Jamie McCoy is a licensed psychotherapist and a trauma recovery coach. And a big reason why Jamie does the work that she does today as a coach, is because she personally experienced a lot of health challenges and found that many traditional therapies just weren’t helpful. She felt that many therapists didn’t understand the challenges that she faced, how the challenges affected her mental health, and how the mind and body are connected.
Years ago, Jamie found herself going from doctor to doctor, being given a lot of random diagnoses, and being given medications like antidepressants and benzos for anxiety, which only made things worse. And then Jamie was diagnosed with Lyme disease and a handful of autoimmune conditions. After being diagnosed, Jamie spent years studying and connecting the dots of her body's breakdown to learn what she needed to build it back up. And addressing the mental, physical & environmental toxicity were the three most important pillars to Jamie regaining her health. Now, Jamie is thriving, and her passion is helping others to connect the pieces of their own healing puzzle and process the trauma that comes with that experience.
In this episode, we dive into:
What nervous system dysregulation is
Why you haven’t “always just been an anxious person”
What nervous system regulation looks like
What somatic therapy is
Truths of trauma healing
Signs of healing
What Is Nervous System Dysregulation?
Jamie explains that nervous system dysregulation is “being outside of a window of tolerance where you’re able to naturally go into a stress response in an appropriate situation and come back down to a baseline of… Okay, I’m in this regulated state where I can go through a stressful situation and come back down.”
If there’s dysregulation, you might go into an activated fight-or-flight state and stay in a chronic stress response. Or, if you’ve been in a chronic stress response for a really long time, the system runs out of energy, and then you crash into a chronic fatigue place, where you physically don’t want to move and you feel numb, disconnected, and things are a little foggy. And this happens when you’ve been running on stress hormones for a really long time. And your body does this automatically because it’s protecting you and working to conserve energy.
Dysregulation happens when you don’t have the foundation of resources and baseline level of health in the body, which can happen when you’ve been running on empty for a while. And we don’t often pick up the signals as it’s starting to happen. We often lose touch with that connection between the mind and the body, and we keep pushing, and before we know it we can’t really handle much stress.
Maybe You Haven't “always been an anxious person”
Jamie and I discuss this powerful and insightful statement on a post of hers:
“Were you always just an anxious person, or was your nervous system shaped by experiences and people that overwhelmed its capacity to cope.”
Jamie explains that how you interact with your environment is not quite developed when you come into the world. Instead, we are developed and shaped by our primary caregivers, the environment around us, and our experiences growing up, is what shapes our nervous system. So how our primary caregivers relate with our stress and their own stress affects how our nervous system is wired. If your caregiver had limited capacity and they weren’t attuning, meaning picking up your cues, responding to your needs, and being there to support you when you were having challenging emotions or crying, their response shaped how you respond and attune to yourself and stress in life moving forward. So it’s not necessarily that you’re born anxious, it’s shaped and influenced throughout your life to become a certain way.
What Does Nervous System Regulation Look Like?
A common misconception about nervous system regulation is that once you become a regulated person, you’ll become calm and chill all the time, and this is not what regulation is. Nervous system regulation is the ability to let yourself mobilize, get into action when you need to, and then come back to a baseline where you can be present, engaged, and safe.
Regulation is about…
Mobilizing when you need to and then coming back to safety when the threat is removed.
Shifting into energy conversation mode when needed and allowing yourself to rest.
Not being stuck in any state for too long.
Having the ability to appropriately assess and respond to your environment internally and externally.
What Is Somatic Therapy?
Somatic therapies help to connect the brain and body through touch and movement (through neurosensory exercises). It’s exercising your nervous system and getting used to bodily sensations and cues from your body in a way that you don’t have to fear them anymore.
Jamie explains that when we go through different traumas or overwhelming experiences, our brain memorizes these experiences through sensory data. And each of these events is recorded in a neural pathway, so that whether you smell something, you hear something, you feel something, or taste something, if anything reminds you of one of one of these past experiences that are threatening, your brain has this recorded and it can automatically react and go into these activated or shutdown states to protect you.
Somatic therapy helps you to get used to the uncomfortable sensations in a safe way. It’s about incorporating more triggers and cues of safety, things that feel non-threatening. And this can be done slowly, by going into a feeling and then pulling back when needed, which is called titration. It’s about slowly learning what feelings feel like when you have anxiety, noticing what’s happening in the body, and seeing how long you can stay with the sensation before it becomes overwhelming and then pulling back. Then, it’s about giving your body another cue of something more soothing, and this may be a form of touch, like holding your heart or a self-hug.
The idea is to go back and forth between feeling the thing that might have been really threatening, and then feeling something less threatening, until the body gets used to… Oh hey, I felt this feeling of anxiety and I didn’t die. It’s about teaching the body and nervous system that it doesn’t have to fear the sensations or emotions. And a big part of this is teaching yourself that you can support yourself, and that you are the one that can get yourself through the hard stuff.
Truths About Trauma Healing
Trauma healing isn’t about getting to a final destination, it’s truly an ongoing process of nervous system regulation.
In the work that Jamie does, she shares that trauma healing looks like…
Giving your body the nutrients it needs in order to tolerate stress.
Connecting the brain and the body through somatic practices.
Being curious rather than being judgmental.
Repetition of helpful exercises.
CBT methods to calm the threat response.
What Are Signs That You're Healing?
Some signs of healing are…
You are attuning and responding to bodily cues. Meaning, do you go to the bathroom when you have to go to the bathroom, are you eating when you’re hungry, are you drinking when you’re thirsty?
You can be with an emotion or a sensation for even 10 seconds longer than you could the last time you sat with the feeling.
The response to yourself while working to heal is changing and is healthier. You are being less judgmental and just noticing.
MAKE SURE TO TUNE IN & LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE TO CAPTURE ALL OF THE GOODNESS!
HOW TO CONNECT WITH JAMIE:
Free resources, courses, & all the things: Head here!
On Instagram: @myintegrativetherapist