There’s a lot of discussion around nervous system dysregulation in the wellness world these days—and for good reason. The nervous system impacts every area of your life, and when out of alignment (dysregulated), it can cause a ripple effect of issues and challenges, physical, mental, and emotional.
If you’ve felt overwhelmed, irritable, or extremely fatigued, or have had gut or skin conditions, you’ve experienced symptoms of nervous system dysregulation. These are all signs of stress, and while experiencing these things here and there is normal, when they become chronic is when you need to consider whether they’re signs of dysregulation.
Let’s break down what this all means and then give you practical solutions so you can address your nervous system dysregulation and start thriving again!
This article is meant for educational purposes only. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a nervous system disorder, it is important to seek the advice of a healthcare professional to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Why Stress Isn’t Bad
Stress is a normal part of life, and it may be a surprise that a certain amount of stress can sometimes be helpful. A surge of hormones occurs when you are excited about an event like a concert or game. If you’ve played competitive sports, you know there is a natural element of stress that gets you fired up to play. The stress of a first date (think: butterflies).
None of these are signs of nervous system dysregulation. It’s just your body’s way of communicating that something big is happening. Yet, all of these examples have one thing in common: there is no threat of danger.
The threat of danger triggers a primitive response in our amygdala (one of the oldest parts of our brain). This trigger turns on the fire hose of stress hormones, telling our body that we either need to bare down and get ready for a fight or get out of there to save our lives.
Still, compounded smaller stressors in our life (think phone dings, traffic, never-ending to-do lists, and caring for others’ needs constantly) can trigger this response and leave our nervous system dysregulated.
In this state, your body is reacting as if it’s constantly dealing with a threat of danger.
We likely aren’t dealing with a true threat that often throughout the day, so we have to be mindful to slow down. When we do this, we can tell our body to hit the reset button and return to a place of safety and connection. This in turn helps us reset any nervous system dysregulation.
How to Reset Your Nervous System With Breath and Pilates
Creating balance when we’re experiencing nervous system dysregulation requires you to relax the body and reduce stress. Here at Lindywell, we love to focus on two specific strategies to make that happen: breath and Pilates. While these aren’t the only options for self-regulating, they can be powerful tools on your journey back to health.
The good news is, these two things also go hand-in-hand. While you can practice breathwork outside of Pilates, and we encourage you to do so with our Lindywell breathwork sessions, Pilates itself encourages deep and intentional breathing.
Here’s how both of these can support regulating your nervous system.
Stop right now and check in with your breath. Listen closely to the sound of your breathing.
- Are you nostril breathing or mouth breathing?
- Are you breathing into your chest, your belly, or both?
Your current breathing pattern could contribute to your overall wellness and your emotional state at this very moment. Your breath and your nervous system are close friends who rely on one another for information. Giving attention to your breath can help you shift into the right state of mind.
The nervous system is closely connected to the way we breathe and the state of our mind. When you use your breath to calm your body and bring awareness to the present moment, you can shift your nervous system from a state of fight-or-flight (sympathetic activation) to rest-and-digest (parasympathetic activation).
Breathwork can trigger the amygdala to slow down, sending the message that fear and anxiety aren’t necessary now. In fact, a 2016 study shows that deep breathing reduces emotional responses in the amygdala. This promotes overall relaxation within the body, which helps you come back into regulation when practiced regularly.
To get a better understanding of the power of breath for your overall health and well-being, tune into Breathwork as a Path to Wellness, an episode of The Balanced Life Podcast with Kiesha, our Head of Breathwork + Somatic Programs.
Movement, and Pilates specifically, can be a powerful tool for calming your nervous system. Even just a short workout helps to release feel-good hormones (neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin) which play a role in regulating mood, improving focus, and helping your brain to function better overall.
Because Pilates utilizes mindfulness and intentional breathing it can also reduce levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, which in turn, can help us to feel calmer and more relaxed. Plus, when we move our bodies we improve blood flow, helping to oxygenate the brain which helps us to think more clearly (goodbye brain fog!) and function more optimally.
Connecting your mind and body through regular Pilates workouts is one of the best ways to not only build strength, improve mobility, and reduce aches and pains, but also to support a healthy nervous system.
Rebalance and Reset During Nervous System Dysregulation
Stress is normal—and we all experience it on a regular basis. When you experience stress chronically you may experience nervous system dysregulation. Using Pilates and intentional breathing, you can come back to a state of balance so you can better handle the many ups and downs that life has in store.