If you find yourself not trusting your own authority or constantly judging your emotional experience, the good news is it’s just science.
The remedy? Getting out of your head and into your body’s wisdom.
Functional medicine Nurse Practitioner and Master Certified life coach Victoria Albina is on the show this week to dive into the nervous system science behind your automatic reactions, and her favorite ways for coming back to and tuning into your body.
Listen to the Full Episode:
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What You’ll Learn from this Episode:
- How Victoria came into this line of work.
- What polyvagal theory entails, and the beauty of understanding that this system is happening for us all the time.
- Victoria’s thoughts on our tendency as humans to judge our emotional experience.
- What it’s like to live from the neck up, versus being fully present in our bodies.
- Victoria’s definition of codependent thinking, and how codependency relates to grief.
- How somatic practices help us reconnect with our body’s wisdom.
- The small ways we can begin practicing tuning into our body.
Featured on the Show:
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- If you’re looking for an easy way to remember the most important memories you shared with your person, you need Memories that Matter, a digital journal with 100 prompts for making documenting your memories simple.
- Victoria Albina: Website | Instagram | Podcast
- Click here to download Victoria’s free suite of meditations and nervous system exercises!
Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 179, Out of Our Heads and Into Our Bodies, an Interview with Victoria Albina.
Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.
Hey there, welcome to another episode of the podcast. I’m sure you can hear it in my voice but you all I have a cold. It doesn’t seem to want to go away. I even waited to record this intro as long as I could with hopes that my voice would sound somewhat better. Thankfully it was a little bit better when I did the interview with Victoria. But here we are, it is fall, I caught my 15 year old’s cold so it is what it is. So, I had a little bit of trouble deciding on a title for this episode because Victoria and I really did cover so much more than just the importance of getting out of our heads and back into our bodies.
But that is something I really want you to take away from this episode because I think so many of us are just walking around, it just reminds me of that old cold commercial and of course it’s so relatable right now because I have a cold where you don’t even feel connected to your body, it’s like your head is a balloon on a string. And you’re just kind of carrying it around. That’s what a lot of us are doing especially in grief because we have all these emotions. And it’s not a very comfortable place to be if we haven’t really learned the skills of what it’s like to stay in our body.
And it’s so easy to try and escape our bodies and get into our heads, and think about everything, overthink about everything and not feel. And so that is just a portion of what Victoria and I cover in this episode, I really hope you will enjoy it. And with that we’ll jump in.
Krista: Alright, Victoria Albina, I am happy you are here. Welcome to the podcast.
Victoria: Thank you so much. I am delighted to be here.
Krista: You know what’s so funny to me is that there are actually many mutual people in our lives but one particular person who we both work with who I swear has been saying to each one of us in our ears for three years. “You should be friends. You have so much in common. You would help each other’s people. You should have Victoria on your podcast.” And I don’t know how long I’ve been thinking about it but I’m glad I finally listened to that person.
Victoria: Me too. And that person knows who she is and she’s a complete dream boat. And we’re so lucky to have her. And I’m so happy to be your friend and to be on your show, and to talk to your amazing listeners.
Krista: Thank you. Thank you. I’m glad to have you. And what you do is so different. It probably doesn’t feel all that different to you because I’m sure it’s just what you do all the time. But I do think that you have some unique specialties and a unique body of knowledge that my listeners will benefit from. So, I’m excited to dive in, yeah, so before I ask you a litany of questions, why don’t you just maybe introduce yourself, who you are, how you came to your work, what you do, that kind of thing.
Victoria: Absolutely. So, my name is Victoria Albina. I am a functional medicine nurse practitioner, a master certified life coach. And my passion is helping humans socialized as women to overcome codependent perfectionist and people pleasing habits so they can reclaim their self-worth and self-love using thought work, somatics or body based practices, and breath work to reconnect with the body and rewire the mind.
Krista: That’s a mouthful. That’s like a lot, I mean just some of the words that you just said, codependency by itself.
Victoria: Right. Heavy.
Krista: Yeah, individually are very heavy. So how did you come into this line of work?
Victoria: Yeah. I come by it honestly. I was awash in codependent perfectionist and people pleasing habits for the first 30 plus years of my life. And simultaneously had a lot of somatized symptoms, or bodily expression of what was going on in my mind and my nervous system, what my inner children were dealing with and managing on my behalf. And so, it was my health struggles, I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is a complete wastebasket diagnosis, it means pretty much nothing, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, thyroid problems, adrenal issues, all the things.
And that’s part of what led me into medicine. And I couldn’t find solutions for my own health in western medicines. So, I trained in functional medicine, holistic medicine, herbalism. And I had a private practice in New York and I was seeing my patients improve, I don’t want to say they weren’t healing, but there was so often something in the way of their healing. And my brain notices pattern, it’s who I am with a spritz of ADHD. So, a tough of the old neurodivergence there. I really see patterns.
And so, I started to really take a look at what was going on, not just in the labs, not just in their health but their mindset, their relationship with themselves with the world, the stories they were telling. And I started to see what was really clear was that when they were stressed, when the story was I’m not safe in the world, I’m not lovable, I’m not worthy. That was the undertone of the story, they would have more symptoms, more digestive issues, more fatigue, more experience of stress on, and on, and on.
And so, I started nerding out because I’m a nerd’s nerd, I also have a master’s degree in public health. And I love studying, I love being nerdy. And polyvagal theory was one of the things that really helped me to understand what was going on. It’s a way of looking at the impact our nervous system has on our physiology, on our physical health and vice versa.
And really was one of the cornerstones, ties I saw between my patients’ symptoms and the way they were thinking about the world based on their socialization, their conditioning and their family blueprint which was often a codependent perfectionist or people pleasing one.
Krista: Sure, yeah. And so then at what point did you decide to merge all of that into coaching?
Victoria: Yeah. It was probably about a decade ish ago. I’m so bad at timelines but somewhere around there. I started coaching sort of on the side because I was in primary care and it wasn’t intellectually stimulating enough to be real. And it wasn’t getting the results that I wanted for my people. And it was really through my private practice because I have free rein to do whatever I wanted, that I started bringing in more and more coaching. And an hour patient follow-up would be 10 minutes on the labs, and now let’s really dive in.
Because when our nervous systems aren’t regulated or balanced, it doesn’t matter what supplements we take. It doesn’t matter what our nutrition looks like. We cannot take in true nourishment, we can’t digest properly when our nervous systems are, to put it elegantly, a hot mess. So, I started weaving it in and eventually was like, “I don’t want to look at labs. I don’t want to be focused on not the actual root cause. I want to do what my clients need most”, which is somatic and mindset work.
Krista: Yeah. I so wish I had had those kinds of tools or that kind of help especially in my early 20s. I remember when I graduated, my senior year in college I spent so much time in the bathroom. My body was screaming at me and I did not know. I did not know what was going on and that there was so much happening in my emotional world.
Victoria: Right, yeah. And we don’t know because we’re not taught. In this western system there’s a doctor for the body and a doctor for the mind and never the twain shall meet. And we can throw the cart all the way under the bus right now but you know.
Krista: And I think we’re headed in that direction, we’re going to get there.
Victoria: Yes. We’ll get there.
Krista: And maybe I’m a little biased because I’m surrounded by life coaches in my circles but I do think we’re going to get there. Okay, so I have a feeling that some people heard you say the term, polyvagal theory and went, “What are you talking about?” So, let’s talk a little bit about just basics, can you just give a polyvagal theory primer?
Victoria: Yeah, absolutely. The super simple, yeah. So polyvagal theory is the work of Dr. Stephen Porges, PhD and Deb Dana, LCSW, is a social worker. So of course, she made it into English. Thank you, Deb, we love you Deb, forever and ever. So, the vagus nerve is the connector between our minds and our bodies and controls not just our organs but our mood, our energy, our emotional capacity. It dictates whether we are present in life or not, anxious, or chill, checked out or checked in.
And the vagus nerve has hundreds of different functions in our bodies which shift based on so many things. Our individual internal capacity, our environment and social factors, external stimuli, what we learned in our family of origin about whether it’s safe to feel our feelings or better not go there, paired with our individual specific history of stress, distress and trauma. So, the vagus nerve has three main branches or states that impact whether we’re at home in ourselves which is a state known as ventral vagal. That’s when we’re anchored in ourselves.
We are social, we feel safe, we’re connected. The other two states are sympathetic, which is when we’re jacked up and anxious, that’s also known as fight or flight. And then finally there’s dorsal vagus which is when we’re checked out, unmotivated, disconnected and eventually if we stay there long enough, frozen. It’s the feigned death experience that our bodies as mammals use to ward off predators.
So, when we understand polyvagal theory and the fact that there’s a system that is within some of our control but is also automatic, it’s called the autonomic nervous system, or automatic nervous system because it controls our breathing, our respiration, our digestion, our thyroid, everything that runs through the middle of us, including mood, cognitive capacity. It works automatically based on how we grew up, what we learned about the world, the things that make us feel safe.
And the beauty of understanding that this system is happening for us in our body all the time is that it takes away so much of the blame, shame and guilt we feel based on how we automatically react to life. So, a client the other day was saying she was walking through the mall and smelled her high school boyfriend’s mother’s perfume and immediately went – and had this, oh my God, what’s happening, like mini panic. She was like, “I am completely safe. I’m with my kids. Everything’s good. We’re just hanging out in the mall.
But these little molecules went through my nose into the olfactory bulb in my brain and all of a sudden I’m 16 and in trouble. What?” And she was like, “There’s something wrong with me. How could that upset me so much?” And I was like, “My darling love, it’s science. That experience was linked in your brain in childhood because 16 still are children, let’s be real. And your body automatically sent you into fight or flight, sympathetic activation in your nervous system to protect you from self-love.”
And so, understanding polyvagal theory, understanding the nervous system allows us to say the first reaction is the mammal. The second reaction I can impact with thought work, somatic or body based practices and returning home to myself.
Krista: I love that so much. I kind of think about it as I can’t control my initial reaction but I can always choose how to respond.
Victoria: 100%. 100%.
Krista: Yeah, that’s so good. And I see that so much too, I’m glad we’re talking about this, with what I call grief triggers, grief grenades. There’s so much judgment that we have around the things that catch us off guard and cause these responses. And when we make them mean that we’re not as far along as we should be in grief, or there’s something wrong with us, or there’s something broken about us, or other people are doing just fine and we’re the only ones. It just makes me want to cry.
Victoria: Yeah, it’s really painful. It’s really painful, yeah. Yeah, and one of the key things to understand in polyvagal theory and all nervous system and somatic work is just how individual it is. And it’s based in biology. It’s based in our nervous system. Your automatic reaction is not any kind of measure of how good a person you are, how loving you are, how kind you are, how hard you’re working. It’s just a measure of how much adrenalin your adrenal glands sent into your body based on your own grief grenade. And it really helps people. I see it in my clients.
They come into Anchored, my six month program feeling gosh, really lousy about themselves. And over the course of learning this work and having it be the cornerstone of their thought work, I watch them shift from there’s something wrong with me to my nervous system loves me.
Krista: Yes. And isn’t that so interesting? Because it’s like the things that we think need to change are often not at all the things that need to change. If we decided that our body knew what it was doing and was well intended in what it did. And then from that angle, we have a whole different experience of whatever our body is trying to tell us.
Victoria: Absolutely. And there’s so much talk on social media about hashtag self-love, and selfcare, and take a bubble bath and all of that kind of care which I’m not knocking. I love a good Epsom salt bath, bring it. But it’s never going to get you what you want if your body is a villain in your own mind. And if you’re continuing to tell the story that there’s something inherently wrong with you because a grief grenade just landed in your lap and your body did what it’s supposed to do.
Krista: Yeah. And I also see this too and I’d love to know what you see and what your thoughts are, of just based on maybe our experience with emotion, what we were taught, what was role modeled to us, what we’re comfortable with and our own judgment of our own emotional experience too. And it’s not just to say grief grenades but it is, I feel too much of this or not enough of that. Or as I’m feeling, I’m not feeling. I’m intellectualizing my feelings and then we judge all of that as well.
Victoria: Yeah. And that’s as someone who did that for most of my life. I lived in what’s called functional freeze which is when you are functional. I have a pile of master’s degrees. I built a whole business, I’ve built several. I’m very functional in the world but I was frozen to my own emotions. They were just locked up in a little box, a little padlock buried somewhere in the backyard. I was living from the neck up because that’s my cozy place. I’ve always been a smarty pants and I think my way through most everything other than actually being alive in my human experience.
Krista: How did you figure out that you were doing that, by the way? Because I feel like if you’re in it and you don’t really know any different then how do you know what you don’t know?
Victoria: It’s such a great question that I actually haven’t really thought about. I think it was having amazing friends really modeling being present in their emotions. And just seeing people really, yeah, just being so present with themselves and present in the world. And having brave friends reflect back to me, you’re so present for me, for us, for your patients, for your clients, but are you present for you? Really started to open my eyes to the fact that I was living from the neck up was super intellectualizing everything instead of, like you were saying, actually feeling my feelings.
Krista: Yeah. I would love it if you painted a vivid picture for people of what it is like to live from the neck up and contrast that to what it is like to be fully present in your body.
Victoria: So, when I was living from the neck up the alarm would go off. I would get out of bed, put the coffee pot on, not even question it, PS, I had ulcers. Coffee was a horrifying idea for me but it was just what I did. It’s the morning, you drink coffee. It’s what you do. Would get dressed in clothes I didn’t like because that’s what I was supposed to be wearing for work. And would get on the subway, play a game on my phone, look at Instagram, totally checked out from the lived experience, sort of race along to work.
And just go from task, to task, to task, to task, kicking butt, but not being present, not being aware of myself, not being home in me. Getting it done, getting the A+, getting the gold star. And then having relationships where I was listening deeply to my friends was really present for them. I had this wall against being truly vulnerable and open, unless I was oversharing. There was no middle ground for me, I just was either trauma dumping or was like, “No, come on, Megan, let’s talk about you. What’s going on in your relationship? Tell me more.” “I’m good, I’m fine, I’m okay.”
But it wasn’t that I was consciously blocking, it was that I was, totally fine okay because in childhood I learned that that was safer than actually having my emotions because they wouldn’t be met. They wouldn’t get the kind of attention, and care, and love they needed. My parents are amazing. They were doing the best they could but given their social location, where they come from, their age etc. They didn’t have the attunement and capacity. And I think this is really common in Gen X too. They didn’t know how to attune to my emotions because they were not attuned to theirs.
They were living from the neck up, they are successful in academic book smart, nerdy ways and definitely not in feeling ways.
Krista: It’s interesting as you describe it, I kind of think of how I talk about it, these are fun conversations selfishly for me to have. So, I kind of think about it, there’s probably some subtle differences but maybe more similarities than not. I’m always drawing, I call it the stagnation zone, I’m always drawing this for clients which is like up at the top of the emotional rollercoaster there’s joy and ecstasy and then all the way down at the bottom there’s despair. And then where I see us getting stuck but I kind of think about it through a lens of grief.
It’s kind of after the spouse has died and well, it’s not terrible but it’s not amazing. It’s just a stagnation zone in the middle. And as my clients have experienced it and as I experienced it, it’s kind of like you were describing it except maybe less achieving in nature. So, there’s just more surviving and okay, and meh, mediocre. It’s not terrible but also surely please don’t tell me this is all there is.
And then sadly, and misclassifying that as the new normal of being like, “Well, okay, I guess everybody’s telling me I’m doing great but on the inside I’m feeling kind of hollow, and kind of empty, and kind of, but maybe this is just the way it’s going to be.”
Victoria: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense in grief.
Krista: Which is just a damn tragedy.
Victoria: It really is because so much more is possible beyond feeling. And I was a champ at feeling mad, sad and glad. But happy, I don’t know. But glad, definitely.
Krista: A forced glad or did glad come easily?
Victoria: I will say I am a very bouncy happy spirit like in the Winnie the Pooh framework for life.
Krista: [Crosstalk] Tigger?
Victoria: I’m Tigger, absolutely. So, I wouldn’t let myself go full Eeyore but I never had the complexity of owl. I love that we’re using this metaphor.
Krista: I love it, I know.
Victoria: It’s so fun. And for me the achieving was about that perfectionism and people pleasing in an attempt to be seen as valid, and worthy, and important based in my codependent thinking. So, I define codependent thinking as chronically and habitually sourcing our sense of wellness, worth and value from everyone and everything outside of ourselves instead of from within.
Krista: Yes, which I would love to talk about how that relates to grief because I see that so much. Yeah, do you have thoughts on that?
Victoria: So many. Yeah, I mean the first thing that comes to mind is am I grieving right?
Krista: Oh my God, all the time. All the time looking for external validation about how we’re doing grief.
Victoria: Yeah, right.
Krista: Yeah. I did it.
Krista: Yeah, totally, right, yeah, because I had always gone to books or other sources but very often books. Because surely I wasn’t the expert. I mean really, I mean I’m a woman socialized in this country, how could I possibly be? I couldn’t possibly be an expert on myself.
Victoria: Right, of course, of course, of course, right.
Krista: Sarcasm, for our listeners.
Victoria: Yeah. No. All of the sarcasm, it’s dripping. Yeah, of course, we look to someone else to tell us how we should think, how we should feel, how we should be, what the next right thing to do is. And if we even think back to when I was talking about that functional freeze, I would get up and drink coffee because that’s what you do in the morning. And you eat oatmeal because that’s what you do. Never really pausing to ask my body what it wanted.
Krista: What does it want? Yeah.
Victoria: What does it want? Which is the absolute opposite of coffee and oatmeal. Neither one of those things are right for this small animal. But I didn’t know because I didn’t know to pause and ask myself. And so, one of the key skills and of course the most lifechanging skills are often the simplest to step out of these patterns of thinking is to start to ask yourself, starting with the banal quotidian everyday stuff. Body, do you want coffee or do you want tea this morning? Do you want a shower? You had one yesterday, do you want one?
Krista: And then watching your brain try to go up into the sky to find an answer and bringing it back down into your body.
Victoria: Yes. I mean I’d say particularly at the beginning of my program, half the calls are, “My love, you’ve gone into your head, come back to your body. Come back, come back to your body. You’re spinning, you’re thinking. I’m watching it happen. Come back to the animal.” Because the body knows. The body in all of its wisdom knows what’s best for us. It knows how to process stress, distress, trauma, grief. It knows how to move through, we have just been taught to stop it and to go into our minds.
Krista: To override.
Victoria: Yeah. of course. And that’s where somatic or body based practices come in, to help us reconnect with ourselves as animals and to reconnect with the wisdom of our bodies so we can just let whatever processes our body needs to go through be gone through, right?
Krista: Totally. So, I know that we can’t make this an entire session but what are some, maybe one or two simple things that someone who is interested in getting out of their head and getting a little bit more back into their body, could do? So, you talked about just genuinely asking a, I’ll say straightforward because maybe simple might not resonate with people because as you’re actually asking your body it won’t feel simple, even though it’s straightforward, but we can do that. What else can we do that helps us come back to the body?
Victoria: Yeah. So, attuning to our breath. Now, this is very different than the cues so many of us have been given that we might get at a yoga class, or meditation, or even in coaching which is to take a deep breath or somehow change the breath. The breath is your roadmap. It’s the roadmap, it’s the thing that lets you know what’s going on inside. So, at the top of the hour every hour or twice a day, it doesn’t matter, the frequency’s irrelevant, just whatever works for you, attuning to your breath. Where is my breath? What is it doing?
Is it tight and at the top of my chest? And is it letting me know that there’s anxiety, that there’s activation inside me, there’s sympathetic movement that needs to get out, that there’s fight or flight? Because my boss just texted, my mother-in-law called, whatever just happened? Or am I taking those long slow deep breaths with that long exhale that lets me know no matter what my brain is up to my body is actually pretty chilled right now. And that leads into the general call to slow down.
So, for me the most pivotal part of rewiring our minds, healing our nervous systems, reclaiming our lives is coming back into presence. So, the patriarchy, white settler, colonialism, late stage capitalism, all these systems of oppression thrive when we are disconnected from our bodies, when we are not present. And so, finding 30 seconds a day to walk slowly. And it doesn’t need to be ridiculous. It doesn’t need to take an hour to cross the bathroom. But to just feel your footsteps on the floor.
Is it hot? Is it cold? Are your socks, are they on a little crooked and it actually doesn’t feel comfortable? But really pausing to slow it down which we don’t do. We move with urgency, particularly when we’re trying to outrun our feelings, particularly feelings like grief, we move fast. Everything’s urgent, everything’s now, everything’s got to get it done, got to get it done faster, yesterday.
Krista: Which is why I find there’s so much more struggle for most widows on the evening, in the evenings and on the weekends, when it is less easy to run and stay busy, and they find themselves slowing down and settling. And then because it’s unfamiliar and they don’t have the skills, it’s very scary.
Victoria: It is very scary. So, one tool from somatic experiencing which is part of my training and the nervous system world is the concept of pendulation. It’s actually the cornerstone of somatic experiencing which means we never go to the deep dark icky place until we’ve firmly anchored ourselves in something resourcing, something that is supportive for our nervous system, something that grounds us. So, if you know that, to stay with your example, you put the kids to bed and things are about to get real, it’s about to hit the proverbial emotional fan. You know what time that is.
Let’s call it 8:00pm is when your internal meltdown or desire to buffer starts. Then you set an alarm on your phone, and at 8:00 you look at some kitten movies on YouTube. You look at – I saw on yesterday of little tiny dogs dressed in panda bear costumes and it was so amazing. And I giggled so hard. Take two minutes because people, we need to make this palatable and we need to make it accessible. So, I’m not saying to do a half hour meditation on the beauty of the world, let’s not be ridiculous.
But at eight o’clock you pause in the kitchen and you have a dedicated little notebook, it can be scrap paper. Where you write out three things you’re grateful for from that day. You look at one cute video, you think of one memory that is purely, I don’t want to say positive and negative, I don’t like that language, but purely in the joyful. So, what I’m saying is probably not in the beginning a memory of you and your spouse who’s passed. But that may be more joyful in the future but particularly in the early stages.
But that play in eight grade where you stole the show and everyone loved you, and everyone was cheering. Something that truly brings you into that grounding in yourself. It can also be as simple as putting both feet on the floor and breathing into your feet and then breathing into your heart. And reminding yourself that in this one millisecond you are safe and everything’s okay.
Krista: Yeah. And so, what I love that you just gave several different options, not insinuating that every option works for every person, but that you find a thing that for you when you do it you feel safe when you connect with it, yeah. For me, tapping is huge. I can go from, they can’t see my eyes, but my eyes are really big right now.
Victoria: The caption reads, Krista made a face of a wild woman on the brink.
Krista: Yeah. Truly just feeling completely ungrounded and tapping can bring me back.
Victoria: Beautiful. Yeah, whatever it is for you that helps you come back into your body in this moment because what happens with stress, distress, trauma, grief, when we get activated in our nervous system out of ventral vagal which is the safe and social part, and into sympathetic which is fight or flight ruled by adrenalin, or collapse down into dorsal vagus which is in an acetylcholine state, that’s that checked out, buffering, what, I’m not present emotionally state.
What happens is that our minds and our bodies forget who, what, where, when, why we are. We’re not here, that’s why the remedy is presence. We’re not here, we’re then. We’re in that scary thing that happened when we were six or eight. We’re in the stress of high school. We’re in the moment of losing our partner. We are in some other time and place or resuming forward into the future.
Krista: Yeah, a lot of zooming forward into the future, a lot of I won’t be able to handle it, a lot of I don’t know what’s coming, a lot of uncertainty, a lot, yeah. We’re definitely not here.
Victoria: Yeah. Who’s going to walk my kid down the aisle? Your kids too.
Krista: Exactly, and how much will I cry when it happens? And I don’t want to. And how do I hold it together? And all the things.
Victoria: Yeah, right, yeah. And so, what these simple practices do is bring us back to the here and now where we’re actually okay. Which doesn’t mean, no one’s negating feelings here. Feel all the feelings but feel the feelings from a grounded place and that allows your nervous system to really process the emotion.
And so, an example I like to share is, you know when little kids hurt themselves? And they run up to you and they say, “I hurt my finger and it hurts so much.” And you just put out your arms and they crawl into your lap. And they cry, and they cry, and they cry. And they just shake and they let it all out and then they go, the sigh is the nervous system’s reset. It means a state has changed in the nervous system. And they stand up and they say, “I’m going to go play now.” And they run off like nothing happened.
And so, what that is, is completion of the stress cycle within the nervous system. And it allows all that anxious fight or flight energy that happened at the moment of cutting their finger, or falling off the monkey bars, whatever. It lets that out when we’re held in safety. And the shaking is a sign of completion of that.
Krista: Which is what our body was designed to do and knows how to do.
Victoria: Totally, it completely does. We just have been trained to not hold space for it. We’ve been trained to buffer. We’ve been trained to pour a glass of mommy juice, we’ve been trained to just turn on the TV and not be present with ourselves.
Krista: We just put everyone else first. I see this a lot too now because we’re solo parenting, we put so much pressure on ourselves to do everything and to be everything for our kids that we forget that when we block out what we need we’re unable to help ourselves and let our bodies do what they need to do. How many of us are not listening when our body says, “I need to move?”
Victoria: Right, or pee, or eat.
Krista: We’re just totally not listening anymore. And it’s so easy to fall into that because we weren’t explicitly taught how to do it. And also, we were really implicitly taught that we’re not supposed to do it because it’s selfish.
Victoria: It’s selfish, which is what’s worse than a woman with a sense of self?
Krista: What is worse? I mean let’s ask the patriarchy.
Victoria: You tell me, Krista, what is worse? Let us asks, dear patriarchy. Oh, wait, the patriarchy doesn’t think I should be able to read or write, but embroider I must. I mean towards your point, if one’s goal is to be an amazing parent and is now a solo parent unexpectedly, it’s so important for one’s nervous system to be regulated, meaning balanced so that you can regulate the nervous systems of people around you. It’s called coregulation.
So, there’s so many beautiful studies that show that our nervous systems pick up the nervous systems of folks, I believe the range is within 10 feet of us. Our cardiac pattern changes. So, your heart beat changes when the person next to you is anxious, is stressed, is sad, is going through whatever, they’re going through.
So being able to anchor back into yourself by letting yourself lose it when you need to, letting yourself be angry, have all of those feelings, cry it out, have the shake, have the sigh and come back into yourself. Actually, is important for being the parent I know your listeners want to be for their kiddos who are also going through their own grief.
Krista: Totally, yeah, for so many reasons. But I love that you said that, I love you’ve connected it too. When you physically feel better others around you physically feel it.
Victoria: Yeah, I mean what I say at the end of my show is when we heal ourselves we help heal the world. And I mean it because when our nervous systems are regulated, it regulates others. It’s truly a gift to the world.
Krista: Yeah. And I see it even taking an extension to what you just said, the same is true, so we’ve got the body work, and then we’ve also got the thinking work, the thought work. And I know that we’re, yeah, fans of both. And it’s the same extension there, it would seem the way that you think only impacts you but really truly I’ve seen it so many times and I bet you have too. Where when a client learns that skill for themselves they cannot help but role model it for their children. They cannot help but people around them do benefit. It’s one of my favorite parts of coaching I think.
It’s when people come back and tell me the stories of how it’s rippled into the lives of those around them.
Victoria: It’s so beautiful.
Krista: It makes me happy.
Victoria: Yeah, for sure. And managing your mind, so you set healthier boundaries, is resentment prevention. And so, you are kinder to the people around you.
Krista: I’ve never heard it said exactly that way, will you say that one more time?
Victoria: Yeah, healthy boundaries are resentment prevention.
Krista: Totally, because when we don’t set healthy boundaries that’s when we start feeling resentful. And we think it’s the other people that need to change.
Victoria: And then we act like jerks without even realizing we’re doing it because we’re blaming other people for our reaction to them or our lack of setting boundaries which of course we can then back up. And as you’ve been saying, we were not taught to set boundaries. If you grew up in a home with codependent thinking you absolutely did not see boundaries set. You probably only saw resentment, and blame, and shame, and guilt. And we get to say it ends with me. That pattern, that familiar blueprint it ends right now.
Krista: Yeah. And as strange as it is to think about grief being the opportunity, that’s how I see it. It can be such a wakeup call. I was just talking with a woman today about this. Where all of a sudden you just go, “Oh my gosh, life is really this precious and this short. Am I living the way that I want to live? Am I aligned with what I value?” It might be an expression of what I want to be.
Victoria: Yeah. I mean I back in the day was a hospice nurse, so yeah.
Krista: I didn’t know that. That’s intense, yeah.
Victoria: Yeah, it was good work. I loved that work. I feel like I’m on this planet to be in support of folks in transitions. I was a birth doula for many years, a hospice nurse. And I feel like the coaching I do now is helping people transition from one way of being, and thinking, and experiencing the world, relating to the world, and transitioning to a whole new interdependent way of experiencing life.
Krista: And so, I wonder if I’m going to summarize or simplify this too much so. But to me it’s kind of this process of being out of touch with what’s going on in your body and being super in your head. And valuing more what other people think, or what they say, or what they believe about your life. And coming back into your own felt sense of what’s happening and what your body is trying to tell you and your own sense of authority.
Krista: Is that? Yeah.
Victoria: That’s it.
Krista: This is why I like you.
Victoria: Yeah, that’s why I like you too, thank you. Well done, 10 points, gold star, A+.
Krista: We do it slightly differently but we’re on the same page.
Victoria: We’re on the same page.
Krista: We’re on the same page.
Victoria: It’s so true.
Krista: So, thinking about what the body is trying to tell us, what are some things that you could tell listeners to look for that they might just be thinking, well, it’s just aging, or well, it’s just midlife, or whatever it is that actually they want to stop and pay attention to?
Victoria: My first thought was tension patterns. So, in the nervous system world we say the issues are in the tissues meaning that – it’s a good one, right?
Krista: It’s good, I like it.
Victoria: It’s a good one, it’s a good one. I don’t mean Kleenex, I mean you’re a human body. And you’ve probably heard, emotions get sort of stuck in your body. I once had a client ask me if that meant there was feelings in her liver. That’s an honest question maybe. Maybe perchance, we can’t see emotions yet but maybe someday we’ll find out, yes. But what that means, that emotions get stuck in your body is that they get stuck as tension patterns, ways of holding your physiology, holding your body in response to life.
And so, starting to slow down, and to pay attention to your body and just notice how you’re sitting, notice how you’re holding yourself. Notice when you’re in relation to different people, meaning you’re in conversation to different people or somebody texts, or somebody emails, do your shoulders roll forward in their sort of submissive posture? Does your neck drop down? Do you feel a heaviness in your back? What’s the story you’re telling in your mind that’s leading your body into that familiar and habitual posture in relationship to that person or that role?
Because you might have the best boss on Earth but boss in your head is your mom or your dad. It’s coded onto someone else that leads you to say, “Okay, I’m sorry, I must not have done it wrong. It must be me, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Or do you get into a sort of defensive stance? Are you ready for someone to come at you and tell you, you did it wrong? Go, try me. Try me. Or I always think of Mrs. Maisel, tits up.
Krista: I wish everybody could see the visual on this one.
Victoria: Take a screenshot, we’ll put that on social. Are you meeting the world with your chest held high, your head held high, your shoulders back? Not in that defensive come at me posture but in an I am grounded in myself posture. So, the question is, how are you meeting the world? And your body knows because it’s telling you the story, we just don’t know to look for the story in our bodies.
Krista: Yeah. So, I’m thinking maybe, we just set a timer and a couple of times a day, just let the timer go off and just check.
Victoria: Just check. Just run a little scan. And for folks with a history of stress, distress and trauma it can be challenging or even actually clinically triggering to go into the body, to scan the inside of the body and we want to honor that by saying, stay on the outside. Notice where you’re holding your hands. You don’t have to feel the sensation of being in your hands, in your shoulders, in your chest. Just notice where they are in space, like mapping a 3D picture of yourself.
Krista: Yeah. And I think that’s a good thing too just to bring up that no matter who you’re working with, you always want to make sure that you remind yourself that you are the client and you are the expert on whatever’s going on in your own body and whatever you do want to do and whatever you don’t want to do.
Victoria: 100%, yeah. Because people are often given these cues, in yoga this morning at 6:00am, okay, drop into your body. And I being me, I’m looking around and I’m watching someone’s face twitch. I’m watching someone’s foot start shaking back and forth. That was probably not a safe choice for them in that moment or where they are.
Krista: Or even close your eyes.
Victoria: Even close your eyes, yeah. I always say, “Closing your beautiful eyes or simply lowering your gaze.”
Krista: Yeah, soften your gaze, whatever feels safe to you.
Victoria: Yeah, whatever. Yeah, thank you for bringing that up because the real core of being trauma sensitive and trauma thoughtful is recognizing how differently traumatic and stressful events impact different people. And whatever the expression of safety is for you, let that be your guidepost. Let that be your guiding north star. And pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, garbage. Garbage. No, let there be no pushing. Let there be a gentle coaxing.
I always think of trying to – when there’s a stray, a stray cat or dog and you’re like, “Here’s a little food, sweet baby. Come to it if you want to. I’m just going to back up, be a couple feet away and let you gently find your way towards the thing that will heal and nourish you but I’m not pushing.”
Krista: Yeah. I think there’s the best of intentions but the pendulum has swung a little bit too far in some of this, it’s like no pain no gain kind of deal. I do think we want to acknowledge that often what we want is on the other side of something new and unfamiliar. And so that pursuing it can require us to be in unfamiliar territory which feels uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean put yourself in a place of paralysis and terror, and do something that your body is telling you is unsafe and there is a balance to be found. It’s not, it’s nuanced.
Victoria: It’s nuanced and there’s a distinct difference between discomfort and not being safe, for sure. And that’s why I start with simple things like grounding, anchoring, attuning to the breath, not changing it. And asking yourself simple loving guiding questions to let your body tell you what it is available for.
Krista: Yeah, just even noticing what it is experiencing before we even try to shift anything. I love that you use the word ‘attunement’. Because I think it’s easy to just make the assumption again when you aren’t trusting your own authority or you don’t have a consistent practice that when somebody’s asking you to breathe in a particular way or to focus on your breathing, that you will inherently make it mean that you’re doing it wrong and try to change the way you’re doing it as opposed to just figuring out what your body is doing and noticing it, attuning to it, so good.
Victoria: Attune, attune, attune, yeah, and that’s how we find presence.
Krista: Okay. So, people are going to want to, they’re going to want to connect with you.
Victoria: That would be fun.
Krista: I know they are, so how do they do that?
Victoria: Yeah. So, my podcast is called Feminist Wellness and it is for humans of all genders, it’s free in all the places each and every week. You can find me on the gram, I give good gram @victoriaalbinawellness. And I have a little present just for your listeners.
Victoria: I love presents.
Krista: I love presents.
Victoria: So much fun. So, if you go to victoriaalbina – A-L-B as in boy, I-N-A.com/krista – K-R-I-S-T-A, you can download a suite of meditations and nervous system exercises just for you for free because I love you.
Krista: Thank you. That’s so nice of you. And you know what? I need to have you come in. We can talk about it later but I need to have you come into Mom Goes On and do a little class for the women in there.
Victoria: I’d love that. Yeah, that would be a blast.
Krista: Yeah, we would love that too.
Victoria: Yeah, let’s do it, done.
Krista: Listen, thank you so much for coming and talking to us.
Victoria: Thanks for having me. This was really wonderful.
Krista: Yeah, thank you. And we’ll put all the links to everything in the show notes, so don’t stress out about writing it all down, and it’ll all be in the show notes, listeners. Okay, alright, love you Victoria.
Victoria: I love you too, thank you, bye.
If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so that you can move forward with confidence.
Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click work with me for details and the next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.
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