Natural Things You Can Do to Calm Your Nervous System
Written by: Dr. Fiona Lovely, Chiropractor
Practitioner of Functional Neurology and Functional Medicine at AST
We live in a world where we are bombarded with information, in multiple ways, every second of every day. Many people aren’t aware just how stressful to our brain and nerve systems this bombardment can be. Frankly, we have yet to adapt to this unique kind of stress and it can leave us feeling depleted and overstimulated.
Email. Social media. Text messages. And the occasional relic - voicemail. Screens of all sorts are pervasive. While we revel in being connected, we must recognize that it means our brain needs to process this information. So, when you hear how you must reduce stress in order to be healthy, know that screen use is a big part of modern-day stress. This is on top of job, family, mental health, money, relationship etc.
The fight-flight-freeze part of our nerve system - the sympathetic division, is the part that senses stress. We can feel wired, exhausted and struggle to get a good night’s sleep. We might never feel well rested. We lose productivity during the day and feel disconnected from ourselves and others.
It isn’t all bad news - there are some quick fixes for this hyper-vigilance and unwell feeling that stress can cause.
- Limit your screen time. Your phone likely has a timer which can tell you just how many hours a week you are spending looking at it. That can be a real eye opener! What would you be able to accomplish if you limited that time to an hour a day? All in - messaging, calls, emails, social media.
- Get a restful sleep. No blue-light (anything with a screen) for at least an hour before bedtime. Pick a regular bedtime and stick to it, even on the weekend. A helpful guideline: the more hours of sleep you get before midnight, the more rested you will be. You can also take Magnesium Glycinate at bedtime to help you relax, but of course, check with your doctor before starting anything new.
- Studies show the brain does best with 20 minutes per day of activity. One easy way to incorporate this is to do high intensity bursts of activity for 2-4 minutes, then lower rates of movement to recover. Repeat the process until you've reached the goal. This increases the release of the chemicals which encourage and strengthen connection between neurons as well as the endorphin release - the chemicals which make you feel relaxed and happy.
- Meditate. This doesn’t need to be fancy - listening to relaxing music or taking 5 deep breaths is considered meditative. Pause, in quiet, allows a network in our brains which needs space to work through things and store memories, to go to work. This is called the Default Network Mode and it’s critical to our brain health and overall well-being and calm.
- Acknowledge trauma and get help. There is much ado at the moment about the role of past trauma and how it continues to affect the stress response systems of the brain. Trauma can be defined as any experience which made you feel unsafe and to which you developed adaptations to make you feel safe. Under this definition, we can see that all of us have experienced trauma. This lingers in your system and amps the nervous system into a perpetual state of fight-flight or freeze. Reach out and talk to a mental health professional if you think you could use help in this area. A skilled practitioner - chiropractor, registered massage therapist, or physiotherapist can help you move through the physical effects of the trauma in a safe environment too.
Calm is not just a state of mind but a physical place too. Work to change a few things in your current lifestyle to invite in peace. Your brain will thank you for it!
*This blog is not intended to officially establish a physician-patient relationship, to replace the services of a trained physician, naturopathic doctor, physical therapist or chiropractor or otherwise to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]