How to Heal Your Nervous System

4 min
Article preview picture

Nervous system dysregulation is a surprisingly widespread phenomenon. According to Polyvagal Theory, which was developed by neuroscientist Stephen Porges in the 1990s, there’s a highly intricate system of signals transmitted between the brain and the body along the various branches of the vagus nerve. This pathway – which runs from the brain through to the abdomen – is integral to the functioning of organs and hormonal responses, as part of the Autonomic Nervous System. When the ANS is aroused by a sense of threat or stress, the fight or flight response kicks in. If the ANS is overwhelmed, the body begins to enter a freeze state, or shut-down. These responses are imperative for basic human survival, but the messages can get jumbled and result in chronic activation and dysregulation – which is detrimental to physical and psychological health. This strain on the body can result in all kinds of ailments, from anxiety to digestion issues, chronic pain, and life-threatening disease. Healing the nervous system is a vital piece of the well-being puzzle.

Try this long exhale breathing technique to instantly soothe your nerves!

Listen to your body

Tuning into your physical reactions and responses is the first step towards healing the nervous system. The pace and trappings of modern life have created a damaging disconnect between mind and body, resulting in an over-reliance on medical intervention when things go wrong. But no one else can understand our own body the way we can. Start by paying attention to the sensations, reactions, and subtle shifts that take place day to day without judgment, just curiosity.

Understand your fight, flight, and freeze response

How do you react physically and emotionally to different occurrences in your daily life? Fight, flight, and freeze manifest differently when there’s no lion to run away from or wrestle with. Anxiety and panic are symptomatic of an unresolved flight response, while irritability and anger correlate with a nervous system in fight mode. Keep an eye on indicators such as heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, and racing thoughts, as well as the behaviors that can get triggered: binge-watching TV, disordered eating, alcohol consumption, and other addictions are all ways to numb out and cope with an overwhelmed nervous system in freeze. 

Recognise your triggers

The evolutionary function of the Autonomic Nervous System may have kept us safe from predators in the wild, but we haven’t yet adapted to the stressors of the 21st century. What situations generate a physical fight, flight, or freeze response in your body? They might not necessarily be negative, and they might not make sense – for many people, it’s the chronic stress of a workaholic culture. Triggering situations are often harmless in themselves, but the nervous system is activated by an association with a trauma that you may not even remember. 

Find support in your recovery

Talking to a professional about your experiences, triggers, reactions, and behaviors is an important way to understand them. From there you can start to address the root cause of your nervous system dysregulation, and begin to overcome it. Find a therapist, coach, or holistic practitioner trained in supporting your healing journey, and seek out a community of people whose experiences you can relate to and share with. 

Soothe yourself through healing practices

Holistic practices are often effective at establishing a sense of safety and calming the nervous system. Yoga, meditation, breathwork, energy healing, or simple forms of self-care can have an immediate effect, but when practiced regularly, they can also contribute to long-term regulation of the nervous system. Treatments such as massage, reiki, and acupuncture are also highly beneficial.

Commit to the process

Ultimately, healing your nervous system is a daily commitment. The kinder you are to yourself and your body, the smoother your journey will be. Cutting down on caffeine, staying hydrated, and creating healthy habits for quality sleep can all help to regulate an activated system. And be mindful of how you regard yourself – negative self-talk amounts to having a lion chasing you inside your own head. Move gently and be patient.

Want more tips for healing your nervous system?Join our Holistic Self-Care course to take better care of yourself!


All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journal that influenced this article: Autonomic Function

Share this story
Read more
  • Article preview
    25 Feb 2022

    Healthy Sleep Habits

    5 min

    A good night’s rest is the best, right? For many of us, however, it can be frustratingly elusive. Sedentary jobs, electric lighting, chronic stress, and myriad more lifestyle factors can all contribute to nights spent tossing and turning without any respite. The World Health Organization recommends adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night, but it’s not just in quantity we’re lacking – the quality of our sleep is just as important to our overall well-being. 

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    21 Feb 2022

    10 Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

    6 min

    Self-esteem is one of the cornerstones of psychological well-being. Maintaining a secure, accepting relationship with the self is one of the most beneficial things we can do to show up meaningfully in the world. Low self-esteem is a deep-rooted belief that we are not as worthy as other people – which is, of course, completely untrue. Everybody on this planet is equally deserving of taking up space, including you. Here are some effective practices for boosting self-esteem.

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    5 Apr 2022

    What Is the Emotion Wheel, And How Can It Improve Your Life?

    3 min

    Emotions are an important part of life. Sometimes they can be difficult to experience, let alone understand, but the capacity to feel the full spectrum of emotions – from anger to joy and everything in between – is a huge part of what makes us human. It’s also an important instinct for our survival: when we’re babies, expressing emotion is our only method of communication when something isn’t right. As infants, we scream with rage or cry with grief when our needs aren’t being met. As adults, the same notion is true一except the conditioning that comes with language and cognition can leave us quite disconnected from our feelings, and unable to recognize what our emotional responses are trying to tell us. Thankfully, there are some methods we can use to try and figure it all out, such as Plutchik’s Emotion Wheel. Named after Robert Plutchik, the psychologist who came up with the concept, it’s a tool for improving emotional literacy, so that we can learn to become more in tune with our feelings.

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    11 Apr 2022

    The Differences Between Mental And Emotional Health

    9 min

    If you are asked about what constitutes a healthy life, thanks in large part to the many advertisements that we’re inundated with in this day and age, what usually comes to mind is likely to be something related to weight loss or a large bowl of salad. But there’s more to being healthy than just the physical: while an active lifestyle and balanced diet can help us be physically healthier, there are other components to our well-being that we can’t see externally. 

    Read full article
  • Article preview
    25 Mar 2022

    What is Astral Projection?

    3 min

    If you’ve seen the television series Behind Her Eyes ー based on the psychological thriller novel of the same name by English author Sarah Pinborough ー you may have come across the concept of Astral Projection (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler!). It’s the idea that we can leave our body and travel to different places with just the mind一a concept that is also known as an intentional out-of-body experience, and closely linked with lucid dreaming. 

    Read full article