Christian Stress Release

What Is Stress Really – Polyvagal Theory (1 of 2) (Part 8)

Neuron's in the brain firing

Polyvagal Theory gives a deeper understanding into how stress happens in your body, which helps us understand how to turn it off more easily.

Today we’re taking a deeper dive into the science of your mental health struggles with Polyvagal Theory. It’s the emerging science of stress and gives a deeper understanding into how it works in your brain and body.


If you missed the previous posts on the science of stress, you can catch up on those here:

Good Stress; Bad Stress; Fight, Flight, Freeze; Anatomy of the Brain and Anatomy of the Nervous System

Polyvagal Theory

Polyvagal Theory is the new emerging science in the mental health industry in regards to stress. It helps explain how your Brain and Nervous System move through the different states of stress (described here). It’s also the science that brings in the understanding of your vagus nerve (talked about here).


In this post we’re only going to cover the very basics of Polyvagal Theory. If you’re curious and want to know more, you can learn more here.

Your Parasympathetic Nervous System

Prior to Polyvagal Theory, we knew that the nervous system had 2 parts (sympathetic and parasympathetic). We also knew that these parts had healthy and unhealthy states that they would flip in and out of when danger approached. This was God’s design to keep you alive.


That was awesome, but we never actually understood how they did this. There was a disconnect with how your nervous system shifted between the states of ‘Fight or Flight’ and ‘Freeze’. The previous understanding was that these 2 states were all one reaction within your body when danger approached. Except Fight or Flight is your sympathetic ramping you up for activity and movement. While Freeze is your parasympathetic shutting you down into a frozen, collapsed state.


How would you move between these 2 states so fluidly if they were coming from different parts of your nervous system?


Enter Polyvagal Theory. 


It connects the dots into how your body shifts from Fight or Flight into Freeze and back again.


If you suffer from trauma, triggers or PTSD, this theory is a game changer for you. It has massively improved the understanding of trauma and how to heal it. When looking for a trauma practitioner, ask if they know polyvagal theory and how they’re using it. Finding someone who knows this will give you greater access to understanding your trauma and healing it.

The Science of PVT

So what is the actual science?


With Polyvagal Theory (PVT for short), the reactions you have when you’re stressed get broken down into 3 main parts:


4 women sitting around a coffee table chatting and smiling

Ventral Vagal (Parasympathetic Nervous System)

Called Social Engagement (also known as Rest & Digest)

(you start out calm, connecting with your friends, able to listen and love them)


Woman screaming with her hands near her face. The image has 3 frames in 1, showing her head moving back and forth in distress

Fight/Flight (Sympathetic nervous system)

Called Stress (Also known as anxiety, panic)

(something triggers you and suddenly you’re panicked and can’t focus on anything)


Woman depressed with her head in her hand and eyes closed

Dorsal Vagal (Parasympathetic nervous system)

Called Freeze/Shutdown (also called Depression)

(the panic becomes too much and you feel numb, depressed and uninterested in life)

Before we had a 2 part model: (which I broke into 4 parts to make it easier to understand)


Rest & Digest + Movement & Exercise are the healthy states of your nervous system

Then enters danger (a trigger of stress or actual danger)


Hypervigilance + Fight, Flight or Freeze are the the unhealthy states of your nervous system

But Fight, Flight or Freeze were lumped together as if they were all coming from one part of your nervous system. The sympathetic. Except Freeze comes from the parasympathetic.


So now with PVT, we understand that Fight, Flight or Freeze are actual 2 separate stages. When you’re stressed, you go through Fight or Flight (panic and anxiety) first. Then if you can’t Fight or Flee the danger, you go through Freeze (shutdown). And when coming out of Freeze, you go through Fight or Flight again, before coming back down to Social Engagement (Rest & Digest, peace and calm).

What This All Means For You

So what does this all mean for you as a woman of God?

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We know more about how God designed you and why

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We have a better understanding of how you’re body moves through the stages of stress 

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This gives us a better understanding of how to help you release your stress

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And how to help you heal trauma (the most severe kind of stress)

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This makes mental health work way more effective and efficient

Outline of a lily - used as bullet points

(and if you’re a nerd like me it gives you something to go down the rabbit hole with in your free time.)

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we’ll go deeper into what’s happening in your body as you move through these 3 stages of stress. It’ll give so much insight into why you feel and react the way you do when you’re stressed. That kind of insight often brings in peace as it takes away any confusion of why this is happening to you. Also, it silences the lies the devil has spoken to you about it being your fault.


It’s not your fault. You’re not crazy. This is how God designed you. You just need to work with it to turn it off.


I’m praying for you

   – Laura

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Hey Beautiful Lady,

I just moved across the country and am unable to give the weekly podcast, blog and newsletter emails the attention they need and deserve. I’m postponing them until Tuesday (7/2). If you need help healing, you can find links for Practitioners here. I’m praying for you 🤍