How To Balance Mood & Reset Your Nervous System
These days due to the pressures and stresses of modern-day living, people everywhere regularly experience fluctuating moods - and in some cases - even nervous breakdowns.
Hamstrung by societal norms that make healthily expressing emotions difficult, it's easy to resort to dysfunctional behaviours such as distractions or addictions as a way to cope with negative emotions...and unfortunately for many this ends up spiralling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and depression.
If we look to nature, animals when threatened by a menace or danger, are able to “shake off” tension and fear once the threat has passed and in the process reset their nervous systems.
For the most part, although our lives may not directly be at risk, work deadlines, financial strain, relationship problems, among others can provoke the same “fight or flight” response that can trigger stress and feelings of fear, anger, frustration and hopelessness.
If not managed and dealt with in more healthy ways, over time, fluctuating moods and a highly-strung nervous system can lead to more serious health issues such as elevated cortisol levels, adrenal fatigue and accelerated ageing.
What Is The Nervous System?
Comprising a complex set of specific nerves and cells called neutrons, the nervous system is like the body’s electrical wiring system that carries signals around the body.
It’s made up of the following parts and functions:
- Central - Brain & spinal column
- Peripheral - Rest of the body
- Somatic - Voluntary movement of muscles
- Autonomic - Involuntary bodily functions
- Sympathetic - Fight or flight response
- Parasympathetic - Rest & recover
It’s three primary functions are:
1. Collect sensory input
2. Process & interpret sensory input
3. Respond to sensory input
Due to the constant bombardment of sensory input, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and unfortunately, many people’s response to stimulus triggers stress, unhelpful thoughts and negative emotions that can fluctuate wildly.
How To Balance Your Mood and Reset
Even though several functions happen without your conscious mind, there are still things you can do to help balance your emotions and allow your nervous system to “reset” so that it can respond in healthier ways to sensory overwhelm…
One of the most crucial aspects to balancing out your moods is reducing the amount of stress in your life. Both your mental and physical health will greatly improve if you can reduce the number of stressors impacting you.
High levels of stress lead to increased levels of cortisol which if they remain elevated over the long term can have negative physiological consequences in addition to the emotional ones.
It’s ok to put you and your health first, so if you have a highly stressful job or are experiencing other pressures, it’s a good idea to take some time out and get away for a while from the environments or situations that are taxing you. This will give you a chance to start to unwind both mentally and physically.
For most of us, removing all of life’s stressors is near impossible. However, practising regular meditation has been proven as a way to help reduce our reactivity to stress and things that are out of our control.
The physical benefits of meditation are numerous, it can help to:
- Deepen breathing
- Slow down heart rate
- Reduce blood pressure
- Relax muscles & reduce tension in the body
Mentally and emotionally, many people describe the positive effects from meditating as being like a “space” between what’s happening around them and their reaction to it. It can allow you to stop reacting automatically and choose a more appropriate response to the situation at hand.
Mindfulness meditation or vipassana, which translates to “see things as they are”, involve observing the breath. This focus of attention helps concentrate the mind, preventing it from getting distracted by incessant thinking and negative thoughts which often, by themselves, are triggers of stress and anxiety.
If you’ve never tried meditation before here is a mindfulness technique that you can use:
- Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for up to half an hour
- Sit comfortably upright, either on a chair or cross-legged on the floor or bed
- Begin by taking breaths in through your nose
- Notice this natural movement and feel all of its sensations throughout your body
- Exhale out of your mouth and notice how this also feels
- Repeat this with an equal amount of time for both the in and out breath (this will engage the parasympathetic nervous system and induce a relaxation response)
You can also apply these same mindfulness principles to other activities in your life.
By the same token, breathing deeply and steadily will also help to relax your body and mind down.
If ever you find yourself in a stressful situation, by taking deep conscious breaths right down into your lungs, you can signal your parasympathetic nervous system to calm your body down. Additionally, your peripheral and autonomic systems are involved with the breathing process so by deepening and slowing down your breaths your autonomic nervous system, that responsible for the fight or flight response will get a signal that things are ok.
Letting out a deep sigh on the out breath can also be beneficial. If you also visualise all the stress and tension leaving your body as you do this, it helps with this reset your nervous system.
You can also do daily breathing activities that will not only serve to calm your body and mind but also strengthen your lungs, boost your immunity and decrease your resting heart rate over time.
Here’s one such technique that will help kickstart your Parasympathetic Nervous System:
- Take a deep breath for a count of 2
- Hold that breath for a count of 5
- Breathe out for a count of 7
Yoga & Exercise
Similar to meditation, yoga and other forms of light exercise will activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System and help reduce the effects of your Sympathetic Nervous System.
Additionally, doing physical activity can improve your breathing, lung capacity and also release certain endorphins into your body that promote feelings of wellbeing and relaxation.
“You are what you eat!”
As much as what you eat affects your body, it has just as big an impact on your mood and emotions.
Consuming certain types of foods especially lifeless, processed and manufactured “food products” not only put stress and strain on your body but also heavily impact how you feel.
Instead, you want to nourish yourself with living and health-promoting plant-based whole foods that your body will naturally recognise and easily assimilate. What’s more, certain fruits and vegetables will actually target specific emotions and feelings!
Learn more in Feeding Your Emotions With Whole Foods
Carrying the same essence and frequency of the plants from which they’re derived, pure essential oils are also a very powerful tool to use for calming the body, improving mood and supporting a healthy nervous system when used aroma-therapeutically.
With our sense of smell being a key channel for sensory input, research has proven that certain aromas can help induce calm states of mind and promote positive emotions.
Some of the best essential oils to use for calmness and relaxation include:
- Clary Sage
- Juniper Berry
- Roman Chamomile
- Ylang Ylang
These dōTERRA Pure Essential Oils blends are specifically formulated to promote to calm the nerves and balance your emotions:
You can use pure essential oils aromatically in the following ways…
Diffusing essential oils through the air is an effective way for the aromas to hit your olfactory system.
One of the easiest and most popular ways is with an electronic device, like the dōTERRA Petal Diffuser, which when filled with water will disperse essential oil molecules through the air via vapour.
You can also get diffuser jewellery, normally made of beads and clay, which will release the scents during the day as you wear it.
You can add a few drops into the palms and then cup your hands over your nose and inhale deeply.
Due to pure essential oils being extremely concentrated and potent, when applying directly to the skin, it’s a good idea to use them with a “carrier oil” such as Fractionated Coconut Oil.
You can then massage them into your body, like pulse points or the bottoms of your feet. In addition to the aroma, they’ll also get absorbed into your bloodstream for added benefit.
By integrating one or more of these tips into your daily life you can go a long way to managing your moods and reducing the effects of an over-reactive nervous system. However, like anything you need to take a holistic look at your life and also address any underlying causes of stress, anxiety and negative emotions.
Learn more in 7 Ways To Deal With Anxiety & Find Inner Peace
Tolman Self Care.