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The path to healing a dysregulated nervous system

This term may be something that you’ve heard of before but perhaps don’t fully understand how in your nervous system can become imbalanced or dysregulated.


Let’s begin by addressing this exact question.


What is a dysregulated nervous system?


Our bodies have two main nervous system branches: The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is involved in our fight or flight response and is


often associated with release of adrenaline and cortisol, which are two common stress hormones. The parasympathetic nervous system is involved in the rest and digest state where it is primarily focussed on a calm and centred way of being.


When we experience chronic stress, anxiety, or traumatic life events, Or simply neglecting our own means we can begin to experience sympathetic dominance where our fight or flight response is always on. Some of the symptoms or signs that we may be living in fight or flight are: always feeling exhausted, brain fog, losing interest in things that brought us joy, being diss interested or having trouble concentrating, Constantly feeling rundown or getting sick frequently, Body soreness or feeling or muscles ache, feeling reactive and irritable, and many more. To learn more about the difference between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system check out my other blog post here.


Once we begin to recognize that we’re experiencing these symptoms, we can begin to recognize how we can step into healing.

Now let’s dive in, what does healing a dysregulated nervous system really look like?


One. Recognizing your triggers.

When we first begin to heal we have to start by recognizing when we feel triggered or when we feel we are in this fight or flight state. Now for some this may have become a constant in your life. Maybe for others this feeling comes and goes depending on our stressors or are anxiety levels. This isn’t something that one can answer for you, it’s something that you need to fill out on your own.

It can be helpful in these moments to begin to recognize the emotions that you were experiencing and why they are coming up. Now the wind may be deeper rooted but sometimes it could also be because you simply haven’t recognized your needs that day. Maybe you haven’t eaten or slept well. Awareness comes from taking small pauses throughout the day and checking in with yourself and truly being realistic with how you’re feeling.


Two. engage with activities that bringing joy.


When we live in a chronic state of stress and anxiety, we are often taken away from the present moment and are always focussed on the past, The future, or hyper fixated on specific worries or fears. When we are healing the important work comes from beginning to engage with activities that bring us joy. I also found that when we engage in activities that aren’t for the sake of being productive we begin to find more joy in our days. We can often get stuck in a cycle of feeling like we need to be productive in order to be worthy and this exercise of finding things that bring you joy takes you away from that thought process and allows you to fully be present in the moment doing what you love to do. no this can look different for everyone, and sometimes it’s extremely hard to figure out what may bring you joy when you’ve been living in a state of fight or flight for so long.


My recommendation is to go back into your childhood and reflect on what you really enjoyed as a child. Inner child work can be a powerful step in healing and sometimes it takes looking back into what you enjoyed as a child to begin to find joy as an adult in the present. for example when was the last time you sat on a swing? Or played a video game just for fun? For some of us these things can bring back such prominent memories of nostalgia and may be a helpful step if you’re not sure what brings you joy anymore.

Three. Bring yourself back into the present moment.


Many times anxiety and the fight or flight sensation we experience pulls us away from the present moment. A way that we can begin to tap in to the rest and digest state is to find ways to bring ourselves back into the present. One valuable tool that may be beneficial for you is to use cold water therapy or ice to bring your nervous system back into the present. It’s not always about bringing our minds into the present moment but also in this chronic stress state it’s important to bring our bodies back as well. Taking cold showers, using ice on our wrists or neck, washing our face with cold water, Or anything else that helps you to use cold water to bring yourself back into the present. No I want to make a quick note here that you don’t have to jump into an ice cold shower right away. It’s important to do what feels most comfortable for you and maybe that slowly making the water colder overtime. Our goal isn’t to shock your system so much that it’s extremely uncomfortable for you, but it is to tap into our parasympathetic nervous system which normally comes back in to play after we expose ourselves to the cold.


Now if cold water isn’t your thing, there are many different practises you can use to ground yourself in the present moment. Sometimes simply taking some time into nature. One of my favourite things to do is to walk barefoot in the grass because it helps ground me in the moment and gives me a physical sensation to focus on.


Bringing ourselves back into the present is all about practising things that allow us to rest and recharge in ways that truly we may not even recognize we need.


Four. Reframe your time.


When we have lived in chronic stress for so long this often comes hand-in-hand with neglecting our own needs. Most of the time we begin to meet the needs of others and ignore the needs of ourselves, and this can cause us to no longer meet any of our needs or very few of them. When we begin to heal and bring our nervous system into a more balanced place we must take a moment to reflect on where we’re spending our time and how or if that time is supporting our needs in the process.


It’s important to remember that it’s not about making changes overnight yet it’s simply about recognizing that small changes can make a huge impact in our lives. Recognize where in your schedule there are things that you simply aren’t as dedicated to more potential he said yes to what really didn’t want to go. These things may be a good first step to begin reducing and bringing in things that bring us joy, and love, and laughter into our lives.


Five. leave the multitasking behind.


Have you ever felt overwhelmed when you’ve tried to multitask? If you’re like me you’ve most likely felt extremely overwhelmed by trying to juggle multiple tasks all at the same time. Often multitasking can push us into a state of auto pilot and a state of being so focussed on getting the task done that we forget to enjoy the process as we move through. A valuable step into breaking free of fight or flight and balancing our nervous system‘s is to break free from the cycle of needing to do multiple things at once. When we focus intentionally on the task at hand we are more able to do that task efficiently and maintain presence while we do it. so much of the sympathetic nervous system wants us to push past this state of being into a state of doing because it protects us but coming back to a rested state means bringing more intention and doing things with intention throughout our days.

I hope these five steps are meant to begin the process of healing on your own. To finish off this post I wanted to highlight the importance of trauma informed therapy and trauma informed healthcare when moving forward. So much value can come from seeking professional help and recognizing when we may need more support in our lives. I recognize this may not be available to everyone and I hope that these tips can help you facility change and bring your minds and bodies back into balance 💕


Sending so much love,

Carly

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