Nourish the nervous system

 In Opinion

With all of the injustices going on in the world at the moment, just watching the news can be jarring to our nervous system as observers. I think of the nervous system as a braid, and when it has been stressed or thrashed around, it frays and starts mis-signalling within the body. These are my recommendations to nourish and repair a frayed system:

• Nightly sleep meditations – this might seem obvious, but I can’t tell you how many patients admit to watching or reading the news right before bed. A short sleep- oriented meditation helps your body switch from the Sympathetic Nervous System (aka “SNS,” or “fight or flight”) to the Parasympathetic Nervous System (aka “PNS,” or “rest and digest”), which is the only way to get a restful sleep.

• Cold showers/plunges – I recommend this often as there are so many benefits! One of those benefits is how a cold immersion allows us to become aware of our bodies and be present within them. It provides a sense of immediate presence and focus on the now. This can be done as needed – even just a minute of cold face- splashing can have amazing benefits.

• Supportive herbs – My favourite herbs for the nervous system are Tilia Tomentosa (Silver Linden), Ficus Carica (Fig) and Olea Europa (Olive Leaf). These quench a tattered and exhausted nervous system and rebraid the frayed pieces. They re-teach the system to exit “hypervigilance” mode, switching from SNS to PNS for rest, relaxation, digestion, sexual function and sleep.

• A 20-second hug – I love this one, as it reinforces the need for safe connection to nurture a properly functioning nervous system. The length of the hug is important as it boosts positive neurotransmitters in the brain to decrease stress and rebalance the nervous system. It is important that both individuals in the hug are carrying their own weight and not leaning one on the other. The nervous system recognizes the shared weight support to provide calmness.

• Immerse yourself in nature – I realize that it is a privilege to be able to walk out your door and feel safe and immersed in nature. However, even the smallest connections with nature can make a big impact on the nervous system. For example, going for a walk in a forest, walking around the block, sitting under a tree, or even among house plants can help us feel rooted and grounded. Experiencing the physical elements can be deeply restorative.

This past month, I have noticed an upward trend of nervous fatigue, and in turn I have been prescribing the above recommendations more than I ever have before. I hope these recommendations help you navigate these unimaginable waters we are currently swimming in.

Kate Hunter is a naturopathic doctor and owner of The Creemore Apothecary.

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