Your nervous system is the unsung hero of your overall health, serving as the central control for your entire body and mind. Its influence extends to a wide array of functions, ranging from regulating your breathing and digestion to sharpening your senses, coordinating your movements, supporting cognitive abilities, and even bolstering your immune system. In essence, it’s the conductor of the intricate symphony of your entire body.
In its natural state of rest, your nervous system is like the water in a peaceful pond, making everything work together. Every thought, feeling, and action creates ripples on its surface, influencing your thoughts, movements, and emotions, much like the ripples on the water. From the gentlest ripple to the most profound wave, your nervous system is always working behind the scenes, guiding the symphony of your life, sometimes quietly and other times more noticeably. Simply put, your nervous system guides you through everyday life, often in ways you may not even realize. This is why it’s essential to tend to the health of your nervous system for a healthy life.
12 Ways You Can Strengthen and Keep Your Nervous System Healthy
1. Practice Stress Management
Stress is like a storm that can disrupt the serene pond of your nervous system. When you’re stressed, your body enters a state of high alert, with the sympathetic nervous system taking the reins. This can lead to a surge in cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress, which, when chronically elevated, can harm your health. Try incorporating stress management techniques such as connecting with nature, meditation, creative hobbies, or yoga into your day-to-day life to keep stress levels in check and protect the health of your nerves.
2. Optimize Sleep Quality
Many people aren’t getting enough sleep, yet sleep is the reset button for your nervous system; think of it as a nightly journey where your body and mind find solace and rejuvenation. When you sleep, particularly during the deeper stages of slumber, your body undergoes a series of crucial processes that support both your heart and nervous system health. Quality sleep is responsible for cellular repair and growth, memory consolidation, and hormone regulation. It also supports heart health and building emotional resilience.
3. Embrace a Healthy Diet
A healthy foundation starts with a healthy diet. While there are many opinions when it comes to having a healthy diet, a general guideline for a well-balanced diet is one that is rich in whole foods and green leafy vegetables, such as the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is a nutritional approach renowned for its profound health benefits. Rich in fatty acids, olive oil, and healthy fats, this diet has consistently demonstrated its potential to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Beyond this, it also boasts the ability to reduce inflammation, fortify the immune system, and enhance brain function. Moreover, it’s associated with increased life expectancy.
The fatty acids and antioxidants abundant in Mediterranean diet staples play a pivotal role in supporting the health of your nerve cells. They promote improved blood flow and cognitive function, offering your nervous system the nutrients it craves. By embracing healthy food and good nutrition, you create an optimal and supportive environment for your nervous system to thrive.
4. Prioritize Daily Exercise
Exercise isn’t just about staying fit; it’s a beautiful gift you give to your nervous system. Regular exercise and physical activity get your heart pumping, which means more oxygen-rich blood flowing to your nerves. This helps keep them strong and functioning well. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a bike ride, or dancing to your favorite tunes, find a way to move your body every day. It’s like giving your nerves a little workout and a boost of vitality.
5. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is like a warm, comforting blanket for your soul. It’s the practice of appreciating the good things in life, big or small. When you focus on what you’re thankful for, it shifts your perspective. Your nervous system responds by releasing feel-good chemicals like dopamine. These positive emotions can reduce stress and contribute to your overall well-being. So, take a moment each day to reflect on the things you’re grateful for, and for extra comfort, try placing your hands over your heart as you feel into that gratitude. It’s a simple act that can have profound effects.
6. Connect with Your Heart
Your heart is more than just a pump; it’s intimately connected to your nervous system and emotions. When you engage in activities that warm your heart, like spending time with loved ones, practicing acts of kindness, or simply doing things you enjoy, it sends signals of calm and contentment to your nervous system. So, follow your heart’s desires and let it be your guide to a happier, healthier you.
7. Spend Time in Nature
Nature has a remarkable way of soothing your nervous system. The sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors can reduce stress and promote relaxation. Take a walk in the woods, sit by a serene lake, or simply enjoy a sunny day in the park. Nature offers a gentle embrace that can help you recharge and find inner peace.
8. Use Mindfulness Techniques, Somatic Practices, and EFT Tapping For Regulation
Mindfulness, somatic practices, and techniques like Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) tapping are powerful tools to regulate your nervous system. They help you stay in the present moment, release tension, and process emotions in a healthy way. By integrating these practices into your daily routine, you can build resilience and find balance, even in the midst of life’s challenges.
9. Limit Screen Time Such as Social Media, News and Gaming
While technology can be wonderful, too much screen time, especially when spent on social media, constantly checking the news or excessively scrolling, can overstimulate your nervous system and mess with your natural sleep cycle. Set boundaries for your screen time to create moments of quiet and stillness. This gives your nervous system a chance to rest and reset. Start with making your bedroom a technology-free zone. This one change can make a huge impact on how you start and end your day, ultimately helping your nervous system to feel more regulated.
10. Connect with Others
Human connection is like a soothing balm for your nervous system. Spending time with friends and loved ones, sharing stories, and simply being there for one another can boost your emotional well-being. Even in challenging times, knowing you’re not alone can provide tremendous support for your nervous system.
11. Process Your Emotions
We live in a society that teaches us to numb our emotions, power through, drink to feel better, and “forget about it.” But the truth is unprocessed emotions stay in our bodies until they are processed, which wreaks havoc on our nervous system and can contribute to anxiety. We have to be willing to feel our emotions and allow them to pass through us. It’s a journey of processing, understanding, and, ultimately, healing. Journaling, somatic practices, EFT Tapping, and talking with others are just a few ways to support yourself in processing your emotions.
12. Practice Self-Love and Self-Compassion Daily
Last but not least, be kind to yourself. Self-love and self-compassion are essential for your nervous system’s well-being. Treat yourself with the same care and kindness you offer to others. Celebrate your strengths, accept your imperfections, and remember that you are worthy of love and kindness, especially from yourself.
Understanding Your Nervous System
The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. It’s the command center of your body, responsible for keeping everything in harmony. It regulates your heart rate, breathing rate, and coordinates all your daily bodily functions.
Your autonomic nervous system is the part of your nervous system responsible for regulating involuntary bodily functions, playing a vital role in your everyday life. It’s composed of two branches: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.
Think of the sympathetic nervous system as your body’s gas pedal. When you face stress or danger, it kicks into gear, initiating the “fight or flight” response. This response is your body’s way of mobilizing its resources to deal with a real or perceived threat. It provides a sudden burst of energy that prepares you to face challenges head-on.
On the flip side, we have the parasympathetic nervous system, which acts as the brakes in this analogy. Its role is to calm you down and promote relaxation. When activated, it signals to your body that it’s safe to slow down, lower heart rate, and conserve energy.
But here’s where it gets interesting: the parasympathetic nervous system isn’t just about rest and relaxation. It also plays a significant role in supporting mobilization when needed and helps you to transition between states with ease.
In a healthy nervous system, you’re meant to move seamlessly between these states throughout the day. You rev up your sympathetic nervous system when you need to be alert and focused, like during a big presentation or a challenging task at work. Then, when it’s time to unwind and relax, the parasympathetic system takes the lead, allowing you to relax and enjoy a calm evening and a peaceful night’s sleep.
However, problems arise when you find yourself chronically stuck in a state of “fight, flight or freeze” response. The freeze response is when your body goes into a state of immobilization or shuts down in the face of overwhelming stress or trauma. It’s like slamming on the emergency brakes in the car of life.
Living in a constant state of stress, whether it’s “fight,” “flight,” or “freeze,” can have detrimental effects on your well-being and raise your cortisol levels. Chronic stress can lead to various physical and mental health issues, including high blood pressure, anxiety, and even conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome.
To maintain a healthy nervous system, it’s crucial to recognize that it’s entirely natural and beneficial to move between these states. Stress, when appropriately managed, can be a motivator that helps you perform at your best, and relaxation is essential for rest and recovery.
Learning to be mindful of what’s happening in your mind and body will help you understand what’s happening in your nervous system and how to support it best.
Your nervous system, the conductor of your body and mind, influences your heart rate, digestion, senses, motor skills, and more. It’s vital to your well-being. The best way to nurture it is by adopting heart-centered practices that honor your overall health and well-being.
Remember, your nervous system naturally transitions between alertness and relaxation. This ebb and flow is essential for balance. By adopting healthy habits, you can improve your nervous system’s health and support your physical and emotional well-being. Embrace these practices to lead a more harmonious life.
Karla Kueber is here to support you in overcoming imposter syndrome and perfectionism so you can stop procrastinating, feeling stuck, and holding yourself back from your goals. Karla is here to help you believe in yourself and own your successes. You can book a freee discovery call with her here.