The coronavirus pandemic is testing all of us. But it can be especially difficult for those of us who are quarantining alone or who’ve been cut off from our social outlets almost entirely.

Under these conditions, stress and anxiety can surge, and our sympathetic nervous system, believing we’re in real mortal danger, jolts us into a state of fight, flight, or freeze.

Therapist and author Deb Dana shares how Polyvagal Theory can help us better understand what’s going on in our brains when we enter these states, and how to respond constructively to anxiety during uncertain times.

As Dana explains, providing context for our feelings is the first step. The second is doing organized movement, asking ourselves directly, “What would help right now?”

The goal in both instances, she explains, is getting out of a hyperaroused state.

As Dana writes in her Networker article, “from a polyvagal perspective, a key goal of therapy is to help the client find ways to move out of a dysregulated state…and return to ‘ventral vagal,’ the biological seat of safety and connectedness.”

Deb Dana

Deb Dana, LCSW is a clinician and consultant specializing in working with complex trauma. She’s a consultant to the Traumatic Stress Research Consortium in the Kinsey Institute and clinical advisor to Khiron Clinics. She developed the Rhythm of Regulation Clinical Training Series and lectures internationally on ways Polyvagal Theory informs work with trauma survivors. Deb is the author of The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation, Polyvagal Exercises for Safety and Connection: 50 Client-Centered Practices, co-editor with Stephen Porges of Clinical Applications of the Polyvagal Theory: The Emergence of Polyvagal-Informed Therapies, and creator of the Polyvagal Flip Chart.


Zachary Taylor

Zach Taylor, MA, LPC, is the Director of Psychotherapy Networker. He oversees the award-winning magazine—frequently interviewing the field’s top experts—and stepped up to be among the hosts of the annual Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, which is the largest and longest running annual gathering of psychotherapists in the world. In addition, he manages CE trainings and programs for PESI, Inc., Networker’s parent company. Prior to joining Psychotherapy Networker, he spent 10 years in practice specializing in anxiety and panic disorders. His mission is to support psychotherapy professionals and develop future trainers and trainings to improve outcomes for their clients. He currently lives in Eau Claire, WI.