How To Reset A Dysregulated Nervous System
Did you know that stressful events from the past can have a lasting impact on the state of your nervous system in the present and even determine your reactions in the future? Intense emotions, fearful or negative thoughts, old behaviors, and past traumatic events can all build and contribute to a total stress load that can cause your nervous system to become dysregulated, causing you to feel constantly uneasy or on edge.
In the same way, your brain and nervous system can “learn” to be on edge. Fortunately, they can also be retrained and reconditioned to default to a new state of calm and ease. Furthermore, as much as stress is considered an awful experience or a negative occurrence that can trigger unwanted outcomes, it can be helpful and, if adequately addressed, It can be utilized to help you become more resilient!
- What is the nervous system, and what does it do?
- What causes a dysregulated nervous system?
- Signs of nervous system dysregulation
- Signs of the regulated nervous system and why it is important
- Scientific remedies to the dysregulated nervous system
- 6 Steps to regulate your nervous system
- A word of encouragement from re-origin
What is the nervous system, and what does it do?
The nervous system originates from the brain, which is your command center. The brain and nervous system control complicated body processes like movements, memory, thoughts, and automatic responses to the surrounding environment.
Additionally, the nervous system is also responsible for significant body activities, processes, and systems such as:
- Breathing patterns
- Sexual development
- Hormonal activity
- The five senses
- Stressful situations
- Sleep cycles and circadian rhythms
- And many more functions that serve to keep the body regulated
It is important to note that the nervous system, brain, and body, are highly adaptive – no matter how bad the experience or past traumatic events that left you dysregulated were, you can reset your nervous system back to your normal state of well-being.
What causes a dysregulated nervous system?
Holding on to stress for a long time affects our nervous system. Unresolved stressful events, past traumatic events, or bad experiences from the past unknowingly turn into thoughts, reactions, feelings, and even behaviors as a form of defense from threats they cause. This causes us to react inappropriately by overreacting or underreacting to stressors.
Signs of nervous system dysregulation
A dysregulated system can manifest with both mental and physical signs and symptoms, some of which include:
- Cognitive issues
- Lack of concentration and attentiveness
- Somatic disorders
- Sleep disturbances/Insomnia
- Addictive tendencies
- Appetite fluctuations
- Digestive problems
- Chronic stress, high blood pressure, or feeling on high alert
- Sympathetic nervous system dominance (elevated flight response)
- Emotional dysregulation
- Immune system changes
Other common symptoms of a dysregulated nervous system can be manifested in inappropriate behaviors like lying, aggressiveness, relationship problems, shutting down, being argumentative and vindictive, and rage outbursts.
The nervous system activates the following depending on the circumstances involved such as:
- Sympathetic system (Activates acute stress response, which is the fight or flight mode)
- Parasympathetic system (Activates body relaxation after being faced with stressful events, traumatic events, and unbearable stressors
- Dorsal Vagus (Controls our heartbeats and lungs not to get too rapid and stomach to aid digestion)
- Ventral Vagus (Controls the social engagement system)
Human beings are sensitive and constantly study their surroundings to identify cues for being safe or in danger and what needs to be done to stay safe depending on present circumstances, a process called neuroception by Dr. Stephen Porges.
But do not worry- we have power over our body’s biological processes, which makes it easy to regulate our nervous system.
Signs of the regulated nervous system and why it is important
According to Nicole LePera, a psychologist, a mental health specialist, and a healing advisor, the following are some of the signs of a regulated nervous system and why it is important for your well-being:
- Ability to think clearly. Our thoughts, according to Nicole, are not clouded when the nervous system is regulated; hence we get to have a clear vision and put our thoughts into words more effectively.
- You are at ease with yourself
- Always present in current situations and able to participate in active conversation and interactions
- Very open to having fun. The regulated nervous system opens a window to being relaxed, goofy, and silly
- Refrain from overthinking situations and be able to think clearly without overthinking
- Our heart rates also get steady, and breathing slowly and at a pace that makes the body feel calm
Scientific remedies to the dysregulated nervous system
The dysregulated nervous system has been under scientific study and research for a long time to help victims reset their nervous systems and to calm down stress hormones. Scientists have brought many solutions that work and figured out what does and doesn’t work.
The following two scientific remedies were designed to help reset the dysregulated nervous system:
- Band-aid Solution for nervous system regulation (doesn’t work)
- Limbic system dysfunction (works)
Band-aid solution for nervous system regulation
This was designed to be a long-term scientific solution that mechanical engineers proposed to assist in regulating the nervous system. It is the size of a plaster and was intended to monitor and track patients’ muscles activities before medication. Unfortunately, this didn’t work due to the following reasons:
- Lack of enough storage space due to large amounts of onboard electronics
- Unreasonable power consumption
- It also lacks a proper mechanism to deliver medicine through the skin
- The electronic components of the gadget are not suitable for human skin
Limbic system dysfunction
It is the brain networking system that controls people’s emotions and memory formation and has worked effectively in regulating the nervous system.
The system consists of the limbic cortex, hippocampal formation, septal area, hypothalamus, and amygdala. This structure, biologically, has successfully worked in harmony with other brain components to control both physiological and psychological functions like memory, emotions, and even sexual drive, hence helping to regulate the nervous system.
6 Steps to regulate your nervous system
1. Taking deep breaths
Simple routines like taking a deep breath are essential and help regulate your nervous system. According to Dr. Ho, “Deep breaths help restore control to our parasympathetic nervous system and also assist in sending signals to the brain and body that no emergency that needs quick attention and defense is happening.”
Several scientists and physicians have recommended box breath exercises involving inhaling, holding, and exhaling for four counts per round for a minimum of ten daily rounds.
2. Relaxing your neck and shoulders
The neck and shoulders are areas where people feel stress and anxiety-related tensions. If unresolved or not corrected, this can lead to chronic pains and health issues over time. But not to worry, muscle tension around the shoulders and neck areas can be fixed easily by yoga, stretching, exercises, and other methods for stress management.
3. Putting a smile on your face
Did you know that a smile can trick your brain into happiness? Two studies conducted in Wales and Germany concluded that having a smile, whether forced or genuine, can change your mood and heighten your emotional state. A simple smile can keep you calm and help you recover from the effects of unresolved stress.
4. Go for brisk outdoor walks or evening and morning runs
Any form of walking and running are exercises that help people relax and calm down. Other forms of exercise like weight lifting, aerobics, stretching, yoga and more can help regulate the nervous system.
5. Cuddle up a loved one
Cuddling might seem cliché and old-fashioned, but cuddling has proved to help people stay calm. The love hormones, that is, endorphins and oxytocin hormones, help people settle their nerves and calm the mind.
6. Try to avoid negative thoughts and concentrate more on positive thoughts
According to Dr. Leaf, the dysregulated nervous system can make someone drown in negative thoughts. However, this can be controlled successfully by making sure you think of three or four positive thoughts to prevent yourself from sinking into negative thoughts.
The foundations of these positive thoughts can be on your favorite books, movies, songs, happy memories, exciting future plans, and even a mind-blowing love-making experience you had with your partner.
A word of encouragement from re-origin
In summary, we all have past issues, stressful events we are trying to heal from, and everyday stress that we are fighting to control, but we do have control over how we handle and manage our nervous system. The good thing is we all have an inner ability to regulate our nervous system and to calm all situations.
Regulating the nervous system requires self-compassion and dedication as it takes a lot of work, understanding yourself and body sensations, and living a healthy lifestyle. But not to worry, we have power over our bodies and with a program like re-origin, you can heal your dysregulated nervous system. Working with coaches and participating in training programs like the ones we offer at re-origin will help you get back to being yourself.
What is re-origin?
re-origin is a science-based, self-directed neuroplasticity training program and supportive community designed to help people suffering from chronic conditions. The goal of re-origin is to educate and guide you through the concepts of neuroplasticity and how to retrain your brain to respond differently to adverse stimuli.
Components of the re-origin program
Understanding neuroplasticity. The training program includes interactive modules, specially designed worksheets, and self-assessment quizzes where you’ll learn:
- How chronic conditions form
- How to calm your racing mind and break anxiety loops
- How to be more resilient to stress
- How to transform your “threat response” to a “challenge-response” and learn to stay calm and relaxed under pressure
Connecting with a Community. You’ll join a curated, uplifting community with weekly group coaching calls, live Q&As, and online events.
Group coaching or “Momentum Sessions” to inspire motivation & accountability through weekly “momentum group” coaching calls.
It is essential to understand the content in re-origin is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for a medical diagnosis, treatment, or advice. Your doctor should always be involved in the management of any health conditions. Consult your doctor before starting the re-origin program to discuss a plan for your overall health.
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- Cole, P. M., Ramsook, K. A., & Ram, N. (2019). Emotion dysregulation as a dynamic process. Development and Psychopathology, 31(3), 1191-1201
- Vinkers, C. H., Kuzminskaite, E., Lamers, F., Giltay, E. J., & Penninx, B. W. (2021). An integrated approach to understand biological stress system dysregulation across depressive and anxiety disorders. Journal of Affective Disorders, 283, 139-146.
- Andalib, S., Biller, J., Di Napoli, M., Moghimi, N., McCullough, L. D., Rubinos, C. A., O’Hana Nobleza, C., Azarpazhooh, M. R., Catanese, L., Elicer, I., Jafari, M., Liberati, F., Camejo, C., Torbey, M., & Divani, A. A. (2021). Peripheral Nervous System Manifestations Associated with COVID-19. Current neurology and neuroscience reports, 21(3), 9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11910-021-01102-5