Balancing My Nervous System changed My LifeMay 04, 2023
Alright, this article title might be a bit dramatic, but stay with me here because it’s also the truth. Two months ago, I decided to download an app to help me balance my nervous system. If you are like me, you might not know much about the nervous system and why it has such a huge impact on our well-being. If you are already familiar with the nervous system, feel free to skip ahead in the article.
Nervous System 101
This explanation may be basic because I am not a neuroscientist. However, my passion for this topic has led me down the path of multiple neuroscience-based certifications. Here goes! The nervous system is essentially the body’s electrical wiring and is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The nervous system is made up of a few different parts:
- The somatic nervous system is made up of motor and sensory neurons that help the body perform voluntary activities. (Think of the game “Simon Says;” if you can touch your head, your somatic nervous system is working!)
- The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a part of our system that handles all the processes within our bodies that happen “automatically.” We don’t have to think about breathing, our hearts beating, or digesting our foods – these functions just happen. Our ANS is also responsible for monitoring our environment and reacting in response to the data it processes. The ANS is divided into two parts the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
- The sympathetic nervous system stimulates what is known as the fight or flight response in the body. (Think of being chased by a bear in the Alaskan wilderness). It prepares the body’s energy for stressful or energy exerting activities.
- The parasympathetic nervous system is often known as the rest and digest response. (Think of outrunning the bear and then needing to take a nap to recover). It signals the body to conserve energy while it sleeps and relaxes.
- One more element, which is part of the parasympathetic system, is known as the dorsal vagal system. This is one of the oldest systems and is responsible for the freeze state, immobilizing the body in response to life threatening situations. Think of a lizard or reptile that freezes in the face of a predator or a child who can’t seem to move when in a house fire.
Now that we know the names of the different parts, why is this system so relevant? Well, in today’s world, we do not usually have to outrun bears or other predators (unless you are on a reality tv show). However, we are faced with constant stressors that trigger our nervous system in the same way as the bear.
Our brains can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is watched, and as a result, those news stories about various tragedies are all triggering our nervous systems. They may also be triggered by conflict, our emotions, our financial situation, jobs/careers, and our relationships.
Once triggered, unless we complete the stress cycle (like running away from the bear) to bring our nervous system back into balance, our systems remain out of balance. An unbalanced nervous system damages the body negatively impacting our performance and health.
This unbalanced state can also manifest as a result of our dorsal vagal response being triggered. When we become overwhelmed, such as in cases of extreme stress or burnout, our dorsal vagal response may be triggered, and we may shut down. For me, I know I am experiencing a dorsal vagal response when I find myself binging Netflix, scrolling social media, or looking for sugar or carbs to remain in an immobilized state.
Back to my Story
I wish I had learned about my nervous system before ever starting law school, but I didn’t. As a result, all those years I spent in high stress (high sympathetic) states created and reinforced neuropathways that would keep me returning to this state again and again. High stress, high sympathetic activation felt like a normal way of living and achieving to me. As a result, I spent years swinging from sympathetic (high stress, high energy & functioning states) to dorsal vagal (shut down, numb out, recovery states).
The impact of having a dysregulated nervous system for almost two decades is what has likely led to many of my health challenges. The more high-stress situations I was exposed to, the worse the impacts on my body became and the more my health deteriorated. At least I was now in a position to recognize that my current experience met many of the symptoms of nervous system dysregulation.
Symptoms of Potential Dysregulation:
- irritability and inability to relax
- Hyper vigilance
- Anxiety or depression
- Chronic stress
- Chronic tiredness or fatigue
- Digestive issues like heartburn, gut issues, bloating, indigestion, and diarrhea.
- Emotional volatility
- Unresolved aches & pains
- Immune issues and frequent infections
- Brain fog or trouble concentrating
I knew I needed to find a way to regulate my nervous system. I’d done research and received coaching from various individuals who tried to help me. The challenge was finding a way to consistently remember to do the practices necessary to keep my nervous system balanced.
NeuroFit Discovery & Experiment
Knowing I needed to regulate my nervous system is what led me to find the NeuroFit app and certification. I decided I’d pay to get certified primarily to motivate myself to actually complete the course and increase the chances I’d follow-through on using the app.
The app does three things:
- A self-assessment of your current state in various areas.
- A heart rate variability reading (using your cellphone camera).
- Balancing exercises to bring your nervous system back into balance.
Let me clarify what I mean when I say exercises because these are not squats or lunges. These somatic exercises are for three minutes (yes, short enough for even me to squeeze it in) and are simple movements of your body, breath, or focus to bring your nervous system into balance. As someone who spends a lot of time in the dorsal state (due to my burnout), a simple exercise of body tapping really did change my life, allowing me to escape that state of shut down.
After only using the app one time, I truly felt a difference but couldn’t believe it was because of the app after only one day. As I continued to use the app, I quickly discovered how much better I felt. I was able to get up earlier, sleep better, and have more energy during the day.
Most importantly for me, I finally stopped getting sick. I had spent the last eight months getting significantly sick at least once a month. Due to my autoimmune condition, I am highly susceptible to getting sick and with small children, the combination was brutal.
Finally, after using the app, I started to consistently feel healthy and not get sick. By staying healthy consistently, I finally found energy to start exercising again and making time for other activities like play (which for me, is doing artwork). I won’t lie and say I used the app every day or that I am totally healed and perfect now. I didn’t, and I’m not. But even with just sporadically using it and learning its techniques, it made a dramatic difference in my life and wellbeing.
Why am I sharing this experience?
I think everyone needs to know about the nervous system and the impact a few simple exercises can have on our lives. I honestly believe anyone who is struggling with stress or burnout would benefit from this app. If this article even reaches one person in my network who was unaware of the consequences of living with an unbalanced nervous system and that with five minutes a day, you can feel better – it will have made a difference.
However, I also think workplace leaders need to recognize and understand how the nervous system is impacting the performance of their people. When people are in an unbalanced state, they are more likely to make mistakes, get into conflict, be less productive, and have a host of other impacts.
Workplaces that educate their employees, training them on these concepts, and providing them with tools like NeuroFit to help them develop new ways of operating (neuropathways), are going to get a tremendous benefit in improved performance and business results. Especially for those industries struggling with high levels of stress and burnout. It’s time to pay attention to the physiological elements impacting your workplace.
I am speaking at the Missouri Employment Conference in the next few weeks. As part of my gift to the audience members, I will be offering a 7-Day Reset Your Nervous System Challenge. For just seven days, we will provide activities to complete each day in order to reset your nervous system.
I guarantee if you actively participate, at the end of the seven days, you will feel better.
Who doesn’t have 5 minutes a day to change their life and improve their health?
For everyone who successfully completes the 7-day challenge, they will get a special gift at the end. I am opening up this 7- day challenge to anyone who wants to participate.
Keep an eye out for the announcement or subscribe on my website to my newsletter to make sure you don't miss it! (If you are interested in trying out the NeuroFit App, contact me for more information and I'll give you a discount code to use!)
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