If you follow anything to do with psychology, you will know there has been a lot…and I mean a lot…of talk about the nervous system lately and its connection to mental health. Everyone from TikTok “experts” to dyed-in-the-wool psychotherapists are talking very openly about what many in the field have known all along…that your nervous system – the main pathway that sends signals to and from your brain – can be both the source of, and the answer to, managing anxiety, regulating your emotions, processing trauma, etc.
I often tell my clients that to understand their mental health challenges, they first have to understand their nervous system’s “set point” – a default that is often established in childhood and that depends on several factors: Whether your needs – emotional and otherwise were met, whether there was violence or anger in your household, parents who could not could regulate their emotions, being bullied, etc. At the risk of oversimplifying things, we learn, as children, whether we have to be “on guard” or whether we can relax because someone else is taking care of things. And not surprisingly, children on high alert often grow up to be adults on high alert – anxious, obsessive, overthinking, controlling…the list goes on.
So you might be wondering, if your nervous system is “set” in childhood, does that mean you’ll never be calm or regulated. And the answer is no – it does not mean that. But it does mean that you might have to work harder to be regulated and that you will most certainly have to learn how to forgive yourself (and your childhood system) when you’re not. Here are some quick and easy ways to regulate your nervous system:
Deep breathing, box breathing, or a host of other breathing techniques
Lying flat on the ground
Tapping your collarbone or anywhere else that feels soothing
Rubbing your face and arms/havening technique
Want to know more about your nervous system, its impact on your mental health, and how to calm it? We can help. To request an appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org.