So many of us are operating from a frazzled nervous system state, whether we’re feeling low and want more energy, or we have too much energy and want to feel more grounded.
That’s where the idea of up-regulating versus down-regulating comes in. If you need a “pick me up,” that’s up-regulating your nervous system. Down-regulating, meanwhile, looks more like grounding, calming activities when you’re feeling hyper-aroused.
In that case, you might call up your most chill, easy-going friend and ask if they want to go for a hike, watch a nature documentary, or do some yoga, Richmond suggests. If you wanted to get energized, however, that might be when you call up your most lively, adventurous friend and ask if you can tag along with whatever they’re up to.
The point is, none of us should feel like we can’t call on a friend, family member, or partner to help us regulate.
To that end, Richmond adds, physical touch is so important. Obviously, depending on who you’re with, touch might not be appropriate, but we’re not exclusively talking about intimate or erotic touch. A gentle touch on someone’s arm, or a warm hug can really go far.
“Even if it’s just a hand on an arm, if your nervous system was at a 7 on a scale of 1 being depressed and 10 being in panic mode, that touch can bring your nervous system down to a 6. Or if you’re at a 3 and someone gives you hug, that can bring you up to a 4,” Richmond tells mindbodygreen.
She actually has an exercise called “Hug to Relax” that she recommends all her couples try for the purpose of co-regulation. It’s exactly what it sounds like: “You hug each other and hold that hug until your breathing is co-regulated, you feel your shoulders drop, and you feel your chest expand.”