Five Ways to Strengthen Your Nervous System

In recent years, there’s been much talk in the wellness space about the nervous system and its crucial role in our physical and emotional well-being, which can only be a good thing.

Healthcare experts often describe the central nervous system as the “control centre in the body” primarily because it has many different functions that can positively or negatively influence how we think and feel.

Imagine your nervous system being split into two parts: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. Each has different functions, yet both play a crucial role in physical and mental health. 

Our sympathetic nervous system gets activated when we are under threat or in danger, springing us into action. This allows us to defend ourselves (fight) or flee a dangerous or potentially life-threatening situation (flight).

When in sympathetic mode, you may feel more energetic than usual and experience other physiological symptoms such as shallow breathing, fast heartbeat, and a change in body temperature.

These are your brain’s natural responses to perceived or actual danger, helping to protect you against whatever threat is in your immediate environment.

In contrast, the parasympathetic nervous system plays a much calmer role.

It becomes activated when things in your environment have settled down, and your brain is satisfied that you are no longer in danger. This helps you restore and recover from shock, adversity, or crisis.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems each play a vital role in keeping us safe from harm and helping us to recover once safety is established.

However, problems arise when we remain in either state for too long.

For instance, those in the sympathetic camp may feel constantly vigilant, anxious, on edge, or keyed up long after a frightening or upsetting event has ended.

On the other hand, those in the parasympathetic camp may feel numb, frozen, and detached from themselves and others.

Understanding how to strengthen your nervous system is crucial for optimum health and well-being, but how do we do this in a world full of pressures, stress, and unforeseen tragedy or crisis?

Here, we will explore five ways to strengthen your nervous system. 

In the meantime, if you are concerned about your (or a loved one’s) mental health, our friendly team at Camino Recovery is always here to offer guidance and support.

Our team comprises counsellors, doctors, psychologists, and trauma-informed professionals. 

Each team member has a highly specialised skill set that, when combined, helps empower our clients to improve their quality of life, regain their independence, and reduce any unpleasant symptoms affecting the mind and body.

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Contact our recovery centre today to learn more about our treatment programs or to have a friendly, confidential chat with one of our specialists.

We are always here to answer your questions and lend a warm, compassionate ear.

Five ways to strengthen your nervous system

Stress can come from all angles in life. 

Whether you are dealing with a work issue, family stress, or health crisis (or all three at once), it can sometimes feel as though you are drowning in worry, making it seem almost impossible to switch off.

Over time, this can lead to a dysregulated nervous system, where you find yourself in a constant state of hypervigilance, depression, or maybe even both at the same time.

Finding ways to strengthen your nervous system can help prevent the negative implications of chronic stress, giving you more agency over your life and health.

You may find the following five strategies helpful.  

1. Stay active

Two excited young women jogging together.

It doesn’t have to be an elaborate exercise, just move your body.

Movement is a great way to regulate the nervous system and relieve stress. 

From walking to yoga to dancing around your bedroom or lounge, exercise is a fantastic tension reliever and can help relax the mind and body.

Certain types of yoga are particularly effective when it comes to regulating the nervous system, including restorative yoga, which can help to:

  • Relieve chronic tension and stress
  • Relieve pain in the body
  • Improve breathing
  • Optimise and improve sleep

Click here for further information and resources about the various benefits of restorative yoga for the nervous system.

2. Meditate

Another effective way to strengthen your nervous system is to practise meditation.

Mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to the present moment with an open mind, free of judgement and self-ridicule. As such, it offers various benefits for the mind, body, and soul. 

For example, meditation enhances confidence, self-esteem, and focus while helping to reduce stress and tension.

When we cultivate present-moment awareness through practices like meditation, this directly calms the nervous system, which, when practised over time, can reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic stress.

One study showed the many positive effects of meditation on the nervous system.

For instance, the study found a positive correlation between meditation and the left hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for cognition, emotional regulation, and information processing. 

The results showed that anxiety or periods of hyperarousal could be successfully controlled through regular mindfulness meditation practice.

Moreover, since meditation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, it can help enhance our breathing and oxygen intake, which leads to feeling alert yet calm and mindful (How Does Meditation Help The Nervous System, Reflect, Noga Sapir.)

3. Introduce more magnesium into your diet

Cubes of dark artisan chocolate. Decadent dark chocolate, walnuts, and bananas

Various studies have shown the profound benefits of a magnesium-rich diet on the nervous system.

According to the researchers, magnesium deficiency can have a prohibitive effect on the various neurotransmitters that support the transportation of signals between your nerves and cells.

Magnesium-rich foods help the body to produce specific chemicals like serotonin.

Serotonin enhances mood and aids muscle relaxation, which can help soothe the nervous system.

Foods that are rich in magnesium include the following:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Walnuts
  • Lentils
  • Cacao
  • Bananas
  • Leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach

4. Increase your time in the sun

Spending more time in the sunshine is another good way to strengthen and calm the nervous system.

Soaking up the rays allows us to get more vitamin D, a nutrient that helps to regulate the nervous system.

Some research studies found that vitamin D deficiency can lead to certain diseases in the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and schizophrenia.

Eating nutritious meals containing vitamin D is another way to get your daily intake and avoid an imbalanced nervous system.

The types of foods that are rich in vitamin D include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Orange juice
  • Fortified cereals
  • Rainbow trout
  • Mushrooms
  • Salmon

5. Tapping

Tapping, also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), has become a widely used treatment inside and outside the therapy room to help strengthen and soothe the nervous system.

It involves gently tapping specific areas of your body while thinking of or repeating a calming phrase or mantra.

Typically, individuals are encouraged to tap specific regions of the body, such as the forehead, below the nose or lips, and the outer palm.

EFT is a somatic therapy often used to help treat physical pain and emotional distress by tapping on the twelve meridian points of the body.

Over time, EFT helps relieve the symptoms of a traumatic event or emotion that may be ‘stored’ or held in the body.

Tapping or EFT is often recommended for individuals suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety.

Other effective ways to strengthen your nervous system

Smiling young man enjoying cup of tea behind windowpane

As well as the strategies above, there are other ways you can effectively strengthen your nervous system, such as:

  • Taking a cold shower
  • Practising better sleep hygiene
  • Spending more time in nature
  • Drinking warm tea (particularly Green Tea)
  • Engaging in therapies that help strengthen the nervous system, including brain spotting, neurofeedback, eye movement desensitisation reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)

Signs of a dysregulated nervous system

Although symptoms can vary between people, below are some of the more common signs of a dysregulated nervous system:

  • Chronic pain in the body or other persistent illness
  • High sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as banging or other loud noises
  • Chronic sleep issues, including daytime fatigue
  • Feeling constantly nervous, anxious, on edge, and overwhelmed
  • Bouts of anger, irritability, and reactivity
  • Substance misuse to cope with unpleasant symptoms
  • Problems with concentration or focus
  • Skin disorders and stomach issues 

What causes the nervous system to become dysregulated?

Various risk factors and causes can increase your likelihood of developing issues with your nervous system, including:

  • Trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • Genetics
  • Lifestyle factors, such as an imbalanced diet and lack of exercise
  • Underlying health issues such as chronic fatigue and hormonal imbalances

What you can do next

Understanding how to strengthen your nervous system is a superpower that can help you feel happier, less anxious, and more in control of your health and life.

However, sometimes life can become a little too overwhelming, and you may need the help and support of a professional to feel more like yourself again.

Our friendly team at Camino Recovery is experienced in diagnosing and treating various types of addiction, trauma, anxiety, and depression, conditions that often underlie an imbalanced or dysregulated nervous system. 

We treat all our clients with the respect, dignity, and care they deserve as they navigate the path to long-term recovery and wellness.

Whatever your struggles, you do not need to suffer alone.

Our friendly, supportive team is here to guide you every step of the way toward recovery and beyond.

Contact us today for further support and information.

Additional resources

  1. How Does Meditation Help The Nervous System, Reflect, Noga Sapir
  2. How to regulate your nervous system? Try these 13 techniques: Calm
Ameet Braich - Camino Recovery Spain

Ameet Singh Braich, a distinguished Clinical Director at Camino Recovery, is renowned for expertise in addiction and trauma resolution. With 15+ years of experience, he transforms lives through a holistic therapeutic approach. His research focuses on childhood maltreatment's impact on cognitive, emotional, and social functioning.

A dynamic speaker and trainer, Ameet empowers clients to achieve lasting recovery, prioritizing trauma resolution and relapse prevention. His diverse training includes EAP, crisis intervention, and EMDR. Committed to positive transformation, Ameet equips individuals across fields to address challenges of addiction.

More from Ameet Braich

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