The Safe and Sound Protocol: A Possible Solution for Long Covid Patients
With the continuing rise of COVID-19 cases worldwide, it’s important to consider what therapies are available to those suffering from long Covid.
The Safe and Sound protocol is a neurodevelopmental listening therapy that has been used to help people with a wide range of issues, including trauma, anxiety, depression, and autism. This post will explore how the Safe and Sound Protocol may provide relief to those struggling with long Covid.
What is the Safe and Sound Protocol?
The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) was developed by Dr. Stephen Porges, founder of the Polyvagal Theory. It is an innovative auditory intervention designed to re-regulate the nervous system in individuals by providing filtered acoustical signals that have a regulating effect on the listener´s brain and autonomic nervous system.
During an SSP session, listeners will be exposed to specially designed sounds which are created to soothe stress responses in their nervous system while also activating their parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This helps them relax more easily, feel safe and become more resilient.
Long Covid and its Effects on our Nervous System
The brain’s and body's first priority is to keep us alive. When faced with what the body perceives as a threat or danger it responds by retuning the nervous system into a fight, flight or freeze state.
This response can be helpful in the short term, like when we need extra energy to complete an important task or get out of a stressful situation quickly. But when it is activated too often or for too long, it can lead to long-term changes in the body's systems and functions.
For example, chronic stress has been linked to increased levels of inflammation in the body which can lead to chronic pain and illness, as well as depression. Stress can also affect our cardiovascular system by raising blood pressure and increasing the risk of developing heart disease. In addition, research has shown that stress can have an impact on our immune system by suppressing the production of white blood cells which help protect us from infection and disease
Emerging studies suggest that the wide variety of symptoms associated with long Covid such as brain fog, chest pain, insomnia, joint pain, depression, anxiety and fatigue may be in-part due to the degree of autonomic dysregulation the patient is experiencing.
By better understanding how to regulate our nervous system we can support healing and recovery from long Covid by supporting the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
This can be done through simple lifestyle-changes such as:
Additional to these simple practices the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) has been shown to be effective in helping alleviate symptoms of long Covid through filtered music that engages the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve is the care-taking nerve of the body. It is the part of your nervous-system responsible for rest, regulation, connection and social engagement. The vagus nerve extends from our gut to our brainstem. It innervates our heart, lungs and organs and transmits signals from our body to the brain, which then responds based on their activity levels.
When the brain receives the signal from the body that we are safe, our nervous system shifts into the parasympathetic branch which allows us to feel grounded and connected. It also supports optimal conditions for all of our other systems (i.e. immunime, gastrointestinal, endocrine, etc.). In Polyvagal Theory this state is called homeostasis or social engagement.
Case Study: Finding Nervous System Regulation After Long Covid
A recent case study titled “Finding Nervous System Regulation After Long Covid” by Christa Hines suggests that SSP is an accessible way to alleviate symptoms of long Covid. Her client, Teresa (pseudonym), is a healthy and active 52-year-old woman. In March 2020, however, she caught COVID-19 and has been experiencing symptoms of long Covid including severe fatigue, brain fog, joint pain and impaired proprioception.
Teresa was treated with the Safe & Sound Protocol to strengthen her parasympathetic nervous system response. Starting out with an initial co-listening followed by independent listening, Teresa began to feel more regulated after only a few sessions. Her nervous system began to shift out of the fight or flight-response that it had been stuck in.
The dysautonomia she experienced due to Covid led to a frozen face without expression. After some SSP-sessions, however, Teresa began to notice that her face was “thawing out” and she found it easier to smile and started feeling more regulated while experiencing a decrease in her tachycardia, allowing her to breath with more ease.
Her family members and friends also noticed that Teresa became more open and socially engaged.
Although the SSP is not necessarily a complete cure for long Covid there's increasing anecdotal evidence that it can contribute to a significant reduction of many long Covid symptoms.
By boosting the calming parasympathetic nervous system, this auditory intervention can help individuals feel less tired and less overwhelmed during their daily activities. Additionally, many people report feeling more physical relaxation after using the SSP. This relaxation response can help reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression, which are common among those struggling with long Covid. Furthermore, since the SSP helps individuals become more aware of their own physical sensations, it can also help them identify when they need rest or other forms of self-care before they become overwhelmed by fatigue or other symptoms caused by long Covid.
The SSP is a promising therapy for those suffering from long Covid due to its ability to reduce stress levels as well as promote relaxation through stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Through this auditory intervention, individuals can become more aware of their own physical sensations so that they can better manage any symptoms caused by long Covid such as exhaustion or anxiety/depression. Ultimately, by helping individuals regulate their emotions and physical responses better, the SSP may provide relief for those struggling with long Covid.
Here at Red Beard Somatic Therapy we have a team of dedicated therapists that specialize in SSP and practices based on Polyvagal Theory that help regulate your nervous system.
If you are interested in learning more about how this therapy could benefit you or a loved one who has been impacted by long Covid please reach out and schedule your free consultation call now!
Our somatic therapists would be honored to support you on every step as you walk along your path of healing.
We’d love to learn more about you and chat about how we can get started on your journey towards greater emotional regulation!
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