It should come as no surprise to many of you that we are a society that is stressed out! Research shows that most adults report feeling a stress level of ‘5’ on a scale of 1 to 10 each day. (Honestly, I’m surprised it’s not higher). Twenty-seven percent of adults admit to being so stressed they can’t function.
More and more Americans report feeling overwhelmed with getting through the recent COVID-19 pandemic, political divisiveness as well as social and racial injustices that dominate the news each day. It doesn’t help that the dismal news can follow us everywhere thanks to the availability of our smartphones.
Nervous system dysregulation means that you have a malfunction or imbalance within your nervous system. This affects your normal functioning and capacity to regulate responses to stimuli.
But don’t be fooled into thinking the news is the only thing stressing you out. You can be triggered during an encounter that reminds you of a painful experience from your past. Being triggered means that something has tapped into a person’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. Check out the book ‘The Body Keeps the Score‘ by Bessel van der Kolk to learn more about how trauma gets trapped in the body.
Learning how to heal a dysregulated nervous system is important. Knowing how to do this will help you rebalance your body to get back to a state where you can feel calm and centered.
What Does a Dysregulated Nervous System Mean?
A dysregulated nervous system means that even a small trigger or life event will cause you to feel overwhelmed. Learn more about triggers in my blog ‘Triggers and How to Deal with Them.’
You can’t prevent stressful situations from happening. But you can take time to recognize how constant stress is negatively impacting your health and what you should do differently.
Denying the feelings of overwhelm will lead to calming yourself in unhealthy ways. We’re human after all. We numb ourselves because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable.
As you age, hormones inevitably become imbalanced and the number of responsibilities you have, increases. Many women I work with admit to feeling overwhelmed and to feel better, overindulge in sugar and/or alcohol, or keeping busy. I have been guilty of this myself. It’s a way of living in denial until your body uses a bullhorn to get your attention — a life-changing diagnosis shows up.
It should come as no surprise that overindulgence in anything bad for your health can ultimately cause new health problems. But a lot of the women I talk to admit that when they slow down, it’s like a wave of uncomfortable feelings comes rushing to the surface.
It takes effort and time to figure out what’s going on underneath. You need to find healthy ways to deal with the surge in emotions.
What Does a Dysregulated Nervous System Feel Like
A dysregulated nervous system can show up in different ways for each of you. Start by tuning in to your body. Does it feel relaxed or tense most of the day? Perhaps you notice that lately, you react negatively to even small amounts of stress.
You will want to put steps in place to regulate your nervous system if you notice the following symptoms:
- Low energy levels
- Feeling disconnected from surroundings
- Feeling numb emotionally
- Having difficulty remembering things
- Struggling with focus and attention
- Being easily startled or frightened
- A feeling of tingling or numbness in limbs
- A regular headache or migraine
- Angry outbursts, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and other self-damaging behaviors. Seek support and medical attention if you feel you would harm yourself or others. Medication and talk therapy can be very effective in helping you through difficult times.
How to Heal a Dysregulated Nervous System
Don’t wait until your body or mind begins to show signs of preventable health problems. It’s imperative to put these steps in place to take care of you on a regular basis:
- Take brief breaks throughout the day. At work, step away even if it’s for a 10-minute walk. At home with children, do five minutes of slow deep breathing to calm your nervous system until you can take a longer break.
- Practice muscle relaxation
- Journal for a few minutes each day. I enjoy this simple journal.
- Exercise daily. Take a walk in nature when possible
- Talk to others for support
- Nourish your body with nutritious foods and stay well hydrated
- Make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours of good sleep. Check out my blog ‘Seven Ways to Get Better Sleep in Midlife‘
How Will I Know if My Nervous System is Regulated?
Let’s look at how you know the time you have put into regulating your nervous system is working:
- You actually want to get outside and move in some way
- You feel more connected to people
- Your sleep patterns have improved
- You don’t feel exhausted each morning
- When a stressful situation arises, you pause rather than react
It’s important not to wait until your nervous system is dysregulated to put your health first. Try taking a breath when a stressful situation arises. If you’re not in immediate danger, don’t react right away. Pause. Respond when you feel calm enough to behave in a way you can be proud of!
Reach out to me to learn more about changing hormones and how they are impacting your mental and physical health.
I’m a registered nurse for over 24 years with a Masters Degree in Nursing (Education). I am also a Certified Women’s Health Coach specializing in helping women navigate changing hormones in their 30s and beyond after my own difficult experience through menopause. I believe women should truly thrive in midlife and not just survive!