Your nervous system is a remarkable and intricate system that constantly works to regulate and coordinate your body's functions. And while that remarkable and intricate system is designed to function seamlessly, there are times when it can become overwhelmed. When this overwhelm happens, the nervous system can, essentially, shutdown.
A nervous system shutdown can happen due to a multitude of reasons, but the one we're seeing most in younger generations now-a-days is from chronic stress.
When you're chronically stressed, your body gets flooded with the stress hormone cortisol — and cortisol heavily impacts your nervous system's ability to function properly.
How Chronic Stress Triggers Your Nervous System Shutdown
When you experience stress, your body goes into a 'fight or flight' response, triggering the release of the stress hormone cortisol. While this response is useful in short bursts (like when you're pulling an all-nighter to get a project done), prolonged or chronic stress can overload the nervous system, leading to a shutdown. This shutdown occurs as a protective mechanism to prevent further damage and preserve energy.
So how do you know if your nervous system is shutdown? ⬇️
Physical Symptoms Your Nervous System Is Shutdown
Extreme fatigue can be a clear indication that your nervous system is shutting down or not functioning properly. The nervous system plays a crucial role in transmitting signals between the brain and the rest of the body, so when it's compromised, various physical symptoms can arise. Fatigue, in particular, can be a result of a disrupted or overwhelmed nervous system.
Cold Hands & Feet
Cold hands and feet can be a physical symptom that your nervous system is shutting down. The nervous system is responsible for regulating blood flow and maintaining optimal body temperature. When the nervous system is compromised, it can affect the blood vessels' ability to constrict and dilate properly, leading to poor circulation and decreased blood flow to the extremities. This can result in cold hands and feet, which may feel numb or tingly.
Dry mouth can also be a physical symptom that suggests your nervous system is experiencing shutdown. When the nervous system is compromised, it can disrupt the proper functioning of the salivary glands, resulting in a decrease in saliva production and subsequent dryness in the mouth.
The nervous system is responsible for coordinating muscle movements and maintaining their control and stability. When there's a disruption in the functioning of the nervous system, it can lead to involuntary and rhythmic muscle contractions, resulting in shaking or tremors. Tremors can occur in various parts of the body, such as the hands, arms, legs, or even the voice.
Behavioral Signs Your Nervous System Is Shutdown
Staying In Bed All Day
Staying in bed all day can be a behavioral sign that your nervous system is experiencing shutdown. The nervous system plays a crucial role in regulating our sleep-wake cycles and overall energy levels. When the nervous system is not functioning properly, it can disrupt these cycles and lead to excessive sleepiness and a desire to stay in bed for extended periods. Excessive sleeping and staying in bed all day can further exacerbate the shutdown of the nervous system.
Struggling With Decision Making (especially in regards to the future)
Struggling with decision making, particularly when it involves planning for the future, can also be seen as a behavioral sign that your nervous system is in a state of shutdown. When the nervous system is overloaded with stress or anxiety, it can lead to a decrease in cognitive functioning and an inability to make clear and decisive choices. This shutdown response is a protective mechanism that the body employs when it perceives a threat or feels overwhelmed. In these moments, the brain's capacity for rational thinking is diminished, and it becomes challenging to weigh the pros and cons of different options.
When the body's stress response is activated, it can trigger a cascade of physiological changes that often lead to a withdrawal from social interaction. This instinctual response is the body's way of conserving energy and protecting itself from perceived threats. During times of heightened stress or anxiety, it is common to feel overwhelmed or emotionally drained, making socializing challenging. The nervous system is focused on self-preservation, leading to a decreased desire to engage with others.
When the body experiences high levels of stress or trauma, it can activate the dissociative response as a way of protecting itself. Dissociation is characterized by a disconnect from one's thoughts, emotions, and surroundings, often resulting in a feeling of being detached or observing oneself from a distance. This response allows the nervous system to create a sense of emotional and psychological distance from overwhelming or traumatic experiences. It is a survival mechanism that temporarily numbs or separates oneself from the intensity of the situation.
During times of heightened stress or overwhelm, the brain's ability to process and retain information can be compromised. The body's stress response can trigger the release of stress hormones, which can impact memory and cognitive function. This can result in difficulty concentrating, organizing thoughts, and remembering important details. The nervous system's priority shifts from cognitive tasks to self-preservation, leading to a decrease in mental clarity and recall.
Emotional/Mental Symptoms Your Nervous System Is Shutdown
When your nervous system becomes overwhelmed by stress, it can result in a state of dysregulation. This dysregulation can manifest as a feeling of being trapped, unable to move forward or make decisions. It's as if our internal operating system has frozen, leaving us immobilized and unable to take action. This feeling of being stuck can be incredibly distressing, as it hinders our ability to navigate through life and find fulfillment.
Feeling hopeless is a significant emotional and mental symptom that can indicate a shutdown in your nervous system. It's as if our nervous system has shut down its capacity for optimism and possibility. This emotional state can be incredibly challenging to endure, as it can impact our motivation, sense of purpose, and overall well-being.
Low Mood & Depression
The emotional and mental symptoms of low mood and depression are a result of the body's response to stress and the inability of the nervous system to regulate emotions and moods effectively. In this state, individuals may struggle to find joy or pleasure in activities they once enjoyed.
How To Get Your Nervous System Out Of Shutdown
When your nervous system shuts down, it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and disconnected from your body. But you don't have to feel that overwhelm and disconnect forever. Somatic exercises offer a pathway to reactivate and regulate your nervous system, allowing you to emerge from this state of shutdown.
The key is to engage in these gentle, mindful movements that target the body's sensory-motor system. By focusing on specific muscles and body parts, you can gradually regain control over your nervous system and bring yourself back into a state of calm and presence.
Start our signature program The 5 Course Bundle | From Pain To Power, a combination of our top 5 somatic exercise programs, to release your stress and trauma and get your nervous system out of shutdown for good.