How to Calm Your Nervous System: Regulation Benefits, 11 Techniques, & More

Key Points:

  • Your nervous system controls your overall state of calm and contentment. It also plays a huge role for those suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Resetting and regulating your nervous system requires strategic and mindful practice, not just self-care rituals.
  • By maintaining a calm nervous system over time, you can boost your quality of life and increase your lifespan.
  • Nervous system work supports cellular health, especially endothelial cells.

More than 30% of modern adults experience symptoms of an anxiety disorder in their lifetime.

Read that again.

Not just anxiety. An anxiety disorder

As a society, we have more access to news and information than any other civilization in the history of the world. Often, the first thing we see in the morning is our phone — full of headlines that slam the gas pedal on our adrenaline and send our nervous system into a state of full-blown panic.

This continual influx of adrenaline can wear on our nervous system, making it more difficult for our bodies to respond to our own stressful experiences. But first, we need to understand how this dynamic works.

Let’s learn about the nervous system, what causes it to overload and overreact, and how we can practice calming the nervous system for a less stressed-out, more peaceful life.

Table of Contents:

What is an Overactive Nervous System?

The nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that transmit signals between different parts of the body. It consists of two main components — the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), which extends throughout the rest of the body.

An overactive nervous system, often referred to as sympathetic dominance or chronic stress, occurs when the body is in a constant state of heightened alertness. This state is characterized by an excessive release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, leading to a "fight or flight" response even in non-threatening situations. This prolonged activation can negatively impact various physiological processes. An overactive nervous system may cause symptoms like:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Exhaustion
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Poor digestion
  • Insulin resistance
Social media prescribes self-care bubble baths, wine, and Friends as the primary ways to de-stress. As enjoyable as these activities are, they are only band-aids for a deeper problem. Resetting your nervous system requires targeted healing practices — more than just “chilling” out in front of the TV. (Sorry, we wish it wasn’t so, too!)

For example, you’re not physically in danger when you see traumatic events on the news — but your nervous system thinks you are. That prompts the adrenals to release stress hormones, sending your body into high alert and signaling to your cells that you’re not safe. 

As you can imagine, this is not a recipe for a healthy lifestyle.

Calming the nervous system is essential for longevity and quality of life. When you do so, you’ll replace your anxiety with feelings of contentment and gratitude. Stress will manifest itself less in your daily life. Best of all, you’ll give your body space to focus on healing itself — physically and emotionally.

How to Reset & Regulate Your Nervous System: Techniques & Tips

You don’t always need prescription pills or fancy equipment in order to heal your nervous system (although, you should definitely check with your doctor or mental health professional if you’re experiencing symptoms!).

Fortunately, these targeted practices can be easily added to your daily routine. Once you begin to implement them, you’ll finally start to feel more in tune with yourself and calmer in the face of daily stressors. Here’s how to reset and calm your nervous system with easy and accessible practices and tools that you likely already have:

  1. Deep breathing practices or meditation
  2. Guided imagery
  3. Try a weighted blanket
  4. EFT tapping or acupuncture
  5. Go forest bathing
  6. Regular exercise
  7. Heat up or cool down
  8. Digital detox
  9. Journaling
  10. Decrease adrenaline output
  11. Herbal supplements

Deep Breathing Practices or Meditation

Work on repairing your nervous system naturally by using deep breathing techniques. Box breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, and alternate nostril breathing are all intentional ways to invite calm during a state of panic. You can also try meditation or yoga paired with deep breathing, even if you only have 5 or 10 minutes.

Guided Imagery

This technique involves creating a mental picture or scenario to promote calmness. Find a quiet space, choose a script or recording, and immerse yourself in the imagined setting. Focus on vivid details, engage your senses, and practice mindful breathing. Regularly incorporating guided imagery into your routine can strengthen your ability to evoke calm through visualization in the future.

Try a Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets use a concept known as Deep Touch Pressure (DTP), which involves applying gentle pressure to the body. This pressure stimulates the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and relaxation, soothing an overactive nervous system.

The pressure from a weighted blanket may also help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a "rest and digest" response. This counters the overactive sympathetic nervous system we mentioned earlier, responsible for the fight or flight response.

EFT Tapping or Acupuncture

It’s not always possible to remove yourself from a stressful situation. Some days, you’ll find that simply existing at your job — or even at home — spikes your blood pressure. When this is the case, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping or acupuncture can fix nervous system problems naturally — and restore peace to your body.

These techniques originated in ancient Chinese medicine and work to balance the energy flowing through your body. They are based on the belief that unblocking energy channels can help you release painful emotions.

You can learn EFT tapping from home or visit a local specialist for acupuncture treatments. If you’re not keen on needles, there’s even laser acupuncture nowadays that’s completely needle-free.

Go Forest Bathing (Aka, Hike or Walk Outside)

Fresh air, grounding, and gentle exercise. These elements are known for their amazing healing abilities and command over the nervous system. Think back to the last time you were immersed in nature. Did all the stress melt away after just a few minutes with your bare feet on the ground?

Forest bathing is a term used by the Japanese — who actually prescribe this simple walk in the trees as a treatment for various ailments. There’s no requirement for how long you walk or where you go — simply that you allow yourself to be fully present and relaxed.

Regular Exercise

Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Choose activities you enjoy, set realistic goals, and prioritize consistency. Mix cardiovascular exercises with strength training, and consider doing these outside while forest bathing for added benefits. To go even further, incorporate mindfulness into your routine by paying close attention to your body and breathing.

Heat Up (or Cool Down)

Applying warmth to the body, like with a warm bath, sauna, or heated blanket, is another way to find that soothing effect. Warm temperature helps to relax muscles, promoting a sense of comfort and tranquility.

On the other end of the spectrum, cold therapy (such as using a cool compress or taking a cool shower) can help reduce inflammation and help regulate an overactive nervous system. Cold temperatures have a numbing effect, reducing sensations of pain and promoting this calming response.

Digital Detox

A digital detox involves taking breaks from electronic devices to reduce stress. Set time limits, create tech-free zones, and schedule intentional breaks from screens throughout the day. It’s also recommended that you avoid screens before bedtime, as this can improve sleep quality. You can manage notifications to reduce information overload and engage in offline hobbies instead (like some of the ones we’ve covered here).

Journal

This therapeutic practice involves expressing thoughts and emotions through writing. Choose a journal format that suits you, set aside a regular time for this practice, and write freely without judgment, exploring your experiences and emotions. You might also want to include a gratitude section to focus on positive aspects of your life. Utilize journaling for self-reflection, addressing challenges, and identifying potential solutions.

Decrease Your Adrenaline Output

Have you considered that your body may be getting an adrenaline high from intense TV shows and true crime podcasts? Remember, your nervous system does not understand the difference between a stressful event happening on TV and one happening in real life.

When given large doses of adrenaline (through a traumatic event or long-term stress), the body may begin to crave more adrenaline over time to give itself that “high.” Just like adrenaline junkie rock climbers and thrill-seekers. 

If you find yourself going through a mental to-do list in the car or in the shower — only to crash the moment you face reality, it’s possible that your body is looking for adrenaline.

Pay attention to activities that might be spiking your adrenaline, and temporarily swap them out for calmer options. Watch all your favorite rom-coms and pick low-intensity workouts next time you’re at the gym. These will calm your nervous system and work to heal it naturally.

Herbal Supplements

Outside of activities and techniques, herbal and natural supplementation may be able to help regulate your nervous system. For example, ashwagandha (an adaptogenic herb) has been linked to reduced stress and anxiety levels in adults. Other adaptogens, like Rhodiola Rosea, may positively impact stress-induced fatigue and mental performance. Food-based supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, have also been associated with anti-anxiety and antidepressant-like effects.

Benefits of Maintaining a Calm Nervous System as You Age

These tips and tricks aren’t only for the purpose of calming panic attacks and finally getting some shut-eye. When you reset your nervous system, you open up all sorts of possibilities, like:

  • Improved emotional health
  • Better brain function
  • Longer attention span
  • Better performance at work and at home
  • Decreased risk for disease
  • Improved sleep
  • Normal blood pressure

Over time, your body will begin to relax and regulate just as a matter of habit, without all the band-aid solutions.

How Does This Impact My Cellular Health?

Did you know? Chronic nervous system damage can damage endothelial cells.

Endothelial cells create a membrane that coats the heart and blood vessels. These vital cells are responsible for regulating blood pressure, heart contractions, blood clotting, and so much more. When you take care of your nervous system health, you are giving your heart the gift of strength and vitality.

An overactive or chronically stressed nervous system can also lead to broader cellular dysfunction, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Balancing the autonomic nervous system, particularly the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, is crucial. Additionally, the regulation of hormones by the nervous system plays a vital role in maintaining cellular homeostasis, affecting metabolism, growth, and immune function. Mitochondrial function, crucial for cellular energy production, is sensitive to the overall cellular environment and can be influenced by nervous system imbalances.

Herbs or Supplements to Calm Your Nervous System?

Need help regulating your nervous system, but don’t know where to start?

BodyBio Calm is formulated with a blend of adaptogen herbs (including Rhodiola Rosea root extract), stress-relieving amino acids, and brain-boosting phosphatidylserineThis enables it to support your daily rituals by increasing mental performance, balancing your body’s stress response, and combating anxiety.

Try BodyBio Calm today to help regulate your nervous system

References

Fisher, J. P., Young, C. N., & Fadel, P. J. (2009). Central sympathetic overactivity: maladies and mechanisms. Autonomic neuroscience : basic & clinical, 148(1-2), 5–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.autneu.2009.02.003

Heirene, R. M., Shearer, D., Roderique-Davies, G., & Mellalieu, S. D. (2016). Addiction in Extreme Sports: An Exploration of Withdrawal States in Rock Climbers, Journal of Behavioral Addictions J Behav Addict, 5(2), 332-341. Retrieved Jun 14, 2022, from https://akjournals.com/view/journals/2006/5/2/article-p332.xml

König, N., Steber, S., Seebacher, J., von Prittwitz, Q., Bliem, H. R., & Rossi, S. (2019). How Therapeutic Tapping Can Alter Neural Correlates of Emotional Prosody Processing in Anxiety. Brain sciences, 9(8), 206. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci9080206

Yu, C. P., Lin, C. M., Tsai, M. J., Tsai, Y. C., & Chen, C. Y. (2017). Effects of Short Forest Bathing Program on Autonomic Nervous System Activity and Mood States in Middle-Aged and Elderly Individuals. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(8), 897. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080897

Krucoff, M. O., Rahimpour, S., Slutzky, M. W., Edgerton, V. R., & Turner, D. A. (2016). Enhancing Nervous System Recovery through Neurobiologics, Neural Interface Training, and Neurorehabilitation. Frontiers in neuroscience, 10, 584. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2016.00584

Breit, S., Kupferberg, A., Rogler, G., & Hasler, G. (2018). Vagus Nerve as Modulator of the Brain-Gut Axis in Psychiatric and Inflammatory Disorders. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 44. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00044

Zemla, K., Sedek, G., Wróbel, K., Postepski, F., & Wojcik, G. M. (2023). Investigating the Impact of Guided Imagery on Stress, Brain Functions, and Attention: A Randomized Trial. Sensors, 23(13), 6210. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/s23136210

Ekholm, B., Spulber, S., & Adler, M. (2020). A randomized controlled study of weighted chain blankets for insomnia in psychiatric disorders. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 16(9), 1567–1577. https://doi.org/10.5664/jcsm.8636

Mahindru, A., Patil, P., & Agrawal, V. (2023). Role of Physical Activity on Mental Health and Well-Being: A Review. Cureus, 15(1), e33475. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.33475

Maiuolo, J., Gliozzi, M., Musolino, V., Carresi, C., Nucera, S., Macrì, R., Scicchitano, M., Bosco, F., Scarano, F., Ruga, S., Zito, M. C., Oppedisano, F., Mollace, R., Paone, S., Palma, E., Muscoli, C., & Mollace, V. (2019). The Role of Endothelial Dysfunction in Peripheral Blood Nerve Barrier: Molecular Mechanisms and Pathophysiological Implications. International journal of molecular sciences, 20(12), 3022. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms20123022

Pongratz, G., & Straub, R. H. (2023). Chronic effects of the sympathetic nervous system in inflammatory models. Neuroimmunomodulation, 10.1159/000530969. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1159/000530969

Nakamura, Y., Park, J. H., & Hayakawa, K. (2020). Therapeutic use of extracellular mitochondria in CNS injury and disease. Experimental neurology, 324, 113114. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.expneurol.2019.113114

Featured Product

Calm

4.9
Rated 4.9 out of 5 stars
95 Reviews
Targeted stress relief supplement for systemic balance and everyday calm.
60 Capsules - $54.99
  • 60 Capsules - $54.99