Living with Illness in Survival Mode?

Living with Illness in Survival Mode?

Did you know that if you live long term with chronic health conditions that it disrupts our sense of safety in the world meaning that at least one of our basic needs for survival is not met? Furthermore this can greatly impact our ability to feel emotionally regulated & resilient. Psychologists have known our Hierarchy of Needs (for survival) for nearly 100 years and the most foundational being that we need food, shelter, air and clothing and then SECURITY (physical & financial).

Depending on your symptoms and condition, maybe eating and digesting is compromised, agile movement or even easeful breathing – this is to say that our bodies may struggle with some basic functions.

Furthermore security and safety as a person with health concerns is also compromised – this may show itself physically with regards to being able to reach full earning potential plus our nervous system gathers information and signals from inside (pain, symptoms, frightening health events) and outside (difficult medical regimes, medical appointments and invasive procedures) that tell our body and brain that we are not safe. This is an uncontrolled automatic process that comes from our ancient psychobiological programming when we were trying to survive as a species.

The nervous system then creates an emotion like fear, anxiety or anger to get us to act to change our situation i.e. come into a more safe and supported environment, but as we know with chronic illness that would be a cure, which we don’t have!

Sure there are medications and procedures to help support our symptoms to some extent, but when symptoms or uncertainty remain our nervous system will continue to sense “threat”. And here is the salient point, this constant or regular input of threat creates nervous system and emotional dysregulation.


If you experience one or multiple of the following, you may be emotionally dysregulated:

  • finding it hard to deal with stress
  • feeling easily overwhelmed by things
  • anxiety or worry
  • pain that moves from place to place
  • sleep issues (including disturbing dreams)
  • ADHD like symptoms
  • hypervigilance (over-alert)
  • numbness or feeling disconnected
  • angry outbursts
  • crying easily or feeling upset “for no reason”
  • feeling overly emotional
  • impulsivity
  • perfectionism
  • feeling out of control
  • feelings of shame
  • depressed
  • tension headaches

The good news is that we can learn how to regulate ourselves over time, with the right approach. Most people find that talking about it or changing behaviours only helps partially and when this approach fails, it can make us feel even more out of control and hopeless.

So back to the good news, the Somatic approach works at the mind and body level, which is where our emotions live – the nervous system.

You can learn about emotional dysregulation and how to self regulate through understanding, practical explorations and tools in my course



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