Caring for the nervous system is not linear. I think of it as a weave, many parts intertwining with others. Everyone's weave pattern will be different, and there's no obvious starting point or clear path. You just have to start the process of healing and listen to your body's cues along the way.
Often, when we find ourselves overstimulated, overwhelmed, anxious or tapped-out, we naturally try to relax better. But sometimes the relaxing doesn't work. The more we try to relax, the more overwhelmed we can feel. Something in us won't let go.
Caring for the nervous system involves a few significant parts, all of which I think are essential to some degree or another. And all need to happen on a somatic (body-connected) level to turn the inner the alarm switch to "off."
1. Learning to create parasympathetic nervous system dominance, or, down-regulate. This is what tells the body to "rest and digest", to relax.
2. Allowing for trapped residual energy to move out of the system. Sometimes the flight or flight energy that arises during a traumatic event is not permitted to resolve naturally. We repress our instinctual response to discharge the energy, and it becomes stuck in the system. This energy will stay stuck until it's met and allowed passage. While in the body, it continues to activate the sympathetic (fight or flight) response.
3. Strengthening the nervous system. Our ability to meet, contain, and move energy through the body is dependent on our nervous system strength, or capacity. Like a balloon filled with air, the more energy we put into the nervous system, the bigger it gets. We should be careful not to go too fast, or we can blow out the system and pop the balloon. But unless we are consciously strengthening the nervous system to hold more energy, it will never be able to relax fully.
4. Reinstating a flow state. A rigid nervous system is a compromised nervous system. Western culture leans so heavily on rigid, masculine, yang principles that we are experiencing an epidemic of imbalance. This affects the nervous system of both individuals in the community and the collective whole. We could look at western civilization as being almost entirely nervous system compromised. The way to come back into a more natural, fluid-state is to re-connect with feminine, yin, or "mother" energy. I love this article on the fluid state as it affects body, nerves, and health; it includes somatic exercises for practice.
The nervous system is an incredibly deep and complex topic. To fully master understanding, it would probably take years of practice and study. But there are many entry points to begin healing.
You can read more on these blogs. They are rich with links for further discovery and exploration.
Often, nervous system dysregulation is caused by the residual effects of trauma. Resolving the trauma, again in a somatic, or body-connected way is essential to healing the nervous system.
The following books explore the body-mind connection, the nervous system, and the physiological effects of trauma:
I recommend Kundalini Yoga as an amazing practice for repairing and strengthening the nervous system. You can practice with me on Youtube.
If you need serious, in-depth support, particularly to heal from trauma, I suggest looking for a therapist who is trained in somatic experiencing, or something similar.
Dive deep into nervous system care with me in the recorded version of my best-selling course, Deep Nervous System Care.