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4 ways to regulate your nervous system

wellness Jul 08, 2024
nervous system regulation

Lots of talk today about “regulating your nervous system”. Meaning consciously getting yourself out of fight or flight/ sympathetic arousal and into parasympathetic or your rest and digest mode. In this blog post I am going to share 4 tangible ways to regulate your nervous system and why they work. Sometimes one thing doesn't always work for everyone, or what works one day doesn't work the next - so lets get some ideas and get our rest and digest on! 🙂


First off - a quick recap of the nervous system, what it means to regulate yourself and why its important for our health.


The nervous system, composed of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and the peripheral nervous system (nerves throughout the body), is responsible for transmitting signals between different parts of the body and coordinating functions such as movement, sensation, and cognition. Self-regulation involves maintaining a balanced state of the nervous system, where one can manage stress and emotions effectively. This balance is crucial for overall health as it supports physiological stability (e.g., balanced heart rate and digestion), mental well-being (e.g., reduced anxiety and depression), and social interactions (e.g., improved relationships and communication). Effective self-regulation can enhance resilience, reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, and promote a higher quality of life.



Many of us, because of the world, culture, lifestyle, and environment we live in, are living under chronic stress, (prolonged parasympathetic arousal). This can manifest through various subtle signs that may not be recognized as stress-related. Some hidden signs include:

  1. Digestive Issues: Chronic stress can lead to digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
  2. Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up feeling unrefreshed can be linked to prolonged sympathetic activation.
  3. Frequent Illness: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, making one more susceptible to frequent colds or infections.
  4. Muscle Tension and Pain: Persistent muscle tension, particularly in the neck, shoulders, and back, as well as unexplained aches and pains, can be a result of ongoing stress.
  5. Mood Changes: Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed can indicate prolonged sympathetic arousal.
  6. Fatigue: Constant tiredness or feeling drained despite adequate rest can be a sign of chronic stress.
  7. Changes in Appetite: Increased or decreased appetite, leading to weight gain or loss, can be stress-related.
  8. Cognitive Issues: Difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and decreased productivity may arise from ongoing stress.
  9. Skin Problems: Conditions like acne, eczema, or psoriasis can flare up due to chronic stress.
  10. Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: Elevated heart rate and hypertension can be physical indicators of prolonged sympathetic arousal.

It’s important to note that some of us may be living in this chronic state for long. It just feels normal or “a part of getting older”. Well, I reject that! Aging does NOT have to equate to the symptoms above. 


So lets get into what we can practice to start to retrain our parasympathetic to get back online. Here are 4 proven ways to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). I am giving four so you can cycle through these as needed. Sometimes what works or is accessible one day isn't that other. So make sure you set aside time each week to try these out. The 4 ways are: 


#1: Self Regulation

#2: Intentional time in Nature

#3: Touch 

#4: Community

For my science folks out there - here’s a little more insight as to WHY these things work

1. Self-Regulation: Breath Work, Meditation, Journaling

  • Breath Work: Deep, slow breathing activates the vagus nerve, which in turn stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, creating a state of calm.
  • Meditation: Meditation has been shown to reduce activity in the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and increase activity in the PNS. It helps lower cortisol levels and promotes relaxation and mental clarity.
  • Journaling: Expressive writing can help process emotions and reduce stress. It provides a means to reflect and understand one's thoughts and feelings, which can reduce the mental load and promote a state of relaxation.

2. Intentional Time in Nature

  • Being in nature has been shown to lower cortisol levels and blood pressure while improving mood and mental health. Nature exposure can reduce the activity of the SNS and enhance the PNS response. The calming sounds, sights, and smells of nature can lead to a state of relaxation and promote a sense of well-being.

3. Touch

  • Touch, think, massage, hugging, or even petting an animal, can activate the vagus nerve, promoting the PNS response. Physical touch increases the production of oxytocin, that love hormone. This can lower heart rate and blood pressure, fostering a sense of safety and calm.

4. Community

  • Having positive social connections and a sense of community can reduce stress and promote mental health. Positive social interactions increase the release of oxytocin, which inhibits the SNS and promotes the PNS. Feeling supported and understood within a community can reduce feelings of isolation and stress, enhancing overall well-being. I know sometimes creating a sense of community can be difficult for some, so if you do not currently have a group of people you feel seen and heard by, I encourage you to go out there and find groups doing things you are interested in or enjoy! Be open to challenging your edges and trying something new, you may be surprised by what you find!

I hope this was helpful in giving you options for regulating your stress response. Remember - you may not even realize you are operating under stress so make sure to intentionally schedule time for these activities as a priority and comment down below to let me know what works for you, if you have anything new to share or try or what you struggle with that you could use support in!

In health! 



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