Approximately 30% of modern adults will experience symptoms of anxiety disorders in their lifetime. Not just anxiety. An anxiety disorder.
Our society has more access to news and information than any previous civilization in history. It’s often our phone that we see first thing in the morning, full of headlines that pump our adrenaline and send our nervous system into a state of panic.
As a result, the constant influx of adrenaline can exhaust our nervous system, making it harder for our bodies to deal with the stress we experience on a daily basis.
Symptoms of an overactive nervous system include:
- Panic attacks
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Poor digestion
- Insulin resistance
Social media prescribes self-care baths, wine, and Netflix as the primary way to de-stress. While these activities may be enjoyable, they are only band aids for deeper problems. Your nervous system requires more than just sitting back and watching TV, it must be reset through targeted healing practices.
The good news is that these targeted practices can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. Once you begin implementing them, you’ll feel calmer in the face of daily stressors.
Why is Calming the Nervous System Important?
The primary (central) nervous system is located in the brain and spinal cord. This is the command center for sending important messages throughout the body. The primary nervous system allows you to breathe, move, think, and function under pressure.
The peripheral nervous system is connected to the central nervous system by branching out across the body to reach all of our organs and limbs.
There’s also the famous vagus nerve which runs from the brain down through the neck and abdomen and regulates many parts of the body, including the digestive system.
An overworked nervous system can cause your body to enter a chronic fight-or-flight response. This is when your body thinks it’s in danger — even when it’s not.
For instance, when you see traumatic events on the news, your nervous system thinks that you’re in danger even though you are not. As a result, your adrenals release stress hormones, sending your cells into high alert. Clearly, this is not a recipe for a healthy lifestyle.
Keeping the nervous system calm is crucial for a longer, healthier life. In doing so, you’ll replace your anxiety with feelings of contentment and gratitude. Stress will be less noticeable in your daily life, and you’ll give your body space to focus on healing itself — physically and emotionally.
How to Calm the Nervous System
Healing your nervous system doesn’t always require prescription pills or fancy equipment. (However, you should consult a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms)
Here are some simple and accessible practices and tools you can use to reset your nervous system.
- Deep Breathing Practices
Using deep breathing techniques, you can repair your nervous system naturally. If you’re in a state of panic, box breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and alternate nostril breathing can help you calm down. Meditation or yoga paired with deep breathing is also a great option, even if you only have 5 or 10 minutes to spare.
- EFT Tapping or Acupuncture
You can’t always escape stressful situations. Some days, it may seem that simply existing at your job — or even at home — can cause your blood pressure to rise. If this is the case, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping or acupuncture can restore your body’s natural balance.
Originally developed in ancient Chinese medicine, these techniques are used to balance your body’s energy. They are based on the idea that unblocking energy channels can help you release painful emotions.
You can learn EFT tapping at home or get acupuncture treatment from a local specialist. Nowadays, there is even needle-free laser acupuncture for those who dislike needles.
- Forest Bathing (Aka, Hiking or Walking Outside)
Grounding, fresh air, and gentle exercise. It is well known that these elements possess incredible healing abilities and are capable of controlling the nervous system. Remember the last time you immersed yourself in nature. After a few minutes with your bare feet on the ground, did you feel your stress start to slowly melt away?
In Japan, forest bathing is used as a treatment for a wide variety of ailments. A simple walk in the trees can do your body and mind wonders. You don’t need to walk for a long time or to go anywhere special – just allow yourself to be fully present and relaxed.
- Decrease Your Adrenaline Output
Is it possible that watching intense TV shows or listening to true crime podcasts is giving your body a high level of adrenaline? It’s important to remember that your nervous system cannot distinguish between a stressful event on TV and one in real life.
Whenever the body receives large amounts of adrenaline (through a traumatic event or long-term stress), it may begin to crave more adrenaline to get its “high.” This is similar to the adrenaline junkies who climb rocks or seek dangerous activities in order to feel that rush.
If you find yourself checking off a mental to-do list in the car or in the shower — only to become anxious the moment you face reality, chances are that your body is looking for adrenaline.
Consider temporarily switching out activities that spike your adrenaline for calmer ones. For example, watch all your favorite rom-coms or pick low-intensity workouts next time you’re at the gym. As a result, you will be able to calm your nervous system and help it heal naturally.
Benefits of Maintaining a Calm Nervous System
These tips and tricks aren’t just for calming panic attacks. A reset of your nervous system opens up all kinds of possibilities, such as:
- Improved emotional health
- Better brain function
- Longer attention span
- Better performance at work and at home
- Decreased risk for disease
- Improved sleep
- Normal blood pressure
Check-in with yourself both before and after you try these suggestions. Can you feel your energy softening or calming? Starting small can help you practice regular nervous system regulation, which is helpful in a time that feels particularly overwhelming. In time, your body will begin to relax and regulate naturally, without the need for quick fixes.
If you’re looking for more ways to regulate your nervous system and manage stress in your life, consider seeking professional support from SF Stress & Anxiety Center. Our team of experienced therapists can help you develop personalized strategies to reduce anxiety and improve your overall wellbeing. Don’t let stress control your life any longer, take the first step towards a calmer, more fulfilling future and book an appointment with us today.