15 Ways to Find Calm Amidst Chaos: Tips for Regulating Your Nervous System
In the whirlwind of our modern lives, it’s easy to find ourselves caught in a storm of emotions. As the seasons change, bringing transitions and shifts in energy, it's not uncommon to feel a sense of dysregulation. Couple this with the stressors of the holidays and the weight of collective grief, and our nervous systems can feel like they're on constant overload. I know this struggle all too well. As someone who battled significant anxiety, I thought I was destined to live in a perpetual state of unease. Little did I know, I just lacked the right tools to regulate my stressed nervous system.
This blog is for anyone who, like me, yearns for a sense of calm amidst the chaos. It’s a testament to the power of resilience and the human spirit. Here, we'll explore the impact of dysregulation due to seasonal changes, holiday stress, and collective grief on our nervous systems. Most importantly, we'll delve into 15 accessible ways to regulate your nervous system, even in the midst of life's storms.
Understanding the Impact
Things like seasonal changes, holiday stress, and collective grief can wreak havoc on our nervous systems. The lack of sunlight during winter months, the pressure of holiday expectations, and the weight of collective losses can lead to heightened anxiety and stress. Our bodies react to these external factors, often leaving us feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, and emotionally drained.
Regulating Your Nervous System: 15 Accessible Techniques
Breath Awareness: Focus on your breath. Inhale deeply for a count of four, hold for four, and exhale for four. Repeat until you feel calmer.
Mindful Walking: Take a leisurely walk, paying attention to each step. Feel the ground beneath your feet and the rhythm of your breath.
Grounding Techniques: Engage your senses. Touch an object and notice its texture, listen to calming music, or savor a soothing cup of tea.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Tense and release each muscle group, starting from your toes to your head. This practice reduces physical tension.
Guided Meditation Apps: Utilize free meditation apps like Headspace, Insight Timer or Calm, offering guided meditations tailored to your specific needs.
Journaling: Write down your thoughts and emotions. Journaling can provide a cathartic release, helping you process your feelings.
Affirmations: Repeat positive affirmations to counter negative thoughts. For instance, "I am calm and in control."
Visualization: Close your eyes and visualize a serene place. Imagine the sights, sounds, and smells, allowing your mind to escape momentarily.
Creative Outlets: Engage in creative activities like drawing, painting, or crafting. These activities can act as a form of expressive therapy.
Yoga and Stretching: Practice gentle yoga or stretching exercises to release physical and mental tension.
Volunteering: Helping others can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, reducing stress and anxiety.
Limiting Screen Time: Reduce exposure to negative news and social media. Limiting screen time can alleviate feelings of overwhelm.
Nature Connection: Spend time outdoors. Nature has a calming effect on the nervous system. Even a few minutes in a park can make a difference.
Gratitude Practice: Each day, write down three things you're grateful for. Focusing on positive aspects of your life can improve your overall outlook.
Establishing Routine: Create a daily routine that incorporates self-care activities. Consistency can provide a sense of stability and security.
Resources for Chaotic Times
During times of chaos and stress, it's crucial to have reliable resources at your disposal. Here are a few suggestions:
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): NAMI offers a helpline, online resources, and support groups for individuals facing mental health challenges.
Crisis Text Line: Text "HOME" to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. This service provides free, confidential support via text message.
Peer Support and Mutual Aid Groups: Seek out local support groups, online platforms like 7 Cups, Wisdo and HeyPeers, as well as Reddit communities (subreddits) such as r/anxiety and r/griefsupport, to connect with individuals who share similar experiences, providing a safe space for understanding and support.
Self-Help Books or Podcasts: Explore self-help books or podcasts focused on anxiety management and stress reduction. Knowledge is a powerful tool in your journey to well-being.
Unplugging for Nervous System Regulation
In our hyperconnected world, finding moments of solitude is essential. Unplugging from technology allows your nervous system to recalibrate. Here are some ways to do it:
Digital Detox Days: Designate specific days where you disconnect from all electronic devices. Use this time for relaxation, hobbies, and spending quality time with loved ones.
Screen-Free Spaces: Create designated screen-free zones in your home, such as the bedroom or dining area. These spaces provide opportunities for genuine connections and relaxation.
Mindful Mornings: Start your day without immediately reaching for your phone or computer. Engage in a morning routine that nurtures your mind and body, setting a positive tone for the day.
Nature Walks: Take leisurely walks in nature without your phone. Allow yourself to be fully present, appreciating the natural world around you.
Bedtime Rituals: Establish calming bedtime rituals that don’t involve screens. Engage in activities like reading a physical book, practicing gentle yoga, or listening to soothing music.
Regulating your nervous system is not an unattainable goal; it's a journey that requires patience, self-compassion, and the right tools. By understanding the impact of dysregulation due to seasonal changes, holiday stress, and collective grief, and by incorporating accessible techniques into your daily life, you can reclaim control over your anxious mind.
Remember, you are not alone on this journey. Reach out for support when needed, unplug to reconnect with your inner self, and embrace the power within you to find peace amidst life’s chaos. Your journey towards a calmer, more regulated nervous system begins with a single step—one breath at a time.