Teaching Your Team to Tune Into Polyvagal States… with the Feather-O-Meter 🟢🟡🔴

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Here are the 3 MAIN States:

🟢 Green Feather Mode: The Ventral Vagal State

  • Behaviors: In this GREEN system, social behavior is optimized, including compassion, mental and physiological calmness, critical thinking, the neurophysiological foundation for mental and physical health, and the ability to effectively co-regulate.
  • Body Language: Relaxed posture, animated facial expressions, soft voice.
  • Increases: The body’s ability to physically heal, think critically and creatively, digest food, recuperate, socially connect, hear and listen to voices, and transmit feelings of safety to others.
  • Decreases: Defensive systems that mobilize the body.
  • Interactions: Open to collaboration, listening, emotional sharing.
  • Adjustments: Use your own calm state to co-regulate others, fostering a sense of safety and emotional balance in your environment.

🟡 Yellow Feather Mode: The Sympathetic State

  • Behaviors: In YELLOW, controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, behaviors include fight-or-flight responses, panic, rage, reactivity, restlessness, and anxiety.
  • Body Language: Tense muscles, dilated pupils, rapid speech.
  • Increases: Physical mobility and defensive systems, blood pressure, heart rate, adrenaline, pain tolerance, and reactivity, and ability to hear and process ultra low-frequency sounds.
  • Decreases: Social behaviors, the ability to accurately detect feelings of others, facial affect and vocal prosody, physical and mental health, digestive systems, and the ability to hear and process human speech and co-regulate with others.
  • Interactions: Transactional, less open to nuance, possibly irritable.
  • Adjustments: Consider if this state serves the situation; adjust accordingly.

🔴 Red Feather Mode: The Dorsal Vagal State

  • Behaviors: In a RED state, individuals experience bodily shutdown, blacking out, numbness, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, and an inability to socially engage and communicate.
  • Body Language: Slumped posture, facial freezing, minimal eye contact.
  • Increases: Immobilization and pain tolerance.
  • Decreases: Heart rate, blood pressure, depth of breathing, body awareness, awareness of others, and the ability to socially engage and communicate.
  • Interactions: Withdrawn, disconnected, unresponsive.
  • Adjustments: Seek safe spaces and practices to gently re-engage.

🌈 Flexibility is Key

Being aware of your “Feather Mode” lets you ask yourself what you need and what your body needs. Whether it’s deep breathing, a walk, or a moment of laughter, you have tools to transition between states. 🍃

PLAY IS THE WAY! ….Read more about PLAY here.

🤝 Birds of a Feather…

Understanding your own Feather Mode helps you gauge the collective emotional state of a group, empowering you to be a grounding influence or to step back when needed.

📊 The Elephant in the Room: Prevalence of Yellow and Red

Studies suggest that a large number of U.S. workers are operating in a yellow or red state, marked by stress, heightened alertness, or emotional disengagement.

What You Can Do

  • Cues of Safety: Warm smiles, kind words, and inclusive language signal safety 🌼. Your nervous system and genuine actions affect the nervous systems of those around you! (We call this co-regulation.)
  • Connection & Co-Regulation: Compassion, presence, and active listening create emotional safety, allowing for co-regulation 🤗.
  • Choices: Providing options helps people transition to a more balanced state. Providing choices gives other people a sense of control and self-direction 🛒.
  • Context Matters: Sometimes people need to understand the ‘why’ behind what’s happening. Knowing the context can reduce uncertainty. Our brains HATE uncertainty 🗺️.
  • Point Them to Help: As leaders in the workplace, we navigate “derailers, not disorders.” Recommend that your team members tap into Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or other professional resources, or seek help within your organization (e.g., HR department) 🎗️.

See the Birds: