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  • The Nervous System & The Home Environment

    What is your home environment communicating to your nervous system? Brief Overview: The Nervous System at Work As human beings, we depend on our nervous system for cues of safety. Your nervous system is the main regulatory, monitoring, and communicating system in your body. Through its receptors, which are connected to the central nervous system and function as devices to receive and release signals to facilitate communication between the brain and different parts of the body, our nervous system remains connected with our environment, both internal and external. Although there are various types of receptors throughout our body, our sensory receptors are primarily responsible for responding to different stimuli in our environment. A stimulus is any agent, event, or situation, both internal or external, that elicits a response from an organism (American Psychological Association, 2023). When stimuli activate sensory receptors, our sensory receptors create electrical signals that carry information about the stimulus to be processed by the nervous system and then transmitted to the brain, two processes known as reception and transduction. These signals to the brain can produce sensations, thoughts, and activate memory and motor functions. At this stage, the process that begins to operate is our interpretation of the sensory signals which can function at a conscious level (perception) or at an unconscious level (neuroception). “Our brain’s ability to sense and interpret signals from the environment is essential in controlling how our bodies and emotions react and shape our overall feelings of safety and well-being.” – Dr. Stephen Porges Our interpretation of sensory signals can trigger physiological responses that prepare the body for action. If interpreted as safe, our parasympathetic nervous system operates to make us feel calm and connected. If interpreted as unsafe, our sympathetic nervous system activates the fight-or-flight or freeze response in order to defend from potential danger or dissociate from one’s overwhelming thoughts or feelings. Neuroception, Trauma, and the Home Environment As stated above, neuroception is an automatic process within our nervous system that allows us to interpret or evaluate sensory signals without awareness. For individuals who have experienced trauma, neuroception can become altered or dysregulated. Trauma disrupts safety by shifting the traumatized individual’s autonomic nervous system into a state of defense. This piece of information is important to be aware of and understand particularly when looking to create a supportive home environment. Individuals who have experienced trauma can develop heightened sensitivity which can lead to hypervigilance and heightened responses to perceived danger. For individuals with heightened sensitivity, it can become difficulty to relax and feel safe. For this reason, it is important to understand which design elements to incorporate that foster a sense of tranquility, predictability, and safety in order help restore and heal one’s nervous system. If one continues to incorporate environmental elements that activate defense responses, our home environment may never feel safe for our nervous system. However, if there is congruence between our nervous system and our  home environment it will help cultivate a neuroception of safety. -Marialejandra Gutierrez disclaimer: This blog post does not replace therapy. This is an educational resource.

  • Connecting Your Home With Your Inner Growth & Healing

    Making changes to align your home environment and your inner growth and healing. When Your Home Environment No Longer Aligns If you are on a journey of growth, breaking cycles, and healing, it is important that you are surround by an environment that supports this journey. Since many of us retreat home after a long day or spend most of our day at home, our home environment should be suited to help meet our wellness needs. Living in a home environment that fosters and continues patterns of dysfunction, chaos, unpredictability, stress, and instability will impede your growth and healing. If your current home environment triggers unpleasant memories or feelings, induces stress, negatively impacts your mood, behavior, motivation, and rest, it is no longer supporting your mental health. Just as you make changes to care for yourself when you become physically ill as well as address and work through emotional wounds to improve your emotional well-being, you need to make sure your home environment serves as a support system to aid in your healing and recovery. If you have started to recognize that your home environment no longer aligns with the goals for your inner growth and healing, then that is a sign that change is needed and it is time to rebuild a new home environment for yourself. "Our home is part of our self-definition" Rebuilding a New Home Environment To rebuild your current home environment to feel safe and supportive, you need to begin by identifying the elements in your home that are keeping you down and holding you back from your growth and healing. Take a moment to reflect on the following questions: What area(s) in your home are creating stress? What systems at home are contributing to emotional distress? What elements in your home are no longer functional? What elements or area(s) in your home no longer make you feel safe? How does your home currently make you feel? How do you wish your home made you feel? How are you contributing to maintaining an unsupportive home environment? Once you have finished answering these questions, you can begin making changes in your home that will support your well-being. It is important to think about your home as an extension of yourself. Your body, mind, and home are all interconnected! A home is not just a physical space, but also a reflection of our identity, personality, culture, values, and aspirations. A home should also provide a sense of safety, comfort, and security. Since we seek refuge at home from stressors, it should be a place that allows you to relax, unwind, recover, and heal. If there is a disconnection between our home environment and our self, it creates dissatisfaction and stress in our life. Therefore, it is important that you continue to maintain and nourish your home to experience a greater sense of peace, safety, comfort, and belonging in order to continue to heal and thrive. -Marialejandra Gutierrez

  • Creating an Environment of Safety & Healing in Your Home

    The connection between the home, safety, and healing. Healing Begins By Restoring Safety Healing our body, mind, and spirit starts by restoring a sense of safety. When we do not feel safe in our body and in our external environment, our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) becomes frequently activated increasing our risk of chronic health issues. The SNS, one of two divisions of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), is responsible for activating an involuntary stress response system in the body which provides a burst of energy to respond to dangerous or stressful situations. Once activated, our SNS increases our heartbeat and blood pressure, pumps adrenaline into our bloodstream, and releases cortisol (stress hormone) into our bloodstream. If we are in a persistent state of feeling unsafe, our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which functions to calm the body and promote rest, will become under active and unable to help our body recover from stress. Thus, leaving our body in a constant sate of threat and unable to feel safe. Creating and Restoring Safety at Home A home is much more than just a physical space, it is a powerful tool for healing and recovery. Notice that I used the term "tool." This is because I am not promoting a home as a cure or solution to psychological healing. Think of your home as a support system that helps calm you, brings you joy, and empowers you to become resilient. In order for your home to become a support system for your mental health, it needs to feel and be safe for you. So, how does one make their home feel safe? By creating an environment in your home that aligns with your mental, social, emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness needs. All of these dimensions of wellness are interconnected and influence one another. Therefore, it is important to consider how your home can aid in supporting each of these areas in your life. A Space to Stabilize the Nervous System Experiencing trauma can play a role in perceiving the world as a dangerous and threatening place, which often contributes to experiencing frequent dysregulation of one's nervous system. At times, it may be challenging to identify people and places that feel safe. Even factors in a home environment can either trigger intense emotional pain or be instrumental in one's healing journey. One way to begin moving forward to regaining and reclaiming one's sense of safety is to find a place where you feel secure that you can build on. This place doesn't have to be an entire house or apartment, it can also be a corner or a room in your home where you feel the most comfortable in. Once you have identified this space in your home where you will begin rebuilding your sense of safety, it is important to be intentional about the physical, social, and emotional elements you incorporate within that space. In particular, being intentional about the furniture you want to incorporate, the layout of the space, how you want the space to make you feel, and the types of interactions and connections you want to experience in this space is what will contribute to helping create an calm and comfortable setting to rebalance one's nervous system. A Therapeutic Home Environment Using your home as a tool to improve your sense of safety promotes an environment for healing. Creating an intentional and therapeutic home environment helps regain our sense of safety which minimizes the constant state of alarm in which our nervous system once remained. The elements that you surround yourself with in your home helps encourage a transformative process of restoring balance and calm in one's nervous system which aids in restoring your sense of safety. -Marialejandra Gutierrez

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