08 Nov Four Pillars to Help You Take Care of Your Nervous System
We’re about 54 days away from the end of the year and these last two months usually mark a very busy and stressful time for most people. But no matter the time of the year, life can be stressful, from daily obligations to unexpected events, our nervous system bears the brunt of it all. And how we respond to stress in our daily lives is important for our careers, our goals, our curiosity and beyond.
The nervous system is a complex network of cells and nerves that carry messages from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body. When we encounter stressors, our nervous system responds to these stressors through fight or flight, and for some of us causes us to freeze or shut down. With one of the key responsibilities of our nervous system being our ability to respond to stressors, we must learn to take care of it and learn how to regulate it when needed. So, how do we take care of our nervous system?
Given that the nervous system is part of our body, what we eat affects it too. So it’s important to give it the nutrients that it needs to function. Foods like dark green leafy vegetables, dark chocolate, nuts and seeds, fatty fish and eggs are recommended for improving brain and nervous system health.
Many of us don’t get adequate rest and sleep but it’s important that our bodies rest each day and that our nervous system gets a chance to shut down into that parasympathetic state. When we sleep, our body, brain and nervous system repair themselves, so it’s essential that we map out time to rest and get the best sleep. Ensuring that you get to bed at a decent time, that you keep device exposure before bed to a limit and using things like a sleep mask or weighted blanket can all make your sleep better.
Exercise is something that can put many people off as they may link it to weight loss or it being an activity that they don’t like but moving your body is vital to our overall health. Movement stimulates our nervous system by getting our heart rate up through activities like walking, yoga, dance etc and then ideally bringing it down at the end of the exercise session. Exercise is great for training us to be flexible in our bodies and the way our nervous system responds to stress. If you’re struggling to get movement in, block out at least 10 minutes to do some form of exercise that you enjoy, you don’t have to spend time running if that’s not what you like!
All of us breathe but there are breathing techniques that can help your nervous system remain healthy and help regulate it. When experiencing stressors, pay attention to your breath and if you are restricting it or not. Dr Nicole LePara says that many of us constrict our breathing and do not allow it to flow naturally. The more we pay attention to our breath and be intentional with each inhale and exhale, the more we create that health in our nervous system.
You don’t have to do all of these things at once, that can be overwhelming, you can choose one pillar to dedicate each day or week to and soon enough those habits will compound and make your nervous system healthier day by day.
If you’d like to read about how to stay focused during times of chaos, check out this post!
This article was written using information from clinical psychologist Dr Nicole LePera’s Youtube video, How to Take Care of Your Nervous System.