I remember, as a sleep-deprived single mother of a poorly sleeping baby, being told by a professional: “If only you weren’t so anxious, your baby would be sleeping better”.
In a way, she was right.
But at the time, those words were like a slap in the face.
Having trained in clinical psychology, I knew plenty about anxiety, and the cognitive and behavioural strategies used to help with it.
But I wasn’t feeling “anxious”. I just wanted to find a way to help my baby to sleep better – to fall asleep, and to stay asleep for longer than an hour!
Fast forward 10 years, and I’ve learned so much more, about parenting, attachment, interpersonal neurobiology, and crucial information about the nervous system and its regulation.
Looking back, I can see that I was still grieving the breakdown of my relationship, while struggling with the day-to-day of being a single mum to a baby.
So my nervous system would have been quite dysregulated, and my baby was likely picking up on this through the process of “neuroception”.
This would have made it difficult for him to feel the sense of safety he was needing to relax into sleep, and stay sleeping soundly.
I now know that a greater capacity to regulate my own nervous system, to embody a “safe” autonomic state, could have really supported my son’s sleep.
Once we feel calm and connected at the level of our nervous system, we naturally relate to our babies and children in ways that help them to feel calm and connected too.
Through our voice, facial expression, and body language, we transmit to them a sense that they are safe in the world; our nervous system “speaks” to their nervous system.
So, while this professional was on the right track, there were some important things missing from her message that would no doubt have made it more helpful.
💖 Firstly, a sense of understanding and compassion!
It could have made a big difference to me to understand more about the state my nervous system.
To hear that it made sense for me to be in that state, that it was my nervous system doing its best to keep me safe.
To have reassurance that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. And that there wasn’t anything wrong with me!
💖 And secondly, guidance to help me better regulate my nervous system!
To learn ways to resource myself and to truly embody a sense of safety in my nervous system.
As well as gentle supported practice to bring myself back to that safe state when I felt activated (“triggered”) or shut down.
Some co-regulation from another calm and connected adult could have gone a long way too!
Had I received all this, perhaps then my baby might have slept better!
And not just that!
I would have also had a greater capacity for calm and connected parenting as he grew older, including offering him co-regulation.
This is one reason why I am so excited to be partnering with Angela Hill of Kinnect to bring you a program we’re calling “Rewire through Regulation and Repair”, which will provide all of these things.
What we would love to offer to you is a compassionate space to get to know (and appreciate!) your nervous system, and practices to support you with self-regulation and co-regulation.
We’ll be offering it at a special low price for this first round. So if you’re interested, it will be a great time to hop in and experience it.
If you’d like to receive more information about the program as it takes shape, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name email address, and I’ll add you to the interest list.
And if you know anyone else who you think might be interested, please feel free to share this post with them.