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ACEs Healing: Body

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How is your Engine Running?

The first step in developing regulation in the body is to become aware of how you feel at any given moment (happy, sad, upset, tired) or ask yourself, how is my engine running? To illustrate this point, we can use a temperature gauge on a car that tells you if the engine is running cold (blue), normal (middle), or hot (red).

If our bodies were like the car engine, we could determine our mood was low (blue), just right (middle), or high (red). When would we want our mood to be low, maybe before bedtime? When is a healthy time for our mood to be high, maybe when more energy is required, like before a marathon? When our mood is just right, we are ready to learn.

Let us identify what feelings may cause our needle to move from just right.

How's your Engine Running?

Low Mood (Blue)

  • When your feelings are hurt, unhappy
  • Sad, depressed, upset, tired, worry
  • Helpless, lonely, low self-esteem

High Mood (Red)

  • Constant stress, frustration
  • Angry, irritated, offended
  • Bossy, out of control, fearful

Now we know what feelings cause our engine to run low (blue) or high (red), but how does our body give us a physiological signal that the needle is moving?

Low Mood (Blue)

  • Calm
  • Yawning
  • Watery eyes
  • Sleepy
  • Relaxed
  • Feel safe

High Mood (Red)

  • Increased heart rate/blood pressure
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tense muscles
  • Anxious
  • Do not feel safe

Think about three things that you can do to increase your low mood (go for a brisk walk) and to decrease your high mood (take a relaxing bath).

To self-regulate you must increase your self-awareness and pay attention to the signs your body sends to notify you that your needle is moving. Once you are aware of the change, look back at your list of six items you can do to increase or decrease your mood accordingly and be ready to perform them to get your needle back to just right (middle).

Our sympathetic nervous system functions like a gas pedal by flooding our bodies with excitatory neurotransmitters, adrenaline, noradrenaline, dopamine, and glutamate in preparation for the fight/flight response. While our parasympathetic nervous system functions like a brake pedal by flooding our bodies with inhibitory neurotransmitters, GABA and serotonin, signaling that we are safe to sleep, eat, and reproduce.

Self-Regulation - How to Regulate your Brain and Body

Without a few go-to methods to calm the excitatory neurotransmitters, we appear to be a runaway train that leads to derailment if not controlled. The third fear response, freeze, could be the result of not having a plan of action to change our mood from low (blue) to a healthier state when you become dysregulated and numb to your environment.

This could lead to staying in relationships, remaining friends with toxic people, and continuing to work at jobs longer than we should.

Internal sensory calming techniques include:

  • Deep Breathing - Ensure that you breathe from your gut/abdomen - when you get anxious, your breathing becomes shallow, only using the top 1/3 of your lungs, and cannot get a cleansing breath - accessing the bottom 2/3 of oxygen, resulting in the brain not receiving enough oxygen - count to 10
  • Headphones - As opposed to ear buds, for sensitivity to sound, listen to music
  • Pressure Points - Above the lip, as if you were deep in thought; the sinus area, around the eyes - cover both eyes with the palms of your hands and apply light pressure around the socket
  • Proprioception (Large) Muscle Engagement - Wall pushups, 10 second chair push up, chewing bubblegum, sucking on gobstoppers, tootsie rolls, water bottle that requires suction (through a spout) as opposed to open mouth water bottles, weighted blanket, tablet or laptop in lap for weight, backpack for weight,  hard strokes on back/arms/legs/shoulders, compression clothing, yoga
  • Sweet Smells - Add a few drops on a cotton ball to keep in a container for when it is needed - smells could include vanilla or lavender
  • Quiet Place - An area you can go for a moment of silence, meditate, pray, puzzle

External sensory calming techniques include:

  • Dopamine - Eye contact, find something funny to laugh at
  • Feeding Others - Shows nurture and care
  • Giving/Receiving - leads to healing because it requires patience/compassion
  • Serotonin - Healthy tone of voice, behavior matching

Sensory alerting techniques include:

  • Activity - Gets adrenaline pumping and increases heart rate, jumping on trampoline, clapping firmly, counting out loud, high intensity workouts
  • Smell - Add a few drops on a cotton ball to keep in a container for when it is needed - smells could include cinnamon, citrus/orange oil
  • Taste (Candy)- Sour warheads, sweetarts, atomic fireball, hot tamales

How Blood Sugars/Hydration Change Cognitive Abilities

Have you heard of the term "hangry"? Have you ever been "hangry" and just not yourself? Hangry is a word that combines hungry and angry, meaning your hunger has contributed to your episodic anger. This cognitive behavior episodic shift occurs due to low blood sugar and the feeling typically goes away once we have eaten. It is difficult to be at your best cognitive performance level when you are hungry or thirsty. In fact, studies show optimal development for children who eat every two hours.

A healthy relationship with food can be used to regulate your behavior, this is why we eat when we are nervous. Hoarding food/binge eating due to fear of hunger is something many children who have been neglected or abused experience, sometimes into adulthood.

Low glycemic index, or slow to burn, foods are recommended to prevent a spike in insulin, reduce anxiety, and increase the trust-based relationship with yourself; showing you can properly care for yourself in a nourishing, healthy way.

Dehydration causes a 10-15% decrease in cognitive performance. The neurotransmitter, glutamate, becomes more active causing explosive, aggressive behavior. Absence seizures can result from over active glutamate, which is not quite epilepsy, but studies show could lead to epilepsy later in life. Water can be used for behavior regulation and to increase your metabolism.

Self-monitor your urine for your health and better sleep. If there is an odor to your urine, this means you are burning ketones (fat). If your urine has a yellow hue to it, you may be dehydrated and not functioning at your optimal cognitive level. Take a water break at the least, every two hours.

Micronutrients - What We Need and How to Get Them

Micronutrients have been shown to be more effective than some long-term prescribed medications. Visiting a nutritionist that uses targeted protocols to test for levels, is the first step. When given proper nutrients that elevate GABA and serotonin, it was found to lower aggression, thought problems, anxiety, depression, violence, opposition, and rage.

GABA/Serotonin can also be released by:

  • The Power of Activities - Repetitive activities, such as: lifting light weights, bicycling, swinging, rolling down a hill, can have a calming effect and signal the vestibular system of the body's positioning, as opposed to high risk activities/sports, such as: rock climbing, skydiving, or ultra-marathon running that causes an increased heart rate
  • The Power of Food - Eating certain types of food such as lentils and turkey can help boost serotonin and improve mental health
  • The Power of Relationships - When in caring relationships that makes us "feel safe" - hugs, eye contact, compassion, attention, loving, available to help when needed

Other Resources

<ACEs How to Heal: History                                               ACEs How to Heal: Mind>


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A Self-Reflection Based Action Plan to Healing Body, Mind, and Spirit

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