Dr. Nicole LePera

Dr. Nicole LePera



If you're always focused on what other people think of you, notice every shift in a person's mood, and are easily overwhelmed in relationships, you might be hypervigilant. Here's how to calm yourself, and bring yourself back into your body.

Many people have experienced C-PTSD, a series of complex trauma growing up which has causes them to have an over-active amgydala. Childhood trauma is associated with reductions in amygdala volume. Brain scans show structural changes in the brain.

Trauma refers to any event that overwhelms our capacity to cope, leaves us helpless to escape or say no, and leaves us in isolation (alone) to deal with the consequences of these events. Note: trauma cannot be defined because it's a subjective experience.

For example: A child who experiences parental neglect (CEN), but has another parent to support them and help them make sense of the experience, will be impacted differently than a child who has no support.

Chronic childhood traumatic experiences disrupt our pre-frontal cortex development. Our pre-frontal cortex plays a key role in how we react when we are stressed, and the behaviors we exhibit when anxious.

It's the center of our brain's emotional regulation. If you think about people close to you, you'll notice that some of people deal very well under stress or pressure, and others are easily rattled or unable to cope.

This has to do with their capacity to self regulate through stress. Something that is learned through modeling in childhood.

C-PTSD creates a situation where we struggle to regulate our emotions, and our brain goes into hypervigilant state.

Hypervigilance looks like: - fight or flight - hypervigilance: noticing every shift in mood - racing thoughts - fear or panic in the body - racing heart, sweaty palm - worry of what people think - fear of crowds or social situations

When we're in a hypervigilant state, we are within a survival adaptation. Our mind and body is trying to protect us from danger on a constant basis. This can feel extremely exhausting, draining, and frustrating.

How to cope with hypervigilance: 1. Remove or limit engagement in toxic relationships: hypervigilance begins from early exposure to unsafe relationships. Being around unsafe people can trigger hypervigilant responses. Place clear boundaries.

2. Prioritize sleep: our nervous system needs sleep hygiene to properly function. You might notice you're more hypervigilant and on edge when you don't get sleep. Lack of sleep feels like danger in the body.

3. Talk about it: many people suffer from hypervigilance in silence. Tell your close friends and partner about your past and how you experience hypervigilance. This will help them support you. And better understand your behaviors.

4. Know your triggers: hypervigilance is triggered by the external environment. Your triggers might be: loud sounds, yelling, chaotic environments, or being around people you don't know well. By knowing your triggers, you'll know when to self soothe.

5. Practice self soothing: after knowing your triggers, you'll know when it's time to self soothe. Self soothing can look like: taking deep breaths, getting into quiet, working out, saying affirmations, reminding yourself you're safe.

Ex: social situations can feel very stressful. You feel triggered and tell your friends you're taking a quick break. You go outside and take some deep breaths and and a brisk walk feeling more regulated before you go back inside.

6. Use the body to leave the brain: a hallmark sign of hypervigilance is intense racing thoughts and overthinking. This is our brain working overtime to stay safe. By moving the body, we can shift our nervous system state and become more regulated.

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