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Dysregulated Nervous System and How to Help it

Written by: Madeline Redetzky, M.S.
Dysregulated Nervous System and How to Help it

Our nervous system is basically the set of internally wiring that helps our body communicates with itself. The peripheral nervous system is the set of nerves that is outside of your brain and spinal cord that sends messages to different parts of your body from the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). When discussing a dysregulated nervous system, we will focus on the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which helps to regulate organ systems and bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and digestion. When this part of our nervous system is dysregulated, it can cause a wide range of mental and physical health issues. The odds increase for issues like anxiety, poor sleeping habits, depression, reduced energy and attention, and more.

The sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PSNS) nervous systems are two branches of the ANS. The SNS controls your survival responses like fight or flight. This helps you prepare for stress or dangers by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, producing adrenaline, dilating pupils and producing sweat. The PSNS is referred to as the rest state, which is activated when we feel safe to be able to relax and restore. When your nervous system is not regulated, the PSNS has difficulty being activated and your SNS may be active at times that are not appropriate. We want our SNS to be alert when in danger and our PSNS to do its job so we know when to rest afterwards.

The most common reasons that someone may have chronic or consistent dysregulation issues could be related to traumatic events, chronic life stressors, difficult environmental stressors (wartime, pandemics, etc.), significant life changes or physical illness.

This brings us to the question, what do you do if this is happening to you? I have included a list below of techniques to try consistently to see success in managing the symptoms that have worked most for my clients. Please refer to your therapist and general practitioner for deeper insight and resources into the reason your nervous system is dysregulated to resolve the root of the problem.

Techniques:

  • Aim to get 7-9 full hours of sleep per night
  • Practice breathing exercises consistently, or sighing for a quick relief
  • Move your body (Yoga, walking, cardio, dancing, etc.)
    • Awareness of body, and burns off emotions/energy in a more appropriate way
  • Repeat a calming Mantra
  • Smell scents associated with happy memories
  • Take breaks from technology
  • Practice cold plunges/baths or Saunas/steam rooms
    • Provides a safe shock to you system to initiate relief
  • Activate Vagus nerve through humming or om-ing or laughing or singing
    • The Vagus nerve is part of your PSNS
  • Reduce alcohol consumption
    • Alcohol slows down nervous system communications
  • Make lifestyle changes to promote balance in all areas of your life (set work hours, boundaries, etc.)