Life is a series of never-ending transitions. Planned transitions include starting a new job, moving to a new city, or getting married. Other transitions are unexpected, such as a breakup, illness, or death of a loved one.
Regardless of the type of transition, each one can significantly impact our nervous system functioning.Why Caring for Your Nervous System is Important
The nervous system affects your body's ability to respond to stress and change.
When we experience a transition, it can trigger the fight-or-flight response, causing a range of physical and emotional distress resulting in anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even physical pain.What is the Nervous System?
The nervous system involves your nerves and cells transmitting signals between different body parts, including the brain and spinal cord. It is critical in regulating various bodily functions such as movement, sensation, and thought processes.
Therefore, caring for your nervous system is essential for optimal physical and mental health.
A healthy nervous system promotes good cognitive function, improves memory, and enhances mood. It also helps to regulate sleep patterns, digestion, and immune system function.
Neglecting your nervous system can lead to various health problems, including chronic pain, cognitive decline, and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.
Caring for your nervous system means caring for your overall health.How to Care For Your Nervous System During Life's Transitions
To care for your nervous system during life's transitions, it is crucial to proactively manage stress (training your brain to differentiate between real threats and perceived threats) and support your body's natural healing processes (rest-and-digest).
Caring for your nervous system during these transitions may include:
Make Feeling Good a Habit
Using modalities and techniques such as positive psychology, somatic tools, limbic retraining, and others can help break the stress cycle.
One example of an effective technique to harnessing and regulating your inner thoughts and feelings is that of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is powerful when managing stress and supporting nervous system functioning. It involves focusing on the moment rather than the "what ifs."
When practicing mindfulness, we can learn to observe our thoughts and feelings and identify our reactions to specific situations without being overwhelmed.
Mindfulness helps us reduce stress and improve our overall well-being by allowing us to be present instead of getting caught up in past traumas or the potential future.
When you feel overwhelmed by life's transitions, your body will do its best to protect you by releasing the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol is vital when running from a bear or acting quickly to avoid a car accident. But when we are constantly stressed with cortisol continually being pumped out, rest and relaxation are nearly impossible to achieve.
Mindfulness helps you recognize that ongoing situation (i.e., moving, starting a new job, etc.) while "stressful" isn't life-threatening and allows your nervous system to adapt to these situations.
Sleep is essential for nervous system functioning. What happens when everything is happening at once? It's hard to turn off your mind at night and get restful sleep.
Then, when you don't get enough sleep, you may perceive that problems are much more significant than they really are, making it more challenging to face them. This results in further stress that again disrupts your sleep.
To support your nervous system during transitions, getting enough sleep each night is so important. Many aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and benefit from establishing a regular sleep schedule.
If you can't fall or stay asleep, try nighttime meditations to reset your thought patterns before you sleep so stress won't keep you awake, cycling through all the possible outcomes of a situation or rehashing past events.
Sometimes, our bodies and minds need more sleep to recover from stressful transitions (especially if restful sleep is difficult). In that case, naps can also be beneficial.
One Harvard study found that daily naps increased the time spent in REM sleep, improving cognitive function and reducing stress.
Eating nourishing foods regularly is essential for supporting nervous system functioning. Your body needs a balance of minerals and vitamins to function properly, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
When you're under stress (acute or chronic), your body burns through minerals much faster, leaving you depleted.
Habitually including foods high in essential nutrients tells your body you are in a safe environment and can lower the production of stress hormones.
Movement is an excellent way to support nervous system functioning. Exercising your body releases endorphins, naturally boosting your mood and improving sleep quality.
It also reduces stress and anxiety to positively impact our nervous system.
Movement also often involves getting outside when possible and exposing yourself to fresh air and sunlight, which benefit your physical and mental health.
Connecting with others is crucial to supporting your nervous system functioning. Having support can help you feel more resilient and better able to handle stress.
Many find that spending time with loved ones, especially those encouraging a positive outlook, supports retraining their thought patterns and helps them feel more grounded during life's transitions.
Volunteering time by helping friends, family, or others in the community also relieves stress and, based on one interesting study, increases longevity.
Self-care is vital to your nervous system during transitions. This can include quality time spent alone, getting a massage, or spending time in nature.
Make time for self-care activities each day, even if that’s just a few minutes. You might use these times to reset your thoughts, feelings, and nervous system by practicing breathing techniques and meditation.Caring for Your Nervous System During Life's Transitions
If you're going through a stressful transition in life, it's essential that you care for your nervous system BEFORE you start experiencing burnout and chronic pain.
A dysregulated nervous system can lead to physical, emotional, and mental symptoms that can be debilitating.
Even if you don’t reach the point of chronic symptoms, being stuck in an ongoing stress cycle can cause you to lose that spark in your life and keeps you in a place of “surviving” rather than “thriving.”
Healing can only be achieved when the nervous system is in a constant state of “rest-and-digest” rather than “fight-or-flight.”
That's why Vital Side has created multiple tools to help you nourish your nervous system, identify harmful thought patterns, and retrain your mind and body to react optimally during stress no matter where you are in your brain rewiring journey.
Contact Vital Side today to learn how you can optimize your life!