From regulating your breathing, bodily movements and internal temperature to controlling digestion, emotional responses and so much more, the complex nervous system is the most important system in the human body. Consisting of the brain, spinal cord and nerves, many people refer to the nervous system as the body’s central control or command center.
The sympathetic, or autonomic, division of your nervous system prepares your body for action and carries out the fight-or-flight response to stimuli, which essentially tells your body to either address the stimuli at hand (fight) or flee to safety (flight). The parasympathetic division, on the other hand, helps slow the high-energy functions that coincide with activation of the sympathetic nervous system, and allows the body to relax and recover.
During times of chronic stress or trauma, the sympathetic division can become hyperactivated, causing people to experience anxiety, hyper alertness, rapid heart rate, muscle tension and even digestive issues as a result. If left unaddressed, these symptoms can not only make it difficult to focus, be productive or keep up with the demands of everyday life, they can even lead to certain diseases including diabetes and high blood pressure.
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can naturally help relax your body’s sympathetic response and strengthen your nervous system overall.
Optimal Nutrition Is Key
One of the best ways to support and strengthen not just your nervous system, but your body as a whole, is to supply it with the healthy, nutrient-dense foods it needs to function optimally. To help calm and heal your nervous system, it is recommended that you maintain a diet incorporating plenty of the following:
• Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, spinach, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and foods fortified with omega-3s like eggs, milk, yogurt, etc.
• Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale, broccoli, etc., which are packed with vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium and more, all of which are essential for proper nervous system functioning
• Magnesium-rich fruits such as bananas, apricots, plums and melons
• Nuts like cashews, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts
• Legumes like lentils, peas and beans
Stay Physically Active
Taking some time to exercise outside or hit the gym can help significantly reduce stress and give your nervous system a much-needed break. Activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, weightlifting, cycling, hiking and even gardening are all great options. If regular exercise is not currently a part of your lifestyle, be sure to consult your primary care physician before taking on a new fitness routine.
Give Mind-Body Exercises a Go
Yoga, tai chi, Pilates, meditation and deep stretching are all great choices because they allow you to reap the physical rewards of exercising while helping improve your mind’s ability to focus and remain calm, even in the face of stress. Performing these types of exercises daily, or even just a few times a week, will help significantly relax your nervous system.
Natural treatments such as acupuncture and massage therapy can also be highly beneficial when it comes to relaxing your mind, body and nervous system. For more natural ways you can help support and control your nervous system, check out our page on the five pillars of optimized health or schedule an appointment with one of our wellness experts today!