nervous system, nervous system dysregulation, anxiety, chronic anxiety, be a better lawyer, Dina Cataldo

#228: Nervous System Dysregulation

One of the most important things I work on with my clients is nervous system regulation.

It helps them feel better no matter what’s happening in their life or how anxious or overwhelmed they feel at work.

It also helps them go after big goals with more ease when the fight/flight response kicks in.

In this episode, you’ll learn

  • what nervous system dysregulation is
  • what causes nervous system dysregulation
  • why regulating our nervous systems is so important to living a healthy and more fulfilled life
  • 6 techniques to help you regulate your nervous system

Listen in and learn why regulating your nervous system is essential to thriving in your legal practice.


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Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.

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Nervous System Dysregulation

Hello. Hello. How are you doing today?

Today I wanna talk to you about nervous system dysregulation and one of the most important things that I work on with my clients is nervous system regulation. It helps them feel better no matter what's happening in their life or how overwhelmed or anxious that they feel. In this episode, you're gonna learn what it means to have a dysregulated nervous system.

You might be surprised at what it means and how it applies to you. What causes a dysregulated nervous system? Why regulating our nervous systems is so important to living a healthy and more fulfilled life, and how it can make our life so much easier, and several techniques that are gonna help you regulate your nervous system.

An Example of Nervous System Regulation

Before we jump in, I wanna share with you an example of what's possible when you learn to regulate your nervous system.

I had a lawyer come to me who said she had racing thoughts and she knew she needed help. She mentioned that she's an avid runner and she's noticed that when she was on her runs, that her heart monitor would be far higher than was healthy, and it felt like her heart was gonna beat out of her chest. Those were her words, and she thought that this, the solution was to just stop being a lawyer.

But she thought she'd try coaching with me because what she was hearing on the podcast was really resonating with her. We had a session recently after she started working with me where she was on a run and had her heart monitor on, and she noticed that her heart rate skyrocketed. She actually saw it happening on her heart monitor because of the work we'd been doing.

She knew that the heart rate increase was caused by what was going on in her mind, what her thoughts were. So she used the tools that she had learned over the course of working with me to manage her mind. And then she saw the heart monitor rate just decrease. And this was really cool for her to see and really cool when she told me this because she had physical evidence that the mind management had a physical impact on her body.

The tools she learned to regulate her nervous system helped her not only in that moment, but they helped her throughout her day. She started regulating her nervous system when talking to people in her office when doing billing, when you know, doing her calendar. And when she did, she noticed these areas of her life improved too.

What Nervous System Dysregulation Can Do

If this is resonating with you, I want to invite you to book a call with me.

The techniques you use will help you calm, anxiety and overwhelm. Those two feelings right there seem to be a root of a lot of problems. I see like procrastination, snapping at people, self sabotage.

Know that you're not the only one. I can help you regulate your nervous system so that you can feel more calm and peace in your practice and create the life that you want. You can book a call with me at

What Does it Mean to Have a Dysregulated Nervous System?

So what does that mean to have a dysregulated nervous system? You've already seen one example you can physically tell because your heart races, it might feel like it wants to beat out of your chest. I think it'll help if you knew a bit about how the nervous system works to understand how dysregulation happens in the body.

Why is it Important?

A regulated nervous system is important because it helps us access things like restorative sleep. It decreases inflammation in our bodies, helps us have better memory, helps us learn and be more focused, digest better. Basically, you think and you feel better when your nervous system is regulated.

In coaching, I work with the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system responses, and I'm not gonna get too much into the weeds here, but sympathetic refers to the fight, flight freeze response, and the parasympathetic has to do with the calming of that response.

So you can feel more relaxed after that initial adrenaline rush. Think of it this way, the sympathetic system floods your system with adrenaline to help you run, fight, whatever it is you need to do. But you're not supposed to have the flood all of the time, and it's definitely not something that's supposed to be happening at work all the time.

There needs to be a balance, and that's where the parasympathetic response comes in.

The Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve is in charge of the parasympathetic activation, and most of us have an underdeveloped VA nerve. The vagus nerve runs from our brain through our face and our thorax and down through into our abdomen. It's in charge of everything from digestion, how we feel, right? Like our mood, our immune response, breathing, our heart rate, Right?

When the vagus nerve is underperforming, you can feel drained, numb, chronically anxious, or completely disconnected with what's going on around you.

Basically unfocused.

How Coaching Helps

With coaching, my clients learn how to help their vagus nerve perform better so they're less anxious and feel more connected.

They become more present in their lives so they can make the best decisions for themselves, whether that's making decisions, managing their time, building their practice, going out on their own, whatever it is that they wanna do, because there's that fight or flight response, their nervous system is gonna be activated, that sympathetic response is gonna be activated.

And what they really want is to have that balance so they can begin seeing things objectively. You can actually actually see your situation more objectively than if the sympathetic nervous system is running the show. I'm gonna give you an example of this in a second, and we can literally retrain our brains to regulate how we feel. Just like in the example I gave earlier where my client was running and she actually could notice her mind management really activating that parasympathetic nervous system and calming her whole body down.

And she could see that in her heart rate monitor. It's fascinating, right?

What causes a dysregulated nervous system?

It can be a lot of different things, but here's a few things. External noise like the television, loud trucks, the blowers that gardeners use, trauma, whether a big tea trauma or a little tea trauma.

Whenever we're thinking about something like the state of the world and just feel scared and nervous about it all, it can also be caused by what we think about work. And if you notice yourself worrying a lot or anxious, that's a sign that your nervous system could be dysregulated.

I wanna take a moment to say this. Our lives are 50/50, so sometimes you're gonna feel anxiety or overwhelmed.

This is normal, okay? What this training / podcast is designed to teach isn't that you are wrong or bad If you feel those things, they're part of life, but a lot of us have chronic anxiety and feel overwhelmed a lot of the time.

And that was me.

Before I found coaching. I didn't have the tools to regulate my nervous system. When I felt fear, anxiety, overwhelm, I couldn't gain objectivity because I was frozen. In that mindset, creating those feelings, I was holding really tightly to the reins thinking that if anything changed in my life, anything at all, everything would just fall apart because I felt like I was managing everything so tightly that if I let go even a little bit, everything would just disintegrate.

What I didn't realize was that holding on so tightly was preventing me from making the change that I needed for me to feel better and to make practicing the law just plain easier. And that's how I could build a practice, a coaching practice on top of my legal career. I could do a podcast on top of that, I could care for my parents, I could, you know, take care of other things in my life, is because I learned how to manage my parasympathetic nervous system using mind management.

So me releasing the reins meant learning the skills to regulate my nervous system so I could release just a little bit at a time and see the improvements. Like I didn't have to do it all at once. In fact, that would've just put my whole system into shock. I mean, some people can do that, but for me, I needed to just let go a little bit at a time and I could see progressive improvement.

Then there was a compound impact of me letting go a little at a time, and it started to become faster and faster, and there was a snowball effect. I just kept learning to trust myself. And I, I just started to learn to really be able to have confidence in myself that I was gonna be able to get things done and manage my nervous system. What coaching did was help me refocus my mind in a way that calmed my nervous system.

That's where the mind management I'm talking about comes in.

Brain Response Example

So for example, our brain is programmed basically to constantly be scanning for problems because our brain was designed to keep us alive. This is a really great thing, But if we're not activating our, our parasympathetic nervous system, if we're not managing and really helping our Vegas nerve perform better, then we're just gonna live in the land of all the problems.

You'd think that our brain would want to look for solutions, right? Like it would wanna look around for easy solutions, but that's not how it works for most people. The brain finds a problem and then knit picks it to death and skews all the information towards showing you that yes, there is a problem. And let me count all the ways.

And I've had lawyers come to me saying that they wanted to build their own practice, and all they could see in that moment was all of the problems about how they couldn't do it and why it wouldn't work.

But that's what our brain naturally does. So if you notice this happening, this is normal. What's happened here is that you just haven't learned the mind management skills to start, you know, instead of just focusing on the problem, starting to build solutions for yourself because we just, we get blind to all of the solutions available to us because of the the feelings, the maybe the anxiety and the fear that's coming up.

The Brain Response When You're Considering a Goal

When you think about building your own practice or something, some other goal that seems really scary to you, we get so blind only because we haven't learned the tools to calm our nervous system down so we could begin to look at things objectively. We think we're looking a hundred percent objectively at the fear. We're like, Yes, of course we're gonna die. If we start our own practice, of course we're gonna die if we go out on our own.

That is all normal. And that is something that you can also regulate. I have done this right, leaving the law to start my own coaching practice, just leaving entirely. That took practice. I needed to learn how to regulate my nervous system and start to see things objectively and start to problem solve and let it be easy for myself to do it, and I do it for my clients.

So just notice that if you're feeling anxiety or fear around a big goal like that, that is normal, but you can begin to shift that, and you don't have to let go of the reins all at once. You don't have to 100% believe that you can leave your law practice, that you can start your own practice. All you need are some tools to help you start releasing the reins. And as you do, you will begin to grow some self awareness, some confidence in yourself, and you can start to let those rains go.

You can start to see things objectively. Okay?

Client Example

So this came up in a client call recently, this hyper focus that our brain does on a problem. And I wanted to give you an example. So a client came to me and she said that she did not feel valued at work because her boss didn't respond to her email with edits to a draft.

She thought it was rude and felt unappreciated. Her brain was also telling her that there was lots of evidence that her boss didn't accept her edits and instead would ignore them. And those were her words ignore. That's really important to this story.

But the boss would make the edits if an outside party suggested them, not just not her, is what she said. And then I started to pick up during our conversation that her brain was omitting something, and I asked some questions to dig a little deeper.

And here's what we found out. One, this was the first time ever that her boss hadn't responded to her email edits. If you, if you're not paying attention, if you're like focusing on something, I want you to come back to me because this is so important. When she came to me, she told me that the boss ignored her edits, right? That she just straight out ignored them.

When I got a chance to dig a little deeper, her brain was lying to her and said, This was actually when we got to the facts. This was the first time ever that her boss hadn't responded to her email edits after who knows how many times that she sent emails, because every other, it says number two, every time she'd submit edits. And she couldn't even guess a number because it was just so many.

Her boss responded to her edits with an explanation about why or why not. Her edits were included every other time. And number three, her boss takes her edits, My client's edits more than not, and includes them in the finished product more than not. But her brain wanted to focus on everything that was wrong and how her boss was ignoring her and how rude that boss was.

And number four, her boss very does much value her opinion because they ask her to be on the team and to review these projects. So just recognize like what our brain gives us, oftentimes our lies. And it's fascinating to watch this because when my client came to me in this call, she was frustrated and angry. And then what,

When she realized what her brain was doing, she could release that frustration and anger our work calmed her nervous system, and then she could see the facts more clearly, and then she could respond however she wanted to respond or however she, whatever she wanted to do.

And when she could see the facts more clearly, I asked her some more questions. And she also realized that her, her job satisfaction literally went up as she made the recognition that her brain was lying to her. Like she could see it, just like you could see in the heart monitor how the heartbeat started to slow down with the mind management.

We were doing an exercise where she could actually see quantifiably that her job satisfaction went up when she recognized what she was thinking. Okay?

What You Can Do to Help Regulate Your Nervous System

Number one, create a supportive environment for yourself. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Support yourself and love yourself. Hire a coach. Listen to podcasts that feel supportive of what you want. You get to create your environment. Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spans, tells this story that when she came home from school, her dad would ask her how many fails she had.

This was a fabulous environment because it normalized failing, which can activate the sympathetic fight or flight part of our nervous system. When we train ourselves that it's okay to make mistakes and make a safe environment to fail, we can regulate our nervous system no matter what we're taking on.

Number two, snuggling and hugs. <Laugh>, snuggle with your pet, hug your loved ones. Oxytocin is released when we do, and it helps calm our nervous system.

Number three, go outside, look at nature and just breathe. I like to walk barefoot in the grass in my yard a few minutes each day and focus my mind on nature and appreciate the planet that's supporting us all of the time without us ever even thinking about it.

Number four, Music without Words or just plain silence.

Number five, deep breaths. And like just releasing your thoughts. It's, it's not even, you don't even have to do a meditation, but you could just focus on your breath, breathing in and out, and that's all you do.

And try doing that for a minute. Five minutes, whatever you feel called to do, and you will start releasing. You'll start relaxing your nervous system.

Number six, noticing your thoughts that are creating that nervous system dysregulation and getting curious about them, not judging them, just observing them. And then sit with the feeling that's happening, whether it's anxiety or overwhelm. And don't judge that either. Just sit with it. Don't act on it. Just recognize that there is a thought that is creating that feeling.

Sometimes that awareness is enough to make a shift for us, and that's one of the tools I use with my clients to help them gain the objectivity they need to problem solve better in their practice.

Creating a Supportive Environment for Yourself

Okay, so now you know that you can regulate your nervous system, and when you do, you can think and feel better, and you have tools available to you to practice calming your nervous system.

If you want help creating an environment that's supportive to your dreams, that helps you create the life you want and release the overwhelm and anxiety that might be preventing you from feeling fulfillment and maybe the fear that's preventing you from taking any action, I encourage you to book a call with me.

Go to, and this is literally the best time to be booking a call with me. I love the saying about planning a tree The best time was yesterday.

The next best time is today, and today is the best time because there is nothing better than being able to take control of your life to feel the fulfillment that you wanna feel. And if you have the tools available to you and you ignore them, then really you're creating your own suffering, right? We're always creating our own suffering, right, with our, with our brain.

But if you know that there's a way to feel better, then why wouldn't you at least explore that option?

Will You Be at Clio Con Next Week?

Okay, my friend, I will talk to you next week, and if you're at Clio Con this Monday and Tuesday, today's October 5th.

But if you are at Clio Con Monday and Tuesday, I am gonna be there, come to the Be a Better Lawyer podcast booth because I am gonna have some fun things that I am giving away. And I would love to meet you. I'd really like to meet with you in person if possible. It's my goal to really form connections with you because I want those connections.

I wanna know what it is you wanna hear. I wanna know what you're struggling with or maybe even how this podcast has helped you. So if you are there, I'd love to talk with you. All right, I will talk to you soon.

Have a great week. Bye.

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