11. Caring For The Nervous System (Anchored Book Club)

In Chapter 11 of Anchored, Deb Dana provides tools to practice caring for the nervous system. She introduces a three-step process—Tune in, Take in, Tend to—that gives a framework for relating to and communicating with our inner landscapes.

  • Tune in: Notice what state you are in. Tune in to the flavour of that state.
  • Take in: What cues of safety and danger do you find? What information is your neuroception sending?
  • Tend to: With the information you now have, what action can you take to move you toward the safety and regulation of your ventral system or help you anchor more deeply there? What does your nervous system need to feel nourished in this moment?

How The Nervous System Supports Change (and Goal Setting)

Write down an intention and read it aloud – how does your nervous system respond?

Compelling change should activate some sympathetic energy without causing panic (fight/flight/freeze). Notice when the intention becomes too much – you might feel yourself disconnecting and shutting down. Play with different wordings so that the prospective future is exciting but not overwhelming.

As my friend Adam Kawalec says, many profound personal growth experiences happen INSIDE the comfort zone. It’s simply about pushing the boundaries, playing with our capacity and capabilities, and growing from the inside out in ways that feel good.

This works well with the stretch-stress continuum in Chapter 8.

By crafting our intentions, goals, or aspirations (however you like to describe future changes) that resonate with our nervous system’s need for safety and connection, we create a roadmap for sustainable progress in the right direction.

The Self-Care Circle

“As you create your self-care circle, you only want to add activities that truly bring you to a ventral state or deepen your experience there.”

Deb Dana

Dana’s Self-Care Circle is one of the better self-care models I’ve come across. It helps foster awareness, resilience (strength in the face of reality), and adaptability when thinking about practices that support and care for the nervous system. By looking at what is currently inside our circle (the activities and environments that nourish our nervous system), we can deepen those practices. And by considering things currently outside the circle, we can set intentions to explore new practices in the future.

Caring For The Nervous System - The Self-Care Circle

Attending To The Circle: Reflection and Renewal

Regularly revisiting our Self-Care Circle allows us to reflect on our progress and renew our commitment to well-being. By setting intentions and experimenting with new activities, we honour the dynamic nature of self-care as an ongoing journey. This process of reflection deepens our connection with ourselves and fosters continuous growth.

Revisit the Circle Regularly

Dana encourages us to commit to our self-care journey by setting a time-frame for reflection and renewal. Over the course of 3, 6, 9, or 12 months, we can document our progress, reflect on our experiences, and adjust our self-care practices accordingly. This structured approach ensures we prioritise our nervous system’s health and well-being – we can be confident that adjustments can be made if it’s not working well right now.

Self-Care Is About The Nervous System

It might be better to think of self-care as caring for the nervous system. This can help us befriend our biological and neurological processes. Tuning in, taking in, and tending to our inner landscape cultivates a deeper sense of connection.

Note: For Haven members, a sound anchor version of theses explorations is available, providing additional support and guidance on this transformative journey.

Listen Below

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