If the threat system is on all the time, our brain activates the flight or fight response and sends cortisol streaming through our body. This is great when we come up against an actual life or death threat but not when we’re navigating a typical day.
The drive system is incentive and resource-focused. It activates us to work towards things that we want or seek to achieve. It is stimulated by dopamine production. We can overstimulate our dopamine through unproductive use such as an addiction to video-gaming or social media where we need more and more and then get stuck in overdrive.
The most overlooked part of the three circle model is the soothing system. Modulated by oxytocin, often called the “love hormone”, it’s responsible for connection, feeling safe and content.
Give consideration to the size of each of your three circles. Are they in balance or is your soothing system smaller than the threat and drive systems? If your system is out of balance, one strategy is to practice the drop-in technique. The drop-in technique is a strategy to regulate your emotional experience through three quick steps. To use the Drop In Mindfulness Technique take three centering breaths and ask yourself three core questions:
- What am I actually experiencing right now? (thinking, feeling, sensations)
- How am I relating to that? (curious and accepting or resisting and judging/caught in it/stuck)
- Given this, what's a wise and kind way to respond to myself right now? What do I need at this moment? Consider exercising some self-compassion here. What tools do you have in your tool box that help you to self-sooth and regulate your nervous system? Possibly taking a few minutes to practice a breathing meditation would be a wise and kind way to respond to yourself.
Drop in with yourself as many times as you can throughout the day...breathe three centering breaths, ask the three core questions, and follow your advice.