A healthy, regulated nervous system is vital for good mental health. The nervous system is responsible for discerning our general wellbeing and it warns us when we’re no longer safe. For example, we may be experiencing fear or heightened anxiety in the face of a confrontational conversation with someone we love. We may feel that by our hearts racing, having trouble thinking clearly, shortness of breath, or wanting to run away as we’re having that conversation. Other times, we may shut down, disconnect or ghost people in order to avoid a challenging situation. In any of those scenarios, our nervous system is experiencing some sort of dysregulation through overstimulation or shut down. We do not feel safe and our nervous system is working properly by letting us know and moving us into the primal, protective part of our brain.
Maybe we face that fear and address the challenging conversation and it resolves through having a kind, collaborative conversation. The threat is gone, and we feel calm again, even closer to the person we had conflict with. However, if we continue to ignore our life stressors and our emotions, our nervous systems will reach a maximum capacity and can get stuck in a dysregulated state of overstimulation or shut down. We experience that in the forms of chronic anxiety, irritability, sleeplessness, depression, dissociation, and many other symptoms and mental health disorders. Not to mention, a faulty safety radar that is easily triggered or completely disengaged. A chronically dysregulated nervous system can eventually lead to physical disease.
So what can we do? Of course, getting help from a professional counselor is ideal, but maybe that’s inaccessible to you right now. The good news is, there are many ways to regulate your nervous system for free. By increasing the frequency and duration of your perceived sense of safety in your body, your nervous system will begin to relearn that it is safe and can calm down or get back online.
Free ways to regulate your nervous system:
- Eat enough food. Most adults need more than 2,200 calories a day.
- Keep your blood sugar balanced by eating protein, carbs, and fats together and regularly throughout the day. Try to hit your weight in grams of protein, about half your weight in grams of fat, and the remainder of your calories in carbohydrates.
- Regulate your circadian rhythm to support restorative sleep by viewing the sunrise and sunset, reducing blue light at night, black out curtains.
- Nose breath. Reduce mouth breathing by practicing proper tongue posture. Tongue sealed to the roof of the mouth.
- Grounding. Touch your bare feet to the earth, especially the sand.
- Play. Add fun, laughter, and creativity to your life.
- Befriend your emotions. All emotions have a purpose. Feel to heal.
- Build safe relationships that allow you to be emotionally vulnerable and accepted in your vulnerability.
- Reduce toxin exposures such as artificial fragrances, processed foods, plastics, fertilizers, chemicals in makeup, harsh cleaning supplies.
- Move your body gently and in fun. Walk, stretch, swim, do calisthenics, crawl, climb, rebound, dance.
- Cold exposure. Rinse your face with cold water in the morning, cold shower, cold plunge.
~Rachel Kyle, LLC