So here are some skills to help with each;
Shake it out
Go through senses: look and name things around the room, what smells? What you see? How you are feeling in the seat?
Touch your leg/ pat
Be in presence to the now of where you are
Feel the chair (if sitting)
Feel your feet on the ground and wiggle your toes
Respond in conversation to someone
Blink to show your hearing
It’s been said that people who have had traumatic experiences can become more sensitive to stressors, which can affect there “window of tolerance” (Ogden, Minton & Pain, 2006, Pg. 34). Hence why awareness and/or help is key. Since, “trauma is about loss of connection – to ourselves, to our bodies, to our families, to others and to the world around us”. Peter Levine, Healing Trauma (2005).
We want to be in the middle ground, between both spectrum's, or “window of tolerance”. Where we are able and cognitive to understand our surroundings, regulate and connect to what we are going through.
To better understand the deep depths of trauma and emotions, there is help available. Through on-call helplines, therapists, support groups and more. Please help yourself if anything to practice the coping skills to have for your use, once known and practice it’s easier for your body to get to them naturally.
As a re-cap, you can go from one side of the spectrum to the other (hyper/ hypo) and knowing what can help you is the first step to a healthier way of awareness and expression.