Did you know you are NOT supposed to feel perpetually stressed?
If you are, it’s likely because your nervous system is dysregulated.
Regulating your nervous is an essential way to start to connect your mind, body and spirit so you can feel grounded and calm throughout your entire day, including when your boss throws a last-minute project at you, or a team member calls in sick when you have a key meeting that’s about to take place.
As the holiday season draws closer, you might feel extra challenged by family dynamics, travel, or a constant additional influx of alcohol and sugar.
In this episode, Nicole gives you five ways to regain control of, and regulate, your nervous system that will help you feel a deep sense of self-worth, remain emotionally calm and connected, and enable you to live a purposeful life.
“Nervous system dysregulation is essentially what happens when your body gets overwhelmed by stress. Your nervous system has the capacity to move from calm to handling a stressful situation really quickly. It’s the equivalent of having a bear chase you, a mountain lion, or whatever animal you might want to dream up! It becomes a problem when you are feeling that way, then you never get a break from that stress. Your body never returns to relaxation again.”
“I will always and forever remind you that your cell phone is a direct cause of nervous system dysregulation. All those alerts and those pings to keep you updated, to let you know the latest news updates or the latest text from your mom, is actually also releasing your stress hormones over and over again.”
“Regulating your nervous system is a priority for deeper reasons, for bigger reasons of unearthing the gifts that you are here on this earth to give… so that you can feel emotionally calm, connected, in nonreaction, able to handle whatever is happening in your life.”
“The more sleep you get, the less anxious and overwhelmed you will feel. Figure out how to get more rest, and I promise you will change your life.”
“When you are dysregulated, it’s so much more challenging to feel grateful, it’s so much more challenging to appreciate your life and where you are at. And that is something I find to be so essential when you’re starting to go down this pathway of intuition and purpose.”
Welcome to The School of Self-Worth, a podcast for ambitious women who know they are worthy of an astoundingly great life. Join us weekly as we get on the right side of your intuition, redefine success, and reclaim your self-worth.
I’m your host, Nicole Tsong, an award-winning journalist who left it all behind to become a bestselling author of three books and work/life balance expert, helping ambitious women unlock their intuition and step into a life of fulfilment and radical joy. Every single week, I will bring you diverse and meaningful conversations with successful women from all walks of life, who share insight about what it takes to be brave, joyful and authentic every day. Each episode is thoughtfully designed to leave you feeling empowered with tangible tips and advice that will lead you to your next breakthrough.
Hello and welcome back to the School of Self-Worth. I am your host Nicole Tsong, and I am so excited for today’s conversation.
I’m in today for a solo episode for those of you who can feel anxiety starting to pick up now that the holidays are here, and to talk about the real reason you are feeling dysregulated in your nervous system. Are you wanting to regulate your nervous system? That’s what we’ll be talking about today. And I’ll be digging into simple ways you can bring your nervous system back to a peaceful, regulated space. If you’re a high-achieving woman who is looking to feel confident and safe in your own body, this episode is for you.
Let’s talk about nervous system dysregulation. It’s essentially what happens when your body gets overwhelmed by stress. Your nervous system has the capacity to move from calm to handling a stressful situation really quickly. It’s the equivalent of having a bear chase you, or a mountain lion or whatever animal you might want to dream up!
Your body does this to handle intense situations and releases really potent hormones to help you with that. But what happens is now, in this modern day, we are very rarely chased by wild animals, unless you spend a lot of time in Mother Nature. It becomes a problem when you are feeling that way, like you are being chased by a bear or some other wild animal. Then you never get a break from that stress. Your body never returns to relaxation again. So when you are constantly hyperstimulated, it can show up as insomnia, chronic overwhelm, exhaustion, burnout, and it can also show up in small ways as reaction, feeling short tempered or an inability to handle really small stressors. So now we’re going to layer in the holiday season. Why does it become especially difficult? Well, you’re spending time with family members who might be a cause of stress for you.
You might be returning to a place where you had a past negative experience, or be around people where you’ve had past negative experiences. You might be feeling challenged by all the needs and demands of the holiday time, which maxes out most people’s schedules. Added to that, you’re probably not sleeping as well, you’re probably not eating things that help you feel grounded, plus, you might need to actually set some boundaries during this period. And all of these things are difficult to do when you are dysregulated. And for many of us, our coping mechanisms for when we’re dysregulated, aren’t actually that healthy. They might involve scrolling or watching television or eating sugary foods or having drinks. While I am a total fan of those things, in limited amounts, for celebration or connection, when we’re using them to try to compensate for the dysregulation, it actually only compounds the challenge.
So the other thing I want to speak to is, I will always and forever remind you that your cell phone is a direct cause of nervous system dysregulation. All those alerts and those pings to keep you updated, to let you know the latest news updates or the latest text from your mom, is actually also releasing your stress hormones over and over again and it gives your body zero time to recalibrate. And we’re also going to add in that we live in a culture where there is a constant expectation to do more, have more in every area of your life, and it will affect yourself, your whole self, your body and your health especially.
Nervous system regulation is, in my view, also the foundation for living a purposeful life. A lot of times people want to do it just to alleviate the stress. And yes, of course, but I would press into why would you even care about alleviating the stress? Although it does feel good to take the stress away, in my opinion, there are things for us to do, and if you are in a high stress experience, it’s just very difficult to gather your wits about you, to really see a pathway forward that feels really powerful for you, if you are feeling a constant state of stress. It’s so challenging to feel a deep sense of self-worth. When you’ve established a strong sense of self-worth, however, that’s when you can start to navigate a pathway that feels purposeful, that feels intentional, that is led by your intuition. So to me, regulating your nervous system is a priority for deeper reasons, for bigger reasons of really unearthing the gifts that you are here on this earth to give, and to give us that first step, that first foundation, so that you can feel emotionally calm, connected, in nonreaction, able to handle whatever is happening in your life, so that you can start to course correct into the direction that you’re really supposed to go on this earth.
So I see nervous system regulation as mandatory to living my life well, to feeling healthy, to feeling clear and grounded. I couldn’t personally do the things that I do, like run a business, write books and have plenty of personal time for my family, without focusing on regulating my nervous system. So for that reason, it’s actually the first piece of what I work with on women in the life’s purpose formula -literally regulating your nervous system on a daily basis.
Today I want to break down some ways to help you regulate your nervous system, to start to give you some ideas of how to do it and really give you some simple tools for that. So here are five simple ways you can regulate your nervous system today.
The first one is one that’s very close to my heart. It is your pets: cats, dogs, whatever kind of pet you have, maybe you have a guinea pig. But co-regulation with pets is a way you start to heal from stress and from trauma. They are a safe space for so many of us. We don’t have any associations with them, except love. You may notice also that your pet, like my dog, when she’s relaxed, she is fully relaxed, like she is really present in the moment. Look at them, and even that will start to regulate you, just looking at them relaxing. You can cuddle them; you can love them. They are really one of my favorite ways to regulate. Like when I have a busy day, full of meetings, and I have five minutes to run out of my office, I go find my dog, and I give her a little cuddle and a little pet and that just brings me back into a much clearer space.
One simple second way for you to do this, is to connect with nature. Being outside in nature, in particular, inherently relaxes and soothes us. And it helps stimulate the relaxation hormones that you want. It is super-fast and it’s really easy to regulate yourself this way. It does require you to go outside, walk out the door sometimes. The weather isn’t always amenable to this, but any amount of time that you’re spending outside will make a difference. If you live in a place where there’s not a ton of nature nearby, I bet there’s a tree or a plant or something outside, and there is always that sky above. If you go outside and you look up at the sky or you look up at a tree, I promise you, you will start to feel more relaxed. You will feel your nervous system settling down a little bit again, by spending some time marveling. I love to really look at the abundance of trees when I’m looking at them, look at how many leaves are on that tree. There’s no way I could count them. Or we’re in the fall times. Maybe there’s still some beautiful color, or you could be marveling at the seasons and the change of the seasons. Nature is such a powerful support for us to regulate inherently.
The third way is just a really fun way to regulate, and that is to put on your favorite song and to dance. And if you’re not someone who likes to dance in public, perfect. You can dance at home. Put on one that has like a really good beat, and you can kind of move around. One thing you may not know, is that shaking your body regulates your nervous system. It loosens up your fascia and your tissue and jumping around just changes your physical state, which is super helpful. And then music also has its own special way of shifting your brain out of stress.
If I’m in a stressed state, music is one of my favorite ways to actually shift my stressed state into one where I feel happy and calm again. So pick something super fun. Move around, dance around, shake it out. Just really let your body start to change and feel. I promise you, you’re going to feel a change and a shift really quickly that way.
And then here number four is the most underestimated cause of nervous system regulation. Or shall I say the biggest cause of dysregulation: lack of sleep. For those of you trying to get by on 5 or 6 hours of sleep, you are going to endlessly struggle to feel like your nervous system is calm and grounded.
Those of you who have had kids, remember that newborn stage when you weren’t sleeping very much and you felt like you were in a fog, and people tell me that it is just really difficult to function. There’s a reason why it’s difficult to function without sleep. Your body literally restores when you are sleeping. The more sleep you get, the less anxious and overwhelmed you will feel. Figure out how to get more rest, and I promise you will change your life, like increase even 15 or 30 minutes per night. I bet you will be surprised by how it feels to wake up and feel connected and grounded again. And we’re not going to get into a full conversation about how caffeine affects your sleep!
But those are all things to consider if you are struggling with sleep. To start to look at caffeine intake when you’re drinking it and then really starting to look and consider, how can I create an environment for myself where I get more sleep? How can I start to take down devices? How can I stop working at night? There’s all these different pieces and layers to it. But just know in general, looking at your sleep is a really important way you’re going to start to feel clearer in your body.
Our fifth and last one is secretly my favorite, because it’s about breathing. As many of you know, I used to teach yoga, and I saw the impact deep breathing had on my students, every single time. I will say I had my own experience with that because I love to move my body a lot, in a lot of different ways, and moving my body always somehow grounds me. But there is something really potent about the combination of breath and movement that you get in a yoga practice, which is totally different.
What I actually know is that breathing itself, is actually the key. I would see it with my students. They would come in so stressed from work fires all day long, and they would think the poses were doing the work, but really it was actually the breathing. It’s the foundation that creates that sense of security and safety inside of you that is unrelated to the poses. Your breath signals to your brain that all is well. There is no urgency, there is no emergency that you have to fix at this moment. Your breath brings you back to the present. And the awesome thing about the present moment is that when you’re really aware, and your body and brain connect and click into the fact that there is no emergency, that actually allows you to regulate, to remember that you’re right here and to remember the gift of being alive.
That’s the other piece about it. When you are dysregulated, it’s so much more challenging to feel grateful, it’s so much more challenging to appreciate your life and where you are at. And that is something I find to be so essential when you’re starting to go down this pathway of intuition and purpose, really seeing your life as it is, being present in it, and doing your best to get your nervous system into a place where you can start to again feel like your emotions are normalized. You’re not in reaction all the time. You’re able to just live your life. And those are the signs that you are regulated, you’re responding, you aren’t triggered by everything. You can set clear boundaries, you’re not drained by other people. And when you’re getting into that place, that’s when you’ll see your life start to expand and open up in a totally different way.
So, by the way, none of these things I just shared are all that difficult to do. What I do find is the challenge for so many of my clients is putting them into action and closing the gap between intention and action, by actually doing it day after day. Even when there’s a work emergency or you have to travel, or something comes up that is out of the blue. What makes the real difference is the accountability and the support to make sure you are doing it consistently. Because the way you retrain your nervous system is by consistently coming back to relaxation, focusing on coming back to that really even-keeled space. And if you’re like, “Nicole, I haven’t had that in a really long time!” That’s because your nervous system has been trained into the stress reaction. So coming back into that grounded space, that clear space, does require training, it does require consistency. I find for most people, that we really require a lot of accountability to get super consistent with things like this. We tend to get thrown off track.
We’re especially talking about using this practice during the holidays. A lot of things are going on, and it’s very easy to actually get thrown off track. And once you actually do this consistently, it is really easy to do it over and over again and keep yourself in a grounded, clear space, especially during the holidays. So if you are looking to regulate your nervous system daily through the holidays, DM me Dysregulation on Instagram @Nicoletsong, and let’s chat.
Thank you, everyone, for this conversation. It’s been so rich. I would love to hear any thoughts that you have. Make sure you DM me on Instagram and let me know. Thank you so much for tuning into today’s episode. Before you go, don’t forget, if you are a high-achieving woman who wants to uncover your biggest blind spots, preventing fast, intuitive decisions, I’ve got a 72-second assessment for you. So make sure to DM me quiz @Nicoletsong on Instagram.
Thank you for being here and for listening. We read every note that we get from you about how the podcast is making a difference in your life. Please know how much we appreciate each and every one of you. Until next time, I’m Nicole Tsong and this is the School of Self-Worth.