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5 Simple Ways to Give your Nervous System a Much-Needed Break

No matter how old you are, where you live, or what profession you are in, there are times when life can become too much to handle. From dealing with family obligations to work stressors, the day-to-day stress that you go through has a direct effect on your nervous system. At the same time, there’s the constant barrage of messages that society keeps piling onto our psyche, from having an exercising routine to staying engaged socially, there is so much to be that sometimes our body just says it has had enough. Every person has their limit, and with everything going on in the world, it is not difficult to reach this limit rather quickly. The good news is that there are some small and simple things you can do to give your nervous system a break. And don’t think of these tips as a luxury you are indulging in, but rather an essential requirement for the benefit of your overall health and well-being. Read on to learn about some simple ways to give your nervous system a much-needed break.

Understanding the Nervous System

The human body is very complicated to understand. It is made up of many bodily systems, and the nervous system is one such important system. The nervous system is a complex network of motor, autonomic, and sensory nerves that are involved in the functioning of your body. From controlling your breathing to regulating the body’s movements, temperature, and even digestion, the nervous system plays an essential role in carrying out many important functions of the body. In fact, without the nervous system, the other systems of the body would not be able to function. This is why it is only natural that if there is any problem with the nervous system, it can severely impact your overall quality of life.(1, 2, 3, 4)

The nervous system functions with the use of specialized cells known as neurons. Neurons are the ones that send and receive messages and signals from all over the body. Even the electrical signals that are transmitted between the various parts of the body, including the brain, skin, organs, glands, and muscles, are sent through neurons. These are the messages that enable you to move your body parts, feel the different sensations, and do almost everything else with your body.

There are different types of neurons that perform different functions and transmit various signals. For example, the motor neurons help the muscles move, while the sensory neurons are responsible for collecting information and taking in outside stimuli. There are many other forms of neurons as well in the body that are responsible for carrying out automatic body functions such as heart rate, food digestion, breathing, blinking, and even shivering.(5, 6, 7)

This is also why it is important to focus on improving the health of the nervous system, especially for those who suffer from underlying medical conditions like diabetes. It is necessary to strengthen your nervous system and to reduce the risk of developing medical issues due to a weakened nervous system.

5 Simple Ways to Give your Nervous System a Much-Needed Break

5 Simple Ways to Give your Nervous System a Much-Needed Break

Here are some simple ways to give your nervous system a much-needed break.

  1. Practice Shaking Therapy

    You must have observed dogs shaking themselves from time to time, especially if they have an encounter with an aggressive dog. Animals are known to practice shaking in an attempt to release trauma and stress from their bodies. According to Dr. Peter Levine, who developed the concept of somatic experiencing, shaking therapy is an ideal body-based therapy for processing and releasing stress and trauma.(8, 9)

    Over a period of time, challenging experiences, including some form of traumatic experience, can build up in your nervous system. There is evidence that indicates that shaking can help release this stress.(10)

    Releasing trauma and stress through shaking is also known as neurogenic or therapeutic tremoring, and it is now growing in popularity and doctors are often found using it in trauma and tension therapeutic release exercises, known as TRE, a concept developed by Dr. David Bercelli.(11, 12)

  2. Add Some Weight

    A popular technique for soothing the nervous system is to add a little of weight. Weight is something that provides the brain with proprioceptive input.(13)

    Proprioceptive input is known to produce a calming and even organizing effect on the central nervous system. In fact, the concept of proprioceptive input is being researched on for helping children with autism.(14) While we may not realize this, but we usually get proprioceptive input from many day-to-day activities, such as pushing a lawnmower, carrying a book bag, chewing gum, blowing bubbles, etc.

    Proprioceptive input is also used in occupational and physical therapy to treat many things, from autism to injuries and even cerebral palsy. There are many ways in which you can give yourself proprioceptive input and help the nervous system calm down.

    Using Weighted Blankets, Pillows, and Vests

    Using weighted accessories is an excellent alternative if you want to practice a gentle way of calming down the nervous system. There are many such accessories available today. Weighted blankets are a popular option for getting deep pressure applied all over the body. Weighted blankets have also been found to help reduce the heart rate in adolescents if used during molar extraction. There are even special weighted blankets for children.(15)

    Some studies have also indicated that weighted vests may have a positive impact on impulse and attention control in children who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).(16)

    Weighted pads or pillows are also available to add weight to specific parts of the body. For example, you can place them on your chest, back, shoulders, stomach, or wherever you feel the body needs a little bit of pressure.

    Some weighted accessories are also available with the option of heating them up in the microwave, some contain soothing scents, and some are even in the form of weighted stuffed animals for children.

    Practicing Weight Training

    One of the easiest ways to get some proprioceptive input and also get some exercise at the same time is to lift weights. A study carried out on Olympic weightlifters found that lighting can benefit proprioceptive feedback.(17) Another research carried out on female adolescent weightlifters discovered that weightlifting helps improve kinesthesia or body awareness.(18)

    And the best part is that to start lifting weights, you don’t need to have a full gym set up at home. It’s not even necessary to buy a set of weights. You can simply find something to lift around your house or garden, such as bags of soil or fertilizer. And if you can’t find weighted objects, you can even use resistance bands.(19)

    And if you want to skip the need for any type of equipment, you can focus on bodyweight exercises. However, always keep your safety in mind and consult your doctor before starting any type of new exercise routine.

    Cuddling

    Cuddling helps increase the release of endorphins and oxytocin, which is the ‘love hormone. Apart from weight training and using weighted accessories, cuddling with a loved one can also provide comforting weight. So the more you cuddle, the calmer you will feel.(20)

  3. Tracking Exercise

    One more way to give your nervous system a much-needed break is to try a tracking exercise. Tracking is another type of somatic experiencing technique that helps you feel more grounded and connected to the present. Here’s how you can do a tracking exercise:

    • Step 1: Sit down comfortably and take a couple of breaths to relax yourself.
    • Step 2: Once you feel ready, start by slowly looking around the room. Take in the various objects in the room.
    • Step 3: When your gaze lands on a particular object, name it out loud. For example, if you see a lamp, say lamp out loud.
    • Step 4: If you find an object that you especially like, let your gaze linger on it for some time.
    • Step 5: Keep repeating this until you feel a sense of calm and you are ready to stop.

    This exercise may seem very simple, and it indeed is as well, but by turning your focus to your external environment in the present, especially the appealing and pleasant things around you, you send signals to your nervous system that you are in a safe place, and all is well.

  4. Try Taking A Hot Bath or Using A Heating Pad

    All of us know how soothing it feels to take a hot bath or be engulfed in a warm hug. Hot baths help reduce inflammation and keep your blood sugar levels stable. And studies have also shown that using a sauna can increase the production of endorphins in the body.(21, 22)

    You can warm up your bath water as per your liking and need. In fact, to turn it into a complete sensory experience, try including some healing herbs in the bath water, or you can try taking a bubble bath.

    A study from 2018 showed that using simple heating pads can also help bring down anxiety and distress in women who are about to undergo a cystoscopy, the insertion of a camera into the bladder and urethra.(23)

  5. Increase Your Intake of Fat

    The nerve cells of the body are covered in a protective sheath known as myelin. Studies have shown that consumption of fat can help keep this coating in good condition by preventing demyelination, which is the erosion of this myelin sheath.(24) So, increasing your intake of healthy fats can help you keep your nervous system healthy. 

    Some healthy fats that you can include in your diet are those that are a part of the Mediterranean diet, such as avocado, nuts, fatty fish, clarified butter or ghee, etc.

Conclusion

When you make a conscious decision to give a break to your nervous system, you allow the entire system to recalibrate and reset. A healthy nervous system will provide you with better immunity, greater resilience, as well as an improved sense of well-being. By decreasing unnecessary stimuli in your life and practicing the activities mentioned here, you can ensure good health for your nerves and also help calm down your nervous system, thus giving your body a break from trauma and stress.

References:

  1. Sanes, D.H., Reh, T.A. and Harris, W.A., 2011. Development of the nervous system. Academic Press.
  2. Mai, J.K. and Paxinos, G. eds., 2011. The human nervous system. Academic press.
  3. Cantile, C. and Youssef, S., 2016. Nervous system. Jubb, Kennedy & Palmer’s Pathology of Domestic Animals: Volume 1, p.250.
  4. Sarnat, H.G. and Netsky, M.G., 1974. Evolution of the nervous system. Oxford U. Press.
  5. Furness, J.B., 2000. Types of neurons in the enteric nervous system. Journal of the autonomic nervous system, 81(1-3), pp.87-96.
  6. Koch, C. and Segev, I., 2000. The role of single neurons in information processing. Nature neuroscience, 3(11), pp.1171-1177.
  7. Tan, C.L., Cooke, E.K., Leib, D.E., Lin, Y.C., Daly, G.E., Zimmerman, C.A. and Knight, Z.A., 2016. Warm-sensitive neurons that control body temperature. Cell, 167(1), pp.47-59.
  8. Levine, P.A., Blakeslee, A. and Sylvae, J., 2018. Reintegrating fragmentation of the primitive self: Discussion of “somatic experiencing”. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 28(5), pp.620-628.
  9. Levine, P., 2012. Somatic experiencing.
  10. Berceli, D., Salmon, M., Bonifas, R. and Ndefo, N., 2014. Effects of self-induced unclassified therapeutic tremors on quality of life among non-professional caregivers: A pilot study. Global advances in health and medicine, 3(5), pp.45-48.
  11. Berceli, D., 2015. Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises. Jakarta: Sinotif Publishing.
  12. Berceli, D., 2009. Evaluating the effects of stress reduction exercises employing mild tremors: a pilot study. Master’s thesis. Phoenix (AZ): Arizona State University.
  13. Blanche, E.I., Reinoso, G., Chang, M.C. and Bodison, S., 2012. Proprioceptive processing difficulties among children with autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(5), pp.621-624.
  14. Cascio, C.J., Foss-Feig, J.H., Burnette, C.P., Heacock, J.L. and Cosby, A.A., 2012. The rubber hand illusion in children with autism spectrum disorders: delayed influence of combined tactile and visual input on proprioception. Autism, 16(4), pp.406-419.
  15. Chen, H.Y., Yang, H., Chi, H.J. and Chen, H.M., 2019. Parasympathetic effect of deep pressure input on third molar extraction in adolescents. Journal of the Formosan Medical Association, 118(9), pp.1317-1324.
  16. Lin, H.Y., Lee, P., Chang, W.D. and Hong, F.Y., 2014. Effects of weighted vests on attention, impulse control, and on-task behavior in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(2), pp.149-158.
  17. Riemann, B.L., Mercado, M., Erickson, K. and Grosicki, G.J., 2020. Comparison of balance performance between masters Olympic weightlifters and runners. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 30(9), pp.1586-1593.
  18. Erdağı, K., Yargıç, M.P., Kürklü, G.B. and Aydın, L., 2020. Accuracy of Pinch Force Sense in Elite Female Adolescent Weightlifters. Spor Hekimligi Dergisi/Turkish Journal of Sports Medicine, 55(2).
  19. Bergquist, R., Iversen, V.M., Mork, P.J. and Fimland, M.S., 2018. Muscle activity in upper-body single-joint resistance exercises with elastic resistance bands vs. free weights. Journal of human kinetics, 61(1), pp.5-13.
  20. Morrison, I., 2016. Keep calm and cuddle on: social touch as a stress buffer. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 2, pp.344-362.
  21. Hoekstra, S.P., Bishop, N.C., Faulkner, S.H., Bailey, S.J. and Leicht, C.A., 2018. Acute and chronic effects of hot water immersion on inflammation and metabolism in sedentary, overweight adults. Journal of applied physiology.
  22. Huhtaniemi, I.T. and Laukkanen, J.A., 2020. Endocrine effects of sauna bath. Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research, 11, pp.15-20.
  23. Kwon, O.S., Kwon, B., Kim, J. and Kim, B.H., 2022. Effects of heating therapy on pain, anxiety, physiologic measures, and satisfaction in patients undergoing cystoscopy. Asian Nursing Research, 16(2), pp.73-79.
  24. Yoon, H., Kleven, A., Paulsen, A., Kleppe, L., Wu, J., Ying, Z., Gomez-Pinilla, F. and Scarisbrick, I.A., 2016. Interplay between exercise and dietary fat modulates
  25. myelinogenesis in the central nervous system. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Molecular Basis of Disease, 1862(4), pp.545-555.
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 15, 2022

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