Stress can be overwhelming. And if it's not managed correctly, it can lead to both physical and mental issues.
But there ARE ways to take control of your nervous system to help regulate your stress levels.
Understanding the Nervous System
The nervous system is one of the most important systems in your body.
It's responsible for receiving and transmitting signals from all across your body so that you can think, move, and interact with your environment. And without a properly functioning nervous system, your body would not be able to run as smoothly as it does.
Thankfully, you have ways to help regulate your nervous system and keep it running at its optimal level.
Exercising regularly and getting enough sleep can help boost the nervous system, while eating a balanced diet can provide necessary vitamins and minerals that help improve its efficiency. Taking breaks throughout the day in order to reduce stress can also be beneficial in regulating the body's nervous system.
To better understand the nervous system, it helps to break it down into two parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
The CNS involves the spinal cord and the brain, while the PNS connects the CNS to your organs and muscles. Together, they keep you going!
The CNS is made up of the brain and spinal cord — which controls most of your cognitive functions like thinking and memory.
The PNS consists of nerves — which then extend out from the CNS throughout your body to provide sensory information such as touch or temperature.
All the neurons, synapses and neurotransmitters work together to give you the ability to think, learn, feel, and react.
Both parts of your nervous system work together to allow you to process information quickly and accurately so that you can make informed decisions about how to react in any situation.
The Link Between Stress and Nervous System Regulation
Stress is known to be an important factor in regulating the nervous system. And it can cause a cascade of physiological changes that can affect the entire body.
Think of stress as the dial on your nervous system's switchboard — controlling the flow of nervous activity throughout your body.
As mentioned before, the nervous system is an intricate web of neurons that controls most of your bodily functions — from muscle movement to digestion to mood and emotion. So, when you experience stress, it can impact this delicate balance and leave you feeling overwhelmed and out of control.
Stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are released when a person experiences stress. And these hormones can have both short-term and long-term effects on the physical body.
(It's a common misconception that stress hormones only affect mental health, but they can also wreak havoc on the nervous system.)
In short-term situations, nervous system response can cause a person to become uneasy and experience physical sensations such as heart palpitations or muscle tension.
In the long-term, these hormones can cause chronic health problems such as brain cell damage and nerve degeneration.
Though it's impossible to completely avoid stress, being mindful of how it affects the nervous system can help you manage nervous system response and its accompanying symptoms.
The key to managing stress effectively is understanding how it affects your body. And then taking proactive steps to reduce its impact on the nervous system by engaging in self-care activities like exercise or relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
Essentially, paying attention to your body's responses, understanding them better and learning how to react accordingly will help you achieve a more balanced life.
Recognizing When Your Nervous System Is Overwhelmed
It can be difficult to recognize when your nervous system is overwhelmed, because it manifests in different ways for different people. While some experience racing thoughts or shallow breathing, others could feel physically tense or irrationally irritable.
So it takes a keen eye to recognize when your own nervous system is overwhelmed.
The key is to pay attention to how your body typically responds to stress. And to look for those cues on a regular basis. By becoming aware of the signs that your nervous system is maxed out, you can take proactive steps towards managing the situation and restoring balance.
If you find yourself spiraling into a state of overwhelm, it’s okay to reach out for support from friends or family. Having someone listen to you can help you feel understood and release any built up tension in your body. Additionally, speaking with a therapist or counselor may be helpful in managing overwhelming feelings as well.
And we should also mention that Somatic Exercises are a great tool for managing an overwhelmed nervous system too.
Essentially, there are plenty of ways to regulate the nervous system and find inner calm. So the next time you feel that familiar sense of overwhelm creeping in, take a step back and remember all the different things you can do to deal with it.
Somatic Exercises To Rebalance The Nervous System
As mentioned before, Somatic Exercises are a great tool to rebalance an overwhelmed nervous system.
Somatic exercises are a form of healing practice that involves a combination of gentle, slow, and mindful movements that can be used to help reduce stress and tension in the body. By releasing tension in the body, somatic exercises can help to reduce the physical effects of stress on the nervous system.
Somatic exercises can also help to improve posture and balance, allowing the nervous system to function more efficiently. By engaging in somatic exercises regularly, individuals can help to reduce stress and tension in the body, allowing the nervous system to remain balanced and healthy.
Somatic Exercises For Stress Relief
Since somatic exercises act as a tool to rebalance an overwhelmed nervous system, they're also a great way to reduce stress and improve overall health.
By engaging the body and mind in a gentle, mindful practice, somatic exercises help to relax the nervous system and reduce tension.
Plus, somatic exercises can be done anywhere, anytime, making them a convenient way to reduce stress throughout the day.
Learning how to regulate your nervous system is a powerful tool to keep you calm and focused when faced with stressful situations. And it's also a great way to keep your long-term stress and anxiety managed so you're not falling into Dorsal Vagal Shutdown.
Regulating your nervous system with somatic exercises will take some practice and patience, but with regular practice, your ability to control your nervous system over time will become second nature.