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How to reset and heal a dysregulated nervous system

Person with dark hair in yellow shirt with smeared face to represent a dysregulated nervous system

In order to learn how to reset and heal a dysregulated nervous system let’s start with the basics. The brain and spinal cord or the central nervous system, act as the command center for the entire body. Because this system plays such an important role in our health, it is crucial to make sure it is healthy. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how to do that though. Am I right? Especially under the influence of chronic stress from our daily lives! I want to spend the next few minutes teaching you how to reset and heal a dysregulated nervous system. Enjoy these powerful 9 tips!

This post will focus heavily on the autonomic nervous system which is made up of two branches. The parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system) and the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response).

While they both play VITAL roles in keeping us safe and healthy, a dysregulated nervous system or overactive nervous system can lead to a wide range of symptoms. 

Here are a few signs or symptoms that you may recognize:

  • high blood pressure
  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • chronic pain
  • decreased activity of the immune system
  • digestive system breakdowns
  • overactive adrenal glands (think stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline)
  • cognitive impairment
  • emotional dysregulation (mental health challenges)
  • chronic fatigue syndrome

9 ways to reset and heal a dysregulated nervous system:

1. Chiropractic care

The human body is a network of nerve cells. Chiropractic utilizes the afferent/sensory neurons to send information to the brain. This improves brain and nervous system health in many ways but I’ll mention just a few here.

Chiropractic adjustments release joint fixation and muscle tension, give a long term input to balance the autonomic system, and helps your brain to better understand what is happening in the body. There are many chiropractic techniques some people like the sounds you hear with a diversified approach. Some patients enjoy a more gentle touch with something like craniosacral therapy or activator technique. 

Whatever you choose, you will love the benefits you receive from a great chiropractic adjustment! Especially if you can find one that has a blend of neurology in their approach.

2. Change environments

Green grass and tree in beautiful sunshine can help regulate a dysregulated nervous system.

This is probably the most immediate nervous system reset. When you feel those stress levels getting out of control, think about using one of these cold modalities.

  • Cold showers
  • Splash cold water on your face and neck
  • Cold exposure outside if your weather permits
  • Cold plunges

It seems counterintuitive, but doing this actually decreases stress levels and activates the parasympathetic systems. Constricting the blood vessels in a different way shunts blood to the more vital organs. This is what happens under parasympathetic stimulation and we are just forcing it to happen, so to speak. 

We want to be using the parasympathetics at least 80% of the time. These are great ways to force the vagus nerve to activate and reduce stress as your body functions change to adapt to the cold temperatures.

You can also try something different and opposite like a really hot bath or use loud music to give your brain and body something different to think about. Another easy way to change things up is to simply walk away. Just leave the office and go outside for a few minutes. Even better if you can do a brisk walk and get the blood flow going.

3. Acupuncture treatment can help heal a dysregulated nervous system

acupuncture needles in a wooden bowl

Meridians connect different parts of the body to each other in an unusual way to those of us who grew up in the west. There can be “congestion” or “blockages” in the meridian systems and organ systems during and after stressful situations. The way to remove this congestion is by having an acupuncturist do some nervous system work.

If you’ve never experienced this, you will be surprised at how much this will help elevate your physical health to a new level. You could see physical symptoms disappear that you may have had for years. There are also a couple of seemingly magic points that stop stress dead in its tracks. I talk about one of them in my free stress ebook

4. Emotional stress

person with distressed look on face and lots of arrows pointing at her head. Emotional stress can hurt your nervous system tremendously.

Stressful events can activate a part of our nervous system (limbic system) that is responsible for survival. The problem doesn’t occur in the moment of acute danger or perceived threat. It happens when your body perceives that there is a real threat when in fact there isn’t.

This neurophysiological experience of stress will result in your body being on high alert as well as producing chronic inflammation. It also changes your emotional state and may manifest in anger outbursts, panic attacks, anxiety, or depression to name a very few. 

Neuroemotional Technique

The best way to get rid of this limbic response playing over and over is by finding an NET practitioner near you. Please see this post for more on neuroemotional technique.

FAST Technique

You can also incorporate a (daily) practice of using FAST technique as an adjunct to NET. I love this technique because you can do it at home and it doesn’t take very long at all. Refer to this video for instructions on how to do this.

When I did my NET training last year, the co-founder of the technique said she recommends that patients do this once or twice daily as a preventive measure. This will really surprise you once incorporated. I’m sure that it will improve your quality of life more than you expect it to. 

Emotional? Physical? Chemical?

People need help with their emotions more than we are likely to admit. Working in healthcare, you quickly learn all the physical causes and diagnoses. In a more holistic profession like chiropractic, we then get into lab work and nutrition, etc. But what about emotional causes for dysfunction? It really isn’t addressed very much at all. And, basically 0% in a traditional medical setting.

Sometimes, the disorder is TOTALLY physical but usually it’s a blend of physical, nutritional/toxic, and EMOTIONAL causes. I believe to live you BEST life…you should address all 3 and put a lot of emphasis on the other than physical issues. Hence, this blog. LOL!

5. Deal with your mental health 

white head with black squiggle lines. Mental health is so important to keep your nervous system healthy as a whole

Have you ever heard of Dr Caroline Leaf? She is an applied neuroscientist that has come up with some amazing strategies for dealing with mental health issues. I think working with a counselor is a great plan but it isn’t for everyone. Sometimes we just need a good strategy for eliminating negative thoughts and their EFFECTS independently. These strategies may help you find a healthier normal level in response to stress.

She developed a self administered but guided program called Neurocycle. It’s revolutionary because it helps you find and eliminate the ROOT cause of your toxic thoughts. Most of us are just cruising through life without understanding that traumatic events from our past still have such an effect today. By using this program to build new mental habits and patterns you will have positive thoughts and effects rather than the opposite. 

You will be surprised how many simple ways there are to increase your health in her books. I personally enjoyed Switch on your Brain, but she has written several. You can read more about Dr. Leaf here.

6. Breathing

Lungs made out of flowers. Breathing techniques can help heal a dysregulated nervous system.

I know, I know. Everyone talks about this, but I think it’s because it is such a simple yet effective technique. It doesn’t take very long to take a few deep breaths and it is wonderful for your nervous system. The amazing exchange for oxygen in place of carbon dioxide makes you feel different almost instantaneously. If you do this on a regular basis it can help heal a dysregulated nervous system. I talk about a couple of techniques in my ebook that I referred to earlier if you would like more details. 

Try some of these:

  • Deep breathing
  • Alternate nostril breathing 
  • Change your breathing rate (slower or faster)
  • Box breathing (breath in, hold, breath out, hold all for the same amount of time)
  • Deep breath in and exhale rapidly

See this post for a brief overview of breathing and it’s effects.

7. Vagus nerve stimulation

The vagus nerve is a powerful secret weapon during periods of stress. It is the longest nerve in your body. It connects your brain to your gut which is just really cool! If you research it, you’ll quickly find that it is the most influential nerve in the parasympathetic system. The studies that measure the vagal tone use heart rate variability to choose the most effective interventions.

The higher vagal tone you can achieve, the better you are going to feel during times of stress. It’s so great that the techniques we need to use to active this nerve are so simple and not time consuming at all. I discuss different ways to do this all the time. See the other post I wrote about nervous system health here for a few (or 12 to be exact). 

Here’s a few exercises to try:

  • Gargling
  • Humming
  • Eating a lot of fiber or good fat. The longer it takes to digest food, the longer you will be activating the vagus and parasympathetic system.
  • Deep breathing
  • Laughing
  • Pressing into one carotid artery for a few seconds
  • Listening to music
  • Even enjoying a beautiful view will activate the vagus

8. Daily routine/habits can heal a dysregulated nervous system

Good habits written on colorful sticky notes. Good habits can heal a dysregulated nervous system.

Ewwwwww! I am such a commitment phobe! I admit it…that’s the first step right? lol. As much as I (and maybe you too) try to get away from this fact, the best way to regulate your nervous system, stress response, emotional health, and your life is by doing a good, simple technique on a regular basis (preferably daily) over a long time.

I’m reading the book Atomic Habits right now. What’s encouraging is that the author talks about the long game and making slight changes each day. Changing the trajectory over the long run in the goal. I like to change my WHOLE life all at once but then it isn’t sustainable. If you’re like me, give this book a read and see if you walk away feeling empowered by starting with small sustainable habits.

9. Balance your Brain to heal a dysregulated nervous system

Illustration of left brain in black and white with numbers and right brain with abstract colorful design

What does that mean? How can I use this strange idea to heal a dysregulated nervous system? Well, you’ve heard of left brain and right brain, yes? Sometimes one side of the brain is stimulated more than the other. The only way to REALLY tell is to have a qualified functional neurology practitioner perform an examination on you.

Right Brain

But there are some general assumptions that can be made. The right side of your brain is the creative, future vision, big picture thinker. It’s also the anxiety side.

Left Brain

The left brain is the logical, linear, past/present thinker. It is usually elevated with ADD/ADHD and autism disorders. Also, while both sides play roles in the immune response, the left brain is responsible for activating the immune system.

So, if you are anxious and worried about the future and have a tendency toward colds/flu/etc when you’re stressed, you may be right brained. Since we are going for that ever elusive balance (haha) we need to activate the left brain more in times of stress in order to stay healthy (and sane). Try some of these and see how you feel. If your symptoms increase, please discontinue

  • Take your right hand out to the side of your body and make infinity signs with the whole arm. Do this for about 60 seconds.
  • Look up and to the right for a few seconds. 
  • Put an ear plug in your left ear for about 10 minutes.

You can repeat these exercises 3-5x/day. See how you feel! Again, if you feel worse. Stop! Most of the time this will make you feel a lot better! I love using this strategy because it doesn’t really get more natural than this! Right? 

Please see this recent article for 12 more ways to keep your nervous system and your overall health in check. Here are a FEW things that I talk about there to provide you with some more new insights. 

  • somatic nervous system
  • managing chronic medical conditions
  • social media and how it can effect your brain
  • consuming good news 
  • physical activity
  • nutrition
  • supplements 

Final thoughts:

It’s my sincere hope that you found something here that helped you and decreased your stress levels! Please let me know how I can help you further along your journey. And, please subscribe to my email list if you would like more content like this. I would also LOVE it if you would share this with someone that you think would benefit from it. 

I’m so proud of you for seeking out answers and getting better than you were yesterday! Talk to you again soon. 

Dr. Bri


The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Bri, unless otherwise noted. Individual articles are based upon the opinions of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked.

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of its authors. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. 

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