Updated: Aug 24
I covered the importance of the regulated nervous system, where the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system work together in harmony in my other blog post titled “How past trauma can live in the body”. I also explained there how traumatic experiences and chronic stress can lead to an overactive sympathetic nervous system and what the key symptoms of the sympathetic nervous system in overdrive are. So if you’d like to deepen your understanding on the subject and see if it resonates with you before you learn about different strategies to regulate the overactive nervous system, go ahead and check the other blog post first. Otherwise, I invite you to continue reading and go straight to the point:
How do I move from a trauma response to a state of internal
homeostasis (balance) so I can truly thrive?
It is crucial that you realise that trauma, stress and healing are multifaceted processes. There’s no magical cure that will invariably work for everyone. You are unique and so are your experiences and needs. When thinking about health and well-being, we need to remember about all different aspects i.e. mental, emotional, physical, relational and spiritual, so our approach is holistic and we don’t neglect any dimension.
Talking therapy, pharmacotherapy, hypnotherapy and exercise can all be effective and useful in helping overcome trauma and managing stress, however it seems that there’s not enough awareness of the powerful and undeniable role our body plays in healing. I encourage you to notice, nurture and understand your physical self as it has immense potential that goes far beyond what you see in the mirror.
Let me outline a few strategies to calm an overactive nervous system. I genuinely hope you’ll find at least some of them useful.
#1 Tune into your feelings and engage with them
Traumatic experiences can make us disconnect from the self. At times, it may feel that we want to escape from ourselves. It’s vitally important that we do the exact opposite by getting in touch with our emotions and being present in our bodies. There’s no escape from ourselves, believe me!
Identify and name your feelings; be curious. They are there for a reason and unless you listen to the message behind your emotions, you’ll keep going through the same lesson (trapped in a vicious cycle of old patterns) until you learn it.
"These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.” Rumi
#2 Become grounded in your body through breathwork
Normally we don’t pay too much attention to breathing as it happens automatically. However, we can also control our breath voluntarily. There are a number of breathing methods that can help to alleviate stress, calm the mind and bring you back ‘home’ to your body. Here are two simple techniques you could try today.
The first one is to simply direct your attention to your breath. Make yourself comfortable sitting or lying down and as you breathe pay attention to how your breath travels in and out of your body. Concentrate on any sensations related to the activity of breathing, e.g. air temperature, movements of your chest. Try to lengthen your breath and keep it in as you exhale or inhale. You can start practising this method for one minute and gradually build up time.
The other method of therapeutic breathing is called Box Breathing. It requires inhaling to a count of four, holding air in your lungs for four counts, exhaling to a count of four, and then keeping your lungs empty for a count of four. As you begin you can follow this pattern for 60 seconds and build up as you practise. There are many variations of deep breathing, such as Breath of Fire or alternate nostril breathing. Choose the one that suits you and stay consistent!
#3 Shake it off!
Use shaking therapy (aka therapeutic tremoring) to calm an overstimulated nervous system, release tension and reset bodily functions. Studies on animal behaviour demonstrate that tremoring allows them to process and release trauma thereby protecting them from both physical and psychological effects of stress. You might have observed an animal, for example a dog shaking after being exposed to danger (a real or perceived threat). This is how animals instinctively release tension. The shaking or tremoring helps to rebalance stress hormones, release muscular tension and soothe the nervous system.
You can use this simple somatic method to relieve stress and trauma, and rebalance your own nervous system!
Sit down, lie down or stand up as you carry out this exercise. Then focus on particular parts of your body, simply shaking each part out. Repeat multiple times if needed. See how you feel. Rest. Repeat the next day. You can start your shaking practice from 30 seconds and then extend it up to 2 minutes if it feels comfortable. You can use this somatic method of stress release, when you experience acute stress or whenever you feel like
4. Take a break and engage in low-stimulation activities
The simple solutions are often the best solutions. Give your nervous system a break by slowing down and choosing a low stimulation activity. Instead of distracting yourself (e.g. watching Netflix, scrolling through social media), nurture your body and mind with quiet moments. Minimise external stimulation and ensure that you get mental, emotional and sensory rest from the world that never stops.
Here are some examples of low-stimulation activities: listening to calming music, gardening, yoga, meditation, aromatherapy etc. Find what works for you and remain consistent.
Traumatic experiences and chronic stress can lead to nervous system dysfunction, however you can reprocess and release trauma trapped in your body.
Because even though trauma changes us, so DOES the healing.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article.
If you’d like to recover from chronic stress or trauma with the help of a trusted professional, I can help! Together we can explore different techniques to enable you to better understand yourself, manage your triggers and befriend your own body so you can experience healing on all levels.
Get in touch with me!
mobile: 07849 580021
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Love & light,
Holistic Transformative Therapy