When things feel heavy, calming the nervous system needs to be a focus. Whenever your days, weeks or months might feel more tiresome, grueling, or heavier than usual, I want you to have a guide.
One process we can focus on in our own time of need is working to bring our central nervous system into a parasympathetic mode. Simply put, a sympathetic state is a more stressful state, or “fight or flight” mode that is available to help us to survive. A parasympathetic state is quite the opposite, often known as the “rest and digest” mode. We need both, but in the modern world, we are more frequently exposed to stressors than ever before.
One example is the constant flow of information, articles, news updates, texts, emails, notifications all just coming from our phones and devices which can put us into that same sympathetic state at a rapid speed. If we zoom out on our day as a whole, we would like to see more instances of calming the nervous system into that parasympathetic state rather than the opposite, for the general purposes of our long term physical and mental wellbeing. And if we are noticing that we are currently in a sympathetic state, we would like to bring ourselves out of this as easily and efficiently as possible.
So, how do we do it? Thankfully, many different practices that we will list below to serve as a guide for you anytime you need it.
Let’s Calm the Nervous System:
- Talking to a qualified mental health professional
- A few minutes of diaphragm, or belly breathing while lying on your back and feet up against the wall or resting on a chair
- A restorative or gentle yoga class – Yoga To Heal Stress | 20 Min. Yoga Practice | Yoga With Adriene
- Focusing on meals with no distractions; sitting at the table, feet flat on the ground, slowly chewing and appreciating each bite
- Forest bathing and/or earthing; simply spending time surrounded by nature and/or standing barefoot outside and feeling the earth beneath you
- Spend time with a loved one, and hug them
- Take an hour away from electronic devices; put your phone in another room, and spend time doing some slow chores or reading a book
- Eat regular meals throughout the day; if needed, give yourself reminders on a sticky note if you feel the day gets away from you and you forget to eat
- Getting a massage, going to a chiropractor, and/or acupuncturist; these things can feel unnecessary when life is incredibly busy, but they are truly important aspects of caring for oneself and the nervous system
- Lower the lights in the evening and light more candles; limiting bright, cool toned light helps prepare us for sleep and better our sleep quality
- Drink chamomile tea
- If you work from home or are spending more time at home, take a little time in your day to connect and interact with the world; walk around your block, walk to the coffee shop, etc.
- Sit outside soon after you wake up to expose your eyes to morning sunlight, and drink some water while you do so
- Put a drop of lavender oil on your pillow before bed
If you think about it, a lot of these practices can be seen as something that might feel boring. And that is exactly right. Stimulating our nervous system too much and too frequently day in and day out takes a severe toll on us.
Coming back to the simple things can often be the best medicine.