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Healing Anxiety and Depression Through Nervous System Regulation With Amanda Armstrong



Healing Anxiety and Depression Through Nervous System Regulation With Amanda Armstrong


On this episode of A Healthy Push podcast, I'm joined by Amanda Armstrong. Amanda is a mental & physical health coach and Founder of Rise As We. She also hosts the Regulate and Rewire Podcast, an anxiety and depression podcast where Amanda shares insights from her healing journey and tangible research-based tools to help you regulate your nervous system.


Amanda's journey with anxiety and depression began at the age of 14 when her Mom became sick, and Amanda stepped into the role of taking care of her three younger siblings. Amanda reflected on how her need to perform and achieve whilst balancing school and home life led to a lot of over-functioning, putting Amanda's nervous system in a constant state of survival.


Eventually, Amanda's productivity-based sense of self-worth started to take its toll on her mental health, and she sought help via the traditional route with her family doctor, trialing medication and talk therapy. Despite this, Amanda continued to struggle, feeling frustrated that nothing was translating into real change in her daily life.


What flipped the switch for Amanda was learning about her nervous system, and understanding depression and anxiety through a nervous system lens. It was hugely transformational for her, and something she now teaches. So, lets get into what that looks like!


Anxiety and Depression Through A Nervous System Lens


Amanda helps people heal from anxiety and depression through a nervous system lens. When we talk about the nervous system, we're talking about a mind-body connection. Amanda explains that in the last decade of neuroscience and psychology research, we've learned that 80% of this mind-body connection originates in the body.


While many people experience relief from traditional talk-therapy, for some it can make their symptoms bigger as they are stuck in survival mode, meaning your brain and body don't know the difference between talking about the past and reliving it again.


When we don't have an understanding of our nervous system, or have the tools to help us settle and feel safe in our bodies, it can reiterate that feeling of being unsafe, and keep us feeling stuck.

The Nervous System Ladder


Amanda teaches the Nervous System Ladder, which is founded on the polyvagal theory. Imagine a ladder, and on this ladder are three color zones. At the top is green, the middle is yellow, and the bottom is red. Imagine standing at the top of this ladder with a bucket, which represents your nervous systems capacity for stressors.


When the stress load on your nervous system is light, you're in the green zone. This is what we call our parasympathetic nervous system state, where we can rest, socially engage and get creative.


But, life happens, and stressors get added to that bucket. And when that bucket starts to fill, it pushes you further and further down the nervous system ladder, first into that yellow zone. This is our activated state, where things like anger and anxiety can live.


For some of us, life either adds more stressors to our bucket, or we're just carrying the load for too long, so that bucket gets heavier and heavier and heavier, pushing you further down the nervous system ladder into the red zone. This is a shutdown state. This is where depression lives.


Amanda explains that when we are in states of anxiety or stress for too long, it can shut our system down. Suddenly the way we feel starts to make a lot of sense when looked at in the context of the nervous system.


The Vagus Nerve


What the heck is the Vagus nerve and how can it be helpful in relation to anxiety? Well! Things get a bit science-y here, so hold on! The Vagus nerve is our 10th and longest cranial nerve, connecting our mind and body. It exits your brainstem, touching almost every major organ in your body. Pretty significant!


Amanda explains how Vagus nerve functionality can be measured in a similar way to muscle tone, higher muscle tone being optimal. We can improve our Vagal tone through lots of healthy action, like diet, exercise, and good sleep. Healthy social engagement like laughter has also been shown to activate the Vagus nerve, which is pretty incredible stuff!


We discussed the Vagus nerve lots more on this episode, and Amanda shared that she is releasing book at the end of May titled: "Healing Through the Vagus Nerve", which you can find more about here!


Amanda had so many insights and helpful stuff to share, I really loved our conversation. Make sure you check out the full episode to hear more!


Amanda Armstrong, founder of Rise As We

Connect with Amanda!



 

Feeling like you've tried everything but you're still struggling with lots of anxious thoughts, symptoms, panic attacks, and fears? Take my FREE 60-minute masterclass today and learn 5 shifts that will actually help you to overcome anxiety, panic disorder, and agoraphobia. And I promise, you won't hear any of the usual stuff from me - like doing breathing exercises, grounding practices, cutting out caffeine, and doing more exposures. Let's get you the peace and freedom you deserve without it being so hard!




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