CPTSD, PTSD and Trauma: Using the Xen Unit to Get Out of a Fight-or-Flight Response
Updated: Oct 9
A Little about Me
Few things help pull me out of a fight-or-flight response. When I’m in it, it’s like I’m trapped in a different world. Cowering. Shaking. Afraid. Stuck in the underworld. Surrounded by darkness. With no light to help me. But through my trauma recovery, I’m starting to see my way out.
I’ve been learning how to do things to help myself. To help me plant myself back onto Earth. To get myself out of the underworld. Things like doing yoga, meditating, deep breathing, writing. Resetting. Releasing. Regrounding.
But sometimes when I’m stuck in a fight-or-flight response, I can’t ground myself by myself. Sometimes, I need help. And I’m realizing I can lean on others and use sensory tools to get the help I need. To help align my chakras. To help my brain route information in an ordered fashion. Not in the disordered way my past trauma still urges it to go. The decades-long path I keep being led down. The path I will have to face for the rest of my life.
But I'm realizing that I no longer have to go down that path. That I don't have to let the darkness overtake me. And I'm getting over my fear of change. So I will let myself try new things. So I can be helped. So I can be saved. By using the right techniques. The right tools. Not resorting to my old ways. My fight-or-flight-ways. For while they were there to help me survive, I rarely came out unscathed.
Now, I'm learning new, safer ways to survive. So I'm not merely surviving, but living. I'm learning that when my vagus nerve is stimulated, I can be present, allowing me to fight off the darkness safely. I'm learning I can live completely inside my body. A body that didn't feel safe for decades. I'm learning I can create safe environments for myself. And for the first time in my life, I'm feeling ready to handle what comes my way. Ready to surrender to this fascinating life that we all must live.
Here’s a review of the latest sensory tool I’ve added to my Sensory Emergency Kit. To help me get out of my fight-or-flight response safely. The Xen unit and Neuvana app that stimulate my vagus nerve and give me that essential connection I need to help pull me out of the darkness.
I find it especially useful when my husband isn’t around to give me a hug, which also stimulates the vagus nerve. Or when he is around, but I can’t tolerate touch. The Xen unit is something I can always have with me. Another tool I can use in an emergency. Another way to help me feel safe.
So if you're looking for a new sensory tool to add to your Sensory Emergency Kit, then I recommend* trying the Xen unit and Neuvana app. I know how scary it is being in a fight-or-flight state, and I wish you luck in finding ways to help yourself get out. I'm thankful for tools such as these to help me, and I hope they will help you too.
The Xen Unit
My unit arrived complete with all parts. The packaging keeps it organized and easy to store.
It was quick to set up, and I’m notoriously bad with both setting up electronics and following directions, but the steps made it easy to use.
The two different names made it difficult for me to follow the instructions at first, one for the unit, Xen, and one for the app, Neuvana, but it makes each part distinguishable. I’d still like one umbrella name for the two, like, Xenvana, but that’s just me.
I charged the Xen unit overnight before my first try.
You have to hold the white, on/off button on the unit for several seconds to get it to turn on and off. That took me a minute to figure out. Again, I’m not the best with electronics.
It's good that the headphones have color-coded wires since the white one always goes into your left ear. This is especially good as a sensory emergency tool for me, so that, in the event I’ve been triggered, I will know which side goes in which ear without having to read (a skill I typically lose when triggered).
Unit charges quickly.
For price and complete product details, please visit the Xen-Neuvana website.
The Neuvana App
The app is simple and easy to use. Seems like most children who have a basic reading level could use it, though I’ll have to do some research to see if it's safe for children since I didn’t see an age range on the packaging.
I later searched for an age range on the website but was unable to find anything.
I used the Neuvana app’s suggestion of starting in Sensation mode.
I did my first Sensation-mode session (which has no music) as Waveform A, Ocean Waves. Not too sure what the difference is in the Waveforms.
I kept it at an intensity of 6/25 because I could feel tingling in the back of both sides of my neck, so I didn’t want to push it.
At first I thought the intensity didn’t make much of a difference, but then the higher up I went, I could feel the intensity increase. Almost in my jaw. It was more like a pressure than anything else. Like sinus pressure.
Then I felt tingling in the back of my neck (again).
The highest intensity I’ve used, up to this point, is 11.
The Favorites feature on the app only comes with the upgrade, but the app already saves your most recent sessions to go back to, which I find just as effective.
Noticing I was in a heightened state, I opened the app and saw there is a Bluetooth button in the upper-right-hand corner, which was quicker to access than having to go into my Settings.
This makes it easier to use in the throws of an episode.
If you already have the headphones in, you’ll hear the Bluetooth connection happen.
I don’t know if it was intended to use the Sync and Sensation options interchangeably, but I do.
My Results of Using the Xen Unit and Neuvana App
The nerve stimulation provided by the unit possibly improved my digestion. I’d been unable to properly digest my food for about three days prior to trying Xen, but the day after my first trial, my digestion was working properly again.
My digestion is always out of whack after a fight-or-flight episode, so it is good to know that using the unit (and app) helps restore my flow.
Rest and Sleep
I’ve started using it before bed, especially on days I’ve been triggered. I find it helps me relax and fall asleep more quickly. I recommend using this close to bedtime the first time you try it.
I was quite high-strung when starting to use it and felt more relaxed after each 15-minute session.
I was able to fall asleep much earlier than my normal bedtime right after using the unit.
I added brainwave activation music halfway through. It was a very soothing cocktail.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
It was right before my PMS shifted into PMDD, and I had suicidal thoughts prior to beginning my trial one evening, but using the unit helped in addition to the other things I need to do to get out of a fight-or-flight state. I believe it was the vagus nerve stimulation that helped me feel safe and connected.
I sneezed several times, which I normally don’t do. I read somewhere that it’s connected to the vagus nerve.
The Issues I've Encountered
My phone showed I was paired with Xen, but the Neuvana app wasn’t registering it. I turned my Bluetooth off and then turned it back on and then it registered it.
In order to play my music through the headphones, I had to go into my Setting and turn on the second Bluetooth for the same unit. It would be nice if the same Bluetooth button on the app worked for playing music too.
I was triggered by a loud sound that shook the ground during yoga, and I grabbed my Xen unit to see if it would help me get out of my fight-or-flight response, but it kept saying that it couldn’t locate the Xen unit even though it was connected to Bluetooth. I shut off my Bluetooth and tried again, but it still didn’t work. I was too confused to mess with it further in my fight-or-flight state.
The headphones cord pulls too much, making them come out of my ears.
I tried the other earpiece sizes and cannot seem to find one that fits.
About a month in, I still didn’t find the best fit for the headphones, they tend to fall out of my ears unless I stay completely still.
Xen Unit Function
The flashing light on the front of the Xen unit is a bit much for someone with sensory processing disorder (SPD), but I just cover up the light while it’s flashing.
I couldn’t find my phone and needed to use the unit, so it was frustrating that I couldn’t use it without my phone.
My phone wasn’t charged when I needed to use the unit. The biggest drawback is that I have to have my phone which means it has to be charged and I have to have all notifications off, so I can use the unit and not be further triggered.
My Wish List
My number one wish would be that the unit worked without the app so I didn't need to have my phone in order to use it.
While it is nice to be able to pair it to music on my phone, I find it difficult while triggered to: get my phone (which also needs to be charged), go into the app (which requires a password and email if you get signed out), sync the unit to the app (which requires Bluetooth) all before I can use it.
It'd be nice if the headphones fit into the sides of the Xen unit by wrapping around it so I could toss it into my bag without the headphones getting tangled up in everything.
I wish it came with a storage case; I used the box at first, but then it became too cumbersome. However, they do sell a case and other accessories on the website.
It would also be nice to have an explanation for each part of the app. For example, what does Waveform do and why are there different levels (A-E)? What does Mountaintop mean? How is it different from Rolling Hills? Etc.
Perhaps a brief description for each option on the app would be a nice addition.
I wish you well, my fellow sensory warriors. May you find the safe place within yourself and always know how to return.
*You are different than me and should always consult your intuition and team of experts before trying anything new.