What is Body-Up Coregulation?
Regulation, in this context, means adjusting your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), i.e. your energy level, for the task at hand. The ANS governs delivery of oxygen and energy to your body, calming it down, revving it up, or adjusting it for effective communication. The ANS regulates the complex “automatic” systems that work without any conscious thought: sleep, digestion, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and the inflammatory system, as well as our triggers and threat responses and our ability to focus for social engagement.
Body-up means listening to our bodies, letting the body lead, and discovering what works for our nervous systems. "Top down", by contrast, means listening to our thoughts, and letting our head lead us. So, body up co-regulation includes body to body attunement. It does not necessarily include touch.
Co-Regulation means two or more people supporting each other in regulating together. There is nothing like a good friend to get you going when you are stuck or calm you down when you are upset. Co-regulation is an efficient shortcut to a healthy resilient, nervous system, but because we don’t have familiar language for it, we often miss out on its benefits.
Like a thermostat that regulates the temperature in a home, the human nervous system “heats up” in response to threat or muscular activity, and “cools down” for sleep and digestion. In addition, our nervous system “focuses” for the essential and complex task of communication and relationship. Efficient regulation, especially in groups, provides safety and security. Co-regulation reduces stress and is key to physical health. Co-regulation expands our capacity to handle complexity and intensity and make good decisions.
- It's good for us! It's good for our health, and good for our relationships.
- It shifts us out of stuck, shut-down states without bringing our partners down with us.
- It helps us focus when we are disorganized.
- It helps us downshift when we are wound up with stress.
- It gives us something really useful to offer our friends and colleagues when they are stuck or stressed.
For the very great challenges in life, like grief, the break up of a relationship, trauma and deep shame, co-regulation is the most efficient way to regain resiliency in your nervous system. In sharing your distress and reaching for co-regulation, you can create an environment that is revitalizing for both people.
This practice transforms old shame and trauma into something that can enliven and heal both people.
Beth’s co-regulation exercises highlight the neurological elements of attunement, boundaries and fairness. They give us tools to connect deeply and shift efficiently from problematic states to resiliency.
Co-regulation means taking care of ourselves,
External regulation means helping someone else shift states. Parents, teachers, and therapists do this all the time. When somebody is upset, you put your arm around them, or you give them a drink of cold water. You connect with them, and draw them to shift states with you. External regulation can be mostly one-way, and may eventually deplete the regulator.
Self-regulation means shifting your own nervous system to a state that works well in your situation. It means being able to rest deeply when it’s time to rest, and being ready when it’s time to work and play. We self-regulate often- taking a shower or bouncing up and down to wake up, or breathing deep and stretching gently to slow down. We also use substances to regulate ourselves, like coffee to get going, or alcohol to mellow down.
Dysregulation means you are triggered or your nervous system is not ready for what’s going on in your life at the moment. When we’re dysregulated, it’s hard to be present or enjoy life. You are likely to feel overwhelmed, stupid, weak and inadequate. Research shows that dysregulation wears out our cardiovascular, digestive, immune, and inflammatory systems. It interferes with sleep, stresses our relationships, and shortens our lives. Effective tools for regulation are key to health and longevity. Poor regulation can result in alienation…. and think about human evolution. If you can’t keep up with the pack, your genes are less likely to pass on.