I saw a funny Glasbergen cartoon from the 1990s the other day.
In it two scientists are talking. Clipboard in hand, one reports to the other “According to the latest research, the average human body is 20% water and 80% stress.” Then I got to thinking about what that 80% stress might be doing to people’s nervous systems during this lockdown.
Whether you call it frustration, overwhelm, exhaustion or worry: they are all familiar forms of stress that get your mind whirring. But stress gets your nervous system in high gear too. “Stress Activation” of the nervous system is sort of like standing on the accelerator of your car and revving the engine. With a lot of stress your tachometer even goes into the red. Ideally your nervous system revs up briefly so you can respond and resolve the problem then it comes back to a “set point” where it is 'idle-ing”.
The challenge with this pandemic is that for many people the stress has been high AND it has gone on and on.
When this happens, your tachometer goes into the red zone a lot and of this happens frequently the nervous system ‘set point’ creeps up from ‘idle’ to ‘revving’ and stays there - unless we teach it how to reset itself. A constantly – revving nervous system is not a nice experience. It makes it harder to go to sleep or stay asleep. It can result in physical sensations like chest tremors, buzzing feelings in the arms or legs, pain, nausea, diarrhoea, an overactive startle reflex, an inability to think logically and so on.
I know from first-hand experience that when this happens your nervous system usually needs a helping hand to slow down.
So here are my top 3 ‘nervous system reset’ techniques. If you do any of these every day for 6 weeks, there will be a noticeable “downregulation” of your nervous system, which will actually help you cope better with future stress.
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